Weekly College Baseball Poll: By the Numbers

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Weekly College Baseball Poll: By the Numbers
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I continue to be thoroughly amazed, abused, and completely flabbergasted by the incestuous nature of the collegiate athletics polling systems, especially the college baseball polls.

What should be a very simple process has warped into the absurd.

The Pac-10 Conference has the only two undefeated teams in America. They are ranked second (Arizona State 20-0) and 11th (UCLA 16-0), with a combined record of 36-0.

The ACC, by comparison, has its top two teams ranked first (Virginia 17-3) and third (Florida State 15-4), with a combined record of 32-7.

The SEC continues in step with the increasingly irrational, yet hyperbolic and funny math formula trend, as their top two teams are ranked fourth (Florida 16-3) and eighth (LSU 16-3) nationally, with a combined record of 32-6.

Now, 32-6 or 32-7 compared to 36-0 looks a little shaky to the eye, but now let us wander over yonder to the Big 12 Conference, where the funny math becomes surreal. Texas, at 15-5, is ranked sixth, 12 spots ahead of their Red River rivals (Oklahoma) who at 18th are 18-2. The combined record for the top two teams once again is 33-7.

Now, does anybody have two teams within their conference undefeated with an overall record of 36-0?

Anybody even close, for that matter?

Secondly...if your record is 15-5 and another conference member is 18-2, shouldn't 18-2 be ranked higher, especially when the strength of schedule issue is a virtual draw or radically superior?

 

Any Calls for "Keep it Simple, Stupid?"

To all the baseball experts involved in the polling system, please listen up.

This obviously isn't foolproof for the simple reason that I don't think foolproof actually exists, but why not start by grouping the schools in tiers of five or six per group, according to the number of losses, and then compare ranking indexes like the RPI and SOS to eliminate the confusion?

For example, all the teams with fewer than three losses are grouped into one tier, which would include Arizona State, UCLA, Oklahoma, Louisville, Clemson, and Alabama.

You could make an argument for Southeast Louisiana, but their RPI rating of 196 doesn't exactly qualify under the elite status heading, so I won't bore you with the analytical breakdown of their inclusion within this group.

The next grouping of schools, those with three losses, are lumped together as well. They would include Virginia, Coastal Carolina, LSU, Florida, Georgia Tech, Oregon State, and TCU.

The grouping of schools with four losses would include Florida State, South Carolina, Stanford, and Texas A&M.

Finally, and quite frankly, at this point in the season, any team with more than five losses should not resonate anywhere even close to the Top 25. So in my humble opinion, we could eliminate the grouping of schools at this point in the season after five losses.

Perhaps a team could sneak into the tail end of the Top 25 with more than five or six losses, but it should be rare if we are doing the poll any justice.

By that same token, how realistic is the current Rivals.com poll, which actually places two traditional powers, Rice (12-9) and East Carolina (11-8), in the current top 25, when you have a whole host of schools looking outside the list like Washington State (11-5, RPI of 18, with an SOS of six), Arizona (16-4, RPI 32, with an SOS of 50), or Vanderbilt (16-4, RPI of 24, with an SOS of 46)? These schools not only pass the eyeball test of having better records, but they also have have Index Ratings (RPI and SOS) that are vastly superior.

A poll is based on real results, not hypothetical computer models...are you listening, college football writers and pollsters?

Given the information above, here is how I would group the schools to provide a fair and objective rating. This is based on something other than what I know about their tradition, or personal relationships with players, coaches, alumni, or corporate sponsors.

Please forgive me, but I like to keep things simple when making an objective decision.

 

A Simple Way To Rank College Baseball Teams: First Tier

Team

Record Key Wins RPI Index: SOS Index:
16 - 0 Long Beach, Nebraska (3), Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Oral Roberts (3), USC, UC-Riverside, CS-Northridge, Southern, Bethune-Cookman 1 9
20 - 0
Cal Poly, Oregon State, UC-Riverside, Florida International, Grand Canyon, CS-Fullerton (2), Houston (3), Auburn (3), Towson (3), Northern Illinois (3) 5 47
17 - 2 Miami (OH), Michigan State, Wright State (3), Dayton, South Carolina (2), NC State (3), Gardner-Webb (2), Georgia Southern, Virginia Tech (3)...currently 6-0 and in first place by three games in ACC's Atlantic Division. 2 64
16 - 2
South Alabama (2), Illinois-Chicago (3), Georgia, College of Charleston (2), Stony-Brook (4), Vanderbilt (2), Minnesota (2) 3 74
17 - 2 Bowling Green (3), Morehead State, Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan State, Indiana, LeMoyne (3), Mississippi (2), Xavier, Ball State (2) 9 60

Now, it is quite clear that UCLA, with an RPI of one and an SOS of nine, has played a radically superior schedule compared to Alabama, which has an RPI of three and an SOS of 74, according to BoydsWorld.com.

I mean, come on folks—comparing victories by the Bruins over baseball powers like Vanderbilt, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Mississippi State, (combined record of 57-17), to Alabama's victories over South Alabama, College of Charleston, Vanderbilt, and Minnesota, (combined record of 54-30), is an apples-to-oranges comparison, both in name (reputation of the opponent) and happenstance (overall performance record to date).

It becomes increasingly fraudulent when the next grouping of schools, those in the three-loss category, have better RPI Index and SOS Index performance indicators as compared to some schools in the initial top-five grouping.

 

A Simple Way To Rank College Baseball Teams: Second Tier

Team

Record Key Wins RPI Index: SOS Index:
17 - 3
East Carolina (2), George Washington, Rhode Island (3), Dartmouth (2), Wright State, William & Mary, Florida State (2), James Madison, Boston College (3)...currently tied for first in the Coastal Division of the ACC. 4 26
14 - 3
Hawaii (3), Tennessee (2), UC-Riverside, Utah Valley, Maine (4), Portland (2), Utah (2) 8 22
15 - 3
Sam Houston State (3), CS-Fullerton (2), Texas Tech (4), Missouri, Rice, UTSA, UT-Arlington, Oral Roberts (3), BYU (2)...currently in first place at 2-1 in Mountain West Conference standings. 31 23
18 - 2
SDSU (4), Valparaiso, Richmond, UT-Arlington, South Florida, Western Illinois, Stephen F. Austin, Dallas Baptist, Houston Baptist, Houston Baptist, Mississippi State, Texas A&M CC, UMass (2), Baylor 20 72
16 - 3
S. Florida (3), UCF, Siena, Miami (2), Illinois State, Charleston Southern (2), Army, Florida State, Mississippi State (3) 7 84

Now the information above is NOT the Road2Rosenblatts ranking poll, but rather an example of how I group the schools together before I begin the actual ranking process. I didn't follow it verbatim, as I think LSU should be ranked above Florida and feel their schedule and victories have been much more impressive thus far, even though the index ratings favor the Gators.

So there is some leeway, but nothing like the gaping holes you will see in the Rivals.com top-25 poll, which obviously shills to the corporate sponsorship of the SEC.

Seven teams ranked in the Top 25...are you kidding me?

At some point a pollster will need to pull the trigger and go with their gut instinct.

However, I think my grouping proposal offers much greater validity to the process versus going with the good ol' boy status quo, which is based on history, tradition, and other factors that are not played out between the chalk lines.

No offense intended for those that play on FieldTurf.

 

Road2Rosenblatt.com College Baseball Poll Story Line Comparison Rivals.com College Baseball Poll +/-
1.
UCLA
16 - 0
Is there a team that has played as well as the Bruins in 2010? Just the facts ma'am...UCLA is the best thus far this season, minus the hype and what they did last year! Their Friday night starter is legit, and their Saturday starter would be a Friday night starter at nearly every other school in the Top 25!
1.
Virginia
17 - 3
+
2.
ASU
20 - 0
20-0 says it all, given their performances of late over Fullerton, Houston, Oregon State, and Auburn, Arizona State is the only team that has kept pace with the Bruins in regards to the opening act.
2.
ASU
20-0
+
3.
Virginia
17-3
Although ranked No. 1 by most of the experts, and I agree that they are a great team, the loss to Wright State takes them out of the driver's seat in Pit Row! I understand both the performance and expectations from last year, but both ASU and UCLA have outpaced the Cavs by a wide margin in 2010, and it really isn't even that close!
3.
FSU
15-5
-
4.
TCU
15-3
The Frogs may be the best team in the State of Texas...just ask 'Tech, who is 0-4! This team is for real, with offense, defense, and expectations to boot! A legit top-five team, not the bottom of the top 10...not sold on the SEC other than LSU!
4.
Florida
16 - 3
-
5.
Oregon State
14-3
You win with pitching and defense on the Road2Rosenblatt, and there may not be a better team in these two categories than the Beavers. That offense under Pat Casey always seems to get just enough to get by year in, year out. By the way, when has Georgia Tech ever been tough enough to beat the top five teams in the country consistently, let alone to be ranked in the top five themselves?
5.
Georgia Tech
13-3
-
6.
LSU
16 - 3
The Tigers are just hitting their stride...look for LSU to regain its form and break into the top five soon at a ballpark near you, and all of this without their No. 1 on the hill! Not a bad pick with Texas, but TCU at present is the strongest team in the Lone Star State.
6.
Texas
15 - 5
+
7.
Louisville
17 - 2
Ah, for once we agree on something...the Cardinals are special in 2010! Louisville is in the driver's seat for a national seed, and great minds think alike, wouldn't you agree?
7.
Louisville
17 - 2
++
8.
FSU
15 - 4
Choosing between the No. 8 and 9 spot was a tough pick for me, but the kicker was actually on the loss side of the equation. FSU's losses look a little stronger considering the struggles the Longhorns took at a recent in-state tournament.
8.
LSU
16 - 3
+
9.
Texas
15 - 5
Plus, it's hard to rank Texas at No. 6 when they arguably are not even the best team in Texas! Show us some offense 'Horns, but a team very much like Oregon State, as they seem to get just enough on most occasions...will it be enough to return to Omaha? Should I have bumped Clemson higher? This may be my first mistake in the polls.
9.
Clemson
17 - 2
+
10.
Mississippi
15 - 5
I went with the statistical analysis on this one, as Ole Miss has the RPI Index and SOS ratings deserving of Top 10 status. I don't think they will stay here, but I think Rivals.com has both teams much too low in the rankings based on their performance thus far.
10.
TCU 
15 - 3
-
11.
Miami
14 - 5
With tough in-state losses versus Florida and FSU, the Canes should be looking for redemption sometime soon. UCLA at No. 11...Are you kidding me? Really? Seriously...and Georgia Tech at No. 5? Come on man! I need you to sell some real estate for me in the Everglades!
11.
UCLA
16 - 0
-
12.
Texas A&M
15 - 4
The Aggies have some strong numbers and beat an excellent Washington State squad last week at home in what may be a pivotal series down the road. Although Coastal Carolina has a strong record and an RPI Index of 16, the SOS rating is 101, relegating them to the bottom half of the top 25 for me. 12.
C. Carolina
17-3
-
13.

Alabama
16 - 2
At first glance, Bama looks like a title contender, but when you analyze the strength of schedule and put them face-to-face with others around the country, you would need a hefty set of beer goggles to bed down with "Daisy Duke." UC-Irvine at No. 13 is almost laughable. Not that they are not worthy, and they will eventually come out of their early season tailspin, but are we not ranking on present performance thus far versus projected performance down the road? 13.
UC-Irvine
13 - 6
--
14.
Arkansas
13 - 5
The Hogs and Beavers in most categories are virtual mirror images of each other with strong programs, rich traditions, and excellent facilities. However, I would rank the Beavers much higher based on pitching and defense alone, but the Hogs are a little more offensive. 14.
OSU
14 -3
++
15. 

 

 

 

 

WSU

11 - 5

Rivals really missed the target on this one, as Washington State may be the best story in college baseball this season...next to TCU that is! The Cougs can pitch, play defense, and get downright offensive at times, and they really remind me of Oregon State a few years ago when they were the traveling circus show for the first 30 games of the season due to the weather. The Cougars can get to Omaha! 15.
Arkansas
13 - 5
+
16.
S. Carolina
16 - 4
The Cocks are placed just right at No. 16 with a RPI Index of 38 and an SOS Rating of 139. South Carolina really can't move much higher until they play some savvy competition. We got used to watching Ray Tanner's team in Omaha a few years back, but where have they been of late? Ditto with the rest of the SEC, other than LSU. 16.
S. Carolina
16 - 4
+
17.
Stanford 
10 - 4
The Cardinals took a weekend off a few weeks ago for winter term final exams but are just now getting back into a playing rhythm. The question I have: How is Stanford ranked higher than WSU? Time for the Rivals.com crew to travel to the Palouse! 17.
Miami
14 - 5
-
18.

Arizona Wildcats

Arizona

16 - 4

Although the Sooners started faster, the Wildcats have closed the gap in a big way, winning their last 11 in a row, beginning with the impressive series-clinching victory over CS-Fullerton on "Benchmark Sunday." When analyzing the RPI and SOS indexes, the two schools are virtually identical with Arizona (32 RPI) and Oklahoma (20 RPI), so this one is virtually a draw. It is nice to see Oklahoma ranked where they deserved to be ranked, as opposed to the football side of the equation, where the formulas run sideways in favor of the Sooners in nearly all circumstances. 18.
Oklahoma
18 - 2
+
19.

Coastal Carolina

17 - 3

It is a bit of a stretch for me to put Coastal Carolina at the 12 spot considering their SOS of 101! But I do recognize their accomplishment thus far at 19! I think Ole Miss is a little better than 19 as well. Sharpen up Rivals! 19.
Mississippi
15 - 5
-
20.

Vanderbilt Commodores

Vanderbilt

16 - 4

Vanderbilt looked like an average Pac-10 team a few weeks ago at "The Dodgertown Classic," as they didn't tower above the class like they do in the SEC. This is a team that has underachieved a little bit in my mind, as they should have been a regular in Omaha in the last decade. 20.
Stanford
10 - 4
+
21.

Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State

12 - 4

Where is the love for the Big Ten Conference? Kentucky and Michigan State look to be two peas in a pod. Kentucky has benefited from some very light scheduling. If they played Washington State's schedule, would they be unranked like the Cougars? 21.
Kentucky
15 - 5
-
22.
Georgia Tech
13 - 3
Georgia Tech has a scheduling SOS Rating of 189, yet they have an RPI Index of 33? This combination has them ranked ahead of UCLA in the Rivals poll, as the Bruins are the only team in the country to have both an RPI Index (1) and SOS Rating (9) in the top 10. This is where Georgia Tech should be ranked in the first place, not in the top five. 22.
Alabama
16 - 2
+
23.
Kentucky
15 - 5
Gary Henderson is doing an excellent job at Kentucky after faltering badly during his first campaign in 2009, but the Wildcats need tougher scheduling if they expect to get to Omaha. Texas A&M is a solid top-15 ball club and is ranked a little too low in my humble opinion. 23.
Texas A&M
15 - 4
-
24. Oregon Ducks

Oregon

16 - 6

Coach George Horton has things turned around in Eugene, and he is one coach I wouldn't count out of the Top 25, as their RPI and SOS indexes are superior to Wayne Graham's Rice Owls. 24.
Rice
12 - 9
-
25.
UC - Irvine
13 - 6
If you are going to rank UC-Irvine in the top 25, it's hard to leave Oregon and Coach Horton out as well. I agree that UC-Irvine is a top-25 team, as they are coming out of their recent tailspin in dramatic fashion. Ranking East Carolina at this point is another one of those "Really...you've got to be kidding me" scenarios. I can faintly see Rice at No. 25, but I'm not buying East Carolina in the top 25. 25.
ECU
11 - 8
-

 

UPDATE: I failed to insert Clemson into the poll altogether, and this was a tremendous oversight on my part, as I originally had them at No. 8, next to Louisville.

In my original evaluation, I truly believed that Clemson is a top-10 team and may in fact be better placed within the top five, and I struggled with exactly where to place them.

However, since I can't go back and ask for a mulligan, let's place the Tigers into a fifth-place tie with Oregon State.

Clemson has the No. 2-ranked RPI Index next to UCLA, and their SOS (Strength of Schedule) is a solid 64th. To give you an idea, Louisville is ninth in RPI and has an SOS of 60, and Oregon State has an eighth-ranked RPI and an SOS of 22, so the Tigers are most certainly deserving.

My apologies to the Tigers...and to those who play off FieldTurf.

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