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Déjà vu is bad for you: Beware the second trip through Florida's lineup

Florida has the most dangerous offense in college baseball — and it's especially potent when seeing a pitcher for the second time.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, no one paying even the slightest bit of attention to college baseball is unaware of the brilliance of Florida's offense. The Gators have an astounding six outings with 10 or more runs in nine NCAA Tournament games, and are averaging 9.78 runs per game in the Tournament — with a shutout included in the totals — which is more runs per game than the best offense in the country has scored over the last four years, since the adoption of the power-sapping BBCOR composite bats in the sport in 2011.

And if Florida can play through to the championship series, it could at least challenge the College World Series record for runs in a single trip to Omaha by a CWS champion. That record is currently held by USC, which scored 62 runs in six games in 1998, and Fresno State, which scored 62 runs in seven games in 2010 — and both of those tallies were compiled at Rosenblatt Stadium, far more friendly to offense than TD Ameritrade Park.

But while Florida's total numbers themselves are staggering, the remarkably conventional way most of them have been racked up is actually more interesting. In this NCAA Tournament, Florida is doing exactly what you might expect a team of veteran hitters to do — pounding pitchers after the first time it sees them.

Let's review the phenomenon on a game-by-game basis.

Florida 19, Florida A&M 0

The Gators began the NCAA Tournament with perhaps the most overmatched team in the field, a Florida A&M outfit that was making its first appearance in the event and entered with a .500 record. But Rattlers starter Ricky Page was relatively game early on, and in Florida's first trip through its order, the Gators went "just" 3-for-8, with three singles, a walk, a sacrifice fly, and four strikeouts.

Page was far less lucky in his second pass through Florida's lineup — despite beginning it with a second strikeout of Harrison Bader. In the bottom of the third, Florida touched him for two singles, two walks, and two RBI — including one on a walk — and then proceeded to cash in three more runs, none earned, on just one more single against Brandon Fleming, the reliever brought in for Page. Florida finished that second pass 2-for-3 with two walks, and five runs, two earned.

Fleming saw just eight Florida batters, and his line looked fine for Florida A&M, as he allowed just two new base-runners while getting five outs. But Florida's 1-for-8 performance against him did include three RBI, two of them on a fielder's choice and a sac fly. Tyler Reker, brought in for Fleming to begin the fifth, was the first A&M pitcher to get "lit up" on his first time through the Florida gauntlet, but he didn't directly give up his two earned runs — he just put the only two batters he faced on base with a walk and a hit by pitch.

Alex Carrasco, summoned to spell Reker, really got lit up on his first time through Florida's order, allowing both of the inherited runners to score on a Bader single and giving up another double before getting out of the fifth. In the sixth, JJ Schwarz homered off Carrasco, and Christian Hicks got Ryan Larson (pinch-running after a Jeremy Vasquez double) home on a sacrifice fly. And Carrasco settled down, sort of: Over Carrasco's first trip, Florida went 4-for-9, with a home run, two doubles, and four RBI; over the only two batters of his second trip, Florida was 0-for-2, but did get Hicks's sac fly.

None of the rest of A&M's pitchers made it to a second time through Florida's order. Kendal Weeks gave up two runs on four hits while recording just one out over six batters; Marcus Roberts finished the seventh cleanly. Kenny McDonald, bless his heart, was charged with five runs, four earned, on just one hit (and three hit by pitches) in the eighth, but despite leaving without recording an out, had only yielded one RBI in his time on the mound; a double, a single, and a fielder's choice Florida got off Ryan Kopenski drove in the other four runs of the frame.

Florida A&M had just two pitchers see Florida's lineup a second time, and both struggled. But A&M's staff also struggled the first time through. The latter theme has not really continued for Florida, while the former has become something of a hallmark.

Florida vs. Ricky Page
First pass: 3-for-8, 1 BB, 1 R (1 ER)
Second pass: 2-for-3, 2 BB, 5 R (2 ER)

Florida vs. Alex Carrasco
First pass: 4-for-9, 2 2B, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 3 R (3 ER)
Second pass: 0-for-2, sacrifice fly

Florida 8, USF 2

USF starter Ryan Valdes was actually close to excellent his first time through Florida's order. The Gators went 1-2-3 in the top of the first inning, and with A.J. Puk loading the bases before getting out of the bottom of the first, Valdes seemed to be having the better day early on — even after the second, in which he allowed two baserunners on a hit by pitch and a walk and then worked out of the jam without allowing a run or a hit.

In fact, Valdes didn't allow a hit to Florida's lineup on his first pass through, holding them to an 0-for-6 line with two walks and a hit by pitch. But Buddy Reed broke up Valdes's no-hitter with a two-run homer in the second, and Florida added two more hits in the frame before leaving both men on. In the third, Valdes allowed another single before getting the next two men out; Florida's lineup went 4-for-8 with two RBI against him on its second pass.

The third pass proved just as bad: In the third inning, Bader clouted a two-run homer, and Reed slapped a double before dying on the vine, and the fourth brought a Schwarz single and a Vasquez double to score him. Florida finished the trip 4-for-9 with a homer, a double, and three RBI.

Despite that damage, and Florida's 5-0 lead, Valdes would stay in for the sixth, which allowed him to finish that third pass and begin a fourth — and while Florida went 2-for-4 to begin that trip, it didn't score another run on Valdes.

And the Gators got virtually nothing off reliever Tommy Eveld in his only trip, going 1-for-7 over the seventh and eighth. In the ninth, Florida tacked on its final three runs, all off Jordan Strittmatter, but they were more his fault than Florida's feat: Strittmatter allowed just one hit, a two-run single by Peter Alonso, but had put runners on second and third with one out thanks to a walk, a hit by pitch, and two wild pitches. Alonso would later score on a throwing error, and Florida finished the frame with those three runs, but just a 1-for-5 mark against Strittmatter.

Florida vs. Ryan Valdes
First pass: 0-for-6, 2 BB, 1 HBP
Second pass: 4-for-8, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 R (2 ER)
Third trip: 4-for-9, 2 2B, 1 HR, 3 R (3 ER)
Fourth trip: 2-for-4

Florida 2, Florida Atlantic 1

For the second straight day in Gainesville, a pitcher kept the Gators in check early. This time, it was FAU's Sean Labsan, who held Florida to a 1-for-8 performance on his first pass, allowing just a single in the second and a baserunner in the first on a fielding error. But while the second pass commenced with a Bader flyout, Reed doubled with two outs in the third, though he did not get driven in; then, in the fourth, Florida scored its first run of the day on a fielding error after a double by Josh Tobias. Florida finished the second pass 2-for-8, but both hits were doubles, and the Gators got their first run.

The third pass started with another ultimately fruitless two-out double, this one from Bader in the fifth, and it got cut short in the sixth, as Labsan walked Richie Martin and gave up a single to Tobias. That 2-for-3 performance set up the Gators' go-ahead run on a Schwarz single, and while it was the only hit given up by FAU's Reily Monkman and Devon Carr, who combined to work the sixth, it was the last run the Gators would end up needing on the day.

FAU reliever Seth McGarry allowed a 2-for-8 performance (with a walk) over his first trip, and Florida went 0-for-3 in its second one, but neither of those stretches mattered.

Florida vs. Sean Labsan
First pass: 1-for-8
Second pass: 2-for-8, 2 2B, 1 R (1 ER)
Third trip: 2-for-3, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 R (1 ER)

Florida 13, Florida State 5

For FSU ace Boomer Biegalski, though, nothing went right from the get-go. Florida sent all nine men to the plate in the first against Biegalski, and they tagged him for a 5-for-8 outburst, with Vasquez walking in the middle of a four-run, four-single inning.

Biegalski's second trip bettered his first, if only slightly: Before being lifted in the third, Biegalski worked a hitless second (but allowed Reed, who got on via a fielder's choice after Biegalski hit Martin, to end up on third without the benefit of a hit) and loaded the bases with two walks and a single in the third. Florida only went 1-for-4 over that stretch — but the Gators cashed in two of Biegalski's runners in their first look at Jim Voyles, despite not getting a hit off him in the bottom of the third.

Voyles worked a scoreless, one-hit fourth, and wouldn't make his own trouble until the fifth, when Schwarz ran into a pitch and deposited it out of the park. Still, a 3-for-9 pass with only one earned run on first pass is relatively respectable against Florida.

Then came the sixth, in which Voyles walked Dalton Guthrie, who would score on a fielding error in the next at-bat. Voyles was lifted after that, but Florida's 0-for-1 line against him on second viewing is very deceptive: The Gators would eventually score a second run in the sixth, and ended up tagging him for more runs on their second pass than the first, despite both coming unearned.

No other FSU pitcher would make it through a full pass at Florida for the rest of the day, but Cobi Johnson (who allowed Florida's third run off Voyles to score in the sixth, but didn't allow a hit in the frame, and got three outs from four batters) and Will Zirzow had a nightmarish seventh, with neither pitcher allowing a hit or recording an out in the inning. Leadoff man Alonso reached on an error, and then Johnson walked Ryan Larson before being pulled; Zirzow proceeded to walk the next two batters, the second such free pass scoring Alonso.

FSU turned to Ed Voyles to finish the inning, and he allowed all of his inherited runners to score, but Florida went "just" 2-for-5 against him. Alec Byrd finished the game for FSU with a perfect bottom of the eighth.

Florida vs. Boomer Biegalski
First pass: 5-for-8, 1 BB, 4 R (4 ER)
Second pass: 1-for-4, 2 BB, 2 R (1 ER)

Florida vs. Jim Voyles
First pass: 3-for-9, 1 HR, 1 R (1 ER)
Second pass: 0-for-1, 1 BB, 2 R (0 ER)

Florida 11, Florida State 4

One might think no game in the Gators' NCAA Tournament to date was more dramatically shifted by Florida's second viewing of a pitcher than their second regional game against FSU, given how the momentum in that game swung. But Seminoles starter Mike Compton started hemorrhaging hits and runs in the second inning, not his second pass.

After a perfect first, and with a 2-0 lead, Compton immediately walked Tobias and gave up a two-run shot to Schwarz in the top of the second, then gave up another single and a sacrifice fly before the end of it. Florida finished 2-for-8 with three runs against him on its first pass, after having gone 0-for-3 to begin it.

Of course, Compton's second pass wasn't better: He struck out Bader to complete the second inning on a high note, but gave up a homer to Martin to begin the third, then (smartly) walked Schwarz and promptly gave up an RBI triple to Alonso before getting pulled. Florida went just 2-for-4 on that pass, but the three added runs would be enough to eventually saddle him with the loss.

Florida actually did more of its damage on first passes against FSU in this game — but, strangely, it always began in the second inning of 'Noles pitchers' work. Dylan Silva, inserted for Compton in the third, allowed a Bader bomb in the fourth; Bryant Holtmann, who relieved Silva in the fifth, conceded a Schwarz shot in the sixth.

Florida vs. Mike Compton
First pass: 2-for-8, 1 HR, 1 BB, 3 R (2 ER)
Second pass: 2-for-4, 1 3B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 3 R (3 ER)

Florida vs. Dylan Silva
First pass: 3-for-8, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 3 R (3 ER)
Second pass: 0-for-2, 2 BB

Florida vs. Bryant Holtmann
First pass: 2-for-8, 1 HR, 1 BB, 1 R (1 ER)
Second pass: 4-for-8, 1 R (1 ER)

Florida 15, Miami 3

The real most dramatic revving-up of Florida's offense on a second pass came in Omaha. Hurricanes ace Andrew Suarez met expectations early, allowing Florida to go just 2-for-8 on its first pass and facing the minimum number of batters through two innings. But he gave up a run on a sketchy balk in the third, at the beginning of that second pass.

And then came the fourth inning, which was, um, bad: Suarez began it on the third batter of his second pass, and finished that second pass without getting the inning's second out, conceding four singles, a walk, four runs, and the lead; Florida's 4-for-7 second pass swung the game totally, even before two more runners Suarez left for reliever Sam Abrams crossed the plate.

Florida got two more runs off Abrams while he was in, and scored another charged to Abrams when Danny Garcia relieved him; all told, Miami used three pitchers to get one out each in the third, and all three — Florida went 2-for-4 against Abrams, and 3-for-5 against Garcia — gave up hits to at least half of the batters they saw.

Amusingly, Garcia was the only Miami pitcher other than Suarez to see more than four Florida batters on the day, thanks to Jim Morris's quick trigger and a rather hopeless game state, but of the five pitchers who combined to throw the final four innings for the 'Canes, only Cooper Hammond (who allowed three runs, two earned, on two hits in the seventh) gave up more than one hit.

So, hey, at least first passes worked pretty well for Miami, apart from that fourth inning?

Florida vs. Andrew Suarez
First pass: 2-for-8, 1 BB, 1 R (1 ER)
Second pass: 4-for-7, 1 BB, 6 R (3 ER)

Virginia 1, Florida 0

Unsurprisingly, Florida's lone NCAA Tournament loss (and lone shutout) is the exception to the rule of the Gators snapping up second passes.

Brandon Waddell was slightly less miserly early on than in the middle innings, in fact, allowing two baserunners in the first and a single in the second on his first trip through the Gators' vaunted lineup, a 1-for-7 trek for Florida.

The second pass? Spotless. Waddell retired all nine men consecutively, and in so doing became the only pitcher in this NCAA Tournament to see Florida's lineup a second time without giving up even a baserunner.

Waddell's third trip was his least successful, but that's a relative distinction, given the masterful work that was his outing on Monday: Two walks and an error produced three baserunners, but Larson's single in the eighth was just the second hit off Waddell all day — and it got Florida to 1-for-6 on that third pass. Florida went 0-for-6 against reliever Josh Sborz despite having runners on the corners with no outs in the eighth, and the Gators were suddenly in trouble in Omaha.

Florida vs. Brandon Waddell
First pass: 1-for-7, 1 BB, 1 HBP
Second pass: 0-for-9
Third pass: 1-for-6, 2 BB

Florida 10, Miami 2

So they didn't even bother with the waiting on Wednesday against Miami, instead opting for a preemptive assault on Miami's pitching: Florida batters went 3-for-6, netting three runs and two homers, against Miami starter Enrique Sosa, who was swiftly replaced by Suarez in the top of the second.

Once again, Suarez was quite good against Florida's lineup on his first time through it, yielding just two singles and a walk in the second before getting Tobias to fly out to get out of a bases-loaded jam. That was the extent of Florida's success on Suarez's first trip; the Gators' 2-for-8 start against him made a 3-0 lead just tenuous enough for worry.

Then came the fifth inning, and the top of the order in Suarez's second pass — and there went that worry. Bader doubled to lead off the inning, and Martin and Tobias continued the rally with two singles, scoring a run and chasing Suarez halfway through the second trip. Florida went 3-for-6 against him on that pass — moving its line in his second passes against the Gators down to just 7-for-13 — and essentially sewed up the game by doing so.

No other Miami pitcher got a second pass — the Gators wenr 3-for-9 against Garcia on a full first pass, driving in all three of the runners Suarez left and adding homers in both the sixth and seventh innings — but the Florida lineup successfully blew open both games against the 'Canes in the same situation: Seeing Suarez for a second time.

Florida vs. Andrew Suarez
First pass: 2-for-8, 1 BB
Second pass: 3-for-6, 3 R (3 ER)

Florida 10, Virginia 5

And maybe that reminder — "We can wait and figure out a pitcher over the course of a day?" — served Florida well heading into Friday's game with Virginia. Nathan Kirby was certainly good on his first go through Florida's lineup, permitting a walk and two singles in a 2-for-8 performance.

But the Gators growled on their second pass in the third inning, with Bader driving in the producer of the first of those singles on a groundout, Martin following with a go-ahead RBI double, and Tobias plating a third run on a single. That 2-for-3 performance gave Florida a 3-1 lead, and chased Kirby, who was replaced with Alec Bettinger.

Florida would get one more run in the third on a passed ball, but got just one more hit off Bettinger in the frame. The Gators wouldn't get another on their first rotation against him, as he worked 1-2-3 innings in the fourth and fifth.

Then Tobias finished Florida's 1-for-8 performance in their first look at Bettinger by getting hit by a pitch in the sixth, and the floodgates reopened. Schwarz singled and Alonso walked, loading the bases, and Reed's fielder's choice kept the bases loaded. Rivera singled to score one run, and Guthrie drew a walk to plate another, forcing Bettinger from the game. Another 2-for-3 performance had given the Gators a 5-1 lead; three more RBI off David Rosenberger would finish the Gators' damage in the inning, and bring Bettinger's deposit of earned runs to five.

Florida vs. Nathan Kirby
First pass: 2-for-8, 1 BB
Second pass: 2-for-3, 1 2B, 3 R (3 ER)

Florida vs. Alec Bettinger
First pass: 1-for-8, 1 HBP
Second pass: 2-for-3, 2 BB, 5 R (5 ER)


Add all of those second passes up, and you get this really frightening line:

Florida on Second Passes in the 2015 NCAA Tournament
26-for-68, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 11 BB, 33 R (24 ER)

Florida's hitting .312 in the NCAA Tournament, which is pretty good — but when they are seeing a pitcher for the second time in a game, the Gators are hitting a molten .382, and that situation has produced 33 of their 88 runs.

Now, is all of this proof of a great approach or fine adjustments by Florida, or pitchers getting tired out by Florida taking pitches and waiting on mistakes? No, not necessarily: It's a nine-game stretch with arbitrary endpoints, and that's a small sample size even though it's a bit more than a tenth of the college baseball season. It's evidence of good past performance by Florida, but I'd hesitate to call it predictive.

Hell, it might even be a good thing for Virginia, especially if Waddell gets involved on Saturday, given that the Cavaliers have the one pitcher who has lasted through a full second pass with Florida's hitters in the last month without any damage.

However: This is, unquestionably, a remarkably strange run of statistical compilation, even if it's coincidental. And it makes me very eager to see what Florida does after its first run at the Cavaliers on Saturday night.