LSU Baseball: Florida Weekend Series Preview


The Tigers are coming off their best weekend in possible two seasons by sweeping third ranked Arkansas at home. LSU doesn’t have any time to reflect on there success, as they travel to Gainesville Thursday night to play the number one team in the country. LSU is on a six game winning streak, but will the recent boost on confidence give the Tigers an edge?

Florida comes into the weekend barely holding onto its number one ranking following a weekend series loss to Ole Miss. Making matters worse, the Gators dropped its Tuesday night game this week to North Florida (5-10). Don’t let the recent struggles fool you; Florida (24-5 overall, 6-3 SEC) has played the most difficult schedule in the country and has the highest RPI ranking. The Gators swept a weekend series at Miami and went 2-0 against Florida State, both ranked in the top-ten.

The Gators have been successful this year in large part to timely hitting and superb pitching. It also doesn’t help that they have one of the biggest home field advantages in the nation. Florida is 17-1 on the season at home (only loss came opening weekend against Cal-State Fullerton). Florida is hitting .293 on the season and leads the SEC with 41 homeruns (LSU has 15). Florida also has the highest fielding percentage in the conference (LSU is second).


The Gators might be batting.293 on the season, but they are only hitting .264 in their nine SEC games played. Let’s take a looks at the core-sex Gator hitters.


What initially stands out to me is how many walks these six guys have collected. Mike Zunino and Preston Tuckers are Florida’s power hitters, but are getting on base with the efficiency of a lead off hitter (Nolan Fontana is the team’s lead off hitter). What also stands out is how high each of the six ISO-power is. Is power is derived by subtracting total hits by total bases then dividing by number of at-bats. It is a way to determine a player’s extra-base hit average. For comparison, a .250 ISO-power is considered excellent (Florida has three over) and a .145 is average. Last time I ran the numbers only LSU’s Grant Dozar and Mason Katz has a ISO over .145, Florida has six.


Because is the series starting on a Thursday, the weekend rotation for both teams will be a little different. Both coaches have decided to use their Friday and Saturday starters on those nights, but Thursday will give us two fresh faces. LSU will throw Kurt McCune out tonight in place on injured Aaron Nola and instead on Florida using Jonathan Crawford (their usual Sunday starter), the Gators will look towards Karsten Whitson. Whitson has been a mid-week starter on the season and has a 1-0 record and a 4.05 ERA. Only pitching 6.2 innings, Whitson has allowed seven hits and three walks to only three strike outs (1.61 WHIP) and opponents are batting .292 against him.

Let’s take a quick look at the other two starters and how they have performed in their three SEC games.


The two have been as dominate as Florida has needed. Neither guy is going to pitch deep into games like a Kevin Gausman or Ryan Eades, but they do not allow base runners. If LSU wants to make this a competitive series they better go all in Thursday and Friday night against Whitson and Randall, because Brian Johnson is the real deal.

If you thing the starters are good, then you haven’t seen the bullpen. In short, when the Gators are leading after six innings they are 17-0 and they have only allowed eight runs combined in the eighth and ninth inning. Florida has used nine pitchers out of the pen in SEC play. Stephen Rodriguez, Corey Stump, Daniel Gibson, Greg Larson, Austin Maddox, Ryan Harris and Bobby Poyner are the only arms to see multiple appearances. Here is a breakdown of their SEC stats.


Just for kicks, here is the overall bullpen stats for their nine SEC games to date:


After reviewing the numbers, these guys are good, but they are beatable. LSU batters can not show too much restrain at the play. In 81 innings in SEC play, Florida has only issued 18 walks (Gausman has allowed 13 walks in 47 innings for comparison). The Tigers have got to be aggressive at the plate not just hoping to luck out into a infield base hit, Florida has too good of a infield.

For LSU to win the series they are going to have to over come their recent struggles on the road. LSU away from the Box is not the same team when at home. Hopefully the electric crowds in Gainesville will make the boys feel at home. If the can get past that, LSU will need not just good, but insanely good pitching from its starters. LSU because of its great pitching on the season, the Tigers only need 1.94 runs to win. Can they limit a team to only two runs when they have been averaging six will be the key to victory? LSU has the better pitching staff overall, but Florida has the better lineup and defense.

The question isn’t if LSU can win the series, just winning one of the three will be huge towards their goals of winning a SEC championship.