Three Up, Three Down

Is this the best team in LSU baseball history? It may be too early to say for sure, but the Tigers' record at this point has never been matched. LSU is winning games in all three phases, and TSD's Hunter Paniagua examines what's working so well for LSU in this week's "Three Up, Three Down."


The best team in the SEC — and the country?

One of the five major college baseball polls already has LSU as the No. 1 team in the country, and if the Tigers keep playing like this, the rest will surely follow. With a 30-2 record, LSU is off to its best start in school history and its 11-1 start to SEC play is tied for the program best. For the first time in quite a while, the Tigers are winning with all three phases, and the stats prove it.

Offensively, LSU has the best team batting average in the SEC, hitting .317 — 21 points higher than second-place Vanderbilt. The Tigers also have the SEC lead in runs scored (234) and are tied with South Carolina for the top spot in HR (28). Only Florida has struck out fewer times than LSU (146) and LSU is also tied for second in the conference with 61 doubles.

The pitching staff speaks for itself. The staff's 2.44 ERA is good for third in the conference and only Kentucky has issued fewer walks (LSU has only walked 80 this year). Ryan Eades has been one of the best pitchers in the conference, and his 1.30 ERA is second-best among SEC starters. And you have to mention the defense, which has the best fielding percentage (.983) in the SEC.

This is probably LSU's most complete team since the Skip Bertman era, and though it's early, it's hard to imagine the Tigers falling anywhere short of Omaha.

JaCoby Jones and Ty Ross busting slumps

The offense absolutely exploded against Kentucky for 31 runs on 41 hits, and the players and coaches were quick to point at two players that really ignited things for the Tigers. JaCoby Jones and Ty Ross had their best weekends of the season and finally showed they may actually be deserving of the high expectations that have fallen on them.

Both players entered the series batting below .200 and had become major holes toward the bottom of the LSU lineup. But Jones in particular silenced his doubters, going 8-for-13 at the plate with six RBI, boosting his average 51 points in the three games. Ross reached base in all three games, bumping his average back over the Mendoza Line with a 4-for-9 weekend.

When these two are clicking, it's hard to find an easy out anywhere in the LSU lineup. With the heart of the order continuing its amazing start to the season, Jones and Ross will only make this team more dangerous offensively.

Sean McMullen can lead it off

It looks like LSU has finally found its leadoff man. Sean McMullen took full advantage of his opportunity this weekend and has likely made that a permanent role. Though Mainieri had his doubts about hitting the left-handed McMullen against three left-handed starters, the Metairie native showed he could handle that challenge.

McMullen set the table all weekend for the guys behind him, hitting .500 on the weekend and scoring five times. McMullen found plenty of different ways to get on base as well. Not only did he walk three times, but he was hit by a pitch in all three games. If McMullen can continue to reach base that consistently, that will give the 2-through-6 hitters even more opportunities to drive in runs.


Ryan Eades' ERA is dropping

With such little to criticize about this LSU team, I'm sneaking another positive into the Three Down section. Ryan Eades' ERA continues to plummet after another stellar start. With a now 1.30 ERA, Eades has become the undeniable ace of this staff, so it will be fun to compare his numbers at this point to Kevin Gausman's a year ago.

Through eight starts, Eades has only pitched 1 1/3 more innings than Gausman had, yet his ERA is 1.53 points lower than the 2012 first-round pick. Eades also has the better record (with 7 wins compared to Gausman's 5) but that's where the advantage ends. Gausman had a better Opp. BA (.218 to .248) and a better K/IP ratio (1.3 to 0.92).

So while it may be a stretch to say Eades is putting up Gausman-like numbers, he is deserving of praise. Eades has really bounced back from a disappointing 2012 season and is finally living up to his expectations.

Alex Edward the only hole in the lineup

It isn't all sunshine though for the LSU baseball team, as there were a pair of players that disappointed this past weekend. With Kentucky starting three LHP, Alex Edward had a great opportunity to cement himself as the best right-handed option at DH. Instead, he served as the only easy out in the LSU lineup.

Edward had just one hit in the three games against Kentucky, a "triple" on Saturday that was actually just misplayed by the RF. He should have gone 0-for-8 at the plate and that DH spot continues to be a major question mark for LSU.

Nick Rum-Below Average

Of the eight pitchers that appeared for LSU this past weekend, only Nick Rumbelow had an unsuccessful outing. While it may be unfair to dump the blame on his shoulders, it is more evidence of his inconsistency on the mound. Rumbelow entered in the seventh inning Sunday with a 9-1 lead. He allowed a leadoff single before getting two outs on a pair of well-hit pop flies. Then he issued a walk before AJ Reed blasted a three-run homer.

At the end of the day, those runs were pretty inconsequential, but it did prove that Rumbelow can't be relied upon to handle tight games. He's a pitcher that relies on his breaking ball, though his breaking ball has hardly been something to rely on. When Rumbelow can't spot the curveball, like he failed to do Sunday, he's a one-dimensional pitcher, which will never lead to success in the SEC.

Tiger Blitz Top Stories