Let's have that settle in our bellies a little bit. Four and friggin' eleven. At the halfway point of the SEC season, LSU is already on life support. Even if we win every series left in the season, LSU still won't make it to 500 in the SEC season. A 10-5 run might not even get LSU to the SEC tournament.
This just in. We suck. Which begs the question: how did we get here? What went wrong this year?
Reason #1. Bad luck.
A popular excuse is that LSU has lost six one-run games, and had those gone the other way, we'd be looking at a good season. This ignores that LSU has WON two one-run games in the SEC. So, if LSU had gone 4-4 instead of 2-6, with dead even luck in one-run games, LSU is staring at 6-9 instead of 4-11. Two wins are nothing to sneeze at, but LSU's problems go beyond simple bad luck in one-run games.
Reason #2. The bullpen.
It's not quite as bad as you think. LSU lacks a relief ace, but there are three relievers with an ERA in the threes: Ott, Berry, and Cotton. None of them are setting the world on fire, but they've all been effective in stretches. They all have posted good K/BB ratios, a combined 43/9. So it's not like they've been wholly ineffective.
But Mainieri has shown remarkably little faith in those three. They have pitched a combined 46.2 innings, and Ott has quite publicly lost the closer's job. Another three relievers have a combined 43.1 innings, including our bullpen innings leader, Jimmy Dykstra. Those three relievers, Eades, Peterson, and Dykstra all have an ERA around six. There's simply no way to call them effective, yet they are getting used as much as the effective relievers. This is entirely on Maineiri's bullpen management, though he's at least learned recently not to trust those last three. I mean, would you?
Reason #3. Too many holes in the lineup.
LSU has four starters -- FOUR -- slugging under 340. Hell, 340 is a barely acceptable OBP. A 340 slugging is catastrophic. That's a stunning lack of power. Look, we don't need everybody to hit home runs, but Ross, Hanover, Edward, and Watkins have combined for 16 extra base hits on the season (in 381 AB), and only one home run. To put this in perspective, Austin Nola has 14 XBH by himself. And Nola's hitting 313/369/469, which is good but not great.
Half of the lineup is non-productive. We simply sit around and wait for Mahtook's spot in the lineup to come up. What else can we do? We're absolutely wasting one of the great seasons - Mahtook is hitting 374/503/724. LSU is still first in the SEC runs scored, almost entirely because of Mahtook. He's that good, folks.
Reason #4. Small ball.
We here at ATVS hate small ball. We are the standard bearers of the big ball movement. Now, I understand the new bats don't perform as well, but LSU has nearly twice as many sacrifice hits as home runs. That's just crazy talk. Do you know who has bunted more than LSU? Only Kentucky. And by a whopping one bunt. LSU's 44 sacrifice hits is just killing the offense.
It's one thing for Ross, Edward, and Watkins to combine for 11 bunts. They have been a drain on the offense. Hanover, by himself, is a bunting machine, laying down the sacrifice 13 times. This from a 378 OBP hitter, among the best OBP's on the team. But Mainieri has asked the other four hitters in the lineup, not Mahtook, to bunt 14 times.
ARE YOU FRIGGIN' KIDDING ME?! You only have four or five productive hitters in the lineup, and you continually ask them to bunt? Why? You only have a few guys who can reliably get on base, and you willing give up the outs? For the love of God, why? People want to blame clutch hitting, but why do we need to have people come through in the clutch? Because we keep giving away free outs.
And Mainieri has constructed the order so he has to bunt Hanover as much as he does. He's batting second in the order, right in the middle of the few hitters we have. So every time we survive the bottom of the order, Mainieri gives away another out once he gets to the top. It's absurd, and it's entirely Maineiri's fault.
Stop it. Hanover gets on a 378 clip, which is pretty good. Either keep him at #2 and let him hit or, if you have no faith him, move him to the back half of the order with all the other anchors. The bunt is a crutch. And it's crippling the offense.
Small back sucks. The proof? 4-11.