Enough can't be said about the 2012 Florida State Seminoles Baseball team, I know from a personal standpoint it has been one of my favorite teams to watch, cover and cheer for. In talking with those inside and outside the program many of them share the same sentiment, partly due to the players that were on the team and the fact that they far exceeded any reasonable expectations. At the beginning of the season few thought there were going to have the success that they did and even after winning a record twenty four conference games there were still some doubt. Even after earning a National Seed and sweeping through Regionals there was still doubt. This team made even the staunchest saber disciples put all the numbers aside, sit back and enjoy kids playing baseball. I will do my best to sum up this season but it really can't be done any better than this locker room speech given by head coach Mike Martin following the 17-1 drubbing of Stanford in game one of Super Regionals.
Inside we will break down expectations, results and what lies ahead...
At the beginning of the season this was my prediction for this Seminoles team...
Florida State has to once again play Georgia Tech, but this series was replaced with the North Carolina one which might actually be beneficial for the Noles as UNC is expected to be one of the best in the country this season.
Florida State playing GT instead of UNC was a big difference as UNC was the second best team in the conference and FSU ended up sweeping the Yellow Jackets.
I really think this team is doing the right thing by turning towards youth but unfortunately that will mean some definite growing pains.
The Noles did go with youth and it ended up being not as bad as initially thought.
The offense should still be great but how many times can they 'outscore' other teams?
The offense was once again elite as we will show later in the review. They outscored opponents by 459 to 275 and while they won plenty of games for the Noles the pitching staff made sure it wasn't always necessary.
It is just really difficult for me think that this team can succeed with 4 starting pitchers who virtually have no experience and a returning staff that was really poor last season.
While the Noles really only relied on two freshman starters the returning staff made great and unexpected improvements.
I predict Florida State to be right around .500 in conference play and anything better than that would be great and Mike Bell would have really done an amazing job. Missing the postseason is not a concern but the possibility that Florida State doesn't host seems to be a real possibility.
My final conference prediction before the season started was 17-13 which is right in line with what the majority of Seminoles fans thought as well going by the preseason poll below. Florida State was ranked number one the majority of the year which earned them the right to host throughout the entire playoffs.
The 2011 Florida State offense like many before it was amongst one of the best in the nation. Even with the introduction of the new bats they proved that the methodology taught by coaches still equates to scoring runs at a high rate.
While the Seminoles didn't lose a lot of offensive players the ones they did lose were key contributors as Mike McGee and Rafael Lopez both had excellent senior seasons. Below is a look at what the returners to the 2012 team did in 2011.
Returning four players who had an OPS greater than .800 and a leadoff hitter who had one of the greatest walk totals in the history of the school is a great thing. While there were a few questions the Noles were prime to have another fantastic offensive season. Below are the 2012 individual offensive stats.
As you can see the five returning starters did not disappoint and all had better 2012 campaigns then they did the previous year. While the change in bats effected him the past two years more than anyone else, Sherman Johnson was a fantastic leadoff hitter and with his keen eyes finished the season tied as the nation's leader in walks. Devon Travis's junior season was not as great has his sophomore season but he put up great numbers for a second baseman earning him 1st Team All ACC. James Ramsey is one of the greatest players ever to play at Florida State in any sport, his on and off the field contributions were always unselfish and he was rewarded with ACC Player of the year, 1st Team All-American and a 1st round draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals. First baseman Jayce Boyd finished out an extremely solid career at Florida State and while his power never did develop like fans had hoped he did a great job protecting Ramsey in the three hole while still putting up impressive numbers himself. Despite the frustrating amount of strikeouts Justin Gonzalez had a good season when he actually put the ball in play and the Seminoles desperately welcome his bat back in the lineup next season.
In his first full season at catcher Stephen McGee mystified onlookers as he finished the season fifth in the NCAA in walks which is phenomenal because he seemed to pose very little threat swinging the bat. Returner Seth Miller struggled to find a permanent spot in the lineup and was equally frustrating with the strikeouts as Gonzalez. Jose Brizuela was the only freshman that managed to find himself playing everyday and unfortunately did not produce liked a lot of folks had hoped he would. He struggled in the field, struggled on the base paths and struggled with the bat, but he did get valuable playing time that will hopefully translate into a better sophomore season. Freshman Josh Delph and John Nogowski contributed the best they could given the sporadic playing time, an increase in power for Nogowski and better plate discipline from Delph would go a long ways in securing a permanent spot in next year's starting lineup.
As you can see from above the Noles had another excellent year, ranking high in meaningful statistics that translate into scoring runs. I added SH% (sacrifice hits per plate appearance) and as you can see Florida State is one of the best at not giving away outs, but what this doesn't mean is that I will complain every time they do it at an inopportune moment. Since I know your curious to what next season will look like here is what current Florida State batters are expected to return.
Florida State has not lost this much offensive production from one team in quite sometime if ever, they will be counting on a lot of inexperience to produce next season. Be on the look out for an offseason article on what exactly the Noles can expect offensively from the 2013 team.
Florida State finally made a long overdue coaching change this past season when they parted ways with Jamie Shouppe and hired Mike Bell who had successful stints at Tennessee and Oklahoma. The former Seminole pitcher had a tough task as he lost a first rounder who accounted for more than twenty percent of the total innings pitched and a shutdown reliever who threw in sixty percent of Florida State's games.
Mike Bell revamped an average pitching staff into something respectable and something that fans should be excited about in the future. The 2012 staff improved across the board with the most important gain being an improvement in strikeout to walk ratio which leads to better overall numbers.
As mentioned before the Noles lost their best pitcher to the to the draft, but mostly to graduation. The numbers above are ideal for a staff as a whole and what Florida State should be striving for in the future. Unfortunately those numbers didn't reflect the entire staff as the Noles had a large amount of underperformers returning for 2012 as you can see below.
An ERA and FIP approaching five, a WHIP over 1.50 and an awful walks per nine over five played a major factor in the low expectations for the 2012 season. But a change in pitching philosophy and change in regimen completely transformed the returning pitchers this season as the majority of players below made great contributions to the team this year and was crucial in the successful return to Omaha.
Outside of Hunter Scantling and Brian Busch every other pitcher dramatically improved their numbers. Scott Sitz had his struggles throughout the season but came up huge in the postseason where he pitched the best he has in his entire career. Peter Miller started in the Sunday role but found him self relegated to relief appearances at the end of the year and that is where he will more than likely find himself next season. Mack Waugh inexplicably stopped pitching towards the end of the year but was extremely effective in the innings he pitched this season. Brandon Johnson made the most of his minimal innings, having him in a more predominant role next season is something that should be worth a look. Lastly was Robert Benincasa who had an absolutely dominating season, not sure exactly what it was that doubled his K/9 and cut his BB/9 in half but it earned him a 7th round draft pick and a 1st Team All-American award. Having him closing things down was key to such a successful season and great record in close games.
So not only did Mike Bell have the daunting task of fixing pitchers the previous coach had broken he had six freshman, none he recruited, to work with. There was much skepticism when the announcement that freshmen were going to be the Friday and Saturday starters but Bell worked his magic and both of them wound up earning Freshman All-American awards. Brandon Leibrandt really emerged as solid starter and should have been named to the Freshman All-ACC Team ahead of teammate Mike Compton. Don't get me wrong Compton did have a great season, as it was refreshing to have a Saturday guy who could continually count on to give you five strong innings. I'm not sure if he stays in the Saturday spot but he will definitely remain a starter in his remaining time here. Luke Weaver probably has the best ‘stuff' on the staff; if he can ‘figure it out' he has the potential of being and elite college pitcher. Kyle Bird was used mostly in low leverage situations and was not effective at all, way to many walks but with an extremely high BABIP he probably wasn't as bad as his numbers indicate. Holtman on the other hand was extremely effective in his appearances and having a lefty out of the pen with his stuff is always an asset.
Not to be forgotten was the emergence of Gage Smith, who was on this team as a freshman and then cut only to return, grow a mustache and be a huge factor in the staff's success. Like Benincasa, the redshirt sophomore was crucial to the Noles 13-3 record in one run games. His return along with every other key contributor, minus Benincasa, will hopefully anchor an ever-improving pitching staff. Look for an article that breaks down Mike Bell's recruiting history this offseason.
Measuring defense in college baseball is an impossible task; fielding percentage is practically a worthless statistic due to many variables. That being said by virtue of watching this team and comparing them to previous seasons it was a very good defense and the infield is arguably one of the best of all time. As of right now the Noles will have to replace three of their four starting infielders and their starting centerfielder.
Another year goes by, another trip to Omaha, another season ending without a title. All that really doesn't matter, as this was probably one of the best managing jobs head coach Mike Martin has ever done in his illustrious career at Florida State. He surrounded himself with top-notch assistant coaches that helped this team perform beyond expectations and for that he was awarded his first career "Coach of the Year" award. Mike Martin, Jr. is one of the best if not the best hitting coaches in the country, he consistently take players like Devon Travis and Sherman Johnson and makes them into collegiate stars which in turn gives them an opportunity to further their career. The job that Mike Bell did with this pitching staff is still hard to believe, while some of it could possibly be due to overachieving, the thought of what this staff will look like when he gets the type of pitchers he wants should have Noles fans drooling. The often-overlooked coach on the staff is the Volunteer Assistant, sometimes this is warranted (Hoop) and sometimes it is not. The former player/coach for the Cubs was very much respected by players and actually provided quality coaching but unfortunately his time as Florida State is up as VAs usually only stick around for two years. It appears that former Twins minor leaguer and Louisville Cardinal will joining the Seminoles next year as the Volunteer Assistant.
The 2013 season looks to be a rough one with a whole lot of offense to be replaced but the same was said for the 2012 pitching so only time will tell. During the offseason Tomahawk Nation will provide you with updates and articles previewing next season as well as providing more coverage and stats in a new format. While a message board isn't in the future baseball fans can now discuss baseball intelligently at SectionB. The site has separated itself from its previous host and is now independent so I encourage all to signup. For all of your baseball recruiting needs the one person you need to follow is Corey Dowlar on Twitter, he has more contacts than anyone else and is passionate about it.
Once again hats off to an amazing season by an amazing group of players and coaches, it feels really good to know that this team isn't far away from being legitimate title contenders year after year.