Before the season began we predicted where the wins — and losses — are most likely to come in 2018. The season was broken into four parts, with a sweep of Kansas the first part of the season has concluded. Let's see if the ‘Noles have lived up to their expectations.
Early Season Non-Conference Games
While FSU does not generally schedule major teams out of conference, it does open with the reigning Big East Champion and winners of three of the last four Big East Tournaments, the Xavier Muketeers. The ’Noles rotational depth will be tested when the Troy Trojans make the trip down to Tallahassee for a weekend set and could give the ‘Noles a solid challenge. FSU will then hit the road for a single mid-week game in Jacksonville against the Dolphins before wrapping up the early season non-conference slate with three games against UNC-Ashville and two mid-week games against Kansas.
While the entirety of these 13 games should not be a huge challenge, early season games do stretch the pitching staff, and the Seminoles expect to use a few freshmen out of the pen— so things can get dicey. A record of 10-3 is probably a fair prediction to look for here as FSU tries to figure out the back of its rotation.
Florida State has exceeded those expectations and is currently 13-0 on the season — the longest winning streak since 16-0 to start the 2013 season and fourth longest in school history. They are one of five teams in the country who are currently undefeated.
In what is a bit of surprise, it’s not the normally-potent offense that has carried the ‘Noles early in the season. Rather, the dominant pitching which includes several young arms. The staff leads the country in strikeouts per nine innings at a staggering 13.5 K/9 rate — 10th in ERA — 12th in hits allowed per nine — 22nd in WHIP. Florida State isn’t relying on just one pitcher to reach these lofty rankings, which is what makes these numbers all-the-more impressive. This is dominance as a staff, not just one or two individuals.
The offense is currently scoring 7.2 runs per game which ranks 53rd in the NCAA. As expected, they lead the nation in walks. Which explains why they are 12th in on-base percentage. Their slugging percentage is 98th in the nation and as that improves, which there is no reason to think it won’t, the offense will also improve.
Head Coach Mike Martin has done a good job of getting his young pitchers chances to get their feet wet early on in the season. The ‘Noles have seven relievers with multiple appearances and only one with over five. Assuming this sort of distribution continues, FSU should have its young pitching staff rested and experienced late in the season. Similarly, the Seminoles have given multiple position players chances to earn playing time — players like Jonathan Foster spelling Cal Raleigh for a few innings, and Cooper Swanson seeing full-game opportunities as a designated hitter. The early season is made for finding out what your team, especially younger and newer players, can give you. And to that end, Florida State has used it’s time appropriately.
Martin is now just 19 wins away from becoming the winningest coach of all time, with 1,976 wins. The ‘Noles begin the second leg of the season with their first road series. Friday marks the start of conference play as Wake Forest hosts the Seminoles for a 3-game set in Winston-Salem, NC.