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Identifying the next pitching coach for FSU baseball

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The ’Noles have a familiarity with an outstanding prospect to oversee its staff.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Florida State vs Michigan Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Possible names of pitching coaches to fill the vacancy that Florida State currently has are few and far between. The most prominent name that has surfaced is Jason Jackson, the current pitching coach for Alabama, but he announced that he will be staying put in Tuscaloosa. Another names that has been floated is Bryan Henry, there doesn’t seem to be to much steam behind this though. It’s an easy name to throw around because he is a former FSU player and is local to Tallahassee.

The name that should catch the attention of fans is the current Stetson pitching coach and assistant head coach Dave Therneau. At Stetson, he oversaw a staff that increased their strikeouts in three of his first four years. By year three Stetson recorded 635 strikeouts to just 192 walks. In 2018, the Hatters led the nation in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (6.81) and WHIP (1.11). Stetson was third in the nation in K/9 innings (10.5) and K-to-BB ratio (3.31) and was fourth in winning percentage (.787). The Hatters also allowed the lowest opponent batting average (.207) and allowed the fewest extra-base hits (90) in the aluminum bat era. In fact Stetson was so good Therneau was named Collegiate Baseball’s Pitching Coach of the Year.

Therneau believes in throwing strikes early and often in the count. As he describes in this CoachesInsider video from a coaching conference he spoke at. Therneau wants his pitching battery to decide on a pitch and go, quickly and succinctly. This allows pitchers to decide what pitch they feel most comfortable with and will likely allow their pitchers to be more knowledgeable and believe more in their stuff.

There is a trade off to this of course. There is no way a pitcher or catcher can have as much of a handle on what a batter likes and dislikes more than a coach in the dugout with a large binder. Florida State has a history of coaches calling pitches, Martin Jr., took over those responsibilities last season. If Therneau is hired it will be interesting to see what direction the team goes.

From a preparation perspective FSU’s prospective pitching coach believes in pitchers throwing and throwing a lot over ancillary activities like weight lifting. That doesn’t mean he wants no weight lifting but he prizes improving muscle memory over strength gain. Every non-rest day includes some sort of throwing for Therneau as he describes in this podcast and below is the routine he has for his Friday night starter.

Thursday - “Your day” - pitchers throw on flat ground with the number of pitches individually determined.

Friday - Start

Saturday - Toughest day of the week, long toss to get soreness out, long conditioning run, heavy weight lifting.

Sunday - Low impact throwing from a range of 90 to 120 feet on flat ground.

Monday - Off day.

Tuesday - Scripted bullpen session

Wednesday - Long toss; prefers 300 foot long loss, with arc, for 20 minutes as opposed to 120 foot throwing, on a line, for 10 minutes.

This is the regimen for all of the four starters on staff but it obviously changes for relievers because need to be available on any day. They still have their own throwing program whether they pitch or not.

Thorneau elaborated that his throwing programs in the fall are different than most other college baseball teams and significantly different to what players are used to in high school. Pitches stay off the mound to start while they become accustomed to long toss early. They are not just playing catch as he puts a great emphasis on conditioning the arm, every throw has a purpose. All of his kids enter a dead arm phase but they eventually recover and are stronger for it with an ability to recover better in-between appearances. He put a lot of importance oh the three prong system of building arm strength, developing cardiovascular stamina and overall strength and conditioning achieved by weight lifting.

When coaching pitchers Therneau prioritizes individual development and doesn’t train pitchers outside of their skill set. He understands a “soft tossing lefty” isn’t going to throw 95 mph and has no plans to change that. Mastering pitch command is his priority during bullpen sessions with his pitchers. A scripted pen session is preferred over a session that is strictly based on volume, his hope is that pitchers can increase the number of pitches executed on a weekly basis (week one its 5, week two its 8, etc.)

Now Therneau shares a similar sentiment to what Mike Martin, Jr. said in a recent radio interview that he is always “up front with recruits and looks to hold them accountable.” This maybe lip service but it is important that all the coaches be on the same page. While recruiting he looks for hard working leaders, this might sound cliche but he went on to say that it is not always easy to find. Admittedly, Stetson didn’t have success in 2019 that was expected or experienced in previous seasons is is because they lacked those type of players.

The associate coach joked that he is not very technologically savvy but is trying to learn. He has spent hours on hours learning the new video systems that Stetson recently acquired, this is a necessity for a new coach in the Florida State program as Meat has heavily embraced the analytics side of the game. Thorneau did mention that he is on Twitter, loves following PitchingNinja and uses it as a training tool to an extent.

By all accounts FSU would be extremely fortunate to land Therneau as he has not only coached at Stetson but also at Embry-Riddle in Daytona Beach, so he has good ties to a fertile recruiting area in Florida. Mike Martin, Jr. wasted no time in the hiring of his MLB scout so one would hope that he is able to move quickly with the last remaining spot on his staff.