2008 College World Series: Inning-By-Inning Scoring Breakdown

Brett LissendenSenior Analyst IJune 27, 2008

This year’s College World Series will always be remembered because of what Fresno State was able to accomplish in winning the National Championship as an extreme underdog.  However, there was also another very interesting phenomenon in Omaha this year:  the ninth-inning rally.

Four different games were run with a significant amount of runs scored in the ninth inning (Stanford over Florida State, Georgia over Miami, LSU over Rice, UNC over LSU) and two other ninth-inning rallies fell just short (Florida State against Miami and Stanford against Georgia).  Talented and experienced teams were making mistakes, while those in danger of losing refused to go down without a fight.

I performed an analysis of the total scoring breakdown in the 2008 College World Series to see if there were significantly many runs being scored in the last inning as opposed to occurring from random chance.  To do this, I used a Chi-Square Goodness-of-Fit test and assumed that the runs scored should be evenly distributed across all of the innings.  This should mean each inning should expect to hold approximately 1/9 of the total runs scored…but actually it’s a little more complicated in that.

If the home team is winning in the ninth inning they do not get a turn to bat, so I adjusted for this by multiplying 1/9 by 23/32 (the proportion of total ninth inning half-innings that were actually played out throughout the CWS) to get the proportion of total runs expected in the ninth inning.  Then the rest of the runs should be spread out evenly across the first eight innings.

Here is the table summarizing the results of the test:

 Inning Runs Scored Proportion Expected Runs Expected Chi-Square Contribution 1 14 0.115017 23.0035 3.5239 2 11 0.115017 23.0035 6.2635 3 28 0.115017 23.0035 1.0853 4 33 0.115017 23.0035 4.3442 5 21 0.115017 23.0035 0.1745 6 20 0.115017 23.0035 0.3922 7 18 0.115017 23.0035 1.0883 8 25 0.115017 23.0035 0.1733 9 30 0.079861 15.9722 12.32 Total 200 1 200 29.6352

The test results in a p-value of 0 to three decimal places, meaning that if runs were really distributed evenly across each inning than the run distribution observed in this year’s College World Series could essentially never happen.

Looking at the table, it is easy to see which inning messes up the distribution the most:  the ninth inning.  There were 14 more runs scored than we would expect, and the ninth inning by itself generated 42% of the overall chi-square statistic.  For those with no statistics background, the larger the chi-square statistic is the further the results are from expected.

For whatever reason, teams scored way more runs in the ninth inning than we would expect.  One team in particular, Stanford, scored 15 runs (half of the total for all teams) in the ninth inning.  What is even more interesting is that Fresno State, the ultimate champion, scored zero runs in the ninth inning.  This is very surprising, especially since they played more games than any other team in the CWS.

I decided to break Fresno’s run distribution down even further.  Here is the inning-by-inning breakdown for the total runs Fresno scored in the CWS.

 Inning 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Total Runs 1 7 9 17 9 10 3 6 0 62

Fresno State actually scored the vast majority of their runs in the middle innings.  They scored 36/62, or 58%, of their runs in the 4th, 5th, and 6th innings.  Amazingly, Fresno also allowed zero runs in the ninth inning to their opponents.

So while the rest of the field was scoring a lot of runs in the last inning of games, Fresno utilized the middle innings to produce most of their runs.  Based on the results Fresno had, scoring runs in the middle innings looks like a good avenue towards success.

One can only guess at why other teams scored so many runs at the end of games, but one possible explanation could be the national stage that all of these games were on.  College Baseball is very rarely televised until the post-season, and usually not made into a focus of media attention until the teams reach Omaha.  Teams in the lead could have been getting more tense than usual and teams behind at the end of games could have been unable to relax until the sense of urgency was finally realized.  However, it should not be too much of a surprise that the one team that took care of their scoring earlier in the game and allowed no scoring at the end of the games ended up as Champion.

Congratulations Fresno State, and hopefully you’re success will serve as a model to all hopeful underdogs.

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