"Dunk City" isn't really coming to campus, the hype of the Cinderella has passed, even more now that their head coach bolted for greener pastures. But the Noles do host a solid Florida Gulf Coast team that made some noise earlier in the season by sweeping Florida in Gainesville. Since knocking off the Gators five weeks ago the Eagles have played a pretty weak schedule, according to Warren Nolan only one of their opponents in that span currently has an RPI better than 121 and that was Florida Atlantic who they lost to by one run. They've primarily beaten up on bad northern teams and terrible conference opponents but do currently sit at a very respectable 18-5 record.
As the Seminoles strength of opponents becomes tougher it is becoming more obvious that this team is young, inexperienced and has a lot to improve on. That being said having only 4 losses half way through the season and sitting in the top 10 of every poll has exceeding even the most lofty expectations given the off-season losses and devastating season ending injuries. Florida State has done well against in-state opponents this season, 8-0 versus UF, JU, USF and Stetson. This should be another test for Florida State as the rotation has recently been moved around and we will hopefully get to see some new faces at new positions as well.
Florida Gulf Coast has a solid hitting ball club, any team with a batting average near .300 should be considered dangerous and by scoring six runs a game this series could easily turn into a scoring fest. Much like Virginia Tech what the Eagles do not do well is exercise plate discipline, they strike out more than they walk and without a gaudy slugging percentage to back that up the Seminoles pitching will hopefully be able to take advantage of that. The Noles continue to be one of the best offenses in the country by constantly pressuring pitchers and defenses with baserunners.
Redshirt senior Brooks Beisner (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS/Auburn) continues to lead the offensive charge, hitting .365 with 19 RBI and 17 runs scored while holding a .563 slugging and .418 on-base percentage. Beisner leads the squad with four home runs and has established a team-best 54 total bases this season.Nearly matching
Beisner's production, junior Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) is hitting .363 with team-highs of 22 RBI and 25 runs scored. Recording a team-best four stolen bases, the Stuart, Fla. product holds a .520 slugging percentage while reaching base at a .416 rate.
With on-base percentages of .426 and .425, respectively, senior Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter's Secondary) (.354) and junior Sean Dwyer (Tavares, Fla./Tavares HS) (.348) are hitting above the .300 plateau this season. Reeves has driven in 13 RBI and scored 17 times, while Dwyer has connected for three home runs, brought in 22 RBI and scored 19 runs.
As a team Gulf Coast does strike out more than they walk but their four best hitters in the lineup are not hacks at the place, all of them have at least a K:BB ratio of 1 or better.
FSU is led at the plate by sophomore Jose Brizuela's .337 average, driving in 24 RBI and scoring 20 times. Redshirt junior Stephen McGee has scored 23 runs while holding a .333 mark at the dish, driving in a team-high 25 RBI. Senior Seth Miller is also above the .300 mark, hitting at a .309 clip.
As bad as Brizuela's glove is his bat is too valuable to move out of the lineup. Casey Smit replaced him at third the other day and that could be a possibility moving forward but would cause the removal of another everyday position player. At this point I think Brett Kneif needs more at-bats and if that means Marcus Davis playing first instead of Nogowski I am all for that experiment.
On paper these two staffs have practically identical numbers and given similar strengths of schedule its possible that this series could be tight low scoring affairs. Florida State has a deeper and more experienced bullpen than Florida Gulf Coast and its not uncommon in a weekday series that bullpens make the difference because weekday starters have difficulty providing quality innings.
With the promotion of Luke Weaver to the weekend rotation Billy Strode gets to make his third start of the season and first since the 14-1 pounding the Noles gave Stetson two weeks ago. In that game the lefty transfer was excellent giving the Noles 6 strong innings where he struck out 9 and allowed only 2 walks. Zack Tillery is the Eagles everyday third baseman and normal weekday starter. The righty has been pretty effective this season as he relies on his defense to take care of him. He doesn't have overpowering stuff but throws strikes and makes hitters earn their bases.
Seven opportunities in the weekend rotation and it was quite obvious that Peter Miller doesn't have the makeup to remain there. Four innings per start isn't going to cut it in the ACC, especially when Florida State has lofty goals and expectations. No doubt Miller will continue to work hard and improve but it seems he is the type of pitcher that belongs as a weekday starter. Once the FGCU starter is known we will let you know.
Its really difficult to measure how good a defense is but not a bad one and #FSU has a terrible one— RaysnNoles (@RodMahoney) March 30, 2013
Its no secret to anyone that Florida State has a bad defense, a very very bad defense. Breaking in four new infielders in one season is tough and the price that is being paid has resulted in losses and will continue to do so in the future. As you can see below Florida State leads the nation in this stat that I just made up, but give credit to the Noles pitching staff as they have done a lot to overcome the defensive struggles.
I am unsure of what the solution is to the error problems. I do know that these midweek games should be used as trial and error period for players trying new positions. Whether that happens is up to the coaches but if you don't at least try something different I wouldn't expect any different results moving forwards.
Both of the games start at 6PM and can be viewing on All-Access. A series split would be nice for the Noles and help with their RPI and seeding at the end of the season. See everyone back later this evening.