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Weekend Preview: Florida

Is anyone here a doctor?

2017 Division I Men’s College World Series - Florida v LSU - Game 2
Screw these guys. Even if they graduated.
Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Did you hear that LSU lost another midweek game? I’m sure it slipped past your notice because nobody pays that much attention to how LSU does against it in-state rivals, right? So I guess it’s now a good time to play a less stressful SEC series against a team we don’t hate with nearly all of our being… /checks notes… oh, cool, Florida.

Can’t think of any reason why we hate Florida, right? This should be a nice bounceback weekend after dropping two on the road to Mizzou. Nope, no panic here. Can’t even tell you how not panicked I am.

Florida Gators

Record: 25-14 (6-9), tied for 4th in the East

RS/RA: 275/208

Rank/RPI/ISR: --/25/46

Florida comes into Baton Rouge as a middle of the pack SEC team, clinging to contention thanks to a sweep of Alabama and two wins over South Carolina, the divisional cellar dwellers. The Gators have one SEC win over a team not currently in last place in its division (Mississippi St, in case you were wondering).

The biggest issue is a pitching staff that cannot get anyone out. Florida ranks dead last in the SEC in team ERA (4.64), and only Kentucky has allowed more total runs. The biggest issue is that they simply don’t strike enough batters out, and all of those balls in plays turn into hits. It’s not the best of strategies.

Taking Stock of LSU

But before we get all cocky, let’s slow down and take stock of the issues besetting LSU right now. LSU is 11th in ERA, and on the offensive side, ranks 10th in OBP and 12th in slugging. LSU has gotten out to a 9-6 start in SEC play, but largely done it with smoke and mirrors, as their underlying numbers don’t really support the team’s overall performance.

And that’s before we get into the simple issue of who is going to suit up this weekend. LSU only had 23 healthy bodies from its 35-man roster on Tuesday, and it probably won’t improve for this weekend. CF Zach Watson, 3B Chris “Professional Hitter” Reid, and IF Hal Hughes are all injured and only Hughes has a chance of playing this weekend, even if it seems remote.

On the hill, LSU lost Zack Hess last weekend to add to the losses of Landon Marceaux, and Jaden Hill. Mainieri has stated he won’t move Cole Henry and Eric Walker up the rotation due to the Thursday start of the series, so the Game 1 starter could be everybody’s favorite, Johnny Allstaff.

Offense

SS Brady McConnell 373/424/580

OF Nelson Maldonado 328/401/575

OF Jacob Young 348/415/461

You know that stuff about the Florida pitching staff being a question mark? It does not apply to the offense. They can rake. McConnell is one of the best hitters in the SEC while Maldonado can keep pace with his power and Young is a top tier table setter. Florida can score runs in bunches, even if their lineup is a bit top heavy.

As a team, they hit 289/379/447, and they’ve stolen 34 bases on 49 attempts. They will run on you without getting too bunt happy. It’s in the arsenal, but they’d rather let the big boppers hit. There’s speed and power up and down the lineup. Seven gators have at least two steals and all but one of their regular lineup has at least three home runs. Cory Acton, with zero, is the odd man out.

Pitching

RHP Tommy Mace 4.13, 56.2 IP, 48/18 K/BB

RHP Christian Scott 4.60, 31.1 IP, 30/6 K/BB

RHP Tyler Dyson 5.13 ERA, 40.1 IP, 31/22 K/BB

Like LSU, Florida runs an unending stream of righties at you. Things have not quite gone as expected. Dyson has an ugly ERA and worse peripherals. Mace and Scott, on the other hand, both seem like the victims of some poor luck. Mace is just outside the league leaders in strikeouts but he does hold the league lead in hits batsmen, demonstrating a lack of control sometimes. Mace is a huge dude and the Gators expected him to be their ace and an intimidating power pitcher, but he’s just not all of the way there yet. Scott might actually have the better stuff.

Tiger Bait?

Who knows? Florida is not playing well right now, but sinking their teeth into a rivalry game might be just what the doctor ordered. Speaking of doctors, we’re not sure if ours are going to clear anyone to play. So long as LSU is playing with such a threadbare staff coupled with virtually no bench, it seems hard to predict too many wins in LSU’s immediate future. But they’ve defied the odds all season, so don’t take that to the bank. The short week hurts, so if they can get this one in on Thursday, then I’m taking Florida to get the series win. Ugh.