The offense was fun because LSU is, well, stacked at almost every position. Now we turn to what has been LSU's Achilles heel for seemingly forever: pitching. The bad news is we have lost all of last year's starting rotation. The good news is, we have lost all of last year's rotation.
That overstates things, but the rotation was not a team strength last year as not one starter had an ERA lower than the team average, meaning the bullpen essentially carried the team. No one was terrible, really, but when your ace has a 4.12 ERA, your starters don't exactly inspire fear into opposing hitters. So, this year, the bullpen which carried us, gets promoted. I'm speculating a bit on the order of the rotation, but I think I can say with confidence our top three starters.
The stats I use for the pitchers is W-L-S, IP, ERA, K/BB. Pay close attention to the walk to strikeout ratios, as that's usually the best indicator of future success.
Anthony Ranaudo, So., 1-0-0, 12.0 IP, 0.00, 13/6
Ranaudo missed almost all of last season with tendinitis, only to show up in late April and pitch lights out. He rapidly moved his way up the bullpen , and even started an SEC game. He's 6'7" and is our big, intimidating, give-‘em-the gas pitcher. He's also a huge question mark, but he was one of the jewels of last year's recruiting class, and he's finally healthy and able to take his mantle as LSU's Ace. We haven't had a lockdown Friday starter in a very long time. More than anyone else on the staff, he has the potential to be great.
Daniel Bradshaw, So., 4-5-4, 54.2 IP, 4.12, 52/13
Bradshaw has probably earned the right to be the Friday starter and it wouldn't surprise me if he was the nominal ace. He was a do-it-all pitcher last year who really came into his own in April. He was actually a midweek starter by season's end, but he was a forgotten man in the bullpen after he got lit up by UC Irvine in relief. He also a pretty good fastball, though nowhere near Ranaudo's. But he is a pitcher that Mainieiri obviously trusts as a solid, workmanlike pitcher who gives you a chance to win, though I do like that he averages nearly a strikeout per inning.
Austin Ross, So., 3-1-3, 52.1 IP, 2.58, 37/9.
The last of our talented trio of sophomores who will probably compose our weekend rotation, Ross is lefty of the group. Which means, of course, I am contractually obligated to describe him as "crafty". Which he is. Unlike the other starters, Ross relies more on offspeed stuff than simply overpowering hitters. It also means he relies a lot more on location. Ross started two games, both early in the season, before it was determined he was a valuable situational lefty.
Ryan Byrd, Sr., 30.1 IP. 6.82, 17/8
Chris Matulis, Fr., HS All-American
Jordan Brown's announcement that he is quitting the team due to injuries hurts the team in that he would have been a reliable innings eater. Brown wasn't a star, but he started 10 games and would have contended for a weekend slot. He had a high ERA (driven by an unlucky high batting average against him), but went 5-0 and he was the last guy to win a game at Alex Box. He will be missed.
Byrd now is the unofficial senior leader. He had the worst ERA on the team last year, but he kept the ball in the park and balls just found a way to fall in against him. Chalk a lot of that up to bad luck. He's not suddenly going to become Ben McDonald, but he should vastly improve. He may make the occasional weekend appearance.
Matulis is our stud recruit and will likely get midweek starts to see what kind of stuff he has. Otherwise, he's going to ease into the lineup in relief. But I wanted to list him among the starters as he is the one freshman with huge breakout potential.
The big worry is that none of these guys actually has any real experience starting. Jordan Brown had 10 starts and now he's out for the year (good thing I waited to do this), the rest of the staff has combined for 14. 6 of those are from Byrd and 3 from Coleman, our bullpen ace. Which means there's only 5 starts between the guys penciled in to start the year as our weekend rotation. You want a key to the season, here it is: how will our sophomore pitchers fare?