It was announced yesterday that LSU would pitch Anthony Ranaudo on Friday to start the Super Regionals against Rice. I think this is the right call. As I said in the comments to this post, I think Mainieri simply cannot allow LSU to be eliminated without using both Ranaudo and Coleman to their fullest extent. He also said that Louis Coleman would be available in the bullpen, which is a little more problematic. What I said was, "Start them the first two games and hope you don’t need a 3rd," but let's examine that a little closer. Depending on the circumstances, there may be a better way to use Coleman.
We're starting Ranaudo on Friday. We can rely on Ranaudo to give us at least 7 innings of quality pitching. After 7 innings, let's say we're ahead by 5 runs. I think the call to the bullpen is an easy one. Call in Nolan Cain or Buzzy Haydel or Paul Bertuccini and finish out the game. Our bullpen has been pitching well lately and I see no reason to screw around with them in a game we have in command.
But let's say we're up by 1 run, or 2 runs. It gets to be a harder call. Yes, Bertuccini and Cain and Matty Ott and the rest of the bullpen boys have been pitching well, but this is the sort of situation where it really could be worthwhile to bring in Coleman, who is clearly a better pitcher than anyone in our bullpen other than Ott. If we're leading a tight game and we have 6 more outs to get, I think it would be worthwhile to call in Coleman in relief to get 3 of them. Even in a 1-run or 2-run game, bringing in Coleman would probably ensure a win. I can't say that bringing in Bertuccini or Haydel in that situation would ensure a win.
It is worthwhile to use Coleman in very short relief if it ensures a win in that first game. With a win on Friday, we wouldn't need to pitch Coleman on Saturday and we could turn around and pitch him Sunday if we need to, but more on that below.
Now let's say that instead of us having a small lead, the game is tied or we are behind by a run or two. Is it worthwhile to bring Coleman into that game? In a game we're losing, I say no way. There is absolutely no sense in using up Coleman in relief in a game we might not win even if he pitches his best. It would prejudice our ability to win on Saturday or Sunday and might, ultimately, cost us the series. But if the game is tied going into the 8th inning, I'm not so sure. By that point, Rice will probably be in its bullpen, and frankly its bullpen is nothing special. If the game is tied and I have a fresh Louis Coleman on the mound going against a Rice bullpen pitcher, I like my chances over a 2-inning stretch.
I can't say it ensures victory, but it gives us a very good chance. It would be a hard decision. Mainieri would have to keep in mind just how disastrous it would be use both Ranaudo and Coleman and still lose. That scenario would probably be the death knell of the series.
Complicating this thought process is the fact that Coleman pitched on Sunday. On Friday, he will have had 4 days of rest. He may not really be ready to go at his best at that time, but Paul Mainieri needs to make that call. Whatever Mainieri does, he cannot use Coleman so much on Friday that he can't bring him back on Sunday.
As for the Saturday game, if LSU loses on Friday or if LSU wins without having used Coleman, start the game with Louis Coleman. Let's try to win it in 2 and move on. If Coleman has pitched an inning and we've won, come back with Austin Ross. This, again, gives us a few choices.
Let us say we are ahead 1-0 in the series and we go with Ross on Saturday for whatever reason. Ross has pitched very well lately and I have confidence that Ross will give us a chance to win whatever game he ends up pitching. We will have to score a few runs, but I believe we can count on Ross to go at least 5 or 6 innings and not give up 7-10 runs. This brings us to the question of what to do if we, again, are ahead when Ross is done (which would likely be after about 6 innings).
If Austin Ross gives us 6 innings and leaves with the lead, I say bring in Coleman unless the lead is truly insurmountable. Coleman, again, will give us a chance to shut down Rice for several innings. If we have a 2 or 3 run lead in the 7th or 8th inning, we can close out the game with Coleman confident that we will win it and not need a Sunday game.
Using Coleman to help close out two games in which we have the lead is a good use of Louis Coleman. If we don't need Coleman to close out the first game or if we end up losing it, starting Coleman on Saturday gives us the best chance to win that game and force a Sunday game.
Let us say that something bad has happened. We ended up using Coleman for an inning on Friday and then for 3 innings on Saturday and we ended up splitting those games. I think at that point, we would have to plan on using Coleman on Sunday too, but it would be best not to start him.
I say don't start him on Sunday in that scenario for one reason: Daniel Bradshaw's last two appearances included one outstanding start and one not-good relief appearance. Start Bradshaw and hope he does what he did against Georgia in the SEC Tournament, which was pitch a complete game 2-hit shutout. If we need relief, come back in with Coleman again. If anyone can pitch in 3 consecutive days, it's Louis Coleman. It would be best if we can just start Coleman on Saturday up 1-0 in the series, but it's more important to get to 1-0.