SEC West at the Midway Point

The SEC West looked to be wide open as conference play began, and a three-way tie at the top of the standings has only cemented that. The conference champion will most likely come from the East, but that doesn't mean the competition for the West title won't go until the last weekend.

Arkansas (26-9/8-7 SEC)-

Good news:
The pitching has been what Arkansas was hoping for. What's even more impressive is how the pitchers are doing it. There hasn't been much consistency in what day the starting pitchers throw on the weekend, but they have still posted the fourth best ERA in the SEC at 3.05. D.J. Baxendale has been the utility man on the mound, starting and relieving to post the league's second best ERA at 1.62.

Bad news: While the pitching has been lights out, the hitting hasn't been exactly that. The Razorbacks are 11th in the conference in hitting with a .276 batting average. That was expected after losing hitters like Zack Cox, Brett Eibner and Andy Wilkins from last year's team, but Arkansas was hoping it wouldn't struggle like this at the plate immediately. The Razorbacks have struck out 260 times, the most of any SEC team, and only three consistent starters are hitting above .300.

Alabama (24-15/8-7 SEC)-

Good news:
The weekend rotation has given the Crimson Tide a chance in every conference series. Nathan Kilcrease and Adam Morgan have been effective as the top two starters. Kilcrease is 5-2 with a 2.62 ERA, recording 55 strikeouts in 58.1 innings. Though listed at only 5-6, the senior knows how to pitch. Morgan is 4-3 with a 4.12 ERA. The Sunday spot hasn't been settled completely, as Taylor Wolfe, Tucker Hawley and Trey Pilkington have each gotten a start on Sunday in the last three weeks.

Bad news: Similar to Arkansas, the Alabama offense was gutted by the MLB Draft last season. They lost four of their top six hitters for average last season as Josh Rutledge, Clay Jones, Ross Wilson and Jake Smith all went on to the next level. The offense this year hasn't been good. The team is hitting .273, which is the worst batting average in the SEC. Alabama has the fewest home runs in the conference with 11, and they are ninth with only 31 stolen bases.

Ole Miss (23-14/8-7 SEC)-

Good news:
Matt Crouse has developed into an ace. After losing two of the better pitchers in the conference last season in Drew Pomeranz and Aaron Barrett, the Rebels needed Crouse to develop like he has. The junior left-hander is 6-2 with a 2.79 ERA. He has only walked nine hitters in 61.1 innings while striking out 42.

Bad news: Closer Jake Morgan can't stay healthy. He missed all of the 2010 season because of Tommy John surgery. He injured his shoulder on March 20, and the Rebels decided on April 7 to shut him down for two weeks to let the shoulder rest. It isn't the worst news for the Rebels, as Brett Huber has taken over the closer duties in Morgan's absence. Huber was a 2010 Freshman All-America selection.

Auburn (20-15/7-8 SEC)-

Good news:
The Tigers haven't had trouble scoring runs in recent years, and this season is no different. Their .302 batting average is the third highest in the conference, while they are second in doubles and tied for fifth with 24 home runs. It's a free-swinging offense, leading the league with 259 strikeouts, and they don't walk much or steal many bases.

Bad news: With all the runs on the board, the Tigers haven't back that up in the field. Their pitching staff has the worst ERA in the conference at 4.90. When the ball is put in play, the defense hasn't helped out much. Auburn has the lowest fielding percentage in the conference at .971.

Mississippi State (22-14/6-9 SEC)-

Good news:
The defense has been tremendous for the Bulldogs this season. They boast a .975 fielding percentage, the second best in the SEC behind South Carolina. The Bulldogs pitching staff has walked the fifth fewest batters in the conference and struck out the most batters. When opposing hitters do put the ball in play, the solid defense behind the pitchers has helped the team. The Mississippi State offense ranks in the lower third of batting average, but they have walked the most out of any conference team.

Bad news: The pitching staff does have the most strikeouts in the conference, but the Bulldogs don't have a dominant starting pitcher like some of the top teams in the conference. Devin Jones and Chris Stratton have been the most consistent arms this season, but both sport an ERA above four.

LSU (23-14/4-11 SEC)-

Good news:
The Tigers have watched as their two top starting pitchers, freshmen Kurt McCune and Kevin Gausman, have improved throughout the year. McCune has been the Friday night starter since SEC play began, and he's 5-2 with a 2.40 ERA. McCune doesn't overpower many hitters, but that's where Gausman comes in. His mid-90s fastball was the reason he was a sixth round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. The duo signals a bright future on the mound for the Tigers.

Bad news: Anytime your good news is centered on the future, it can't be good news about that present season. That's the case for the Tigers. They are middle of the pack in batting, pitching and fielding, but their recent offensive slump has hurt. LSU has scored 18 runs in its last six conference games, leaving a team that has become a staple in Hoover, Ala., at the SEC Tournament currently needing a big second half run to make it back.

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