This is a special edition blogger Q&A with our friend PodKATT at And the Wally Shook. We haven’t done these with everyone this season but since it’s Double Decker Weekend and LSU is in town, we figured we would make an exception and entertain them with a little back and forth.
RCR: It was one year ago that y’all were playing for a national title. Now, folks are mad. Really mad. Paul Mainieri has been a revelation for LSU since he arrived in 2007, going to five College World Series and winning one. Hell, the guy is already top 20 in wins all-time. Are people really asking for his head or is it just the typical idiots of the fanbase?
ATVS: Baseball is the third most popular sport at LSU behind football and gymnastics, so it has a large array of absolute idiots who think it’s still the mid 90’s and there are only 15 other teams in the country even worth a damn and the bats are still powerful enough to give you 150 homers a year “if we just recruited some hitters”. It is a whiny and privileged fan base that sells 9,000+ season tickets to people who only buy them to get in the front of the line for postseason tickets, while barely filling the grandstand on a conference Saturday. Mainieri will probably finish his career in the top 10 of all-time college baseball coaches, but he’ll probably finish it somewhere else once he gets tired of the bullshit in this job. Yeah, it’s a down, rebuilding year. Losing your two best arms in the rotation, your all-conference SS, and your best hitter to graduation and the draft will do that. And that was from a team that was 2 close games away from a championship.
Youth and injuries are hitting this club hard right now. Austin Bain was our #2 relief arm last season and he’s spent more time playing infield utility than in the bullpen. If I’m being honest, I think this team is going to have to fight to make it to the post season right now, but I have every confidence in the world in Mainieri running this program. Yeah, he’s the highest paid coach in the sport, and that comes with expectations. But we’re still talking about a team that’s ONE GAME BACK of the SEC West title entering the weekend.
Can you tell I’ve heard some real idiots over the past week?
RCR: The typical LSU offense that we have all come to know and hate has been awfully silent this year. The usual powerful, opportunistic bats from Baton Rouge are eerily quiet and sitting at 6th, 7th, and 8th in most categories this year. Aside from replacing quite a lot in the starting nine, what seems to be the problem?
ATVS: I think the issue is that the lineup is young, and when it’s not young it’s injured. Josh Smith finally made his return to the roster this week and clearly has the power we wanted out of him, but he’s been gone for 30+ games. Bryce Jordan’s knee keeps getting re-injured and I don’t think he’s at 100%. And the kids who are playing in the place of our extended injury list just don’t have the power.
The best way I can explain it is that even though the power numbers are down, LSU still has the fewest strikeouts in the league and is 2nd in GIDP. So the approach at the plate is good, but the contact hasn’t been strong enough to make something out of it.
RCR: Do you think there’s any specific reason behind the struggles away from Alex Box Stadium? Or is it just a team going through growing pains and a young lineup?
ATVS: It’s growing pains. Alex Box obviously has a nice home field advantage, but it’s not like the crowd at Vandy is intimidating. The problems with this team just snowball onto themselves. The starting pitching isn’t at the level it has been for many years, so it goes as far as it can, but gets little offensive backup. Once the other team breaks through, the bullpen isn’t nearly deep enough to consistently get us out of trouble, and the offense just can’t keep up. With the bulk of division play ahead of LSU, there are going to be some mighty painful weekends ahead if they can’t figure it out.
RCR: Y’all usually have some impressive Louisiana names on the roster. Who is your favorite this year? All-time?
ATVS: It doesn’t get more Louisiana on this roster than Antoine Duplantis, even though he’s actually the black sheep of a family of Swedish Pole Vaulters (If the game is on TV this weekend, you’ll probably hear about his little brother Mondo). It’s tough to choose an all-time name, from the Nola brothers and Kade Scivicque recently, going back to Lane Mestepey, Lyle Mouton, and Ryan Theriot. A reliever we had a few years back named Henri Faucheux is at the top of my all-name team list.
RCR: Ma’Khail Hilliard has been a pleasant surprise this season. What should the Ole Miss fans expect from him on the bump?
ATVS: Hilliard has been the great pleasant surprise of this season. A True Freshman from Baton Rouge, I doubt he weighs over 150 pounds. It’s not the fastest ball in the world, but he just has a confidence in his pitching that’s well beyond his age and experience. He went from being a project reliever in the fall to our #2 starter and he’s earned all of that progress. He’ll mix it up with some low heat and come back with a curveball that makes folks look foolish. The way he keeps improving, he’ll challenge for the Friday night spot next fall.
RCR: Chad Jones was a fun guy to watch pitch back in the day. His outings in Omaha back in 2009 were magnetic and he was electric. If you could pick one football player to toe the rubber to secure a save in the title game at TD Ameritrade who would it be?
ATVS: I’ve got no idea if he has any pitching ability at all, but the answer has got to be Tyrann Mathieu, right? That kind of intensity in a closer would be unbelievable. If we’re just looking for comedy, give me the middle relief arms of T-Bob Hebert and Glenn Dorsey.
Thanks again to the folks at ATVS for entertaining our questions about their baseball boys and this weekend. They’ll have my answers up here if you would like to see.