After last week's debacle of losing 2 of 3 to a team we should have swept, we get another team we should sweep this weekend. The new look LSU Tigers will be facing a team that, again, is among the weaker in the conference. What is worse, the Auburn Tigers will be without their best hitter.
Auburn's Joseph Sanders is 4th in the league in slugging percentage, 4th in RBI, 11th in hits, 4th in doubles, and 3rd in home runs. He is a very good power hitting corner infielder. He's the only Auburn hitter who is near the top of the conference in any offensive category. Trent Mummey is among the leaders in stolen bases, but that's about it.
Without their leading hitter and run producer, one wonders what Auburn will do offensively. What's more, it's not like their pitching is all that great either. They'll go with a freshman right-hander on Friday night. Jon Luke Jacobs sports an ERA of 5.79, and as a righty looks to be particularly vulnerable to LSU's left-handed heavy lineup.
Minus Sanders, Auburn's best hitters are Justin Hargett and Trent Mummey. Hargett hits for a nice average but provides little power. Mummey's a decent all-around hitter. It's still a lineup that can be dangerous, but it is missing something.
On Saturday, Auburn probably has its best chance of pulling a game out from under us as they will be throwing their best pitcher, the lefty Grant Dayton. I venture to say that any time LSU is facing a left-handed pitcher, we are going to have a tougher time scoring runs.
Then again, that was the old Tigers. There's no telling what the new Tigers, minus Leon Landry, plus Austin Nola, and with Jared Mitchell out of the leadoff spot, will be able to do. Personally, I'd remove Jared Mitchell from the lineup entirely with a left-handed starting pitcher in the lineup. Put a right-handed hitter in his place and make a substitution when the starter comes out.
If there's good news for the Tigers this weekend, it's that Paul Bertuccini had a really nice night for LSU against ULL on Wednesday night. Bertuccini had been struggling out of the pen, but with a 3 1/3 inning performance under his belt, maybe he's ready to be the kind of effective reliever he was last year.
In the first two games, LSU will of course be going with a pair of aces in Anthony Renaudo and Louis Coleman. LSU can bring some right-handed heat at the top of its rotation.
The Sunday game is perhaps a bit of a mystery as Paul Manieri has made a little noise about demoting Austin Ross to the pen, though this may not be in the immediate future. The SEC website does not list a presumed starter for Auburn. One hopes they don't have a second left-hander.