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LSU Gets Unlucky, But Still Deserved to Lose

It was bound to happen, LSU not only lost a game, but lost the series in a fairly lost weekend against Kansas.  Before we start panicking, remember that LSU only lost two series last year, to Illinois and Tennessee.  Sometimes you have a bad weekend, and this was just one of those weekends where nothing went right.

The weekend started poorly with the news that Ranaudo would not pitch and Landry would not play the field.  Kansas also has some big injury problems, so LSU can't blame it on injuries, but it is now time to worry long-term.  If Ranaudo does not pitch this weekend, his arm troubles are officially serious and our season's expectations drop from "Omaha" to "make the Supers".  This team cannot win the title without a healthy Ranaudo.  There's some good pitchers there, but losing the top pitcher in the NCAA is a pretty big hurdle to clear.

One of the tenants of modern baseball research is that a pitcher has limited control on whether a batted ball in play becomes a base hit or not.  The variance in BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is usually one of the biggest factors in a swing in ERA.  Pitchers just don't really control things outside of walks, strikeouts, and home runs. 

I bring this up because Kansas' BABIP for the weekend was .420.  LSU's was a more reasonable .338.  That's 80 points of batting average and was the difference in the series: bad luck.  Kansas batted balls just seemed to tail away from every outfielder or find a hole in the infield while LSU batted balls turned into hits at about the expected rate.  LSU is a good defensive team, so it wasn't misplays by the fielders it was just Kansas living up to the old cliché, hitting the ball where they ain't. 

They don't hand out ribbons for tough luck, and a loss is a loss, but going forward, I'm not that concerned.  It was just one of those weekends.  That's the way baseball goes sometimes, but it's not likely teams will continue to post a BABIP over .400.  You just tip your hat to the Jayhawks for the series win, and move on.

Continuing with the theme of bad luck, yes, the home plate umpire was consistently terrible all weekend long.  However, I'm not going to chalk this one up to luck, I'm going to chalk this up to poor evaluation and adjustments.  The umpire was calling balls a good three inches off the plate a strike.  Yes, it's a bad call, but it was a consistent bad call.  By Sunday, LSU hitters still seemed surprised by the outside strike.  That's just unacceptable.

Kansas adjusted to the terrible strike zone almost immediately.  Not only did their hitters protect the outside of the plate, the pitching staff consistently worked the outside of the plate.  They used the umpiring to their advantage.  LSU passively accepted the strike zone and kept expecting the umpires to start calling the outside pitch correctly.  Which resulted in lots of called strikes on the outside while the pitchers failed to use the expanded zone.  That's not luck, that's just failing to adjust to the game conditions. 

It was a bad weekend especially for the pitchers, which we'll get into later this week.  Let's wait to see if Ranaudo can throw without pain before we hit the panic button, particularly regarding our almost non-existent middle relief.  However, we're pretty close to the time to panic.