Baseball Heads to FSU for Pivotal ACC Series

Buck Farmer is hoping to shake off his 5-run outing last Friday - Danny Karnik/GT Athletics

After dropping a disappointing 5-4 decision to Georgia Southern on Tuesday, GT Baseball heads to Tallahassee to take on the #5 ranked Noles squad to determine who's king in the ACC.

A note on scheduling before we begin: due to impending heavy rains tomorrow in Tallahassee, game one of this series has been changed from a 6PM start to a 3PM start, with game two beginning 40 minutes after the conclusion of game one.

This series may go down as one of the best in NCAA history. The Jackets bring their NCAA-leading BA and slugging percentage into Howser stadium today to face a Noles squad sporting a 1.77 ERA. That alone should tell you everything you need to know about this series, but I'm going to continue on anyways.

Matchups

Game 1 (3/22, 3PM) Game 2 (3/22) Game 3 (3/24, 1PM)
Georgia Tech Buck Farmer (4-0), 1.64 ERA Dusty Issacs (3-1), 4.03 ERA Cole Pitts (4-1), 2.17 ERA
Florida State Brandon Leibrandt (4-0), 3.64 ERA Scott Sitz (4-0), 0.6 ERA Peter Miller (3-0), 1.88 ERA

As you can see, Saturday's game is going to be the hardest to win. Florida State's Scott Sitz is throwing Buck-Farmer ball, starting the year with a 22 inning scoreless streak. He has a measly two earned runs in 30 IP and has been part of two shutouts. Let's do a quick stat rundown between the two staffs and see what we can find:

IP BB K XBH H HR R
GT 91.0 25 92 14 69 6 31
FSU 83.2 30 77 21 70 4 31

How about that? When you take a look at it, Tech's weekend staff bests or ties FSU's in all except one statistical categories. FSU's mighty ERA is also a little deflated, something we'll get into in more detail later. For now, let's just take a look at both team's FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which is a good indicator of how a pitcher performs without the mask of fielding and errors to hide behind. Find more out about FIP here, but the gist of it is the lower the better. The Tech weekend staff has an average FIP of 4.09, while FSU's brings home a 3.93. In terms of total runs that each team allows, then, they're pretty evenly matched. You could've just looked at the "R" column above and figured that out, but FIP focuses on individual pitching performances. For the purposes of this stat, runs allowed are considered the fault of the whole team because the fielder didn't make the catch while the ball was still in the air, or there was an error, or...you get the idea. FIP takes into account things only the pitcher can control: strikeouts, walks, HBP, and home runs. Thus, FSU's weekend staff is only marginally less prone to allowing runs than Tech's.

Offense

Tech brings the following accolades into the series with them:

>> NCAA-best batting average (.352), slugging percentage (.523), and runs/game (9.7).
>> Tech tops the ACC in runs scored, on-base percentage, hits, and home runs.
>> Individually, Brandon Thomas entered the week second nationally in batting average and fourth in OBP. Daniel Palka was seventh in RBI and 10th in average, while Zane Evans was second in RBI and fourth in homers.
>> Five Jackets are among the league's top 20 in hitting, including ACC leader Brandon Thomas (.487). Thomas is second in runs (29), and Evans (32), Palka (28) and Matt Gonzalez (27) are the league's top three in RBI.

Suffice it to say, Tech owns the offensive category against pretty much anyone you stack them up against. FSU doesn't lag too far behind, though. The Seminoles have a .286 team BA, with a team high of .377.

The Diamond Jackets haven't faced a staff like FSU's yet, but then again the Seminoles have yet to face a staff like Tech's. Needless to say, this series probably isn't going to see any astronomical numbers in the "runs" box.

Defense

Here's where things get interesting real fast. Remembrer how I said that FSU's ERA was deflated a little bit? Here's why: the Seminoles have committed 29 errors so far, almost double the Jacket's 16. FSU has been letting just as many guys across, but only when they make mistakes. Case in point: when playing behind their weekend starters, FSU gives up 1.63 unearned runs for every earned run that comes across the plate. With Tech's strong base running, I'm confident that they can take advantage of any Seminole mistakes. In fact, how Tech responds to FSU errors is the key to this series, because they're not letting any runs across the plate otherwise.

FSU is fielding .963 to Tech's .979. That may not sound like much of a difference, but those .16 points account for a 123-spot difference in the national rankings! Those errors will really bite you in the butt, especially in a series against a team with as much offensive firepower as Tech.

What do you think, beesball fans? Can Tech pull out a series win against one of the nation's hottest teams? That would make them one of the better Jacket squads in recent years and give us all something to get real excited about. As a reminder, both games of today's doubleheader can be heard on 91.1FM in Atlanta or here. They can also be seen on ESPN3 (games one and two link, game three link), and neither game is subject to blackout. Huzzah!

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