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Catching Up With Baseball: The Defense

Austin Ross has a 3.86 ERA.  That ranks third amongst our starters, which is sort of amazing because over the last few years, that ERA would make him the staff ace.  Check out the LSU ace's ERA over the past four seasons:

2008 4.12 Ryan Verdugo

2007 4.41 Jared Bradford

2006 3.50 Derek Olvey (4.70 Clay Dirks)

2005 2.60 Greg Smith

And Olvey didn't pitch the full season, so Dirks really lead the team in ERA.  We haven't had a true ace since 2005 and now we have three of them.  Heck, our midweek starter, Matulis, has a 4.41 ERA.  Richard complained this weekend that we don't have four starters for a postseason bracket.  First off, I don't really think a team needs four starters anymore given the new four-team format.  Secondly, LSU HAS four starters.  Who else goes four deep?  Texas?  Arizona St?  Only the top two teams in team ERA.  Heck, even Virginia, the #3 team in team ERA, has a midweek starter with an ERA above 5. 

But the story of the rotation is the top two guys: Louis Coleman (2.38 ERA) and Anthony Ranaudo (2.68).  Ranaudo's been a bit of a hard luck case, boasting a mere 3-2 record, but those two guys have been downright awesome.  The three weekend starters have combined for 186 K against 42 walks over 147.2 IP.  They get guys out, don't give up free passes, and then rely on the defense.

Not a bad strategy, actually.  LSU's defense over the years has not always been a strong suit.  We seem to specialize in middle infielders who can rake and are fairly brutal with the glove.  Schimpf fits the raking mode, but is a terrific defender.  The LSU staff has allowed 159 and only 15 of them are unearned, a very low ratio in college ball.  LSU fielders turn batted balls into outs.

A lot of words have been spilled over the crappiness of our bullpen.  Outside of Ott and Bradshaw, the bullpen has been beyond brutal.  Six different pitchers have an ERA of 6.00 or higher.  Nicholson has an ERA in the double digits.  And while the pen has been terrible and I have no confidence in any guy getting the ball, how about this stat: the bullpen has combined for one loss, and that was by Ott of all people. 

Even more bizarre, the bullpen has not blown a lead all year.  LSU has only lost one game in which they had a lead after ANY inning, and that a first inning lead.  LSU, as a team, has not lost a game in which it has held a lead in any inning from the 2nd inning on.  You'd expect a team with a bad bullpen to have blown more leads. 

Is the pen doing its job?  No.  They are getting lit up.  But the pen's failures have not cost us a single game yet.  So it's hard to get too upset by it.  Though it is the kind of the thing that will bite you in the ass going forward.  Someone needs to step forward, and right friggin' now.  But as I said in the preseason, if the team's biggest flaw is a lack of left handed relief, you are a really good team.