Tallahassee Regional Preview: Florida State Seminoles Host Stanford Cardinal

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Let's get right to it, lots and lots of information inside to get you prepared for a tremendous weekend of college baseball.

CONFERENCE COMPARISON:

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As you can see the ACC and Pac12 are two of the best conferences in college baseball and it has been that way for a long time. This year the ACC sent seven teams to the postseason while the Pac12 sent five. The Pac12 is a phenomenal 14-2 so far through the tournament as four of the five participants swept through Regionals. The ACC didn't fare so well advancing only two teams to Super Regionals and currently have a 14-11 record.

You will notice that this week I starting using Boyd's World's ISR ratings instead of RPI. I have meaning to do this for a while and here is why.

Although things are improving, there's still a very limited amount of inter-regional play in college baseball. This means that in sections of the country with fewer Division I baseball schools, such as the West, the pool of available opponents tends to be smaller, which tends to pull winning percentages towards .500. As a result of the RPI only considering two levels of interconnectedness, teams from these regions tend to be underranked by the RPI's.

So what exactly is ISR?

The ISR's are the results of an algorithm designed to measure the quality of a team's season to date by combining their winning percentage with the difficulty of their schedule. The algorithm computes all teams simultaneously and attempts to take advantage of inter-regional games more accurately than other rating systems.

So now that's out of the way let's look at the two teams, Stanford is second in the country while Florida State is seven. That should tell you that these two teams have been extremely successful all season and also of note no other bracket has two teams ranked in the top ten. So why is Florida State a national seed and ranked fourteen spots higher than Stanford who has an ISR of two? That is more than likely due to the fact that humans are lazy and only look at what's on the surface. I would be willing to bet you that despite their record Stanford has a better body of work, just look at their out of conference competition. Florida State racked up eleven wins, a whole lot of offensive numbers and some great pitching performances against the likes of Hofstra (131), FIU (90), Maine (216) and Rhode Island (128). Compare that to the first four weeks of Stanford's season where they played Vanderbilt (28), Texas (43), Fresno State (71) and Rice (20) accumulating a 10-2 record really stands out.

PITCHING:
Staffs are sorted by FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, a measure of all those things for which a pitcher is specifically responsible. FIP helps you understand how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded.)
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Stanford fares pretty well in PAC12 pitching, they rank fourth in FIP+ and K:BB, two very good indicators of a successful staff. I think it is fare to say they have a solid pitching staff but certainly not something Florida State hasn't seen before. The last two Super Regionals the Seminoles have faced Vanderbilt and Texas A&M who both had elite staffs.

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Considering true freshman accounted for 47% of the innings pitched this year it is pretty amazing that the Noles have been able to be league average or better in just about each category. Florida State will need to keep up their recent string of excellent pitching if they are to get past a Stanford team that can flat out rake.

OFFENSE:

Sorted by OPS (On Base plus Slugging Percentage, a crude but quick measure of a batter's true contribution to his team's offense.)

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"I think offensively they're vulnerable against a real good righthanded pitcher, or a lefty who can throw the change, come inside, elevate, really command his fastball. They're pretty fastball-aggressive, but if you locate your fastball well, I think they'll get themselves out, because they're aggressive with the fastball. But they can change the game with one swing. -- PAC12 Head Coach

There really is not a whole lot that Stanford doesn't do well offensively. While they don't walk with great frequency they also do not strikeout with great frequency which is what you would like to see from a team who hits for the power that they do. The only two teams that have a higher OPS than them is Arizona who is hosting their own super regional and Arizona State who was not eligible for this year's postseason.

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Year in and year out Florida State is at the top of their conference is every offensive category. Their disciplined approach at the plate makes pitchers labor. They work the count extremely well which is why they are always right at the top of the nation in walks. The Seminoles can also hit too and with some power. Finishing near the top in runs and OPS speaks volumes to the type of offense this is.

So after looking at how these two teams performed in their respective conferences it pretty safe to say that they both deserve to be here but one might be a little bit more prepared for competition. Now Stanford didn't have the outstanding conference record that Florida State did but when play in a conference where six of the eleven teams have an ISR in the top ten that's not to be expected.

PITCHING:

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I am not sure you could get more evenly matching pitching staffs on paper than these two ball clubs. ERA aside these two have almost identical numbers and as you will see later this has nothing to do will the ballparks they play in.

ROTATION:
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"I think the thing with Mooneyham is, if Mooneyham's on, you're in trouble. He has good enough stuff that when he throws his breaking ball and his change, and commands his fastball some, you'll be in for a tough day. Because it'll be 91 and a curveball, all arms and legs and deceptive, it's seven innings with nine strikeouts and one run. Or, he could be four walks in two innings and four hits and the next thing you know it's five runs. So it depends on what they're getting from him that day, which is tough. Piscotty's only been pitching really the last five or six weeks, and he's done a nice job. But it's predominantly a fastball from a lower slot. Probably his inexperience on the mound will show up some. They've been winning the majority of Appel's games, so they're 1-0 on the weekend, and they're hitting enough to win the other ones. I think if they lose Appel's game, they're in trouble. -- PAC12 Head Coach

The one thing that you really notice is the innings that these guys eat up, Appel is averaging a just under eight innings per start while Mooneyham is just under six innings. Piscotty who was a relief pitcher the majority of the year has filled in well the last four weeks. All three of these pitchers were recently drafted, Appel with the 8th overall pick, Mooneyham went 111th overall and Piscotty went 36th but as a position player. So there is no doubt loads of talent in this rotation.

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"Their pitching staff's strength is their bullpen. What they do with those freshman arms and the other guys is they try to get five to six innings out of them. I think they've got three or four lefties in the pen, one sidearm righty and another righty, then Benincasa is really good. They try to get five or six innings from the starters, then bam, to the matchup bullpen. Leibrandt can pitch, 85-87, good changeup, really good pickoff move, so he does a good job controlling runners. Compton's numbers are really good, he's got enough, throws an 87-89 mph sinker, kind of a slinger with a decent slider. Scott Sitz, he's OK. He's kind of like Compton: 87-90 with a decent feel for his breaking ball, but his job is to throw strikes, get it to the sixth inning and turn it over to the bullpen. It's nothing special or overpowering, just fill up the zone with a three-pitch mix. -- ACC Head Coach

At one point in time the strength of this staff might have been the bullpen but I am not sure if that is the case anymore as we will discuss later. What Leibrandt and Compton have done this season is a testament to their talent, maturity and coachability under new pitching coach Mike Bell. The one thing that should probably be stated is that the numbers those two guys have put up have been protected by a manager with a quick hook. Only on a few occasions has Mike Martin allowed his young guys to take a beating on the mound. Martin's philosophy all season has been to get five or six solid innings and with both freshman averaging just over five this year they are giving exactly what the coach is asked for. Will that be enough though to get through a three game serious with Stanford though?

RELIEF PITCHING:
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"I think they've done better at the end of the game, because I think Vanegas has done a nice job of closing some things out. It seems like he's found a split-change deal, and he's got the breaking ball, but the breaking ball hasn't turned into the pitch that everyone thought it might turn into. But I hear he's starting to flash a lot of 96s, and if that's the case, it makes it really tough. But I think you're going to get a pitch to hit against him, if you're on time. (David) Schmidt was kind of like their go-to guy earlier in the year; it's got some arm-side run and sink, a little breaking ball but mainly fastball. He's a freshman, so he'll miss out over the plate. (Dean) McArdle, it depends on what he is that day. I think that's kind of the issue with them on the mound this year, the inconsistencies. The (Sahil) Bloom kid has done a nice job for them being a little more reliable. I think it's 88 with a breaking ball and a change, just kind of a spot-up guy with a decent breaking ball. I don't think the stuff is overwhelming, but he competes and can hit his spots. He's done a real nice job of keeping them in some games or giving them a chance if the starter didn't do well. -- PAC12 Head Coach

As you can see a lot of inconsistency with guys in the pen for Stanford. Vanegas is obviously their inning eater and while he does throw hard with an impressive K/9 he does seem to have control issues has he has a 4.92 BB/9 ratio. A team K:BB ratio of 1.44 is pretty poor and something that the Seminoles hitters should be able to take advantage of with their great discipline. From the coach's description provided it would see that this bullpen lacks a ton of power arms and relies more on their defense by allowing opposing teams to put the ball in play. As simplistic as it sounds getting to this pen will be a key to winning the series.

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"After that, the other guys are just average until you get to Benincasa. I think he's really, really good. He's 89-92 with a plus breaking ball, and he can throw the breaking ball anytime he wants for a strike, and command of the breaking ball is really, really good. Gage Smith, the sidearmer, is good against righties. (Lefthander Brian) Busch and (righty Hunter) Scantling are serviceable. The one thing they do, and they've always done it at FSU, their guys out of the bullpen can throw strikes with the slider anytime they want. They'll bring Scanting in and it's slider, slider, slider, slider. Then Busch will come in and throw fastballs from a sidearm angle, and throw the breaking ball over the top. They're serviceable, not great, but got enough combinations. -- ACC Head Coach

Getting to Benincasa is key for the Seminoles' success and in the regionals it really wasn't that difficult because the starters went deep into games. If Gage Smith could pitch every inning between the starter and Benincasa fans would be ecstatic and the chances of winning would be great. If Smith is unavailable, is there anyone in the bullpen that has been consistent this season. Brian Busch's career at Florida State should be over and for no reason should he pitch this weekend, Scantling has been hit or miss this season just like his whole career. Luke Weaver has looked his best out of the pen this season but given his recent lack of innings how sharp should we expect him to be and if a lefty is needed the only real options are Holtman or Brandon Johnson. This bullpen like Stanford's is very vulnerable which is why the starters need to be on their game.

The pitching advantage this weekend goes to Stanford and that is because they have proven that they can work effectively deeper into games than the Noles. A quality start is defined as a minimum of six innings pitched with less than three earned runs allowed and while its not the best measure of a pitcher it gives you a good idea of just how effective a pitcher is in general. The three starters have given Stanford 24 quality starts out of 32 totals starts, that figures to 75% of the time. Florida State's young staff has just 14 quality starts in 44 total starts which is only 32% of the time. More breakdowns on pitchers in each game's preview and game threads.

OFFENSES:

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Scoring over 6.5 runs per game is going to win you a lot of ball games and both of these teams do that with great success. Florida State is a little bit more disciplined while Stanford is a little more aggressive and does a great job of hitting the ball to all fields.

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"I think offensively, physically, they're just scary. It's one of the biggest teams we've seen, overall, when you're looking at Wilson and Stewart and Gaffney and Piscotty and (Kenny) Diekroeger and Ragira. All those guys, then you throw in Smith hitting .330 on top of them, and he's kind of in that mold of (former Stanford catcher) Zach Jones, just a really good catch-and-throw guy. He's just solid; you get through those good offensive players and here he comes, and he can hurt you too -- PAC12 Head Coach

This is a big strong lineup with a ton of talent. Each projected starter stands over 6' tall and 190 pounds and seven of them slug over .400 or better. There really is no letup in this lineup, Piscotty is their best player and was drafted pretty high. As mentioned earlier though they are vulnerable to a good left-handed pitcher with a change up and that is exactly what Leibrandt has.

"I think there's no doubt Stewart and Wilson have improved. Last year, Wilson struggled, especially for the first three quarters of the year, with good velocity. I think he's better with that, better with the breaking ball, shorter to the ball. With him, he wants the ball up, out and over the plate, let me get extended and see what happens. When he barrels it, he's so strong that the ball jumps off his bat, too. You've got to be able to tie him up, but when you go in, you'd better get it in. Stewart, I still think there's swing and miss there, but he's done a better job of not missing his pitch when he gets it. He used to just foul it off, but now he hits it, and he's dangerous because he's strong and he can run. I think he has improved at the plate, without a doubt. -- PAC12 Head Coach

Stewart went in the 9th round and Wilson went in the 18th so teams obviously think highly of these players. This is not a team that takes a lot of walks which will be helpful because while the staff shined last weekend they have been plagued all year with issuing walks.

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"They're a solid club that plays with a lot of swagger, and that comes from playing in that program and that coaching staff, and James Ramsey. He's an unbelievable person and leader, they all look up to him. He plays the game the right way, and they just feed off it. Ramsey's a plus defender in the outfield, probably an average thrower. He has unbelievable hand-eye coordination, he can get fooled but still gets the barrel on the ball. The one thing that will shock you is the dude can really fly. I got him a couple times 3.97 (seconds down the line to first base) on swings. The way his swing is, if he hits the ball on the ground, he's always kind of jail-breaking, but that's the way he swings all the time. As soon as you hang him a breaking ball, he hits the ball over that green monster down there at Florida State. He's just a tremendous player, and obviously he made the right decision to come back to school. -- ACC Head Coach

Enough can't be said about James Ramsey and what he has meant to this team. An OPS over 1.100 is phenomenal and if you make a mistake as a pitcher he will jump all over it. Pitching around him isn't an option either because he has an All-American hitting in front of him and behind him.

"Sherman Johnson is what they need for leadoff, a patient guy, will take a strike, try to get on. Travis is good, I think you can beat him with a fastball-he has a little bit of slider bat speed, but if he runs into one he can hit it into the gap. Gonzalez has some juice, he's scary because he hits in the bottom of the order and he can jump up on you. Boyd's power is to the opposite field, he's got those long arms and the leverage, he'll go the other way. You've got to get in there, because he wants to get extended. He wants you to throw him a breaking ball or a fastball away. He doesn't want any part of the ball in. -- ACC Head Coach

Johnson was second in the nation in walks and with the four batters behind him he scores plenty. Getting through the one through five hitters is quite the task and as mentioned Gonzalez can hurt you too. The bottom three in the lineup are all freshmen and while they have shown flashes of greatness they have still struggled for most of the season.

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Brett Michael Doran might start a game over the weekend and does a great job of getting on base while switch-hitting Dominic Jose provides a great bat of the bench. None of the Florida state bench players have had a great season and they don't really pose a threat off of the bench.


While the Stanford lineup is more balanced top to bottom I think the advantage lies with Florida State and the top of their lineup. Runs will be at a premium, especially on Friday and there is no reason to think those groups can't produce like they have done all season.

DEFENSE:

Fielding percentage is a poor way to measure a defense and while team defense shouldn't be totally neglected it is probably best to give it some thought from coaches who have faced them.

"Blandino, I think, is an upgrade defensively from Piscotty at third, in a big way. I think (injured shortstop Lonnie) Kauppila could make highlight plays at shortstop, but then he could just totally airmail a routine play. I think there's more range there with Kauppila than with Diekroeger, I think Kauppila has a better glove than Diekroeger. I think Diekroeger does just fine, he can move around well. I thought he did a real nice job at third a couple years ago. But I think they're vulnerable a little bit defensively in the middle. I think Ragira's turned himself into a decent first baseman, but I don't think it's gold glove material. But at the same rate, I think all three of those guys can drive in runs. I think they're good in the outfield. Stewart's really good in center, Wilson is really good in right, and he has an absolute rifle for an arm. Depending who's in left, whether Piscotty or Gaffney, it's serviceable. -- PAC12 Head Coach

"The big thing they have is a veteran ballclub position-wise. They've got seniors and juniors all over the field. With Ramsey, and Johnson at third, Gonzalez at short, Travis at second, Jayce Boyd at first-those guys have been around forever it seems like, and those guys are really good players too. I think they've got one of the best defensive infields I've ever seen in college baseball. All four of those guys-and Boyd's a plus defender at first-those four guys can really, really play defense. That's probably why those freshmen on the mound, Leibrandt and Compton, they're like, 'Screw it, I'll just throw it over the plate, these guys are going to hit it on the ground, and my guys are going to take care of it.' Because they do. Sherman Johnson, especially, that guy's killed us making plays for the past three, four years. He just makes plays. And Gonzalez is solid at short, Travis will surprise you, kind of a bigger-bodied kid but will surprise you with his athleticism, being able to make the slow roller. Jayce Boyd, he's so athletic that you think he could play the outfield, but you watch some of the plays he makes at first base, you see why he's playing there. He's saving throws from the infielders, or making plays in the four-hole that a normal first baseman wouldn't even think about getting there. That's a difference. If the ball's hit on the ground, there's a great chance it's going to be caught -- ACC Head Coach

VENUE:

Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium

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There is the common belief that Dick Howser Stadium is a hitter's ballpark, this is in fact a myth. The reason so many runs have been scored over the years is because Florida State has a prolific offense year after year. The small dimensions if right field gives off the appearance that it is easy to hit homeruns to right, but once you realize there is a thirty foot screen that changes. Let's take a further look by looking at this year's home and away stats.

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Looking at these splits one would think that Mike Martin field is definitely a hitter's park. Yes, the Noles have tended to score a lot of runs and hit for tremendous power at home, but again I think that due to the fact that the Noles have an excellent offense. Scoring 5.3 runs per game on the road isn't bad and most teams would be happy to score that across the board.

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The pitching splits further the point that Dick Howser Stadium is in fact not a launching pad. As mentioned earlier the Seminoles' pitching is good but not great and the stats show that they pitch much better at home then on the road. Now I know most teams play better all around in the comfort of their own stadium but these stats seem to be a little drastic. If you notice the difference in hits per nine is negligible while the difference in homeruns per nine is extreme. Nole pitchers allowed homeruns with twice as much frequency outside of Howser than inside of it.

Next we will take a look into the analytical mind of Boyd's World and the Park Factors that he has compiled.

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So what do these numbers mean? "The numbers represent a percentage; a game scored in a park with a park factor of 125 will feature one-fourth more runs than the same game scored in a park with a park factor of 100."

Basically Florida State and Stanford both play in neutral parks. Keep that in mind as you reflect back over the numbers and hopefully the myth about Dick Howser Stadium has been busted. For further information on Park Factors please visit the great website that is Boyd's World.

Lastly we invite you to visit one of our guest writer's blog where you can learn about the Ten Commandments of A Tallahassee Regional.

PREDICTIONS:

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As you can this matchup is the most even of all the Super Regionals with Florida State having a 56% chance of advancing

  • In 2011, ISR-Based probabilities picked 6 of 8 (75%) Super Regional winners correctly. FSU was a 76.1% favorite and lost to Texas A&M.
  • In 2010, ISR-Based probabilities picked 5 of 8 (63%) Super Regional winners correctly. FSU was a 59.3% favorite and defeated Vanderbilt.
  • In 2009, ISR-Based probabilities picked 5 of 8 (63%) Super Regional winners correctly. FSU was a 63.1% favorite and lost to Arkansas.
  • In three years, ISR-Based probabilities have picked 16 of 24 (67%) Super Regional winners correctly.

FINALTHOUGHTS:

"Overall, it's tough not to like that team with how physical they are compared with everybody else. The thing that scares me the most is if they do get shut down, can they shut the other team down, beyond Appel? Because I think Mark has shown that he can do that on a consistent basis. It's a coin flip what you'll get from the other guys." -- PAC12 Head Coach

"They have a system. If you talk to pro guys in the fall when they see Florida State, they say, 'They're not going to be very good this year,' and every year they win 50 games. That's the way they coach, and the kids buy into the system. It's a typical Florida State team: some decent talent, a good college player in Ramsey, but it's not like they're Stanford or Florida, having seven guys go off the board in the top five rounds. But that's a credit to their coaching staff." -- ACC Head Coach

WEATHER:

6. Thou shalt plan for weather delays. The lightning detector at Howser goes off with any lightning from here to Omaha, there will be delays. - from Ten Commandments of A Tallahassee Regional.

The above statement couldn't be more true, weather in Tallahassee is predictably inconsistent. You don't know when it will storm but just know it will storm. Let's take a look at the forecast anyways.

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Looks like storms will be in Tallahassee all weekend which will more than likely cause delays. Updated weather forecasts will be provided as we get closer to game time.

SCHEDULE AND VIEWING:

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All games are to be televised under the lights, games can also be viewed on ESPN3.

Hope you enjoyed the preview and the information provided. Games thread will be posted an hour before game time. Looking forward to see everyone participate.

Go Noles!

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