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LSU vs. Arkansas, CWS Game 3 (for LSU) Preview

Here we are, at a game we discussed in generalities yesterday, but now we have to get into specifics.  It has been well-documented that Arkansas's starting pitching situation could be charitably described as "murky".  Let's look at Arkansas's starting pitchers and what exactly in wrong with them:

Dallas Keuchel:  staff's ace, 17 starts on the season, but he pitched 4 innings on Wednesday on 3 days rest.

Brett Eibner:  17 starts on the season, only 3 days rest, got lit up on Monday, been losing pitcher twice against us.

TJ Forrest:  11 starts on the season, only 3 days rest, got knocked out of game on Monday.

Drew Smyly: 14 starts on the season, pitched into the 5th inning on Wednesday.

Bryan Bingham:  2 starts on the season, 6.1 innings pitched, 12.79 ERA.

Mike Bolsinger:  1 start on the season, pitched 3 innings on Wednesday.

Justin Wells:  1 start on the season, 49.1 innings pitched in 25 total appearances, 4.20 ERA.

Sam Murphy:  1 start on the season, 39.1 innings pitched in 20 total appearances, 6.41 ERA.

That's it.  That's every pitcher Arkansas has started in any game this year.  Keuchel, Bolsinger, and Smyly probably are completely spent, at least for Friday.  Bolsinger could probably come back on Saturday if needed, but I can't think any of those guys would throw one competitive pitch on Friday.  Eibner and Forrest could go on three days' rest, and neither threw a ton of pitches on Monday, but we've beaten Eibner twice this season and he was not good at all on Monday.  The rest of their pitchers have started a grand total of 4 games, and Bingham was not remotely successfully at it.

Arkansas, therefore, has the choice of either bringing back a pitcher who has been proven to have nothing for us, and on short rest, or they can bring in a pitcher who is not accustomed to starting and has not proven to be capable of it.  According to sources, they are going to start their closer, LHP Stephen Richards.  Maybe they read my column.

If I was Arkansas's coach, I would take a lesson from Nicholls State.

On April 15, we played Nicholls State at the Box in a midweek game.  Nicholls used 8 pitchers, the first for two innings and each subsequent pitcher for an inning.  Nicholls won the game 3-1, giving up a total of 4 hits.  Their pitchers kept us totally off balance the whole game.

There were some other factors going on there.  It was a midweek game, and actually our second midweek game of the week.  We were not using our best lineup.  We were flat, and were starting our worst stretch of the season, as we would lose our only SEC series we would lose all season that next weekend, when we dropped 2 of 3 to Tennessee.  But Arkansas is in a terrible jam here, and they have to come up with some way to beat LSU not once, but twice.  Asking 7 to 9 pitchers to give them one or two outstanding innings may be the way to go.

It's not a strategy you want to use every game.  It's a strategy born of desperation, but Arkansas is in a desperate situation.  Their best pitchers (except closer Stephen Richards) are burned up, and they need to win two games in two days against a very good team.  It's time to break out an unconventional strategy.

Knowing that baseball managers are particularly loathe to try anything bold, I doubt they'll do that.  Instead they'll trot out Eibner, Wells, Murphy, or someone who has never started before, and try to ride him for 5 innings or so. 

Here's how I counter that:  as soon as Arky gets through their lefthanded pitchers, bring in Leon Landry.  Every pitcher I've mentioned being available after Richards is a righty.  Leon Landry crushes right handed hitting better than anyone on our roster with the possible exception of Jared Mitchell.  His platoon-mate, Sean Ochinko, has seemed to struggle a bit lately hitting righties.  Plus, this CWS has exposed Ryan Schimpf as an outfielder.  He is playing out of position and is unaccustomed to trying to run down long fly balls.  It showed against Virginia when he misplayed that ball that was incorrectly ruled foul and should have been a triple.  It's showed in poor throws to the cutoff.  He is not an instinctive outfielder right now.

Leon Landry, in addition to being an outstanding hitter against righties, is also an exceptional defensive outfielder.  Schimpf can slide down to first base (where he is, admittedly, also not a natural, but it's also an easier position to field).  At least he is an experienced infielder, and the only struggle he should have at the position is in catching difficult throws from Helenihi or Nola across the diamond.  But it's not like Sean Ochinko is exceptional at that either.

Actually, Arkansas lists a lot of left-handed pitchers on their roster, but most of them have only pitched a handful of innings, and one or two would be seeing their first action of the season if they were used here.

i don't want to get overconfident, but we really should be able to put a lot of runs on the board.  The pitching just won't be there on the opposite side unless they get a Herculean effort from an unusual source.

It is anticipated that we will be pitching Ranaudo.  The comment section to yesterday's post had an extensive discussion of the possibility of pitching Bradshaw.  The advantage in going with Bradshaw would be a) he has pitched well lately, and b) Arkansas hasn't seen him before.  Arkansas has seen Ranaudo, and they've beaten him.

The logic in starting Bradshaw is sound, and I would be happy if we went that direction (even though I know we won't), but let me suggest another alternative.  Ryan Byrd was great in the SEC Tournament and hasn't gotten back into a game since then.  He is our best left handed starter and a senior.  Arkansas is a very lefty-heavy lineup (4 of their 5 best hitters are lefties), and a junk ball lefty like Byrd can really have success. Byrd is the kind of guy who can have particularly good success against Arkansas's best hitters, and this will keep Arkansas from putting together big innings.  If we perform as expected offensively, the game should be ours in that case.

And heck, it's not like he isn't rested.

Game starts at 1:00pm.  I will be working.  I hope to be able to keep up, and Tivo is my friend.  Open thread will go up at noon.