First of all - get well, Dandy Don! Mr. Long is recovering from cancer surgery and his son says he's doing well.
Now - back to baseball.
From a box score perspective, LSU's performance in the season-opening series against Centenary looks very good.
But if you peel back the stats a bit.....it's even better than it looks!!
No doubt, sweeping the Centenary Gents is not the measuring stick for the rest of LSU's season. However, there are some really great trends in this season opener that are worth pondering.
First, LSU starting pitchers Ranaudo, Ross and Bourgeois combined for just 1 run allowed in 16 innings, striking out 18, and only walking 2. That's some fantastic starting pitching, regardless of the opponent! No way to know how consistent that performance will be. But so far, so good, eh?
Of course, ubercloser Matty Ott - who only had to pitch one inning over the weekend - continues to impress. The amazing sophomore retired 3 batters on 11 pitches with one strike out. Ben Alsup closed Saturday, giving up 1 run on 2 hits with a single strikeout. And Paul Bertuccini put in a similar closing effort on Sunday, retiring 3 batters on 10 pitches with 2 strikeouts to close out the 9th inning in a 4-0 shutout.
Mid-relief pitching wasn't quite as stellar, but certainly did the job. Bradshaw, Reed, Cotton, Mormann and Rittiner all saw action this weekend.
With a weekend rotation that, for now, looks all-world and some closers that can no-kidding seal the deal, the Tigers just need to settle on one more mid-week starter and have a mid-relief pitcher or three step up. It's still very early - but the pitching staff looks really bright from what I can see!
I just don't see any holes in the defense. Gibbs is a catcher any team would take. It looks like Blake Dean is going to be awesome at first. Hanover at 2nd, Nola at SS, and Wet Delatte (great name) at 3rd looks to be a better than average infield. And Mahtook, Landry and Trey Watkins might be the fastest, most athletic outfield in the nation. With only 1 error over the three day opening series, I'm not sure what there is to criticize. So I won't...
While the bats were a bit cold on Friday night, Saturday was batting practice - LSU had 25 runs on 23 hits in 50 at-bats. That's right - LSU on Saturday nearly hit .500 as a team! That's kinda good...
From a power hitting perspective over the weekend, the team amassed 6 homers, 4 doubles, and a triple. Names most Tiger fans expect to hit well, like Dean, Mahtook and Gibbs - did hit well. But the story in the batters box was senior Matt Gaudet, the DH, who hit 6 for 10 with 2 homers and a double. That, also, is kinda good...
LSU hit .345 over the weekend, stole 8 bases, and played a lot of young players - not counting pitching, 17 Tigers played baseball this weekend. That's basically two complete teams.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Nothing. Except that the season started out like it should for a defending national champ. However - considering the talent that the Tigers lost after last season, this team looks even better than expected. At least to me.