Perfect Game's Kendall Rogers sat down with Tomahawk Nation's Dustin Tackett following Florida State's weekend series against Virginia for a quick Q&A.
The college baseball guru gave his insight into the Seminoles' outlook and the college baseball post-season landscape as a whole.
DT: So this is your first time back to Tallahassee in a couple years. Where do you think the atmosphere here at Dick Howser stacks up compared to some of the best?
KR: I'd definitely have it top five. I went to Ole Miss-Mississippi State a few weeks ago and they had 15,000 people there. So, Mississippi State's probably the best place I've been, and LSU is pretty rowdy too. But I think FSU would easily be in the top five and maybe even number three. When you look at this ballpark and the fact that the stands are right on top of the field, and the fan interaction, it's great.
And I'm one of those people that like smart fans. And yeah, they get in the up quite a bit for bad calls, but for the most part, they're a very smart fan base. I think, in college baseball, you have to cherish that if you're a Florida State fan. It's not like that all over the country. I mean, you go to the west coast and some fans don't even know their first baseman.
DT: After watching a series against Virginia that had a couple close losses, where do you see this team with a healthy Brandon Leibrandt?
KR: I think it's an Omaha team. Getting Leibrandt back is massive. When you look at next weekend, you're looking at having to pull somebody out of the bullpen into that role and that can be tough. But once they get Leibrandt back you've got a really solid one, two, three.
I think the biggest biggest difference in this year's team and why I'm so high on FSU going into the year is, when you look at some FSU teams of the past, you haven't always been confident in their bullpen. And I think this year, when you look at guys like Gage Smith, Billy Strode and Jameis Winston, they've got three really good options, if not more, out of that bullpen. If they get Leibrandt back, they'll be fine. And I'd be surprised not to see them in Omaha.
DT: Do you think FSU will host Regionals and Super Regionals?
KR: Right now, I do. I still think they're a top eight national seed. They've certainly dropped down with another series loss, down to about six or eight because they've lost two of their last three series. But I think they'll finish strong.
Duke all of a sudden becomes a very dawning series. The thing about Duke is they're not a very good offensive team, but they have a really good one, two, three punch, and their Sunday guy right now will probably be a top-5 pick in next year's draft. Duke will be a tesy series, but I think Florida State will finish strong.
DT: What about teams like Cal Poly and ULL, are they like a Stony Brook, or are they just products of a weak schedule?
KR: They're a little more realistic. When you look at Stony Brook, if they played like they did the whole season, they wouldn't have been where they were. They just got really hot for a couple weekends and got there.
I think the big thing about Cal Poly and ULL is that they've just been consistent. You're talking about teams that from day one to now have just played outstanding baseball. I think Cal Poly's probably the more proven team at this point because their conference is better.
But the thing about ULL is that they have that nice one, two punch on the weekend rotation, and they might have the best offense in the country. The question becomes with ULL is whether or not that offense can get it done on the road. And Omaha, for instance, is not an offensive ballpark. So I think ULL is certainly the more risky pick if you were going to pick between one of those two.
DT: Are there any sleepers out there that you think people should keep their eyes on?
KR: A couple are from the SEC. I think Arkansas has an excellent weekend rotation and a strong bullpen. The problem with Arkansas is that they haven't been able to hit at all. But that's really scary, though, because Mississippi State last year was just like that. They had a really strong pitching staff but couldn't get runs across. But once they got to the post-season, they got hot and smacked some pretty good pitching around. So if Arkansas can get hot, they have a chance to make a lot of noise.
Another team that's worth keeping an eye on if they can make it through their conference tournament is Sam Houston State. If they can win their conference tournament and get in, they're another team that has a big time offense and could cause some headaches for somebody. Especially one of those Texas Regionals.
DT: How much would a CWS title mean for a coach like Mike Martin?
KR: As big as it would be for Mike, personally speaking, I think it would be huge for college baseball. I'm always one of those people, and you hear this from head coaches all over the country, but everybody wants to see Mike win a National Championship.
When you look at Mike Martin's legacy and what he's accomplished, it's absolutely incredible. I can understand FSU fans and their frustration of making it there and not getting it done, but what he has done with this program is unbelievable. We just had to head coaches this weekend that have never missed a Regional. That's special. And I think when you look at Mike Martin, that's what you have to look at.
He's built character players and he's gotten his program to the post-season every year. And the fact of the matter is, the post-season's a crap shoot. I mean, look at the University of Texas. They've been to Omaha, I think it's 36 or 37 times, and they've got six National Championships. If you do the math, the percentages aren't that great. It's hard to win a National Championship.
And I think everyone around the country would be more pleased with MIke winning one than he would be personally, because he's one of those guys that would probably give all the credit to everybody else expect himself.
DT: How much of an emphasis are put on these midweek losses when trying to figure out seeding for the post-season?
KR: Well, it could be big when it comes to Florida. When you look at Florida right now, they're probably a lock as a host, and they won again today. Obviously losing those three midweek games to Florida hurts in terms of head-to-head. But if you look at the RPI in those three losses, they didn't even go anywhere, it stayed in the same spot. I wouldn't wanna lose 60% of my midweek games, but I'm okay with losing 30%.
At the end of the day, what happens on the weekends is about 70% of the equation overall in terms of resume. So, yeah, you wanna win them, but it's not that big of a deal.
DT: Who would you say are your top three contenders to win the title?
KR: That's a good question. Florida's such a weird team because, as much as I like their pitching staff, I wonder if they'll be able to hit in Omaha. They just don't have a great offense. So, I'll throw Florida in there just because of their pitching. They could be like UCLA last year who didn't need to score many runs, they just shut everybody out.
One team I really like right now is Oregon State. When you look at the Beavers, they've got two guys in the middle of the lineup, Michael Conforto and Dylan Davis, that will probably be first and second round picks this summer, who do a really nice job. And their pitching staff is unbelievable. I know a lot of people know the Ben Wetzler story with the Phillies earlier this year with that agent stuff, but Wetzler's been great. So, I like those guys a lot.
And then you have Virginia. There's not much not to like about the Virginia club. I think that when you look at them overall, even a lot of their outs this weekend were loud outs. They're stable defensively, La Prise over at third and Pinero at short were outstanding defensively. Virginia has all the pieces.
But when you look at this Virginia team, not unlike FSU teams of the past, they've been so good during the regular season, it's hard to replicate that during the post-season. So the question is whether they can get to the post-season and play like they have all year. And that can be really difficult.