Even with the circumstances that currently surround college baseball, the expectations for Florida State baseball never change in Tallahassee: Get to Omaha. Those five letters are written on the wall of FSU’s weight room in Dick Howser Stadium. With Mike Martin Sr. at the helm, the Seminoles went to Omaha 17 times. Mike Martin Jr. has a plan for success that he hopes leads the ‘Noles back their in 2021: constant pressure and power depth on both sides of the ball.
With an extra season of eligibility, a shortened 2020 draft, and no roster restrictions in 2021, the Seminoles enter the season with a deep roster of 42 players. For FSU to maximize their talent and depth, they’ll look to use guys in many different ways. In a one-on-one with Mike Martin Jr. on the Sunday Golds podcast, he said, “We’re going to use tons of guys, we’re going to keep them sharp and keep them fresh. And that’s the goal, you know, the versatility.”
The experience of Florida State is deep, but so is the power throughout their entire roster. On the mound, FSU has 8-10 pitchers who can run it up to the mid 90’s with their fastball. The combination of power, different angles, and experience has Junior’s expectations as high as ever for his staff.
He said, “I think it can be literally the best staff in the country. They’re going to motivate each other they, since they are talented and have success, they try to outdo each other. That’s a good thing.”
In the batter’s box, the Seminoles have the potential to be one of the most powerful lineups in the country. The likely 2-5 of the FSU order all have the potential for 10+ homers in a full season. But much of their lineup could also strikeout at a high rate. Despite this, Junior believes they’ll be able to be a quick-strike offense and generate runs in a variety of ways.
“It may not be the prettiest of offense but we feel like we’re going to score runs and we’re going to rely a lot on the power side of it, but we do want to be versatile. There’s some guys that can bunt. We need to utilize that, but we just got to be smart on the base paths.”
So what does the head coach think his ball club will look like with that depth of power? “The Tampa Bay Rays, it’s going to be very similar to that. We’re going to try to beat people with our legs on the base paths. We’re going to hit home runs and score runs in different ways,” Junior said.
Since coming to Florida State, Martin Jr. has stressed the importance of the mental side of the game. FSU wants to wear teams out, not just for one game, but for a whole weekend. In 2021, the Seminoles have to power and speed combo to keep teams on their heels.
“We’re going to be there all weekend and it may be those guys not in the game, but they’re going to be watching and saying, ‘These guys are tough to get out.’ When you shorten the defense because they know you can drag bunt and do some things with your legs and there’s constant pressure, it just makes everybody tense up on the opposing defense. That is the objective.”
Mike Martin Jr.’s approach to hitting consists of three main points: be ready for the fastball, be able to diagnose spin, think opposite field. Why? That’s what good hitters do.
For the last six months, that’s what the staff has pounded into the hitters everyday. If a hitter watched a fastball down the middle third of the plate on the first pitch of an AB or when the count was in their favor, their at-bat was over. Next hitter. If a hitter swung at a breaking ball outside of the zone on the first pitch of an AB or when the count was in their favor, their at-bat was over. Next hitter. This isn’t just freshmen. It’s every hitter on the roster.
Now that we’ve reached opening week, that approach doesn’t change for the FSU coaching staff. Junior said, “We’re swinging at what we should swing at and taking what we should take because that’s the only constant with all great hitters and we’re not going anywhere as a coaching staff. We’re not deviating from it.”
Florida State also heavily focuses on letting the ball travel at the plate. The Seminoles are taught to expect fastball, but to drive that pitch to the opposite field. When a hitter is consistently going the opposite way with fastballs, they’ll consistently run into off-speed pitches.
“When you hit the ball the other way, you’re going to hit it back deep further in your stance. When you do that and you’re trying to do that, you’re going to see the pitch longer. If you’re trying to hit the fast ball out in front and a 10 to 12 MPH difference off-speed pitch comes your way, you’ve got no chance of hitting it.”
The Florida State baseball hitting approach under Mike Martin Jr. boils down to one theme: don’t give at bats away. When Seminoles stay within their approach, FSU won’t let pitchers get away with mistakes. FSU won’t bail pitchers out of bad counts. Florida State is going to make pitchers work for nine innings of every ball game, which goes back to the constant pressure and mental strain that Junior wants to put on teams.
How much the lineup takes on this approach on an everyday basis, not just a couple games a week, will determine the offensive success of the Seminoles. “The guys have got to learn this is paramount to be successful as an offense and I’m thinking that it will and hopeful that it will.”
For Mike Martin Jr.’s full one-on-one interview on Sunday Golds: A Florida State Baseball Podcast, see below (interview begins at 1:03:00 mark):