Thanks to Gerard Rau of And the Valley Shook for answering some questions and giving us some insight into the Bayou Bengals. For my answers to Gerard's questions, click here.
For the most part, LSU has been pretty outstanding on offense with Mason Katz (.351/.472.797, 9 HRs, 32 RBIs) and reigning SEC Player of the Year Raph Rhymes (.346/.426/.420, 15 RBIs) leasing the way. Who else has provided major contributions at the plate this year?
Alex Bregman, Mark Laird, and Christian Ibarra have all made major contributions at the plate this year. Bregmen has been a stud so far with a 0.382/0.446/0.573 line. Bregman is the best we have with runners in scoring position with a 0.424 average and is tied for the most runs scored at 21. Mark Laird is another freshmen surprise with a 0.338/0.420/0.364 line. Laird doesn't hit for power, but he gets on base a lot and is fourth on the team with 17 runs scored. Christian Ibarra is a JUCO transfer with a 0.348/0.446/0.449 line. Ibarra has the second highest batting average with runners in scoring positon at 0.400.
What about pitching? LSU's team ERA (2.70) ranks seventh in the conference. How are the starters performing? What about the bullpen?
Pitching was the big question mark coming into the season. We knew what we had in starters Aaron Nola and Ryan Eades, but the final starting weekend spot and the bullpen were both question marks. Nola has had two rough outings, but has been solid otherwise. Eades has been our best starter, averaging seven innings a game and only giving up six earned runs in 32 innings pitched. Cody Glenn won the Sunday starting job with two great performances in week day games. Glenn got roughed up bad by Mississippi St. in his first SEC start. How he bounces back this weekend will be interesting to watch. The starters have a combined ERA of 2.55 and WHIP of 1.015.
The bullpen has been better than expected so far. The big guys coming out of the pen will be Joey Bourgeois, Nick Rumbelow, and Brent Bonvillain for middle relief, and Chris Cotton coming in to close. Bourgeois is our go to K guy out of the pen. If we need a guy struck out in a tough spot he is the go to guy. Rumbelow and Bonvillain are both solid workers who pitch to contact and get guys out. Chris Cotton leads the team in saves with five and has been unflappable thus far. These guys have a combined ERA of 2.70 and WHIP of 1.020.
With a 19-2 record and a SEC-opening series win at Mississippi State, you have to feel pretty good about your team right now. Are there any concerns, and if so, are you afraid they could develop into issues that could wreck the season?
Right now we don't have any huge glaring concerns. A lot of the young pitchers in the bullpen got a big welcome to the SEC last Sunday against Mississippi St, and hopefully they learned from the roughing up they got. I do not think we will truly know what we have with the extended bullpen until we get deeper into SEC play. Outside of the guys I mentioned above, LSU will need new guys like Will LaMarche, Russell Reynolds, and Hunter Devall to provide solid outings if we are going to make a run at a second SEC regular season title in row.
I know it's early, and many things can change, but right now, do you think LSU will make it to Omaha?
I really like their chances. I think the lineup is deeper than it was last year, and we have a core group of veterans on the field to complement the talented youth on the team. It is very similar to the 2009 championship team. If the bullpen really gels, we have as good as shot as anyone to make it to Omaha.
How do you see the series against Auburn playing out? How confident are you? What's your prediction?
Auburn has been the perpetual torn in LSU's side the last few years, taking three series in a row. The numbers say we should win, but in this series you can just toss those out the window because ya'll just seem to have our number. I say we take two out of three, winning Friday and Saturday.
As far as I can tell, Alex Box Stadium has the best concessions menu in baseball. What's your go-to meal at the ballpark?
It's lent right now, so most of the Alex Box menu is off limits for me on Fridays. I was amazed when I ordered a fish sandwich and it was a real piece of catfish and not a McDonald's square thing. I've been hooked since. They have also added meat pies and crawfish pies, both of which are excellent. Pair any of those with a large Coke and you are good to go.