Let me start with saying that yes, LSU is a talented team and this lineup can bang with anybody and I understand the season is far from over. I promise I want to enjoy the season and am not looking for things to criticize, but...it’s time to talk about the number of lifeboats on the Titanic.
LSU’s pitching beyond Paul Skenes is abysmal. Beyond abysmal. It’s shambolic and unless something changes and changes soon, it will end their season. This isn’t an opinion or a prognosis, it’s a fact.
When Paul Skenes is pitching, there’s no team in the country better than them. When he’s not, they look like a team on the outside looking in on the postseason bubble. The offense has done a lot of covering for them up to this point, but this weekend in Auburn we saw what happens when the offense isn’t performing at an insane clip. The truth is that this LSU team needs that insane offensive production because the pitching staff couldn’t hack it in the Southland.
Again, if you think I’m being hyperbolic, I’m absolutely not: LSU has 1.5 arms outside of Skenes that they can generally trust. Nate Ackenhausen is perfectly fine with a 2.25 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, but with only 16 innings pitched, not exactly the profile of someone you want at the end of the bullpen. Gavin Guidry is electric and strong mentally, but is a little too effectively wild to really trust with a 1.43 WHIP in 11 innings.
Here’s where shit gets dark: nobody else on the staff has an ERA below 4.00. Nobody.
Ty Floyd has shown flashes of talent but has proven to be far too inconsistent. Take Saturday for example: yes he struck out nine with the majority coming in the first three innings, but he also completely lost the plot in the fourth inning and ended up walking four and being responsible for three runs. And that’s been the story of his season: he is second only to Skenes in strikeouts but also has the dubious honor of leading the team in walks. And the cut of it is while that’s not bad enough to evict him out of the rotation, it’s also not confidence inspiring.
Plus, it’s not like there’s a better replacement.
Christian Little, after some decent outings against Ole Miss and Alabama, continued the Thatcher Hurd Experience of starting a game and being pulled before recording an out on Sunday, giving up four walks and a hit while not recording a single out. So while Saturdays are shaky, on Sundays we’re right back where we started from.
And as for the rest of the bullpen, well here are their ERAs moving down the line: 4.19, 5.48, 5.52, 5.94, 6.08, 6.61, 7.11, 9.00.
I thought about attributing those numbers to their owners, but it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that there are no good answers currently in that bunch. There’s nobody in that bunch that you will feel at ease handing the ball over to. Oh, and by the way, these numbers are cumulative, counting non-conference opponents. You can imagine the inflation moving them to conference-play only will cause.
And LSU is all but locked into the postseason at this point, which is why there’s even any concern. The way the pitching staff is looking, it’s extremely possible that LSU could get eliminated in their own regional. If you think that’s being overly dramatic, just consider this: Auburn is projected to be a three seed in the tournament coming into this weekend. The pitching staff is absolutely cause for concern because if it doesn’t improve, it will end LSU’s season woefully short of the ultimate goal.
I’ll level with you, dear reader: I don’t want this to just be a vent session, I want to offer some solace or solution, but the fact is that I just don’t have any. Yes, LSU has been caught with the injury bug and losing Garrett Edwards and Chase Shores is huge. But baseball is a next man up game and so far, nobody apart from Ackenhausen/Guidry has had to courage to step up.
I’m not in control of the situation, Jay and Wes Johnson are. And I don’t know if the approach to fixing it is patient coaching or a firm challenge to the pitching staff, but something needs to be done because we’re entering mid-May and time is running out to figure out a solution.