The Dreaded East Coast Bias Strikes Again
Here we go again, another week with the infamous polling system. I will admit my personal bias upfront, after all, I am a former PAC-10 All-American in the sport of baseball, and I support the conference 100%.
I have had this conversation many times on both the football and baseball side of the equation regarding the East Coast Bias in the polling system for intercollegiate athletics, but after witnessing the Rivals.com poll this week, I will not let myself look the other way, when the obvious is so easy to see.
Last week, I ridiculed the Rivals.com poll in many areas, and my predictions were very accurate as I was not sold on anyone in the SEC, other than LSU. Even that assumption, this week however, might be a bit of a stretch when I break down the numbers at the bottom of the article, but you will have to wait a bit for an explanation on this later.
I explained that Mississippi should be ranked higher, and they validated my statement with a series win versus Florida, whom I said was a little over-rated.
I missed on Georgia Tech, and after evaluating their numbers this week, have reversed course and added them to my Top-5, even placing them ahead of Virginia, in the newly constructed Road2Rosenblatt.com poll, as they have superior numbers to Virginia, which stands alone atop the major polls.
However, the Rivals.com Poll, which I believe by the way, to be nothing more than a well organized publicity campaign for the ACC and SEC Conferences, has forced me to play the PAC-10 card yet again.
My apologies to all before I begin this rant once again, but at least this time I will back up my argument with some empirical data that can be documented in an easy to understand form.
My intent is to make such a powerful argument for what should be an obvious case of PAC-10 domination in the sport of baseball so far in 2010, compared to the other super-conferences, that you would have to be a complete idiot to disagree with my assessment.
You see it occurring every week, this nonsensical polling methodology utilized by all of intercollegiate athletics, which continues to grow increasingly surreal with each passing week.
It is time to call “a spade – a spade,” because there is no clear rationale that I can find to support the Rivals.com viewpoint of placing so many SEC and ACC schools in the Top-25, when the PAC-10 Conference is completely on fire.
Before we get started with the statistical evaluation and breakdown of the numbers, I do have a couple of obvious questions that need to be addressed before we can move on.
Question #1: Is there another conference out there that not only has two teams, but three, who have reeled off more than 15 victories in a row?
I don’t care what conference you play in at any level, including Major League Baseball, but winning 15 games in a row is extremely hard to do at any level.
Heck, even 10 in a row is a great accomplishment, something that doesn’t happen every year for even the best of teams.
The PAC-10 not only lists one team that has won 23 games in a row to start the season (Arizona State), but UCLA is also 20-0 as well.
Both winning streaks are school records, oddly enough, occurring within the same calendar year.
There isn’t any other conference in college baseball that has one, let alone two teams, that are undefeated, nor is there any other conference in college baseball that has even one team winning more than 13 in a row.
The PAC-10 has three who have won 23, 20 and 15 in a row.
Then there is Oregon State who won ten in a row in one stretch, as has Washington State, who opened the season winning their first 10 games as well.
By comparison in the SEC, South Carolina has won 13 in a row in one stretch, LSU has won 12 and Vanderbilt has won 10.
No other school in the conference has won more than 7 in a row (Arkansas).
The galling stat which set off my entire swing of emotions is Arizona at #20 in the Rivals.com Poll.
Only a sensational comeback by Oregon this past weekend, led by captain grind it out himself—head coach George Horton, has prevented Arizona from extending their own win streak past 15 games.
At 20-5, Arizona is the youngest team in the PAC-10 with only 2 Seniors and 19 Freshman listed on the roster.
They are literally on fire, perhaps the hottest team in the entire country and they are ranked 20th.
Let me break out my calculator, just for those of you who are a little slow. That’s a record of 63-5 by the top three teams in the PAC-10 Conference, and we haven’t even listed Oregon State (16-5), Oregon (18-8) or Washington State (14-7).
If you add those three to the list, it calculates at 118-23.
That’s an outlandish statistic, but much of the nation hasn’t even heard of this El Nino like phenomenon occurring along the west coast.
If these numbers occurred inside the SEC Conference, it would be national news, possibly even culminating with some type of national holiday to honor the greatest conference on the planet.
Question #2: If the SEC and ACC are so dominating, as they have been in the national polls for the last 5 years, where are all the national titles for these two super-conferences?
Let me break it down for you.
In the last 63 years, since 1947 when the first national championship game was played in Kalamazoo (Michigan) for college baseball, the PAC-10 Conference has been involved in the championship on 34 occasions, ultimately winning 26 of those 34 championship events.
However, the PAC-10 argument is only half the west coast equation, since there are a whole host of non-BCS or non-Big-6 schools like Cal State Fullerton, Fresno State and Pepperdine that have won national championships as well.
The simple fact of the matter is, the west coast has dominated college baseball since its inception, yet the east coast dominates the national polls.
What is the rationale for such a difference of opinion versus actual results on the playing field?
Still second guessing west coast domination in the sport of college baseball?
There have only been 23 college world series national championship games out of the 62 events that the cities of Omaha and Kalamazoo have hosted, that did not involve at least one west coast participant, and that is a documented and proven fact.
None of the other super conference are even close, unless you consider the 9 championship events and 7 national titles won by the SEC.
However, if you take LSU out of the SEC equation, only one other school (Georgia 90′) has won a national championship, although both LSU and Alabama played each other in the national championship game in 1997.
South Carolina was a finalist a few years back as well, losing 12-6 to Texas in 2002, and I think Arkansas played in a national title game, but as a member of the now defunct Southwest Conference back in the early 80’s.
All this SEC noise sounds impressive enough on its own merit…until you realize the PAC-10 has had both championship participants play each other on six separate occasions (1998-USC vs ASU, 1988-Stanford vs ASU, 1978-USC vs ASU, 1973-USC vs ASU, 1972-USC vs ASU & 1963-USC vs Arizona).
By comparison, if you took USC and their 12 national championships and 2 title game appearances out of the equation for the PAC-10, there are still a whole host of schools from the conference that have not only played in the national championship game, but actually won the title as well.
The list includes Arizona State (5 titles and 5 runner up finishes), Arizona (3 titles and 3 runner up finishes), Stanford (2 titles and 3 runner up finishes), CAL with 2 national championships, Oregon State with 2 national championships and Washington State with a runner up appearance in 1950.
How does the ACC play out in this scenario?
The ACC Conference has never won a national championship in baseball.
Let me repeat that. The conference has never won a national championship in college baseball. Where is the rationale for such a strong showing this week in the national polls?
Florida State has been close on occasion, as has North Carolina recently when they lost in back-to-back years to Oregon State (do you see the irony here?), and Miami played Florida State for the title in 1999, but Miami (the winning team) was not a member of the ACC at that point.
Can you understand my frustration with the current polling system?
Where are these ACC or SEC teams at the end of the year (historically speaking) and how do you justify the following outcomes listed this week in the Rivals.com poll?
The ACC goes 1 (Virginia), 3 (Florida State), 4 (Georgia Tech), 11 (Clemson) and 15 (Miami).
The SEC goes 8 (LSU), 9 (Florida), 10 (Arkansas), 12 (South Carolina), 13 (Ole Miss) and 23 (Vandy).
11 of the Top-20 picks go to two conferences that have won a combined seven national titles, six of those by one team – LSU, when the PAC-10 and Big-12 (Texas specifically) have nearly two-thirds of the national championship participants, and over half of the national titles.
The Big-12 goes 6 (Texas), 16 (Oklahoma) and 22 (Texas A&M) in the poll, and oddly enough, Kansas State who sits alone in first place at 19-3 overall and 3-0 in the conference is completely un-ranked.
Where does that leave the PAC-10?
They go 2 (Arizona State), 5 (UCLA), 18 (Oregon State), 19 (Stanford) and amazingly, 20 (Arizona).
Imagine the outcry in the SEC if a team wins 15 in a row and is literally unranked at 20?
The most interesting aspect for me, however, and perhaps even the greatest injustice of all, is Stanford’s ranking at #19, when Washington State, a better program at present with more post-season experience and better statistical numbers, isn’t even ranked at all.
The good news is I am not going to turn this into a bitch session.
Since this is what I would term a common sense viewpoint, which unfortunately hasn’t resonated with the national pollsters, how can I expect what I have already shared to receive national attention?
All I can do is break it down to the point of the obvious, explain it in such clear detail that you have no other alternative than to accept the PAC-10 is the best!
I need a new formula to justify my viewpoint that six teams with a combined record of 118-23, or even three teams at 63-5 deserve a greater ranking than 2, 5 & 20 that Rivals.com has assessed.
Especially given the fact that the Top-3 teams in the ACC, again a conference that has never won a championship, are listed at 1, 3 & 4.
Take a look at the Top-10 teams in the country, record-wise, listed below and ask yourself, “how would you evaluate each team? How would you list them in a national poll?
- ASU (23-0)
- UCLA (20-0)
- Georgia Tech (21-2)
- Virginia (20-4)
- LSU (20-3)
- Oklahoma (20-3)
- Arizona (20-5)
- Vanderbilt (21-4)
- Western Kentucky (20-5)
- SE Louisiana (22-3)
Stats have always been sacred for the sport of baseball, but as a coach with over 20 years of experience there are several key indicators of overall excellence that stand out in my mind.
I have taken the Top-12 statistical categories that I take into consideration when scouting an opposing team as a head coach, and rank ordered each team listed above as they stack up to the other teams listed in each statistical category.
The results may be shocking to you, but to me it is common knowledge, as plain to see as the records indicate.
Two teams that are a combined 43-0 should be ranked one and two, especially when the number one team (Virginia) has 4 losses, one at the hands of Wright State.
Statistical Categories Evaluated:
1. Overall Record, evaluating the total number of losses.
2. Team ERA.
3. Team Batting Average.
4. Opponents Batting Average versus Pitching Staff.
5. Total Hits.
6. Run Differential: there are actually three scores here that we evaluate; runs scored versus runs allowed and a breakdown of the ratio that Team A is outscoring Team B.
7. Total Bases (Offensively).
8. Stolen Bases.
9. Fielding Percentage.
10. Strike-to-Base-on-Ball-Ratio: Like Run Differential, there are actually three scores here that we evaluate, Total K’s / Total BB’s & Ratio of Strikes to Balls.
11. Win Streak: The highest number of games a team has won in a row, which demonstrates consistency over time. Baseball rewards longevity…excellence over time.
12. Arbitration: This in an arbitrary factor in case the statistical evaluation ends in a tie where I am essentially comparing losses and the overall strength of each team that defeated the team we are evaluating.
For example, LSU and Oklahoma have the same record at 20-3.
LSU has lost to Kansas twice and Arkansas, while Oklahoma has lost to Jacksonville State, UCLA and Nebraska.
Both Nebraska and Jacksonville State, statistically speaking, are inferior to Arkansas and Kansas.
Result? Advantage to LSU.
Now, given the information listed above, each of the 10 teams according to overall record (20 wins) are rank ordered according to each of the 12 statistical categories.
For example, of the 10 teams evaluated, UCLA and Arizona State are the only two undefeated teams.
They both receive a score of 1 since they do not have any losses.
Georgia Tech would receive a 2 since they have the second fewest losses at 21-2.
LSU, Oklahoma and SE Louisiana both receive a 3, Virginia and Vandy both receive 4’s and Arizona gets a 5 for being the only team with 5 losses.
So each team is rank ordered by category and given a corresponding number for that category.
We then total up each score for each category and we get a total score.
The team with the lowest total score should be ranked the highest, because they had the best rankings within each of the given stat categories, as compared to their peers (the other teams listed).
The lower the total score, the higher the overall team ranking, which should reflect the strength of the overall team.
This demonstrates excellence across all the categories, not just one or two glaring categories like the total number of wins and total number of losses.
With both the Run Differential and Strike-to-Base-on-Ball-Ratio categories, we have three scores (evaluations) within the category that need to be evaluated.
For example, Runs Scored are ranked by teams with the highest total of runs scored (the first score), Runs Allowed are ranked according to the lowest number of Runs Allowed (the second score) and then Runs Scored are divided by Runs Allowed to create an average victory margin ratio (the third score).
All three of these scores are rank ordered and given point values based on where they placed within the 10 teams.
So three scores and three point values to add up for each of the Run Differential and Strike-to-Base-on-Ball- Ratio categories.
As you can see by the tables below, we have some interesting results as the three PAC-10 teams, statistically speaking, with special consideration given to the strongest evaluation categories, are significantly superior to the other schools listed.
And it really wasn’t even close!
By the way, the numbers listed in parenthesis in each category are the point values we are adding to reach the total score, representing the strength of each teams finish compared to the other teams. The number in parenthesis is the rank order of the category, representing the point value.
Arizona State, UCLA and Arizona finished 1-2-3 across 12 of the most important stat categories that baseball holds sacred, yet they are ranked 2, 5 and 20 respectively, behind 3 schools who have never won a national championship…someone please explain your rationale, if you have one at all!
|Team||Grid 1 Score||Grid 2 Score||Total Score|
Also of importance, Virginia is ranked at #1 in the Rivals.com Poll when Georgia Tech measures superior across the board statistically.
They are not even arguably the best team in their own conference, nor would they rate in the Top-3 within the PAC-10 Conference as well, yet incredibly, they stand alone at the top of the Rivals.com Poll.
So the next time you read a college baseball poll, ask yourself, just exactly how are these polls being formulated or evaluated and what is the agenda behind it, because there is certainly a hidden agenda behind the Rivals.com Poll.
Are we kicking tires and looking at the pretty color on the outside of the car, or are we actually digging deep and checking out the inner makings of the engine, which ultimately allows the car to go the distance?
You be the Judge.
The topic is open for debate and all viewpoints are welcome!
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