Have you ever watch the shows that document a lottery winner? They always start out the same. There is the jubilation of becoming an overnight millionaire and buying everything under the sun from houses, cars, vacations, and even the lucrative business ventures. You feel good for these guys, but they always end the same with the winner becoming broke and having to work more than before they won.
That scenario is similar to what happened to the LSU baseball team this past weekend. The Tigers treated its fans to one of the best performances of its season on Friday night in a 2-1 victory. The LSU bats were cold, but the pitching and defense was at a level rarely seen at the college level. LSU clinched the SEC west with the win and it seemed like winning the series would be the equivalent of hitting the Powerball, but it didn’t happen.
Saturday was a complete train wreck for the Tigers. LSU lost 6-3, but the score never seemed that close as LSU was playing in quicksand. LSU batted its weekend best (.303), but hit into four double- plays. Raph Rhymes saw his quest of batting .500 take a huge blow as he went hitless in four plate appearances and hit into two double-plays. The Tigers left nine runners on base and five of those were stranded in scoring position.
Early on Saturday morning catcher Ty Ross was rushed to the hospital for emergency appendectomy surgery and missed the rest of the weekend. His production in the field was sorely missed as Vanderbilt was able to steal bases at will against LSU.
Vanderbilt stole five, yes five, bases on the Tigers and two of those steals turned into scores. Usually the Tiger’s pitching and defense has been able to cover up a weak LSU offense, but it could not contain a feisty Commodore offense. The pitching staff struck out 12 batters on the night. Aaron Nola and Joey Broussard each recorded six, but that is where the praise ends. LSU allowed three unearned runs off of wild pitches, hit batters and even a balk.
The worst example of the blunders came in the seventh inning. With Vanderbilt leading the game 3-1, Anthony Gomez started the inning off with a single. He advanced to second off a balk and advanced a bases and scored off two wild pitches.
Sunday’s game had the same intensity as what we witnessed on Friday, but LSU could not catch a break losing in 10-innings 5-4. LSU walked eight times and had an on-base percentage of .424, but only batted .182. LSU stranded 10 on base and four of those were in scoring position.
Ryan Eades’s struggles continue. He wasn’t terrible, but was never able to dominate the Vanderbilt offense. After retiring the Commodore offense in the first-inning, he allowed at least one base runner in his 4.2 innings pitched. He finished the game with a season high 2.38 WH/IP.
LSU took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth off a Austin Nola sacrifice fly that scored Tyler Hanover, but the bullpen could not keep the lead. It turns out Nick Goody is human after all. Goody allowed a lead off home run to Mike “don’t call the Carl” Yastrzemski to tie the game and allowed the game winning run to score in the tenth.
Before I try to answer any question I need to look at the individual stat lines from the weekend, why don’t I share that. Let’s start with the pitching.
Let’s leave Gausman out of this discussion and in fact check back later this week for a historical breakdown of the season he is having. This discussion is for the other two.
What can Aaron Nola do to improve his numbers? He has the stuff to be just as good as Gausman, but as discussed in the past he leaves too many pitches over the middle of the plate. Unlike Ryan Eades, Nola makes batters earn their spot on base with hits, but as we move into post-season play he is only going to face better offenses. How will the coaches improve his approach?
While we are on coaching is there anything they can do to salvage Eades? His confidence seems to be at the same level as a 16-year old girl. Too many times he gets opposing batters in a 0-2 count, but can’t get the out. Only one strike out against the 11th ranked offense in the SEC just isn’t getting it done. Do the coaches consider replacing Eades with a pitcher out of the bullpen? Perhaps they give Kurt McCune another shot at the Sunday start next weekend, or do they consider another arm from the bullpen for the start?
We learned in 2009 that if you have two amazing starters, you can win a national title with a good offense. The problem is this year’s offense isn’t at the same level. LSU will only advance as far as their pitching takes them.
It would be nice to win next weekend at South Carolina, but the most important goal is to have a solid rotation in place heading into tournament play. Why not give Eades a rest and try another arm? But who would it be, let’s take a look at the bullpen’s production from the weekend.
As much as the poor performances for Nola and Eades stands out, the bullpen did not give those two any help. Only Chris Cotton put up a great performance. Brent Bonvillain might be hitting that freshman wall as he entered the game as the team was falling apart on Saturday and could not he right the ship.
Every one of these guys is entitled to a poor performance and usually not all of them will come on the same weekend. My only question is where was Joe Broussard? He had made huge strides over the last month and has the best breaking ball from the pen. Why wasn’t he used on Saturday or Sunday to get LSU out of a jam?
I could go on and on about the pitching, but the offense didn’t do any favors for them. I don’t want to do this because of how bad the numbers look, but here they are. It might be best to view with hands covering your eyes.
Where do we begin? To be fair it is worth noting that the top of the lineup did their job getting on base. Even though the batting average was weak, Arby field and Mason Katz had an on-base percentage of .600, while Austin Nola reached base in each recorded at-bat.
The problem was the four through six hole batters could not bring in the runs. The group of Raph Rhymes, Tyler Moore, Grant Dozar and Alex Edwards combine to bat .216 (8/37), left nine on base and struck out 11-times. If they would have only converted two of those runs, LSU might have won the series and we have a completely different take on the weekend.
The quick fix would be to move Jacoby Jones up from the nine hole, but the reigning SEC player off the weak flat out stunk last weekend. Only one hit in three game isn’t worthy of a promotion.
Like the bullpen, I am not going to over-analyze the lineup, instead I will concede that they were just off this weekend, but it would not surprise me to see a small shake up in their mid-week game against Nicholls State this week.
The last thing that LSU must correct next weekend is the amount of steals it allows. Once Ty Ross was replaced by Jordy Snikeris, LSU gave up nine steals Saturday and Sunday. Fortunately South Carolina is 12th in the conference in steals and attempts, but that might chance due to Snikeris unable to make a clean throw the second-base.
Topics: Aaron Nola, Arby Fields, Austin Nola, Brent Bonvillain, Chris Cotton, Grant Dozar, Jacoby Jones, Joe Broussard, Kevin Gausman, LSU Baseball, Mason Katz, Nick Goody, Raph Rhymes, Ryran Eades, SEC Baseball, Tyler Moore, Vanderbilt Baseball