Typically when a team loses four games in a row heading into the postseason you think the team isn't playing well, luckily for Seminoles' fans that's not the case this season. Before we take a look at how the Noles have fared recently lets talk about some of the different offensive options that Florida State has used this season.
To Platoon or To Not Platoon?
The Seminoles haven't really been forced into this situation all that frequently over the past few years especially with the likes of Jayce Boyd at first and James Ramsey in right field but the Noles have gone with many different lineup variations this year. More than any other team in recent memory. Let's first take a look at how the platoon players have played against right-handed pitchers this season.
Nothing really out of the ordinary here other than that in roughly the same amount at-bats Nogowski and Smit pretty much put up the same numbers. Neither of them provide the power you look for in a corner infielder but the fact that the righty strikes out less and walks more than his lefty counterpart makes fore some debate. As much fun as it is to watch Winston thrown out runners trying to score at home his numbers against righties are terrible and he should probably be relegated to only starting when a lefty on the mound.
The issue here with some of the numbers that these hitters are putting up against lefties is the sample size. Smit's 18 at-bats is far too few to put any real stock into the gaudy numbers he has and even though Delph looks like an All-American here I would imagine with more frequency his numbers would come back down to earth. In 30 at-bats last season Delph hit .200/.250/.267 which is more what one would expect. Brett Knief seems to be a great option when a right-handed bat is needed and he can hold his own in the outfield which makes him valuable. Despite his high strikeout rate Jameis has held his own on the right side of the plate and with an OPS right around .900 he is a good option with limited liability in right field. Again the power at 1B is lacking but Nogowski is on base enough to warrant him starting in the bottom half of the lineup.
Not to beat a dead horse but when your corner infielder has a higher OBP than slugging and their OPS is under .800 you are always open to other options. It appears though that the Noles will go with this combination although as the numbers above show having Nogowski play 1B exclusively wouldn't be the worst decision in the world.
Josh Delph being healthy is a huge positive for the Noles and hopefully the coaches feel he is at full strength and able to contribute in right field whenever a right hander takes the mound. Playing CF should be the responsibility of Seth Miller and when both players are in the lineup Delph usually leads off with Miller batting towards the bottom of the lineup.
When a southpaw is on the mound I think the choice is a pretty easy one, both of these players provide some decent pop with a very respectable on-base percentage. In this situation Knief becomes your leadoff hitter and Winston is in the bottom half of the lineup.
Lots of good major league teams use a platoon situation when they don't have an all-star that can handle the bat against lefties and righties. I do think if Florida State goes with these above platoons that gives them the best option as well has viable options off the bench for in-game substitutions.
Offensively Holding Their Own
Watching the Seminoles offense struggle over the past three weeks hasn't been pretty but given their level of competition it is understandable. The Noles had a 3 games series with NCST, who should of earned a national seed and Clemson who is a regional host worthy team. Both teams have All-ACC pitchers on their staff and both have heavily relied on quality pitching down the staff. After those two series the Seminoles faced the #1 overall seed in UNC who proved that they have the deepest staff in the nation after playing an 18 inning game the night after a 14 inning affair. That was followed up by All-American and 3 time All-ACC pitcher Buck Farmer doing Buck Farmer things against the Noles. Offensively being shut down by an average VT pitcher is understandably frustrating but losing a close one in the final game when All World closer Zack Crockett pitches 4 innings of relief is understandable. All in all that stretch was against some of the most elite pitchers in the nation, arms like that won't be seen again until the Noles step foot in Omaha.
What the offense produced in that stretch of 10 games is below what fans have come to expect out of the offense for the most of the season. But when compared to what those 6 team's pitching staffs have allowed all season the numbers fall right in line, a higher OPS generally puts you in a position to score runs and if the Noles can continue that in the playoffs the runs will come. Also of note Florida State welcomes back the bat of Josh Delph who was ill the majority of the second half of the season and should help spark the offense when in the lineup. I can't help but think the absence of Jose Brizuela's potent bat might of cost the Noles a run or two in the final games of the ACC tournament.
This offense is obviously not going to produce like team's of recent but they still rank among the top in the nation when looking at the important run producing stats. To repeat, the arms they will see in both the regionals and supers are nothing like what they have faced over the past 3 weeks and fans should expect better run support for this excellent pitching staff.
Cruisin' and Bruisin'
One part of the Seminoles pitching staff has been absolutely phenomenal over the past month. Take a look at what Weaver, Leibrandt and Sitz have done since the latter part of April keeping in mind that half of these starts are against the teams mentioned above with the other starts coming against Wake Forest and UCF.
At over 6 innings per start the rotation has been nothing short of amazing. A ridiculous strikeout to walk ratio means they are limiting the number of base runners and forcing even the best offenses to hit their way to scoring runs.
A game against Clemson and the UNC game have been removed because weekday starter Peter Miller pitched in those games but as you can see the rest of the staff fared extremely well. The offense that Florida State saw in the tournament are elite and the work those starters did is very encouraging moving forward. The outings against NCST and Clemson were again of high quality but against more average offenses. As we will see in upcoming previews there is no elite offense traveling into Tallahassee this weekend which means good news for starting pitchers
Now on to the less than stellar part of the Seminoles pitching staff. The past month has not been kind to relievers as they have been responsible for their share of blown saves and late inning heartbreak.
The biggest concern here is the high walk rate, the relief group is walking more than twice their starting counterparts and that can't happen, especially when you are being inserted to game when runners are already are already on base.
The main thing that fans like to focus on is the late inning, game winning home runs that the Noles' relievers allowed in the final 3 games. As a fan you have to put those aside, pitchers give up homeruns, Gage Smith, Robby Coles and Jameis Winston hadn't allowed a homerun all season which means they were due to eventually. Circumstances and timing are not always perfect for allowing your first but they still are the best on this staff. Along with Billy Strode I think those are the "go to" and the first calls out of the pen, after them is when FSU fans should start holding their breath.
Hopefully you think along the same lines that I do and are confident about the Noles winning their regional and hopefully beyond that to another College World Series. Stay tuned the rest of the week for team and series previews.