Better Know Your Opponent: Kentucky Wildcats

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Yeah, they are good. So show up, people.

The boss-man has a running joke on twitter, in which he keeps track of the Major League games that had a smaller announced attendance than the LSU game on the same night. It's pretty funny, and it demonstrates that college baseball, or LSU baseball at least, is not small time. More people care about LSU baseball than the Miami Marlins, voting with their feet. But not really, as announced attendance counts all tickets sold, not every single person who walks through the turnstiles. LSU has had a tremendous issue with no-shows the past few years, as all of those season ticket holders don't show up for the smaller series and instead keep their tickets as insurance for the big series. Well, folks. This is a big series. Two top ten teams squaring off in SEC play in the Box. This is as big as a regular season can get, so what I'm saying is, if you have tickets, get your ass to the Box. This is what you've been waiting for.

Kentucky Wildcats

Record: 22-6 (6-3), 2nd in the SEC East
RS/RA: 190/95
RPI: 31
ISR: 15

Ancient Logo:

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via content.sportslogos.net

Well, it's a little on the nose, but I kind of like it.

Notable Alumni:

Nick Dimengo (editor of Maxim magazine)

Dr. James Michael Guiler (doctor accused of branding uteruses with the letters "UK" while performing hysterectomies)

Tom Hammond (NBC Sports)

Ashley Judd (actress)

William Lipscomb (winner of 1976 Nobel Prize in Chemistry)

Dr. Thomas Hunt Morgan (winner of 1933 Nobel Prize in Medicine)

Pat Riley (former basketball player, San Diego Rockets and Portland TrailBlazers)

Don Rosa (artist/writer of original Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics)

Howard Schnellenberger (EDSBS meme)

John T. Scopes (teacher, defendant)

M. E. Hart ("MC Double Def DP" in the Software Publishers Association video, Don't Copy That Floppy)

Brandon Webb (pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks)

Michael York (Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting)

Pretentious Music Video:

It's hard to explain that there are actually different kinds of rednecks. A Louisiana redneck actually doesn't have a whole lot in common with a Kentucky redneck, which allows us to each make fun of each other as if our habits are totally normal. Look, mountain folk are weird. I don't trust anyone from Appalachia because those mountains do strange things to people. I wouldn't mess with them either, but I will point out that what we mean by "country" is totally different than what they mean by "country". Here's The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth by Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah! because clearly, they are country folk, and we aren't. Totally different.


Starters:

LHP A.J. Reed (2-3, 2.57 ERA, 42.0 IP, 30/8 K/BB)

LHP Jerad Grundy (5-2, 2.15 ERA, 46.0 IP, 42/13 K/BB)

LHP Corey Littrell (4-0, 2.17 ERA, 45.2 IP, 47/16 K/BB)

Wow.

It's really hard to pick out the thing that jumps out at you the most. Three starters with an ERA below three? Stellar K/BB ratios? All lefties? Oh, and a pretty great bullpen, too. Only two members of the staff have an ERA above four, and one of those is the midweek starter who we certainly will not see. The Wildcats have five pitchers with ERA's below two. I can't even wrap my mind around that. This team can flat out pitch and it is the best rotation we will see all year, with no discernible weaknesses. Enjoy.

Sluggers:

2B JT Riddle 352/445/454

1B AJ Reed 333/430/602

CF Austin Cousino 309/425/509

JT Riddle is perhaps the perfect Kentucky hitter. He's not their best hitter, that's AJ Reed, but Riddle is just a better version of the team as a whole. The Wildcats are hitting 286/397/408 as team, which is pretty much what Riddle is doing, minus 50 points of batting average. He gets on base a ton, has decent gap power, and can run the bases well (he is 4 of 5 on stolen base attempts). He is, well, a damn good hitter. And that's what LSU faces this week: a lineup full of complete hitters who can make contact, draw walks, and put the ball over the wall. There's few breaks in the order, and just about everybody can run if they get on. Reed is the only true superstar, though Cousino is knocking on the door, but that doesn't really matter. Every hitter is a threat, and the back of the order can beat you almost as effectively as the top of the order. The key here is balance. Kentucky doesn't specialize in doing one thing great, they just do everything well. That's the mark of a good offense, and they are 4th in the SEC in runs scored, just 13 total runs behind the #3 team, LSU.

Tiger Bait?

There's been a lot of talk about LSU's fantastic start and a lot of premature comparisons to the 1997 and 1986 teams, two of the best teams in LSU's history. This LSU team looks real good, but it is not without flaws (namely a leadoff hitter, a third outfielder, and a Sunday starter). Party of this fantastic start has been a fairly soft schedule, though Mississippi State are no chumps. But this is the biggest test of this season to date. We'll see if these guys really do deserve to be compared to the all-time great teams. I don't think this start is entirely a mirage, but a win in this series will show that this team is not just a product of scheduling. Kentucky is a terrific ballclub, and I cannot fully express how much I'm looking forward to this series. Great teams want to play other great teams. Bring it on. Tiger bait? Not a chance. The Cats are fellow hunters, but only one can be the king of the SEC jungle.

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