All of those non-conference series were fun, but it’s time for the real season to start. No more monkeying with the lineup or trying to find the right combo, it’s time for SEC play. 10 weeks of “The Best College Baseball In The Country (c)”. Sure, Mainieri is going to continue to tinker with the team, but we’re getting near the point that you are what you are at this time in the season.
Record: 14-3 (0-0)
The computers like Missouri a bit more than the pollsters, and I’m not quite sure why. Missouri has been wining big, but they have one of the worst strength of schedules in the nation (215th). The Tigers have been bullying bad teams. Still, this is a team allowing less than three runs a game, and that’s great no matter who you’ve been playing. They did just finish blasting Wichita St in a midweek game, so it’s not all schedule effects.
This is playing out remarkably similar to last season, when Mizzou stormed out to a 20-1 start, largely against weaker competition, only to fail to play .500 ball in the SEC play. The Tigers are hoping to avoid a repeat of that, and hoping some experience with success will pay dividends.
Would their mascot win in a fight with Mike the Tiger?
On the one hand, this seems like a pretty obvious draw. I mean, they are both tigers, right? However, this is where I go full homer. We don’t just have a tiger, we have the best damn tiger on the planet. Mike will take on all tiger comers. He ain’t afraid of nobody. Hell, send in the guy dressed in the tiger suit, Mike doesn’t care. Mike wins because Mike has the heart of a champion.
3B Brian Sharp 426/500/704
1B Kameron Misner 383/560/733
OF Trey Harris 338/438/500
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say these guys are playing slightly over their heads right now. If you’re sporting an OBP over 500 seventeen games into the season, you are on a nuclear hot streak. The Tigers’ top three hitters have combined for 8 of the team’s 12 home runs, 13 of their 23 stolen bases, and have been involved in over half of the team’s runs by scoring 65 and driving in 54.
Despite how awesome this trio has played, the rest of the offense shows some serious holes. Only one other starter has a slugging above 400, though everyone gets on at a good clip. Mizzou ranks 11th in the SEC in both slugging and batting average, yet 6th in OBP. Somehow, those component parts lead to 3rd place in the SEC in runs scoring. So there’s some indication they aren’t quite as good as their run scoring indicates. Still, they get on a ton, and they have plenty of dangerous hitters who can clear the bases.
Jr. RHP Bryce Montes De Oca (3-0, 1.57 ERA, 23.0 IP, 31/11 K/BB)
Jr. LHP Michael Plassmeyer (2-0, 2.88 ERA, 25.0 IP, 35/3 K/BB)
Sr. RHP Andy Toelken (2-1, 3.92 ERA, 20.2 IP, 16/3 K/BB)
Montes De Oca is the classic fireballer, but the numbers haven’t quite been there. He’s got really good numbers, but not the kind of draw dropping numbers you’d expect from such a bigtime pro prospect. The 3:1 K/BB ratio is good but not overwhelming. But Michael Plassmeyer has been destroying teams as the Saturday starter. He’s got the same strikeout rate only with far more control. He’s a lefty soft tosser, so prepare to be unreasonably upset at him this weekend when LSU bats keep missing his pitches.
The teams sports a 2.54 ERA, so even if LSU figures out the imposing starters, there’s not much of a let up once you get to the bullpen. Closer Nile Ball has 3 saves and a 0.00 ERA. And he’s not even one of the three bullpen arms with at least ten strikeouts already. Missouri, as a team, averages over a strikeout an inning (174 K, 156 IP). That’s pretty darn good.
Well, it’s hard to get a read on a team that has beaten up on the likes of Northeastern, Alabama A&M, UMBC, and LaSalle. But you can only beat who is in front of you, and Mizzou has thoroughly destroyed what’s been in front of them. I don’t entirely trust their stats, but at the same time, we knew going into the year this team would be able to pitch. And it hasn’t all been layups, as they boast wins over Miami and Wichita St.
LSU has started to turn its pitching around, and maybe it has found its third starter in Ma’Khail Hilliard, who has been nothing short of outstanding this year. But LSU definitely is on the lesser end of the pitching matchups, and will need to make up the difference at the plate. It’s a tall task, but I’ll give the edge to LSU thanks to the home park. Getting two wins and the series victory is no easy task, but that’s life on the weekends in the SEC.