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Sophmore slump? Examining Alex Lange’s subpar second season

If I had a nickel for every time an LSU fan asked me about sophomore pitcher Alex Lange’s struggles, I wouldn’t yet be rich, but I would definitely have enough to buy a meal or two at the restaurants of my choice.

Lange is a mysterious case that Tiger fans have been unable to solve early in this baseball season – a riddle that doesn’t yet have a plausible answer.

Last season Lange was an All-Everything phenomenon as a true-freshman – an ace pitcher who posted a 12-0 record in 17 starts with a ridiculous 1.97 ERA to help lead LSU to the College World Series.

Because of that freshman dominance, many fans expected even bigger and better things from Lange this season – a theory that would seem to make sense, considering that most players do get better throughout their careers.

But that magic hasn’t yet happened for the powerful right-handed hurler, and Lange is 4-2 in nine starts with a 4.88 ERA.

I don’t have any answers for the struggles, and I’ll be the first to admit that his stat line is something I’d have never expected to see linger this late in the year.

With that said, I don’t think it’s time to push the panic button on Lange.

A lot of statistics seem to indicate that he’s going to turn it around pretty soon – likely in a big way when he does.

Here’s the thing about baseball. It’s a crazy, fluky kind of game.

Weird things tend to happen at times, and it sometimes skews someone’s stat line – either for the better or the worst.

I’ve watched several of Lange’s starts this season, and the No. 1 thing I noticed about the young man is that he still throws the ball incredibly hard. To compliment that, he also has the ability to use multiple pitches to get people out.

And that’s the thing – he still is getting people out at a pretty dominant clip.

Through his first 55.1 innings of the season, Lange has limited opponents to a .240 batting average – a mark that is easily the best on the LSU team among its regular weekend starting pitchers.

Likewise, Lange allowed seven home runs through his first nine starts to go along with only six doubles.

The vast majority of the 50 hits he’s allowed have been singles, which tells me that opponents aren’t often crushing the ball off Lange when he’s on the mound.

The problem for Lange has been two-fold, and both of the ailments can be fixed as the season goes on.

The main issue has been control – a problem that’s plagued the pitcher throughout the season. Lange has walked a ton of guys this season, and has thrown far too many wild pitches – two stats that need to change in the back half of SEC play.

The second issue is plain bad luck. When opposing hitters have needed timely hits against Lange, they’ve found a way to get them – often with two outs.

Lange has been a few pitches away from avoiding a lot of the damage that he’s had to endure this season. If a few things would have gone differently, his entire stat line would look much cleaner.

But it’s not, and the numbers that LSU fans see aren’t pleasing to the eye, which has been the cause of a lot of debate regarding the young pitcher.

Don’t give up on Lange yet – that would be a foolish move for any LSU fan to make.

The eye test tells me that he’s still got it.

When it comes back, it just might be the spark plug that these 2016 Tigers need to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

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