Rebel Baseball: LSU Q and A with ATVS and OPEN THREAD

Well, you're ranked #5, but close enough, Mike.

LSU starter Kevin Gausman might not think we're worth much, but the folks at And The Valley Shook, which is by default the finest LSU blog on the entire SB Nation network, thought enough of us to proposition a collaborative effort to preview this upcoming series with a simple Q and A session. I thought it a fantastic idea and obliged. If you click here, you'll see my answers to their questions. If you stay here, you'll see their answers to my questions.

My questions, quite like my flavor choices, are bold. And The Valley Shook's answers, obviously, are not. After the Q and A, there are some brief details on the series and then it's off to the open thread.

Judging by the numbers, LSU seems top-heavy on offense. Raph Rhymes (which is like a bad rapper's name) and his eye-popping statistics, along with Mason Katz are leading the way, but after those two there's a significant drop off in production. Is LSU as unbalanced as the numbers suggest? Is there any way to control the LSU offense?

The lineup is unbalanced, but Rhymes is so good he almost makes up for it by himself. Honestly the only reason folks keep pitching to Rhymes is that he keeps the ball in play, otherwise they's be walking him by now. There are some weaknesses in the line, like JaCoby Jones, who, after another bad weekend, has been moved from leadoff to the 9 hole. Earlier in the season there had been some lineup shuffling with 1B, RF, CF, and 2B just to keep some bad bats out of the line. The recent emergence of CF Arby Fields (2009 B1G All-Freshman as the leading RB at Northwestern) as a great setup bat has brought run production up, but too often LSU will have silent innings from the 2nd half of the lineup in Hanover, Nola the Elder, and Moore. The best way to get LSU out of an inning is to convince Mainieri he should sac bunt with 0 outs and 1 on (which drives me mad) or give LSU an opportunity to hit into a DP, which we are exceptional at doing this year.

Everyone's familiar with LSU's starters, especially the dominant Kevin Gausman. Who comes out of the bullpen for LSU and in what roles? What are some names that Ole Miss fans should know about out of the Tiger bullpen?

LSU's bullpen has some solid separation between the setup guys and the closers, as opposed to last year where nobody was really dominant and the bullpen was a liability. Ideally, starters Gausman, Eades, and Nola the Younger do well enough to last into the last 3rd of a game, but if not some combination of Joe Broussard, Brent Bonvillain (watch your radio guy butcher that this weekend), Joey Bourgeois, and Chris Cotton will be sent in to put out a fire. Bonvillain and Cotton are the only lefty pitchers I'd expect to see all weekend, and because of that Mainieri hasn't played the lefty/right game at all this year. Bonvillain in particular has had a really great year in relief. Closing will be Nick Goody, who's been lights out, or possibly former Sunday starter Kurt McCune if Goody is unavailable. All of the guys I mentioned can go multiple nights if needed and will if their previous workload hasn't been too great. With few exceptions, the relief has been very good this year and new pitching coach Alan Dunn has proven to be an excellent hire.

LSU is only 6-5 on the road, which is vastly different from your 29-5 home record. What is it about playing on the road that gives LSU difficulties?Is it just that some of your road series (i.e., Kentucky) have been more difficult?

Chalk it up to the competition of SEC. I think I saw a stat a few weeks back where no SEC team was above .500 on the road in conference. LSU almost doesn't play on the road at all out of conference and so far 2 of the 3 weekend series have been at Top 5 teams. The Auburn series early in the conference slate seems like the turning point now, with a few injuries and lineup changes that have significantly altered the team since then. With Ole Miss having a good team and a likely packed, hostile environment, I think LSU has some serious difficulty to overcome.

At this point, are LSU fans already looking to Hoover? It's not as if there's a realistic way LSU's not a part of postseason play and considering the Tigers' talent you've got to assume they're a popular National Champion pick. Is there a chance fans and, more importantly, players could be looking past Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in the two upcoming series?

I wouldn't say they're looking to Hoover just yet. Ole Miss was big on the radar even last week just because of the rivalry. And there is no looking past a suddenly no longer dead Vandy who's beaten us 2 straight years and the 2 time defending National Champs on the road in South Carolina (who, by a scheduling quirk, LSU hasn't played in 3 years). Being left out of the post season last year was a big wakeup call that nobody is going to just give this team whatever it wants because of the name on the front of the jersey anymore. The excitement is back, though, and in an odd way I think fans might be overlooking the challenge of Hoover just because they're anxious to see postseason baseball return to Baton Rouge

And, finally, isn't Hoover pretty much the worst place to have the SEC tournament? Maybe it's just me, but I think it's ridiculous that AutoZone Park, Zephyr Field, or Coolray Field aren't used for postseason SEC play. Does this bother you as much as it does me?

While I've personally never been to Hoover (something I am remedying later this month) Hoover and the SEC Tournament in general just never really moves the needle for LSU fans, and that's a standard set back in the day by Skip Bertman himself, who never really cared about winning it unless it would help LSU's seeding. The focus is Omaha, not Hoover. As for moving the tournament around, I guess it would be cool to give different fan bases a better chance to attend, but the league office seems to really like having it in their backyard. And if they ever do decide to move it around again, they could chose better places than the ol' Zeph. New Alex Box surpassed it as a stadium the moment it opened (unless you really need a swimming pool in the outfield concourse).

So there you have it. Between the two of us, you should have a fair enough idea as to who and what to watch for during this crucial SEC West series.

#5 LSU vs. #24 Ole Miss
Swayze Field

Game 1 - 6:30pm
LSU - So. RHP Kevin Gausman, who is a dick (7-1, 3.12 ERA, 75.0 IP, 20 BB, 97 K)
Ole Miss - So. RHP Bobby Wahl (5-1, 2.09 ERA, 60.1 IP, 23 BB, 67 K)

Game 2 - 2pm - (Will be broadcast on ESPN3 or some local channel. Check your listings)
LSU - So. RHP Ryan Eades (5-2, 3.29 ERA, 65.2 IP, 17 BB, 47 K)
Ole Miss - So. RHP Mike Mayers (4-2, 3.69 ERA, 63.1 IP, 19 BB, 43 K)

Game 3 - 1:30pm
LSU - Fr. RHP Aaron Nola (5-2, 3.90 ERA, 55.1 IP, 4 BB 54 K)
Ole Miss - The much feared TBA

Have fun with the open thread, and give 'em hell out there in RF.

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