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 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 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.