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Catching Up With Baseball: The Offense

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Believe it or not, the SEC schedule is at its official halfway point.  I've missed almost all of the SEC season due to some serious connectivity problems (READ: Time Warner sucks monkey balls), but I have been trying to keep track even if I've been unable to watch many games.  This weekend was like catching up with an old friend.  So, now that we are at the halfway point of the SEC schedule, let's look in on the offense and the defense and where we stand going forward. 

First off, we are in the odd situation of being in third in the SEC and #1 in the nation.  Go figure.  We trail Arkansas by a half game in the west, and we still have series left against the two worst teams in the conference (Tennessee and Miss State).  So that looks good.

LSU has scored 290 runs, good for #3 in the conference.  Alabama is hitting .346 which is simply unsustainable, which is how they have scored 321 runs.  LSU has displayed decent power, though not the kind of power we expected in the preseason, but the team is being driven by a 410 OBP.  They lead the conference in free passes, and patient hitters leads to runs.  Almost every consequence of trying to work a walk is a positive: more baserunners and longer at bats, which means you're more likely to get to the pen. 

Also, Paul Mainieri has called for 7 sacrifice hits.  Seven.  The average SEC team averages a little over 20 sacs.  Mainieri is a coach after my own heart, refusing to give away outs.  He's also letting the team run wild on the basepaths.  76 steals on 98 attempts just crushes the rest of the conference.  So we get lots of runners on and then they take the extra base without having to sacrifice an out.  If the homers ever come back like we're used to, this postseason could see some video game scores.

THE INFIELD

Let's start with the positives: Ochinko (365/420/595) has blossomed into our best hitter.  That is, if its not Ryan Schimpf (311/440/597) who also has the bonus of being a good defensive player at second and stealing tons of bases (14-18).  Schimpf is the team positional MVP.  DJ LeMaheiu (358/458/525) only suffers in comparison, and not by much.  Those three are a rock upon which our offense is built. 

The bad?  Well, Micah Gibbs (250/368/444) has taken a step backwards at the plate.  Some of that was unavoidable as he porbably hit beyond his capability last year and this is just him coming back to earth.  Ochinko has now missed a few games due to an injury which may be an ongoing concern.  Boy, I wish we had a backup first baseman who could mash like Ryan Gaudet.  Why was he cut again? 

The ugly is Derek Henelihi's LSU career.  Last season, he had to backup Mike Hollander, a guy who played some brutal defense and Helenihi could outhit.  But Helenihi took a backseat as a freshman to the veteran.  Now that Helenihi is the vet, he's losing playing time to a freshman, Tyler Hanover.  Both decisions were defensible, but it's pretty tough to be Helenihi, as veteran leadership worked against him last year and doesn't help him this year.  Helenihi is hitting 254/362/407 and Hanvoer is hitting 333/360/471.  Hanover's numbers are better, but most of it is a function of batting average.  Hanover can't take a walk to save his life, and Helenihi hits for the same amount of power as Hanover (ISO SLG = 153 vs. 136).

Really, Hanover's production has not been that much better than Helenihi's.  But the guy who had to wait in favor of a veteran now has to sit for freshmen.  Life is unfair sometimes.

THE OUTFIELD

Damn, Leon Landry's (250/353/518) been alternating between great and terrible.  He leads the team with 32 striekouts.  Message to Leon: stop swinging for the fences every time.  Just get on base.  And when there, you're 7 of 12 in steal attempts. the worst percentage on the team.  Stop it.  On the flip side, when he makes contact, it goes a long way. 

Hopefully, Blake Dean (287/391/426) is coming out of his slump with this big weekend.  He has not been the same player.  Chad Jones (355/459/516) returns this week, which begs the question: whose at bats does he take?  Mike Mahtook (333/417/608) has been awesome in Jones' place.  You can't bench him, can you? 

And you certainly can't bench Jared Mitchell (333/504/625).  Throw in 23 steals and great defense, Mitchell has been a force of nature.  He's the one guy who certainly won't have to give an at bat to anybody. 

So, going forward, we add Jones and hopefully see Dean start hitting like Dean again.  Those two additions alone make the offense even better moving forward.