Here we are, the final series of the season at the Box. Where did the year go? It seems like yesterday I was watching the dominant pitching performances between Kevin Gasuman and Chris Stratton that ended in a extra-innings win for the Tigers. It goes by too fast, but it is time for LSU to try to punch another ticket to Omaha…hopefully
LSU welcomes the winner of the American East Conference and the Coral Gable regional champ, Stony Brook University. Never heard of them before this week? No worries, by the end of this article you will be saturated with Seawolves’ stats.
Stony Brook comes into Baton Rouge with a 50-12 record and over the last month the Wolves won 15 of their last 16 games. Stony Brook is currently has the 86th ranked RPI and was only the third team to ever win its regional as the four seed since the regional format changed in 1999.
Lets break the Wolves down in two parts focusing of the offense and pitching.
Stony Brook feasted all season long against weak opponents. They averaged 7.32 runs per game and scored 10 or more runs in 20 of their 62 games (LSU only scored 10 or more in 13 games). Normally, I would overlook their run production playing weak opponents, but last week in Regional play, Stony Brook scored 10 or more runs in all their wins.
The Seawolves offense is loaded with player with a plus .300 batting average and a bunch of extra-base hits. Once on base, Stony Brook is not afraid to steal as they have stolen 93 bases on the season.
The offense is led by outfielder Travis Janokowski, who was selected 44th overall in this weeks MLB draft by the San Diego Padres. Janokowski lead the team in hitting with a .417 average and 101 hits. He also has swiped a team high 38 bases. Besides Janokowski, here is the rest of the impressive Seawolves offense.
Besides the high batting averages throughout the lineup the other stat that jumps out to me is their strike out-to-walk comparison. Six of the 10 regulars have either the same or more walks than strikeouts. I know all of these number are misleading when you take into account the talent LSU faces week in and out from opposing pitchers compared to Stony Brook. Just for fun here is the LSU lineup’s stats for comparison.
The differences in the lineups are obvious. Only two Tigers have the same or more walks than strikeouts. Only five Tigers have batting averages over .300, while Stony Brook has eight. It is easy to see why LSU has struggled to plate runs. Most of the production has come from three players (Nola, Rhymes and Katz).
Both teams keep their hits inside the ball park, but look at the amount of doubles and triples he Wolves have. When they put ball into play, LSU will have to be solid in their fielding to avoid extra bases being earned.
The biggest question heading into the weekend is how well the Stony Brook offense will perform against Kevin Gasuman, Aaron Nola and the LSU bullpen. Without question these will be the best arms the seawolves have faced all year. Will their offensive success translate or will they wither away from the heat of Alex Box stadium? Keep in mind teams that beat LSU only needs to score on average four runs. Can LSU keep them under than number?
Usually when a small program makes a deep run in post-season play it is in large part due to a couple of dominate pitchers. Stony Brook doesn’t have a dominant arm that can compare to a Friday night starter in the SEC, instead they have a solid staff that doesn’t strikeout a lot of hitters, but limits runners on base.
The numbers aren’t going to wow anyone, but keep in mind that in half their games this year, they held their opponents to three runs or less (the same as LSU).Here is a look at the potential starters for Stony Brook.
All three starters are bulldogs able to pitch on short rest and go deep into their outings. Tyler Johnson starter two of their regional games, including their regional clinching game against UCF and held Miami to only two runs in their opening game. With the lineup we will not know just how good the staff is until we see them this weekend due to the poor schedule they played this year.(I know, being redundant is redundant)
It is worth noting that after they held Miami to only two runs in the opening game of last weeks regional, the rest of their game they allowed their opponent to score five or more runs.
The Seawolves bullpen is not nearly as deep as LSU, but the few arms they do throw out have solid numbers. Here take a look.
Just like the starters, the bullpen has low OBA, WHIP and also low strikeout numbers. These are the only pitchers used during last weekend’s regional and Stony Brook had to play five game in four days so I wouldn’t expect any other pitchers to see playing time.
Frankie Vanderka is the team’s fourth starter and with his low numbers it would surprise me to see him earn a start over one of the three above.
I usually don’t do this in baseball just due to the fact that a small error like a misplayed bunt, throwing error, wild pitch can be the difference between winning and losing. A team can lose a game even though they hit the ball on the screws all game, but they went straight to defenders. Then there are the crazy plays that makes fans say “that’s baseball”.
What I will be interested in is how Stony Brooks pitches the LSU offense. Will they go right after the Tiger hitters, or will they pitch around Nola, Katz and Rhymes; forcing the bottom half of the lineup to beat them? Can the Tiger’s lineup beat up the Seawolves starters, making them to go to their bull pen earlier than needed or Friday? If they can, this might be a short series.
The biggest thing I want to see is how will playing in the Box effect Stony Brook? We all saw the effect it had on Oregon State last weekend, but those were night game. With the start times set for 11:00am on Friday and Saturday, will the Box be rocking?
When you look at all the numbers, plus take into account the schedule both teams had to navigate to get here, it is hard to go against LSU. One would think that a team like Stony Brook would be content with its outcome last weekend and would struggle to focus on this weekend’s series, while LSU players measure its season success on making it to Omaha.
LSU wins the series only because of their dominance in the pitching department. I could argue either way with the two offenses, but that gap between LSU starters and bullpen is just too much for Stony Brook to match. Here is a game by game look.
Friday: LSU 5, Stony Brook 2
In short Kevin Gausman will be pitching his last game at Alex Box. He is not going to throw a lemon. The Tiger offense will struggle against Tyler Johnson, but will have a big inning in either the sixth or seventh to pull away.
Saturday: LSU 8, Stony Brook 5
The second game will be a bit more offensive than Friday, but ultimately LSU wins the series. It would not surprise me to see the Wolves have success against Aaron Nola because of the amount of pitches he leaves over the plate.
LSU’s saving grace will be a super-fresh bullpen that was hardly used last weekend. Paul Mainieri uses a mixture of Joe Broussard, Chris Cotton and Nick Goody to shut down Stony Brook after Nola leaves, while the LSU offense feast on a tired Stony Brook bullpen.
The offense will be its spark from a Nola or Katz Homerun, but wouldn’t it be nice if little Tyler Hanover won the series…just seems right.
Hope I am right…