First off, welcome to the bandwagon. You’re not REALLY a bandwagon fan since you are, first and foremost, an LSU fan. It’s not like you’ve spent the last few years rooting for Rice’s baseball team and are suddenly switching loyalties. You’re not switching teams, you’re just reacquainting yourself with a team you are already inclined to root for.
That said, I’m here to help you get up to speed with the team. I’m always willing to help. Who’s the star? A good question, actually. According to the SEC, no one. Not a single LSU player was named either first or second team All-SEC. Not one. And only Micah Gibbs was named to the All-Freshman team. I’m not asking for the world here. But you would think at least one player from the West Division champions, owners of the 2nd best record, and possible national seed would at least made 2nd team. And you’d think a successful, freshman dominated team like LSU would have someone other than Gibbs make the All-Freshman team.
OK, we’ll get into that. Let’s start with the basics: why is LSU winning? Well, a cynic would point out the winning streak has not exactly come against the powers of the SEC. South Carolina and Kentucky were both ranked when they played LSU, but they finished the season a combined two games above .500 in conference play. USC will be the seventh seed in the SEC tournament. Auburn and Mississippi State battled for the cellar, a combined 20 games below .500 in conference play. But 16 wins in a row is 16 wins in a row (and Tulane and UNO are both hovering around the rankings, so its not all chumps). Winning 12 straight games in a conference schedule that is only 30 games goes beyond a mere streak. That’s almost half a season without a loss.
LSU has the best offense in the SEC. Remember last year when I called the offense historically pitiful? Well, things have turned around. LSU has scored 220 runs, tops in the SEC. And scoring runs is what offenses should be judged on. LSU gets a lot of hits (tied for 1st with Alabama) and hits for a lot of power (tied for 1st in total bases, 2nd in slugging). Bama’s component stats are a little better, but LSU wins the bottom line: they score runs.
LSU’s got good pitching, too. They rank third overall in conference ERA. So they prevent runs. Pittman, you were right. Like any good team, they score runs and don’t let up very many. It’s more the offense than the defense, but the defense is pretty darn good. Relief pitching? How did you know? Bradford’s become sort of a swingman uber-reliever, pitching in relief so he can get in more games. Mainieri’s been comfortable getting saves from Coleman, Bertuccini, Ross, or the nominal closer Bradshaw. Why not? All of them have ERA’s 3.50 or lower.
This is running a bit long, so I’ll try to help you identify the best player tomorrow, which is a tougher task than you might think. Besides, it’ll give you a chance to meet most of the team. Right now, just enjoy the bandwagon.