April 25, 2006
FLORIDA STATE VS. SAVANNAH STATE – THE HISTORY
These will be the first ever meetings between Savannah State and FSU this weekend. Friday night will be the 1,910th game for FSU Head Coach Mike Martin and his first ever versus Savannah State. Martin has fared very well when seeing an opponent for the first time. This will be the 151st team Martin has faced in his career and in the first meeting or first series with an opponent the Seminole boss has posted a record of 212-37. That is a winning percentage of .851 for Martin versus first-time opponents in his career. The last first-time opponent Martin faced was Brown earlier this season. FSU won that series 3-0. The last time a Martin coached team lost a game to a first-time opponent was February 1, 1998 versus Tennessee. The Tigers, who didn’t even have a head coach as late as December 20, 2005, have had a very good season. Coming into the week Savannah State was 26-16. Although the two schools don’t play many common opponents, there are a few. SSU lost to ACC member Boston College by a score of just 5-4. FSU swept a three-game set from the Eagles but two of the three games were decided by just two runs. FSU also swept Charleston Southern, who the Tigers faced and took two out of three from. Savannah State doesn’t have a lot of big wins but they did take two games from Delaware State, the second-place team in the MEAC. SSU also took two of three from Northeastern who is in third place in the Colonial Athletic just behind a ranked Old Dominion team and a James Madison squad that has been ranked this season as well.
Bryan Henry had his shortest outing as a starter last time out since the second start of his career versus Clemson, April 3, 2005. Henry lasted just four innings and gave up five runs to Georgia Tech as he suffered his second loss in three starts. The junior had never lost two of three starts in his career before this current stretch. After never allowing a grand slam in his career, Henry has allowed grand slams in back-to-back starts. Before the grand slams versus Miami and Georgia Tech, the right-hander had allowed just one homer all year and it was a solo shot. In fact, before the Miami game Henry had allowed 11 home runs in his career and nine were solo shots and the other two were two-run home runs. Henry has given up more runs in his last four games (14) than he did in all nine of his regular season starts in 2005 (12). The biggest difference for Henry as of late has been his trademark control. Before his North Carolina start March 31, Henry had pitched in 25 career games and he had walked multiple batters in back-to-back games just one time. Coming into Savannah State, the junior has now walked multiple batters in four straight starts. In his first eight starts of 2006 Henry had issued seven free passes but in his last four games that number has jumped to 11. The walks hurt Henry versus the Yellow Jackets as he walked three batters and hit a fourth preceding the grand slam in that game. Four of the last 11 batters Henry has walked have come around to score runs. That is equal to the entire number of walked batters that had come around to score in his career as a starter leading up to this stretch (19 games). Henry has walked 11 batters and struck out 19 in the last four games compared to seven walks and 60 K’s in his first eight starts of the year. Henry struggle’s as of late have gone hand-in-hand with FSU’s struggles. In the last 15 games the team is 7-8 and Henry is 1-2 with a 3.75 ERA over that span. Those numbers aren’t terrible but obviously down when compared to his 7-0 start and 1.52 ERA in the first 28 games of the season. Teams are hitting 60 points better versus him over this stretch but it is lefties that are really hurting the junior as of late. Left-handed batters have raised their average 110 points versus Henry in the last 15 games when compared to the first 28. Since Henry has been so stellar throughout his career there really is no history to know how he will respond but knowing Henry expect him to bounce back. The last time he pitched just four innings in a game Henry went on to win eight consecutive starts and the last time he gave up more than five earned runs he allowed 12 in his next nine starts. Henry still leads all starters in opponent batting average at just .225 and is still the team’s strikeout leader as well. He already has more K’s than any FSU pitcher had in all of 2005 and is still on a pace to get 100 K’s on the year. The last Seminole to accomplish that was Trent Petersen in 2003.
Tyler Chambliss will take the hill in game two versus Savannah State. While Chambliss’ numbers aren’t quite as good over the last 15 games where FSU has gone 7-8, he has been the most consistent starter through this rough stretch for the team. In the last 15 games Chambliss is 2-2 with a 2.48 ERA, which is pretty good considering three of his four starts have come against Miami, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Like Henry, Chambliss is walking more batters during this stretch as his K:BB ratio has dropped from 2.8:1 in the first 28 games to 1.2:1 in the last 15. Both pitchers have seen better hitting the last month and better hitters are going to strikeout less and walk more. The numbers for FSU’s top two starters show that to be the case. In his last outing Chambliss pitched six innings versus the Yellow Jackets and gave up a career-high seven runs but only four were earned. Like Henry, teams are hitting 60 points higher versus Chambliss as of late. The biggest concern with Chambliss lately has to be his numbers with runners on base. In the last 15 games teams are hitting almost 100 points higher with runners on. During this stretch Chambliss has been more vulnerable to giving up the extra base hit. In his first nine appearances of 2006 he gave up five doubles, which is equal to the amount he has surrendered in the last four games. The curveball specialist has been let down by his defense also during this stretch. Of the last 14 runs Chambliss has surrendered six have been unearned and the errors versus UNC cost the junior a win, which would have made him 3-1 in his last four starts. Chambliss has continued to give the Seminoles consistent innings though requiring less help from the bullpen than any other starter. He has gone at least six innings in seven straight starts and seven or more innings in six of those outings. Despite everything that has happened this month with FSU, Chambliss is still putting up great overall numbers as a starter. He leads all pitchers in wins and innings pitched. He has also done the best job among starters this year when it comes to facing right-handed batters. Like fellow starter Bryan Henry, Chambliss has already struck out more batters than any FSU pitcher fanned in all of 2005 and has a good shot getting to 100 K’s this season. If both Henry and Chambliss reach 100 strikeouts, it will be the first time FSU has had two 100-K pitchers since 1999 when three FSU hurlers with 100 strikeouts. That was also the last time FSU appeared in the National Championship game.
For the first time this season FSU will head into a series finale with the starter listed as TBA. After Barret Browning had that role locked down for most of the season, Jimmy Marshall made his first career collegiate start this past weekend versus Georgia Tech. The freshman lasted just 3 1/3 Sunday and gave up four runs on eight hits. The Tallahassee native pitched well enough in his brief stint to keep FSU in the game but did allow a career high eight hits. Four different pitchers have started Sunday games for FSU this season with Michael Hyde and Chambliss joining Marshall and Browning on the list. Chambliss made a Sunday start after moving back a day in the rotation due to illness. With one more mid-week game remaining versus a tough JU team following Savannah State, the coaches need to look at who will be starting the next two outing more than just who will take the mound Sunday. There are quite a few candidates who could be used in the series finale. Michael Hyde has had a solid season and should be considered for one of the two starts. Since he has faced Jacksonville twice already you wonder if the coaches will go there a third time. On the other hand, Hyde is 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA in his two starts versus the Dolphins. Freshman Travis Burge is a guy the Seminole coaches have said will be a starter for the Seminoles during his career but will that first start come Sunday? Burge has had a very good freshman campaign going 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA. Opponents hit .297 off of him and he has an excellent K:BB ratio of 3:1. One of the things working against Burge is the fact that he hasn’t seemed as sharp in the last three games. In his last three outings covering 4 1/3 innings, Burge has surrendered six runs but only two have been earned. The true freshman has never pitched more than 3 2/3 innings in his FSU career but he has shown he can perform in longer stints. Burge has pitched two or more innings four times this season and in those 10 2/3 innings he has an ERA of just 1.69. He has only allowed an earned run in one of those four outings and has three walks and 11 strikeouts in those games. Caleb Graham is another freshman who has pitched very well and despite Mike Martin saying after a great outing versus Miami that he probably wouldn’t be used as a starter, he may be giving it a second thought. Graham has made eight appearances this season and allowed an earned run in just two of those games. He did not pitch at all versus Georgia Tech but has had back-to-back quality outings versus two good teams. Graham pitched four innings and allowed just one hit and no runs versus Miami two weeks ago and then surrendered just one hit in an inning of work versus Florida. The freshman has a 1.59 ERA on the season and an opponent batting average of just .190. From the new to the old. Mark Sauls has pitched just four times this year but the senior does have 41 career starts and pitched two strong innings versus Georgia Tech. With important games coming up, the senior has been through tough ACC battles before and might be given a shot to prove his worth following an early season injury. Although he has only pitched five innings this season, Sauls is 6-2 lifetime in conference games.
APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAY FLOWERS
There is no doubt that after a 32-4 start to the season, the Seminoles are going through their struggles right now. With the sweep by Georgia Tech, FSU has now lost five straight and six of the last seven. For the first time since 1994 FSU has lost back-to-back home ACC series and for the first time in program history the Seminoles have lost nine straight regular season games to an opponent. This is the second-longest losing streak in school history and it is just the fourth time ever an FSU team has lost five or more consecutive games. So is there any good news? Although the numbers seem bleak, this isn’t that uncommon considering the competition. Since 1992 there have been five losing streaks of four or more games and everyone has involved one or all of three teams (Georgia Tech, Miami and Florida). The exact three teams FSU has lost to during this five-game run. It just goes to show that in almost 60 years of baseball good teams are going to beat you sometimes. Don’t forget FSU still has a lifetime winning record against all three of those schools. One other good sign, the longest losing streak in team history was six games by the 1999 squad and that group ended up in Omaha playing in the National Championship game. In fact, of the nine previous FSU teams that have suffered a losing streak of four or more games, two have gone to Omaha (1992 and 1999), two have played in Super Regionals (2001 and 2004) and four have played in the NCAA Tournament. The only team in school history to lose four or more in a row and miss an NCAA Tournament was the 1974 squad. Another common link in most of these runs is when they occurred. Seven of the 10 streaks had at least some of the games played in April and the last five had all the games take place in the month of April. Every one of those previous four teams was celebrating when May came around though as one was an ACC Champion (2004) and the other three were hosting NCAA Regionals.
IT’S ALL RIGHT THERE
Despite the fact FSU has dropped three of its last four conference series the team can still reach its goal of a number one seed in the ACC Tournament and an Atlantic Division Championship. Of the three teams joining FSU in the top four of the Atlantic Division, all of them are still on FSU’s schedule. The Seminoles last three ACC series are against division-leader Wake Forest, second-place Clemson and NC State who is tied with FSU for third. Florida State is just one game behind Wake in the loss column and two behind Clemson who still is a series behind the other three squads. What is also encouraging is that FSU has had success against those three teams. The Seminoles have won five of the last seven regular season series from the Wolfpack, three straight series versus Wake Forest and five straight against Clemson. Wake Forest still has to play two of the three teams in the top four and Miami, Clemson still has two of those three teams while NC State just has FSU left plus Miami and Virginia Tech.
After a quicker recovery than expect from a case of mononucleosis, first baseman Dennis Guinn is back and has picked up right where he left off before the illness. Since returning to the line-up the sophomore leads all FSU starters in average, hits, homeruns and RBIs. He is hitting .355 and slugging .484. He has a double, a homer, eight RBIs and has scored four runs as well. He is hitting .471 versus right-handers since his return and .385 with runners in scoring position. He is also second on the team in two-out RBIs. Despite missing time, Guinn is still in the midst of a prolific offensive season. With his 10 homers he has already equaled the total from the team leaders in 2005 and his 54 RBIs would be the third-most on last year’s team. Last season Gibbs Chapman led the team with 35 RBIs through 43 games, Guinn is already 19 ahead of that pace. The last Seminole to reach the 50-RBI mark quicker than Guinn was Ryan Barthelemy in 2002 when he recorded his 50th in the 35th game of the year. That year Barthelemy hit 17 homers and drove in 94 runs on his way to being named a first team All-American by the ABCA and Collegiate Baseball.
WISE BEYOND THEIR YEARS
Two freshmen are really making their presence felt whenever they are called upon. While Kyle Maxie and Tommy Oravetz don’t get a lot of playing time, they are making things happen when they get into games. Oravetz is an on base percentage maven. The Tallahassee native has an OB% of .526, which is higher than any Seminole with more than one at bat. He has walked seven times and struck out on just four occasions but that is nothing compared to getting hit by a pitch. In 24 at bats, Oravetz has been hit by a pitch seven times, which is second most on the team. Only Tony Thomas, Jr. has been plunked more often as he has eight but he also has over 125 more at bats as well. Oravetz’s ratio of 1:3 or 29% is the highest in FSU baseball history going back to 1973 when Florida State began keeping hit by pitches in the stats. The only other player to even approach that number was Scott Boyd in 2001 when he was hit four times in 17 at bats or 27% of the time.
While Kyle Maxie’s numbers aren’t going to be the best in baseball history at FSU as far as walks, you have to give the young catcher credit for patience at the plate. In 27 at bats, Maxie has drawn an astounding 11 walks. That is a walk for every 41% of his at bats. The next best number on the team belongs to Travis Anderson who walks 24% of the time compared to his at bats. FSU’s walks leader is Jack Rye with 37 and his percentage is almost half of Maxie’s at 24%.
While the Seminoles are suffering a little bit of a power outage as of late, don’t tell that to junior DH Josh Spivey. No Seminole hitter has been hotter during this 1-6 stretch. Spivey has played in all seven games and made two starts. In this stretch he is leading the team with a .400 batting average and a .900 slugging percentage. In just 10 at bats, Spivey has four hits, three of which have gone for extra bases. He is tied with Jack Rye and Ryan Strauss for extra base hits in the last seven games but he has done it in 10 fewer at bats than Strauss and 20 less than Rye has had. He isn’t just hitting well he is showing the best plate discipline on the team. Spivey is the only Seminole with double digit at bats that hasn’t struck out multiple times in the last seven contests.
BUSTING WITH CONFIDENCE
It really is hard to not keep harping on the year Buster Posey is having. The freshman shortstop came in with very high expectations and he has done nothing but live up to all the hype. The Leesburg, GA native was anointed the pre-season ACC Freshman of the Year by Baseball America and there is no doubt he will be in the running for that honor. There are probably five other candidates for the prestigious honor along with Posey. Miami’s Yonder Alonso and Jemile Weeks, Tim Federowicz of Carolina, Jeremy Farrell of UVA and Allan Dykstra of Wake. None of the six players have more hits this season than Posey and the FSU freshman is the only one of those six players in the top two for average, hits, walks and runs scored. He also leads the group in runs scored. Posey and Dykstra are the only two freshman on this list to lead in multiple categories.