April 13, 2005
A QUICK LOOK AT THE
The Seminoles played Georgia Tech six times in 2004, which were the most games the two teams had ever played in a single year. After Tech recorded the first-ever home sweep in FSU history in the regular season meeting, FSU got its revenge defeating Georgia Tech twice in the final two games of the ACC championship to capture the crown. The Seminoles had lost the first meeting between the teams in the ACC Tournament but rallied back to defeat UNC then GT in two consecutive games to become ACC Champions. The Seminoles however didn’t fare as well in the regular season dropping three straight games in
LAST YEAR’S SERIES STARS
THIS WEEKEND’S STARTERS
FRIDAY NIGHT: Barrett Browning makes his fifth straight “Friday night” start (first start of a series) and he is the only FSU pitcher to start on a Friday in ACC play this season. Browning has been the Seminoles’ most consistent starter this season but has not fared as well in ACC play as he has outside of the conference. Before ACC play began, Browning made six starts and went 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA in eight appearances. He struck out 30 batters and issued 23 walks. In his four ACC starts Browning is 1-0 with a 2.14 ERA. In two fewer starts he has allowed three more runs in conference games (10 vs. 7) but he is doing better with his control as he is striking out twice as many batters as he is walking (18 to 9). Probably the biggest stat of all for Browning is that FSU is 4-0 in his four starts in conference games even if he was only the pitcher of record in one of those contests. The biggest question with the junior, who arguably has the best stuff on the staff, is consistency. Will you see the guy who went 7 2/3 while allowing just one unearned run, eight K’s and two walks versus Clemson or the starter who went 3 1/3 and gave up five runs (one earned) with three walks and no K’s against Wake Forest?
SATURDAY NIGHT: Michael Hyde has settled in quite nicely behind Barrett Browning as the No. 2 starter. This will be the fifth consecutive series that he joins with Browning as FSU’s Friday/Saturday combo. Hyde has been an inning eater for FSU. He is the only Seminole pitcher who has gone at least five innings in every one of his appearances and he leads Florida State with 63 2/3 innings pitched. Like Browning, Hyde has had a harder time in the conference than out of it but FSU is also 4-0 in ACC games he has started. He has given up an average of three runs per start in each of his ACC games as he is 2-0 with a 4.76 ERA. His best conference outing came against Virginia Tech where he went six innings and allowed just two runs. His worst start was against Duke when he lasted 5 2/3 and gave up four runs but still picked up the win.
SUNDAY NIGHT: Hunter Jones is the fifth different “Sunday starter” (third game of a series) for FSU this season as the Seminoles continue to search for someone to fill that role after 2004 freshman All-American Brian Schultz was lost for the year following arthroscopic surgery. Jones was FSU’s No. 1 for a large part of the 2004 season but has not returned to that level since an injury and surgery sidelined him at the end of last season. While Jones is the only FSU starter to have a shutout this season, he has struggled since a six-inning no run outing versus Jacksonville March 23. In his last 9 1/3 innings, Jones has allowed 18 hits, 14 runs, 11 earned runs, four walks and he has hit three batters. The junior has made one start and two appearances in ACC games and has lasted just 4 1/3 in those two outings. He has a 10.38 ERA and allowed seven runs five of which were earned.
NOW WE KNOW
The NCAA released its first set of national statistics this week and Florida State is well represented among the nation’s best as a team and individually. Shane Robinson is leading the way for FSU as he ranks among the NCAA leaders in four different categories. Robinson has the nation’s sixth-best batting average; he is seventh in steals, 26th for runs scored and 40th in doubles per game. Robinson is the only player in America in the top seven for both batting average and steals. Robinson is also in the top 40 for runs scored (26th) and doubles (40). Those two categories are based on per game numbers but of the top 30 players in runs per game, no player has scored more runs than Robinson and in doubles per game, only two have more than Robinson (18) and they each have 19. Tyler Chambliss is also having a huge season and that shows up in the NCAA rankings as well. Chambliss is second in the nation with 10 saves and he is just one off the national lead. FSU pitchers Michael Hyde and Kevin Lynch are 29th in the NCAA for wins and junior hurler Barret Browning is 39th in ERA.
As a team, Florida State is ranked in the top 20 in three categories. The Seminoles have the nation’s 12th best winning percentage; they are 13th in doubles per game and 17th in team ERA. Just as is the case with Robinson, the Seminoles may be 13th in doubles per game but their 98 two baggers are just one of the national lead. The Seminoles also rank 27th nationally when it comes to stolen bases per game and are just outside the top 50 (52) for team batting average.
Talk about your tough stretches. If there were any questions about a Seminole team that is ranked in the top 10 and sporting a 33-8 record, they are about to be answered. Over the next 10 days FSU will play seven games versus teams ranked fourth, fifth and sixth with six of those seven games coming on the road. This is a crucial stretch for FSU considering they have four three-game series left following the next seven games and only one will come versus a ranked opponent (#7 UNC). Outside of the game versus No. 5 Florida at Dick Howser Tuesday night, the Seminoles will face No. 4 Georgia Tech and No. 6 Miami on the road. Florida State is a combined 73-66-2 when playing at UM and GT. The Seminoles have had recent success at UM going 6-2-1 in their last two trips to Mark Light Stadium and FSU is 3-3 the last two times they visited Russ Chandler Stadium. Florida State has only faced one ranked team this season and that was a loss to Florida but FSU did take two of three from an Auburn team that is now among the Top 25 in several polls.
The perception and the reality about the 2005 Seminole baseball team is that they aren’t going to hit a lot of home runs and through the first 27 games that was accurate. Although FSU went 24-3 in its first 27 games, the team hit 10 home runs for an average of just .37 home runs per game. Lately FSU is doing everything it can to change the perception that they can’t go deep. In the last 14 games FSU has hit 13 homers. During that stretch the Seminoles have had two, three homer games, one of which was actually a three home run inning. Ten different players have hit round trippers in the last 14 games compared to just eight in the first 27 games. Further proof that the whole team is hitting better when it comes to homers is that no single player has more than two homers in that stretch and only three of those players have multiple home runs (Ryne Malone – 2, Ryne Jernigan – 2 and Tony Thomas, Jr. – 2).
I am sure it is a trend head coach Mike Martin would like to see reversed but Florida State has fallen behind in 10 of its last 11 games. Teams have been getting on top of the Seminoles early and forcing FSU to play from behind. In the last 101 innings, FSU has been trailing nearly 39% of the time (39 innings). Of those 101 innings, FSU has been either been tied or trailing in 59% of those frames (60 innings). The fact that Florida State has gone 7-3 in those 10 games speaks volumes about the resiliency of this team and the work of the FSU bullpen, which may be the best in the ACC. Middle relievers Matt DiBlasi and Kevin Lynch and closer Tyler Chambliss are a combined 10-1 with 10 saves. Those three relievers have either saved or won 60% of Florida State’s 33 victories. The three pitchers have worked 85 2/3 innings and allowed just 14 earned runs for a stellar 1.47 ERA. So far in 2005, DiBlasi, Lynch and Chambliss have inherited 60 runners and allowed just 15% to score (nine runners).
RYNE IN TIME
With seven games up coming versus top six teams, there couldn’t be a better time for 2005 Brooks Wallace National Player of the Year candidate Ryne Malone to be heating up. In the last six games Malone has 10 extra base hits including seven doubles, a triple and two homers. The sophomore, who is primarily a first baseman but played outfield and third this season, is on an absolute tear. In the last 10 games, Malone is hitting .472 with 10 of his 17 hits going for extra bases (seven doubles, a triple and two homers). He is slugging .889 over this stretch and has 11 RBIs. Malone’s turn around has been remarkable as he is once again showing the form that made him a freshman All-American in 2004. In the last 12 games he has 20 hits. Through the first 29 games of 2005 he had 21. He has recorded more doubles (7:6), triples (1:0) and home runs (2:1) in just the last 12 games than he had in the season’s first 29 contests. He is also just three RBIs shy of equaling his total form those first 29 games (13:16) as well.
Malone, who works harder in the cages than almost anyone out there, credits the turn around to just being persistent and starting to see the ball better but the FSU coaches deserve some credit as well. Not only have they been working with him but as Malone started to find his swing they moved him from clean-up to second behind All-American candidate Shane Robinson who is on base 54% of the time he steps to the plate. Hitting out of the two hole, even for just five games, Malone is seeing better pitches and his average shows that. The sophomore is hitting .500 in the second spot of the line-up compared to .279 in the four hole. Malone has 10 RBIs in just five games as FSU’s number two compared to 12 in 19 games a clean-up hitter.
MALONE’S NUMBERS BEFORE & AFTER
AVG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SLG%
Games 1-29 .223 94 14 21 6 0 1 16 .319
Games 30-41 .455 44 14 20 7 1 2 13 .795
ONE BASE AT A TIME
Aaron Cheesman is the unquestioned leader of the 2005 Seminoles. The fifth-year senior has done a remarkable job with a young FSU pitching staff, which currently ranks 17th in the nation in ERA. He has thrown out almost 42% of the runners trying to steal off of him and he has just three errors in 315 chances. He is also hitting above .300 for the second straight year but the catcher has seen is power numbers drop off as of late. Cheesman’s last 25 hits have all been singles and he has not had an extra base hit since March 25 versus Appalachian State. All six of his extra base hits (doubles) came in the first 15 games of the season.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION
This weekend’s series with Georgia Tech will be the first time all season where the Seminoles will be on TV for all three games of a series. This weekend’s games at Tech kick of a stretch of eight straight televised games for FSU. The Seminoles have enjoyed playing on TV so far in 2005 winning both televised games. The first was a 3-1 win over Virginia Tech and the second a 5-4 win over Clemson. Both of those games were on Sun Sports who will broadcast seven of those next eight FSU games. Although the Seminoles are 2-0 on TV, they haven’t put up impressive offensive numbers in either broadcast. In those two televised games, FSU has hit just .237 and slugged only .288. FSU’s pitching staff has fared better under the lights. Florida State has a team ERA of just 2.50 in television games and opponents are hitting just .231 in those two outings. The middle relief duo of Kevin Lynch and Matt DiBlasi have fared well under the TV lights pitching 6 2/3 innings without allowing a run. Shane Robinson and Brant Peacher have led the way offensively. Robinson is hitting .500 on TV this year and Peacher .429.