The only problem with the early season games so far is that I haven't really been able to guage how good the Tigers are given the quality of opponent. Last night, LSU played UNO in New Orleans, a team which gave us fits last year. UNO won two of the three meetings between the teams last year, and LSU's sole victory was in extra innings.
Apparently that stuck in this team's craw, as LSU scored 12 runs in the first two innings en route to a 19-3 win. In the midst of last year's insane winning streak, LSU needed extras to beat UNO, This year, they needed two innings.
Matulis had the worst outing for a starter all season: he allowed two runs. As amazing as the hitting has been so far, and it has been amazing, failing to score ten runs exactly one time in eight games, the pitching has been even better. It wasn't until the eighth game of the season that a starter allowed two runs.
Now, all is not rosy. Nolan Cain was supposed to be the starter tonight, but is having his start skipped in favor of freshman Shane Riedie. Mainieri says it is because of shoulder stiffness, I think it's because of there has been one disappointment so far, it has been our veteran relief except for Bertucinni.
Alsup, Cain, and Nicholson went into this year as our veteran relievers behind our two studs of Coleman and Bertucinni. All of them have been underwhelming so far. All have exactly 3 IP, and their combined line is:
9 IP, 10 R, 9 ER, 18 H, 1 BB, 10 K, 9.00 ERA
Now, small sample size alert and all that, but it is telling that what was supposed to be the backbone of the pen has been the team weakness. Spencer Mathews got lit up in 1/3 of an inning, but helped himself out with a good three innings last night. Other than that, the freshman have been lights out. The freshmen in the pen of Ott, Zeigler, Riedie, and Mathews have a combined line of:
13 IP, 4 R, 4 ER, 13 H, 0 BB, 16 K, 2.77 ERA
And 3 of those runs belong to Mathews. The freshmen have, up to this point, thoroughly outperformed the upperclassmen in the bullpen. And it's not close. Cain's injury is probably a neck injury from looking over his shoulder.
Over 72 innings, LSU has allowed 21 runs, 20 of them earned. The bullpen has allowed 14 of those runs. Removing the upperclassmen trio from the pitching stats, and the team's ERA drops from 2.50 to 1.57. I think have dectected the chink in the team's rather impressive armor.
Yes, I'm nitpicking. I'm not comfortable continually saying nice things, so I had to write somethign critical in order to retain my status as a grump. Not only has LSU not lost a gaqme, but if you took LSU's worst offensive output with LSU's most runs allowed in a game this season, you'd still have a 6-5 LSU win. LSU is yet to score less than six runs or allow more than five. The team is doing pretty well.