When Link Jarrett took over as Florida State’s manager, there was a lot of excitement around the program.
Jarrett was just coming off taking Notre Dame to the College World Series and immediately got to work in Tallahassee reshaping how the field would look. Fans expected that attention to detail to find its way onto the Seminole baseball team as it had in past stops for Jarrett but so far this year little of that has been seen and the team looks like more of a mess than ever before.
The biggest issues that Jarrett has faced have been largely outside of his control: youth and talent/development. They obviously go hand in hand but under Mike Martin Jr., FSU had a very high attrition rate, making it difficult to hold onto and develop talent. While Jarrett would have certainly loved to scour the transfer portal, his success at Notre Dame prevented him from having any contact with potential transfers and by the time he landed in Tallahassee, most transfers had already decided on the school they were moving to.
How has that attrition led to the major issues this season? Let’s take a look.
Pitching is easy to figure out where things went wrong. Florida State lost all three starters (Parker Messick, Bryce Hubbart and Ross Dunn) off of its 2022 team to either the draft or transfer out before Jarrett and staff arrived on campus.
It wasn’t just starters either, Florida State lost a lot of its pen in Davis Hare (25 appearances in ‘22), Jonah Scolaro (28 appearances), Dylan Simmons (17 appearances), and Jackson Nezuh (14 appearances). FSU did bring back Connor Whittaker, Jackson Baumeister, Carson Montgomery and Wyatt Crowell, and all of those pitchers are either contributing or were contributing when healthy.
Currently, four of the top five pitchers in appearances are either new to the program (Ben Barrett, Jaimie Arnold, Brennen Oxford) or returning from injury (Doug Kirkland). Only Andrew Armstrong is a holdover from the last staff and he’s thrown more innings than any other non-starting pitcher.
Many of the younger pitchers are not ready for this kind of load. In a healthy program, they would likely start out more as match-up arms or not be asked to pitch as often as they currently do. This would allow them to work on their craft and figure out how to pitch without giving up so many free bases. A thin pen due, mostly, to attrition along with the fact that FSU was not able to utilize the transfer portal has left the staff in a tough spot.
There are certainly bright spots with the arms though. Jackson Baumeister looks like he can develop into a front-line starter for the Seminoles. He should be pitching on Sundays where mistakes aren’t punished as much because you expect more offense then but other factors have forced the Friday role onto him. Connor Whittaker has shown some good ability to start and give you good innings there. Last year he showed that he could be counted on out of the pen and this year he’s shown he can be equally effective as a starter. It gives you a bit of versatility going into next year. Ben Barrett has given the Seminoles some good innings but he’s also jumping between working on the mound and in the plate, which is bound to stunt his progression while the staff and he figure out where his attention is best focused.
Obviously losing a pitcher as talented as Crowell is a big blow but the FSU staff showed signs of issues well before then. Crowell has shown throughout his career that he’s a one-appearance-a-weekend pitcher but you could feel safe in getting four to six innings from him every time he pitched whether that was as a starter or reliever.
Trying to figure out why this talented lineup isn’t working out is a bit of a tougher proposition. The heart of the order is batting fine with James Tibbs and Jaimie Ferrer both hitting over .300 and providing a good bit of pop in the lineup. However, there’s not as much going on around them. Jordan Carrion is not hitting as well as he did at the end of last year and beginning of this one but he’s still third on the team in RBI and second in doubles.
Compared to last year’s team strikes look like they’ll end up down, and average and slugging are about the same. However, walks and (because of it, on-base percentage) are way down. Currently, FSU is about 21 points lower on OBP and it almost assuredly has to do with the plate approach.
Under Mike Martin Jr., Florida State hitters were always looking for their pitch — sometimes to their detriment. While the approach was certainly one that was big league, college players don’t have the time (and maybe ability and resources) to watch the film of every pitcher they’d face to digest all the different permutations of the pitches they’d see to the extent that they could drive the ball. It was probably a bit of information overload for most hitters and as a result, Florida State struck out quite a bit.
The good news is that strikeouts are down. The bad news is that pitchers routinely make it into the seventh inning against FSU without breaking much of a sweat. The ‘Noles have been very aggressive at the plate, swinging at the first ball that crosses into the strike zone instead of looking for a pitch they can drive early in the count and settling later in the count. It feels like the pendulum swung to the entirely opposite end of the spectrum between the two coaching staffs.
Is this what they are being taught or has the team just gone a bit too far in its approach? It’s hard to say but it would certainly be nice to see a correction more back to the middle instead of watching the Seminoles do their best to lower game times across the sport.
Where to go from here
The current roster likely has a lot of players on it that will finish their college experience outside of Tallahassee. FSU has been pretty active in recruiting the JUCO ranks this year and expects to be very, very active in the portal. Florida State is a good draw for players and this staff does have a good pedigree behind it. This could come paired with losing some of the team’s better players.
Are guys like Wyatt Crowell, James Tibbs, Jaimie Ferrer and Cam Smith going to stick around through a rebuild or would they like to showcase their talents at a place that is more built to win now or head onto the draft even if they could increase their stock with another year in college? It would certainly be understandable for them to bolt as they are under a different coach than they were recruited by and this year, especially, has to be very draining on the players that are performing.
Staff writer Tim Scribble has often compared this season to Mike Norvell’s first season at the helm of the football team and there are certainly a lot of similarities there. Both managers came in as respected coaches with very recent success and took over teams that were bottoming out. Both programs hit their nadir (hopefully for the baseball team) under those coaches and were forced to take a less traditional route to fixing the program. Jarrett has shown he has the chops to turn a program around, FSU fans will just have to be patient and believe he can do it at his alma mater.