March 27, 2006
This is the first ever meeting between Florida State and former Division II powerhouse North Florida. The Osprey are in their first season as a Division I program and are fresh off a second place finish in the Division II National Baseball Championship. It hasn’t taken UNF long to make its presence felt in their new conference. This past weekend the Osprey took two of three from FAU, who was the coaches’ pick to win the A-Sun in 2006, and moved into a tie for first place in the conference. Before even making the jump to DI, UNF has had a long history of playing and defeating DI opponents. The Osprey have recorded wins over programs like Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, UNC Charlotte, Ohio State, Jacksonville, Purdue, Stetson, Vanderbilt and Virginia. This season the Osprey has recorded a win at No. 17 LSU and versus USF on top of a three-game sweep at UCF and series wins over FAU and Stetson. UNF has been involved in a ton of close games this year. Eight of the Osprey’s 15 wins have come in one-run affairs and they have lost four one run games as well. That means 53% of their wins have come in one-run games and 44% of their total games played have been one-run affairs. Compare that to FSU which has played just one game decided by a run and won that contest. Florida State may not have much experience with UNF but Mike Martin has faced plenty of A-Sun teams in his career. This season FSU is 2-0 versus that conference with wins over Mercer and Jacksonville. In Martin’s 27-year tenure, he has faced four schools who are current Atlantic Sun members (Jacksonville, Mercer, FAU and Stetson) and has a combined record of 122-23 for a .841 winning percentage.
2006 FSU UNF Games 27 27 Avg. .332 .277 Runs 251 133 Hits 313 254 Dbls 65 55 Trpls 12 6 HRs 34 13 RBIs 235 117 Slg % .534 .392 BB 147 86 K 167 203 SB 51 20 ERA 2.90 3.66
Florida State will start Barret Browning versus UNF as the junior makes his third, and possibly final, midweek start for the foreseeable future. Browning has pitched well enough that he will challenge for a spot in the weekend rotation when FSU heads to Chapel Hill for a showdown with the Tar Heels this weekend. The senior is 5-0 and has won all five of his starts since a no decision versus Charleston Southern opening weekend. The Jesup, GA native has really come on strong in his last three outings. Browning has lowered his ERA by 1.7 runs over his last three starts as he has allowed one run or less in all three of those outings. In his first three starts Browning went 2-0 with a 4.30 ERA. He had an opponent batting average of .317 and just 11 strikeouts compared to eight walks. In his last three starts he is 3-0 with a team-best 1.10 ERA. Opponents hit just .267 off of him and he has almost as many K’s (10) with half the number of walks (four). He has also allowed just a third as many extra base hits as well. In his first three starts Browning gave up six doubles and in his last three starts he has allowed just two. The senior has done a phenomenal job when runners are on base as teams are hitting just .203 against him. The biggest area of improvement for Browning though has been versus left-handed batters. In his first three games Browning had an opponent batting average of .500 versus southpaws but in the last three games that number has shrunk to just .190. While Browning picked up his first road win of the season at Jacksonville this past Wednesday, the junior has predominantly pitched at home this year where his ERA is 2.81. Browning joins Bryan Henry as the only Seminole starters that have not allowed a homerun yet in 2006 and neither pitcher has allowed a triple either.
Jack Rye’s improvement from a great freshman season to a phenomenal sophomore season has been one of the reasons for FSU’s prolific start offensively. Rye is hitting .370 with five doubles, a triple, seven homeruns and 30 RBIs. Last season the California native played 71 games and started 59 times. In 44 fewer games he is just one RBI shy of equaling his total from last year, he has five more homers already and just six fewer walks. He is slugging over 230 points better than he did last year and has an on base percentage almost 90 points higher than his 2005 number. While there is a long way to go when you look at Rye’s per game stats from 2005 and 2006, the numbers are even more startling. His per game average for homers is almost 900% higher and in the same amount of games he would finish the year with 19 homers. As impressive as that is, Rye’s RBI numbers are equally as eye-popping. Last season Rye averaged .44 RBIs per game this year that number is 1.11. He is on pace for an 80-plus RBI season which is an increase of 50 RBIs. The three other areas of Rye’s game that are the most impressive compared to his rookie year are walks, runs and hits. He has increased his hits per game from .90 to 1.26, his runs scored from .38 to 1.04 and his walks per game .44 to .93. If Rye’s numbers hold up and FSU were to play the same number of games as 2005, Rye would wind up with an increase of 28 hits, 49 runs, 17 homers, 50 RBIs and 47 walks.
73 Game Projection Hits Runs 2B 3B HR RBI BB 2005 64 27 14 1 2 31 31 2006 92 76 14 3 19 81 68 DIFF +28 +49 0 +2 +17 +50 +47
GUINN IS IN
For all those wondering when Dennis Guinn’s torrid start to the 2006 season would slow down, keep waiting. The sophomore has shown no signs of letting up as he continues to dominate opponent pitching. Guinn has not gone back-to-back games without a hit yet this season and he has only been held hitless four times in 27 games. He has a team-leading eight homeruns and 41 RBIs. Considering the sophomore did not drive in a run in the first four games of 2006, it is amazing he has already broken the 40-RBI mark. Over the last 21 games he is averaging almost 1.8 RBIs per game. What Guinn is doing as far as RBIs is concerned is remarkable. He already has more RBIs than all but four Seminoles recorded through 73 games last season but that is nothing compared to what he is doing from a historic perspective. Over the last 10 years FSU has averaged 70 games per season and at that rate Guinn would finish 2006 with 106 RBIs becoming the first FSU player to crack the 100-RBI mark since Marshall McDougall in 1999. If that average held up, it would be tied for the fourth-most prolific season for RBIs in FSU baseball history. McDougall was the last Seminole to have more RBIs than Guinn through 27 games as he had 42 in the first 27 contests of the 1999 season. McDougall was also just one HR ahead of Guinn at that point as he had nine on the year. Not bad company when you consider McDougall won the triple crown in the ACC that year, was named the conference’s Player of the Year, was named the Most Outstanding Player at the CWS and a consensus first team All-American.
RUN FOR THE RECORD
Thanks to Dennis Guinn and Jack Rye’s increase in production (see notes above) and the continued production from players like Shane Robinson and Ryne Malone, the 2006 Seminoles are scoring runs at a near-record pace. The Seminoles are averaging 9.30 runs per game this year and of the top 10 FSU squads for overall runs scored, this year’s team would rank fifth on that list if you figure on a per game basis. The last team to average as many runs per game was the 1997 team that scored 9.47 runs per contest. Other than that group you have to go back to the early 80’s to find Seminole squads that averaged this kind of run production. In the last 20 years of Seminole baseball only two teams prior to this season have averaged nine or more runs per game and only four others have even averaged over 8.5 runs. Part of the reason for FSU’s explosive average is the fact that this team is scoring in bunches. The 2006 Seminoles have scored double digit runs in 11 of 27 games already. Last year the squad did that 15 times in 73 games. This year’s team has scored 15 or more runs four times compared to the 2005 team that did that only one time.
Year Runs Per Game
A lot of attention is being paid to the improvement in Tony Thomas, Jr.’s game at the plate and deservedly so. The sophomore is having a great season hitting the ball. He is hitting .320 with four doubles, a triple, three homers and 25 RBIs. He is just four RBIs away from equaling his total from 71 starts and 72 games played as a freshman and he is already batting 80 points better than he did last year. Not only is his average higher than where it finished in 2005 but it is higher than at any point last season where he topped out at .297. As good as Thomas has been at the plate he has been spectacular in the field. In 130 chances Thomas has committed just two errors and has a fielding percentage of .985. Last season Thomas had made five errors through 27 games, which is still extremely impressive for a freshman second baseman. In 2004 Bryan Zech committed 18 errors playing a large majority of the season at second. The year before Chris Hart and Zech split time at second and combined for 22 errors. In 2002 as a sophomore Zech once again spent a majority of the year at second and was charged with 27 errors. In 2000 Marshall McDougal made 19 errors manning second base. The last second baseman at FSU to even flirt with the type of defensive season Thomas is looking at was McDougall in 1999 when he was a consensus first team All-American and committed just eight errors in a season spent between second and third. With the regular season almost at the halfway point, Thomas is threatening to join some elite company as infielders who have gone all season with single digit errors. Last season Ryne Malone committed just nine errors between playing first and third for most of the year. Danny Wardell was charged with just two errors in 40 starts at first base. In 2003 catcher Tony Ritchie committed five errors in 63 starts and Jerrod Brown made just eight in 66 starts at first. One of the most remarkable defensive seasons as of late was Stephen Drew’s 2002 campaign when he was charged with just nine errors at shortstop while starting 46 games that year. Thomas isn’t the only Seminole playing stellar defense as FSU now leads the ACC in team fielding percentage at .972.
LAST WEEK’S STARS
The breakout season for Dennis Guinn continued last week as the sophomore first baseman led FSU to a 4-0 record including an ACC sweep of Duke as the Seminoles improved to 8-1 in the ACC and 25-2 overall. Guinn hit .400, slugged .667, knocked in five runs and recorded a double and a homer. The Haines City, FL native hit .429 versus left-handed pitching, .500 with runners on base and .667 with runners in scoring position. He recorded multiple hits in each game of the series with the Blue Devils and multiple RBIs in two of FSU’s three ACC games. He did not strikeout in 15 at bats last week and also posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.
The story of the night Friday was Seminole ace Bryan Henry. The junior flirted with the first no-hitter for No. 1 FSU since February 18, 1998 as he entered the ninth inning without a hit or a walk. The only Duke batter to reach base in the first eight innings got on via an error but the Tallahassee native was unable to finish off the no-hitter giving up a single to open the ninth. Henry still picked up the win improving to 7-0 as he won his seventh consecutive ACC start. Henry was masterful once again as he won his 14th consecutive regular season decision. He threw 113 pitches in 8 2/3 innings of which 80 were strikes. He did not issue a free pass while fanning a career high 12 batters. He has now struck out 60 batters and walked only seven on the season, matching his number of wins. Henry’s win ran his career record to 16-3 and he has now recorded 14 quality starts. His K:BB ratio is nearing 9:1. The single season record at FSU is 6:1. He is now 8-1 as a starter in ACC games with a 1.89 ERA. In his last four games Henry has 32 K’s and just one walk.
The reigning national player of the year keeps doing what he does best and that is setting the table for FSU’s powerful line-up. Robinson hit .389 last week and scored a team-leading seven-runs. He got on base 83% of the time when leading off an inning and hit .545 with the bases empty. He reached base in his first at bat of the game in all three games versus Duke and scored the first FSU run of the game on each occasion. He stole five bases last week and was not thrown out once. Robinson recorded a hit in all four games last week and had multi-hit games in each game of the Duke series.
The sophomore had a productive week at the plate in helping FSU post a 4-0 mark. Led the team with seven RBIs and had two game-winning RBIs as FSU swept Duke and took a mid-week game at Jacksonville. Rye hit .333 but slugged .533 including seventh homerun of the season. He recorded three RBIs in the first game of the Duke series and four in the second. He had multiple hits in two of the four games FSU played last week as well. He hit .500 with the bases loaded and .400 with runners in scoring position despite playing the last two games of the week with a finger that was so badly bruised he couldn’t even throw a ball and was moved to DH.
Following Bryan Henry should be a tough job but not for Seminole starter Tyler Chambliss. The junior cruised for seven innings allowing just one earned run and upping his record to 7-0 on the season as No. 1 Florida State won its 29th straight game at home 12-4 over Duke. One night after Henry carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning while striking out 12 Blue Devils, Chambliss continued to show he is more than just a “two” in FSU’s vaunted 1-2 combination. The Live Oak native fanned eight more batters as he raised his K total to 59 on the year just one behind Henry who has 60. The two Seminole starters are now a combined 14-0 and Chambliss has fanned 33 batters in his three ACC starts.