2010 Seminoles Baseball Preview: Pitching and Defense

The 2009 Florida State Seminoles pitching staff took a step back from previous years but there is a very understandable reason behind that.  Let’s first take a look on how the team compared to previous seasons:

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Stats to keep in mind from the above chart are BB/9, HR/9 and FIP which is a pretty clear sign that FSU’s pitching staff had control issues.  If you are not clear on FIP we will educate later on in the preview.

This next chart will give you some insight to why pitchers struggled with command.

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I would say that the FSU pitching staff performed admirably given the fact that 90% of the teams innings came from underclassmen.  Let’s take a look at what the 2009 team did and where they ranked with regards to some traditional stats.

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You will notice that FSU ranked in the bottom half of the conference in stats that pitchers have complete control over - strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed.  Again this can be attributed to the fact that the majority of our innings came from players with little collegiate experience and are learning how to pitch in the best baseball conference.  The next chart shows how FSU ranks in some more advanced statistics.

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As you can see FSU ranks 252nd in the nation and last in the conference in walks per nine, anytime you do something worse than Wake Forest in anything baseball related it is a bad thing.

There are traditional stats like ERA and WHIP that a lot of baseball fans and analyst use to measure the performance of a pitcher but they have flaws that don’t show a pitcher's true talent.  A stat you will see me use a lot is Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) which removes defense from the equation by only looking at three factors that a pitcher has demonstrable control over – walks, strikeouts, and home runs allowed.  For further explanation read this article from a very informative website.  As you can see from the above statistics FSU does not do any of those three very well.

Florida State is returning 78.6% of innings pitched from 2009 but just how many of those individuals will contribute to 2010? After the jump we will find out.

Starting Rotation:

Number 1:  Sean Gilmartin – SO - LHP

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Number 2:  Geoff Parker – JR - RHP

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Number 3:  John Gast – JR - LHP

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Number 4: Mike McGee – JR - RHP

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Sean Gilmartin will be Florida State’s ace going into this season and will be the Friday starter.  He racked up many awards last season and practice reports have him picking up velocity while gaining command on his pitches.  Very excited to see what he can do in his 2nd season.  Mike Martin is in love with the idea of going lefty, righty, lefty during weekend series so expect to see RHP Geoff Parker move to the second spot in the starting rotation.   Parker has 14 career starts and has averaged just over 60 innings in his first two seasons as a Nole so it will be interesting see how he does throughout the duration of an entire season.  LHP John Gast will be your Sunday starter as he makes the transition from the bull pen to starter.  His numbers were less than impressive in 2009 so like Parker it is unknown how much he will be able to contribute.  Mike McGee will be Florida State’s weekday starter primarily to due to the fact that this will allow him to rest and be 100% for the weekend series.  McGee tends to overthrow the ball which results in him having a higher strike out rate but also increases the amount of walks he allows. 

All in all there is a lot of uncertainty with the rotation this year, if any of the above pitchers does not work out it is possible to see Brian Busch put back into a starting role.

Relievers:

Brian Busch – SO – LHP

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Busch exceeded all expectations last year and had it not been for Gilmartin he would have received more press.  Busch will more than likely be the first guy out of the bullpen as well as the go to guy for long relief.  He has experienced some recent shoulder soreness but MRI’s were negative and should be good to go at the beginning of the season. 

The 2009 relief pitching was not impressive so going into 2010 there will be a complete overhaul to the bullpen.  As you can see the next group of pitchers are those that have impressed in fall ball and in practice so far and are expected to be the early contributors during the first few weeks of the season.

All are new to the team so very little is known about them at this point.

Daniel Bennett – JR (JUCO) – RHP - 2008 and 2009 2nd Team All-Panhandle Conference Team, 2008 Fireman of the Year (Reliever).  In two seasons at TCC he struck out 95 batters in 89 innings of work

Robby Scott – JR (JUCO) – LHP - 61 strikeouts in 61 innings in 2008

Robert Benincasa – FR – RHP - 1st team All-State when the Blue Jays drafted in the 33rd round, could have gone higher if not for signability reasons.

Scott Sitz – FR – RHP - 1st team All-Conference and 3rd team All-State Honorable Mention as a pitcher during his senior campaign.

Corben Madden – FR – LHP

Here is a rundown on the rest of FSU's bullpen; it is unclear at this point how much these pitchers will contribute this season.

Tyler Everett – JR – RHP 

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 Hunter Scantling – SO – RHPImage and video hosting by TinyPic

Ben Nobles – JR (JUCO) – LHP - Submarine pitcher who will not pitch meaningful innings

Tyson Young - FR – LHP - 2009 1st team All-State 5A

Gage Smith – FR – RHP - 2009 FACA 2A All-Academic Player of the Year, 2nd Team All-Big Bend

David Trexler – FR – RHP - 2009 2nd team All-State 5A

Closer:

Andrew Durden – JR (JUCO) – RHP - Drafted in the 42nd round by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2008 MLB Draft, ended up at Indian River CC.  Going to have to trust the coaches on this one as he only has 9 innings pitched in 2 seasons IRCC.

As you can see there are a lot of uncertainty with the 2010 pitching staff; 2 inexperienced starters, a lot of new and young faces in the bullpen and a closer who is completely unproven.  I have my doubts that this pitching staff is going to be able to give FSU a shot to legitimately compete come tournament time.

Defense:

Defense is the most difficult statistic to measure in baseball because it is reliant on human subjectivity. So unless Baseball Prospectus is going to start keeping track of range factors or defensive efficiency, fielding percentage is the best measurement that we have. 

Success in college baseball primarily dependent on hitting and pitching with defense as a nice to have.  Let’s take a look at the teams that made the College World Series the last 5 years and where they ranked in fielding percentage.

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Would it be nice to see FSU improve to from 164th in the nation, Yes, but as you can see it isn’t essential in order to have a good season and make it to the CWS.  The FSU outfield was solid all around last year for the most part, Holt is a good center fielder and McGee is serviceable in left.  Danesh plays solid in right field although Easterling would be an upgrade due to his exceptional speed and strong throwing arm.  I haven’t seen enough of Ramsey to make any judgments.  Sherman Johnson is an upgrade over Tapley at 3rd but he is still learning the little nuances of a new position.  Cardullo is serviceable at shortstop and newcomer Devon Travis is a second basemen by trade so here’s hoping for smooth transition.  At first base Jayce Boyd is still learning the position and there should be a learning curve for him throughout most of the season.  Rafael Lopez is an above average defensive catcher.  It is very possible that FSU’s defense will improve in 2010 but it will not be the key to their overall success.

There is no science to predicting success in College Baseball, it is difficult to measure the true caliber of a team and its opponents without the tools that are available in the majors.  Injuries, slumps and poor coaching all play a big factor in a team’s overall success so with that in mind I ask Tomahawk Nation the following question…

Second Base [UPDATED 2-16-10]:  With the loss of Stidham and True Freshman Devon Travis electing to have surgery that will sideline him for several weeks there will be a position battle between Freshman Justin Gonzalez and Sherman Johnson.  There are a couple ways this could play out, Johnson could start at 2nd with Tapley at 3rd or what I would feel would be the best situation is Gonzalez at 2nd, Johnson at 3rd with Tapley at DH.  The first couple of series will allow Martin to experiment and see what is the best lineup before conference play starts.

 

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