Before we get into tonight's matchup let's look into the numbers of this past week.
Florida State lost three straight this week and what made it some bad in the minds of fans was that the first loss was to rival Florida who swept the season 'series'. It has been discussed ad nauseam that midweek games mean little in the grand scheme of things. The Noles losing continued on Friday night against Georgia Tech where they lost a close game 5-3 and the offense had many opportunities but could not capitalize. Compounding the frustration was the Saturday game in which the Seminoles were trailing 12-0 at one point and the offense had disappeared. Concerns were relieved on Sunday when the Noles battled back from a 4-0 deficit in the first inning to win the game 5-4 and avoid the series sweep.
While the Seminoles did not play the level of ball that we have seen thorough the first two months they didn't play all that poorly either.
First and foremost is that the Seminoles offense was one of the best in the country prior to last Tuesday's game against UF and it will more than likely finished the season that way. Secondly is that we are looking at a stretch of four games, which is basically 5% of the season's games not including the postseason so the sample size needs to be taken into consideration.
If you notice the BABIP or "Batting Average on Balls in Play" for the Noles over the four games was over 80 points lower than their season average and even 50 points lower than conference average if you look at the table below. What does this mean? It means that for this short stretch of game the balls that the Noles put into play did not fall for hits as they normally would. In this small sample size that means they were on the bad end of good defense or just on the bad end of luck.
The Noles' opponents have done well overall in that same stretch and let's see if we can find out why.
First and foremost the biggest reason that the Seminoles' pitching struggled this past week was the absence of arguably their best pitcher. When you lose the caliber of pitcher that Leibrandt is you have to expect the staff as a whole to suffer. Moving left to right you see that the strikeouts were down and the walks were slightly up over the week but nothing of great significance, what stands out is the percent of runners who reached base who scored (Rsco%). Prior to the UF game the FSU pitching staff was doing a tremendous of limiting runs scored, almost a full 10% of lower than league average. When that number nearly doubles is when you have big innings and lots of runs scored, something that plagued the Noles last week.
Just like the Florida State was on the bad side of luck and some good defense, opposing offenses were on the good side of luck and were fortunate to playing a team with really bad defense. In that four game stretch Florida State committed seven errors while pitchers had four wild pitches and hit three batters. The pitching last week was not all that bad, the Noles saw some tremendous stretch of great pitching, particularly in the first and third game of the Tech series in which that Jackets were only able to score in the first inning of each.
Below are the lines in which Florida State allowed a run compared to the innings in which they kept the opposition scoreless.
Going into this stretch the Seminoles had held the opposition scoreless in 32% of their innings overall and in conference that number was even less at 22% on the season. So when the opponents scored in 35% of their innings this weekend that wasn't much of anomaly, but what did stand out were the amount of runs. Prior to the Gator matchup the Noles were allowing less than one run scored per inning that an opponent scored in, over the last week that number tripled to 3.2 runs per inning allowed.
Why the large number of runs? Everyone is at fault, it comes down to pitchers not being able to close out hitters when ahead in the count like we saw Weaver do or the two runs that scored on passed balls. The defense played a big part as well, 6 errors in 9 innings is terrible and contributes to big innings. When the defense played mistake free runners were kept off base and the staff pitched great.
The offense also needs to share the blame, no matter the sport playing from behind can be hard to do and requires a different mindset. Many times over the past week the offense had great opportunities to score and couldn't, sometime it was because awful decisions to bunt were made and sometime it was just a poor plate approach or like was said earlier, just bad luck.
The point of this is to show just how good Florida State has been over the majority of the season and just how silly it is to throw in the towel when a team hits a rough patch over such a small number of games. Over the course of the season the Noles have not only had one of the best offenses in the country their entire team has been elite. If what happened this past week happens again and becomes a persistent problem then worrying is warranted. Until then you have to understand that a team who plays 60 games in a season is going to have a stretch in which they are mentally and physically tired, banged up and not focused.
The redshirt sophomore who is playing for the first time since 2012 just came off the worst outing of his career and it appears that his season has been up and down. I have seen those who suggest that he doesn't deserve to be in the rotation and that it is time to find someone new. Remember he was a Freshman All American and All ACC in 2012 so what is happening in 2014?
The answer, nothing. If you look at Compton's numbers across the board his result from his freshman season they are virtually identical. His ERA is almost a point higher but if that is how you choose to evaluate a pitcher then you are on the wrong site. All of his other ratios with the exception of hits show no significant difference. You will notice that his hits per nine is up slightly but when you think about it that is less than one hit per start. The percentage of extra base hits he has allowed this season is actually down as well which practically negates the increase at all.
So again what's the difference between now and freshman Mike Compton? It's nothing but perception because the numbers say he is the same pitcher now as he was before Tommy John surgery. The drop off between him and Leibrandt in the Saturday role probably contributes to that perception but he still a solid pitcher and until the health of Leibrandt is known he is the best option as the number two on this staff.
Not too much of a preview for tonight since Florida State is the far superior team here. The Noles defeated Jacksonville earlier in the season 12-6 with the Noles pulling away late. Jacksonville is bad this season, they have just three wins against teams with a top 100 RPI. If Florida State comes out focused and executes this game should be over quickly, if Florida State is still struggling they still have a very good chance of winning this game.
Tonight's game can be viewed on ESPN3 and we will have the play by play right here.