It's an important weekend of baseball as LSU heads to College Station to face #2 Texas A&M for a series that LSU really needs to regain it's composure and to keep it's head above water in the SEC West division race. Fortunately for us, A&M appears to be distracted by some meaningless shootyhoops nonsense (they still play that sport in March?). I talked to Matt Nesloney, the head baseball scribe at the excellent Good Bull Hunting to find out more about the Aggies.
PodKATT: You can't ask a team to do more than win the games scheduled, which the Aggies certainly have so far this season to a 19-2 overall record. While road wins at Pepperdine and a rivalry win over Texas are commendable, there isn't a whole lot of quality wins so far. D1 Baseball's RPI ranks the A&M SOS way down at 215th. Is it just beating up creampuffs, or does A&M look to your eyes like a team worthy of it's near-consensus #2 rating?
Matt Nesloney: On paper, I absolutely think that the Aggies are worthy of the near-consensus #2 rating. The schedule has been light, but if you look at the numbers, I think that they deserve to be ranked so highly until proven otherwise. Through 21 games this season, the Aggies are actually doing better offensively than they were at this point last season, when they were on their 24 game win streak to start the year. That could obviously change as we get into the meat of SEC play, but the Ags haven't yet done anything to deserve having their high preseason ranking taken away from them. Everything will sort itself out in conference play, considering they have to play the top three teams in the SEC East this year, along with the gauntlet that is the SEC West.
PK: It was a surprise to see former Friday night arm Tyler Stubblefield get dismissed from the team in January, but the Aggie pitching staff doesn't seem to have lost a step. That team ERA of 2.95 is crazy good, and all of your starters have great K/BB numbers. What would you say is this staff's biggest weakness?
MN: My main concern is that this staff doesn't have a true ace like an AJ Puk or Alex Lange. Tyler Ivey has shown flashes of becoming that guy, especially during his 16.1 scoreless innings streak to start the year, but he's been pretty inconsistent at times. That's to be expected, since he's just a freshman, but if he's ever to make the jump to Friday night he'll have to find a way to post consecutive quality starts.
PK: It's funny how things work out. LSU is a very young team on the field this year and we've not quite settled on a full-time catcher yet. Meanwhile, Michael Barash is at A&M with some power in your lineup and he's made some pretty clutch hits already this year. How important would you say he is to your team, which has a lot of other great hitters in the lineup?
MN: Mike is one of, if not the most important key to this year's team. His relationships with the pitchers are second to none, his leadership both on and off the field is impeccable and he's a popular guy in the locker room. LUNCH PAIL. GYM RAT. COACH ON THE FIELD. BUZZWORDS. In all seriousness, every team needs a guy like Mike. There's a reason that he quickly became a fan favorite last year, and his improved bat is just icing on the cake. His attitude really is infectious. It's only fitting that he hit that walk off home run last Tuesday. And the great thing about the season that he's having so far is that he's not simply adding depth to the lineup; he's actually been one of the better hitters throughout the lineup.
PK: Has the listeria been removed from the park? Also, WHEN THE HELL ARE WE GETTING CREOLE CREAM CHEESE FLAVOR BACK?
MN: The listeria is gone, but we'd all still have taken the risk and eaten Blue Bell because this is America, dammit. I've got to be honest, though. I've never had the CREOLE CREAM CHEESE. I didn't even know it was a thing until I googled it just now. I asked a friend if he knew what it was, and he said "Idk, but I want it so bad," and I have to agree. It sounds like magic. Am I allowed to ask what's in it, or is it another one of those "you don't want to know" things?
PK: Bottom 9th, down 1, 2 outs, runner on. Who do you want at bat for A&M?
MN: No question I'd want JB Moss up there. He's tearing the cover off the ball right now, and he's hitting a cool .415. It's getting to the point where a 2-4 day at the dish is almost a disappointment. If Moss was unavailable for whatever reason, you can't go wrong with a guy named Boomer White. He's not hitting quite as well as Moss (he's only hitting .405), but he's only struck out twice all year.