The season ramps up in a hurry this weekend as LSU stops playing its assortment of tomato cans and directional schools to travel down to Minute Maid Park in Houston to play three really good teams from the Big 12 in the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children College Classic.
This will have the feel of the old Winn-Dixie Showdowns, as three SEC teams will travel into a big stadium and fans will be treated to three games a day with a rotating schedule so each SEC team will play each Big 12 team once. Hey, maybe someone will start an SEC! SEC! chant just for the giggles.
Record: 9-0 (0-0 in the Big 12)
2019 RPI/ISR: 66/60
Last Weekend: Swept Boise St.
Record: 5-3 (0-0 in the Big 12)
2019 RPI/ISR: 34/28
Last Weekend: Lost series to Oral Roberts
Record: 7-2 (0-0 in the Big 12)
2019 RPI/ISR: 46/38
Last Weekend: Won series against Illinois St.
We still don’t have computer rankings for this year, but Oklahoma is the only team currently ranked in the polls, checking in at #22. The Longhorns are undefeated with weekend sweeps against Rice and Boise St to their credit.
None of these teams are exactly hitting the cover off the ball. LSU actually has scored more runs than its Friday and Saturday opponents, by notching its 50th run of the season in its ninth game. The difference here is that Texas and Oklahoma both boast elite pitching staffs, each having allowed less runs to cross the plate than the Tigers. Runs should be at a premium in LSU games this weekend.
The Week That Was
Paul Mainieri is still working the kinks out of the lineup, but things are starting to come together. On the one hand, that’s encouraging. On the other, it’s fairly terrifying. Let’s deal with encouraging first.
Five guys have appeared in every game and appear to have locked down their starting roles. Throw in Mo Hampton, and you have a core of six guys who have seemed to locked down their starting gigs. Four of them are hitting 290 or better and each of the peripherals to be guys we can count on. There’s no worries about Cade Beloso (429/459/571) or Zack Mathis (424/475/606). Hampton’s hitting 300 but lacks power but has plenty of speed to make up for it. Daniel Cabrera (290/439/452) is a proven bat as well.
Alex Milazzo and Saul Garza are each hitting around 220, but both have a bit of pass for right now. Milazzo for his defense and showing some surprising speed on the bases and Garza for carrying the biggest power bat in the lineup. Their jobs are secure, too.
Behind this core group, we have what appears to be eight players competing for three slots: left field and the two middle infield positions. This is where we run into problems. Gavin Dugas leads this group in OPS at 681 (ok, Wes Toups does at 777, but he has 6 at bats and one hit). Giovanni DiGiacomo is next with an OPS of 639. No other player is above 500. That’s… yeah, that’s terrible.
Collier Cranford keeps trying to play his way into the shortstop job, but both he and Hal Hughes are hitting 1-11, and Collier added two baserunning gaffes in one game to his resume. DiGiacomo doesn’t appear to have much pop, but he’s stolen 3 of 4 bases and he can cover a lot of ground in center. But the biggest issue is at second base where two guys who were supposed to be in that core group are simply not hitting right now. Gavin Dugas and Cade Doughty are a combined 6-44 from the plate with a mere 4 RBI, though they do each have a homer. They need to find that spark. Shortstop might be a write off at the plate, but you can’t do the same at second base.
Who Scares You?
Texas: Todd Austin
Baylor: Jared McKenzie
Oklahoma: Tanner Treadway
The real answer for Texas is no one. Duke Ellis leads the team in OPS at 941, but he also has exactly one RBI. Now, I know RBI can be an overrated stat, but… come on. Todd Austin is simply a more well-rounded hitter, notching a 342/405/474 slash line. He has some pop, he can steal bases, he gets on at a great rate… he’s their most dangerous hitter right now.
Baylor’s Jared McKenzie is on a roll right now. He has a hit in every game this season, and he has posted a 485/528/545 slash line. He hasn’t gone yard yet as he hasn’t shown a huge power stroke, instead rapping a ridiculous number of singles. But this is an offense that can score some runs, and its usually because he’s getting on base over half of the time.
But the real treat this weekend is Oklahoma’s Tanner Treadway. Treadway seemingly leads the Big 12 in every important hitting category, or at least top 10. He’s hitting 405/410/811, and he is the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week. There are some holes in his game: he doesn’t walk that much and he’s only 1-2 on stolen base attempts… and that’s about it for negatives. The guy already has 3 triples for godsakes. He can do just about anything at the plate.
Comic Book to Read Instead
The episodic nature of this weekend series has me thinking of a more episodic comic book. One that as an overarching narrative, but each story is self-contained and uses different characters than the one before, so its easy to pick up at any point.
Ice Cream Man
The best review for the series described one issue as Sliding Doors, except terrifying. If that doesn’t make you want to pick up this horror/fantasy series, I don’t know what will. It’s a comic that continually asks “what if?” and the answer is usually bad.
While the stand-alone stories work on their own and require no knowledge of any of the book’s mythology or back story, the most recent issues have started to pile on that mythology and recontextualizes what came before to somehow form a new narrative. It’s like watching a jigsaw puzzle fall apart. What was once a flower is now another shape in the box. It’s a befuddling and exciting series, and one of the best books out right now.
LSU – So. RH Cole Henry (1-1, 1.00 ERA, 9.0 IP, 3 BB, 11 SO)
Texas – Jr. RH Bryce Elder (2-0, 1.38 ERA, 13.0 IP, 2 BB, 17 SO)
LSU – So. RH Landon Marceaux (1-0, 2.19 ERA, 12.1 IP, 2 BB, 8 SO)
Baylor – Fr LHP Evan Godwin (1-0, 4.15 ERA, 8.2 IP, 3 BB, 6 SO)
LSU – TBA, probable So. RH AJ Labas (1-1, 3.97 ERA, 11.1 IP, 2 BB, 5 SO)
OU – Jr. RH Dane Acker (0-1, 4.50 ERA, 12.0 IP, 3 BB, 14 SO)
There’s some good fortune in playing Texas first. They have the deepest staff, so no matter what day you play the Longhorns, you’d be getting an elite matchup. Baylor, on the other hand, is late announcing their starter and it appears Baylor has gotten the Scouting Book on LSU: get this, he’s a lefty soft-tosser who relies on his curve and change and has a fastball that officially tops out at 87 MPH. I know, I’m shocked, too.
The weekend closes out against a JUCO transfer who started his career at Rice. Acker has made a circuitous route to Norman, befitting a career full of inconsistency. That said, when Acker is on, he can bring it. He was taken in the 23rd round of the draft and elected to stay in school. If you’re getting drafted out of JUCO, you can deal it.
Labas hasn’t officially gotten the nod for Sunday, which means we are all now unofficially on Jaden Hill Watch. Hill has only thrown 4.2 innings, but he’s looked damn near unhittable when he’s on the mound. There’s still issues with his control and endurance, but I do think it is a matter of when not if he takes over a slot in the rotation.
The Nitty Gritty
Now, the bad news. This game is being put on in association with Major League Baseball, which means we have to deal with their byzantine broadcast rules. We all get to experience the joy of being an Astros fan this weekend, trying to get the feed. The game is televised on AT&T SportsNet, whatever the hell that is. Good luck finding it.
PodKatt did his ever lovin’ best to help you do just that. Please report back to the group if you find a feed on TV.
PK - We did indeed!
Your other option is watching the game on MLB.com or through the MLB AtBat App. I’m going to guess that will cost you some extra money, but I don’t know yet because MLB.com is playing coy. I mean, who wants to watch college baseball anyway? Nothing like giving the broadcast rights to people who hold your game in contempt.
You can always kick it old school and listen to the games on 98.1 FM or online at www.LSUsports.net/live. Or you can follow along the play-by-play on PodKatt’s twitter feed at @valleyshook, if he gets a feed to watch the game.
Good luck. Yet another reminder that the MLB sucks and hates baseball fans. Next week, we’ll be back in the more competent and loving arms of the NCAA. Yup, I can’t believe I typed that sentence either.