Breaking down the numbers that point to the University World Series contenders

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Predicting the winner of the College World Series can be a difficult task. You wouldn’t be wrong to target an SEC team — they’ve won three of the last four — or pick up a Pac-12 winner, which has three of the last 10. Still, teams like Fresno State or Coastal Carolina can seemingly emerge. from anywhere and heat at the right time.

There is, however, a way to narrow the field. In the frenzy of regional play and double elimination, it’s no secret that having a deep and skilled pitching staff is extremely important. This article will discuss how important this advantage is.

To do this, we use the attack and defense ratings presented on Massey Ratings. Both measure how the respective units – roster and pitching/defense staff – should fare against an average opponent.

Let’s take a look at the 10 previous College World Series winners. All 10 of them ranked in the top 20 in throwing/defense, while only six of 10 on the offensive side did. What’s particularly interesting is that some of these winners were very unbalanced – see Florida 2017, Virginia 2015 and UCLA 2013 – but they made up for it by truly being the elite of race prevention.

This table also shows how impressive Coastal Carolina’s run to the 2016 title was. He is the only champion of the last 10 years not to rank in the Top 15 in either category.

YEAR

NAME

STOPPED

DEF

2021

Mississippi State

17th

9th

2019

Vanderbilt

3rd

3rd

2018

Oregon State

1st

1st

2017

Florida

57th

5th

2016

Coastal Carolina

22nd

20th

2015

Virginia

33rd

7th

2014

Vanderbilt

8th

15th

2013

UCLA

43rd

1st

2012

Arizona

1st

13th

2011

Caroline from the south

18th

3rd

The emphasis on high-end pitching becomes more apparent when you look at the sample of 80 College World Series entrants over the past 10 years. Here they are, grouped by whether they were eliminated in a bracketed match, reached the CWS Finals, or won it all.

STATUS

AVERAGE RANK

STOPPED

DEF

Eliminated

25.1

13.6

Finalist

23.0

6.0

Won

20.3

7.7

You’ll notice that the biggest difference between the last two teams that competed for the championship and the rest of the field is in the pitching column. It should come as no surprise that teams with a deep, reliable throw will have better success in a double-elimination format than others.

Of the 80 teams, 26 ranked in the top 10 in attack. Four of those teams won, placing 1st, 3rd, 13th and 15th in race prevention. Three finished second while the others did not reach the final weekend of the season.

A good example of this emphasis on balance, and more importantly, shot strength, is evident when you consider two Arizona teams in this sample. The first, 2012 Arizona, was the best offensive team in the nation and tied it with the 13th best pitcher en route to a title. Another edition, 2021 Arizona, worked its way to a No. 1 offensive rating with a .325 batting average and 70 home runs. The pitch left a lot to be desired, however, ranking 43rd, and he was among the first teams fired from Omaha. The Wildcats lost to eventual finalists Vanderbilt, 7-6, then were eliminated by Stanford in a 14-5 playoff game.

An imbalance can be difficult to overcome. Of the 10 most unbalanced teams in the data set, eight out of 10 did not reach the final series. One of them won, Florida in 2017, thanks to the fifth-ranked pitching team taking a lot of the pressure off the offense. The Gators lost just one game and won their College World Series games by the following margins: 3-0, 5-1, 3-0, 4-3, 6-1. They averaged less than four points per game and went 6-1. It’s a similar story with a sadder ending for South Carolina 2012, which found itself in the losing streak with a top-two pitching staff and a roster below 60th and won 4-1. , 2-0 and 3-2 wins before being held to two points in two games to finish second.

While this is an arbitrary trait, offensive-focused teams don’t fare very well. Of the 20 “offensive-focused” teams in the dataset, identified as having a higher rating on offense than defense, only two managed to win it – 2012 Arizona and 2014 Vanderbilt, who ranked respectively eighth and 15th. The other 18 finished an average of fifth. This includes a notable power lineup like Texas Tech in 2018, which finished outside the Top 30 in run avoidance.

So with all of that noted, we’ve set a loose benchmark: to be a contender, you have to be balanced, or be better on the mound and have more depth there. Throwing triumphs over hitting: 56 of the 80 teams were better on that side of the ball, while four were tied.

Of course, that was a sampling of College World Series teams. If this checklist for a competitor is true, we would assume that historically, teams that are balanced or stronger on the mound fare better in the tournament than those that are not. To see if that holds up, let’s expand our team count to 640, each of the teams from the last 10 tournaments.

First, a quick and rough look: does the team rank higher on the mound or at home plate?

STYLE

REGIONAL

SUPER REGIONALS

CFS

Balance

seven

4

4

Defense

341

97

56

Offense

292

59

20

Total

640

160

80

It’s a pretty dramatic drop from round one to round two. Ignoring the seven teams that ran identical seedings, you go from roughly 53% of teams in regionals being better on the mound to 61% in super regionals. That rises to 70% in the College World Series. This quick and simple look identifies teams that have a better chance of making deep runs.

Let’s go a level further. Here’s how teams with a top-20 offense fared based on the corresponding rank of their pitching team.

LAUNCH

REGIONAL

SUPER REGIONALS

COLLEGE WORLD SERIES

ADVANCED 1 TURN

1-20

17

19

36

76%

21-40

15

9

6

50%

41-60

14

6

1

33%

61-80

8

1

11%

81-100

11

1

8%

101-120

5

1

17%

121-140

3

0%

141-160

1

0%

181-200

2

0%

221-240

1

0%

241-260

1

0%

If they had a top-20 pitching staff, unsurprisingly, they advanced at least one round 76% of the time. There is a pretty steep drop off after that though, as only half of those who made it into the next 20 moved on. The rest of the field? Despite a top-notch offense, only one of the 56 teams ultimately made it to the College World Series. That one team was Arizona last year, which we talked about earlier in this article. The remaining 55 players might have been able to post big offensive numbers, but glaring weaknesses on the mound cost them a chance to move on.

Now, back to the Top 20 Pitching Teams. The numbers are much friendlier, even with below par offenses.

STRUCK

REGIONAL

SUPER REGIONALS

COLLEGE WORLD SERIES

ADVANCED 1 TURN

1-20

17

19

36

76%

21-40

12

9

19

70%

41-60

12

3

11

54%

61-80

16

1

3

20%

81-100

8

1

1

20%

101-120

1

1

50%

121-140

3

0%

161-180

1

0%

This sharp drop that was apparent in the previous data set has disappeared. The front row remains the same, but a staff of top 20 pitchers paired with at least a top-40 offense advanced to a similar 70% clip. In fact, you could have an attack between 40 and 60 and still have a good chance of advancing at least one turn: 54%.

Chris Villaman Courtesy of Ncstate

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So what does this mean for the 2022 campaign? If the story is true, we’re looking for at least one of the top 20 pitchers. The team can’t be too unbalanced, though, and need at least one offense in the top 40-50. Here’s that current Top 20 (as of May 28) with a simple “similarity” index taking the difference between the national median winner of the championship.

CREW

STOPPED

DEF

SIMILARITY

Tennessee

3rd

1st

19.5

Oregon State

12th

2nd

9.5

Texas

9th

6th

8.5

Stanford

10th

7th

6.5

our Lady

16th

12th

-4.5

USL

8th

20th

-4.5

Virginia

11th

18th

-5.5

Florida

26

10th

-12.5

Virginia Tech

20th

16th

-12.5

Ole Miss

21st

19th

-16.5

Miami

25th

17th

-18.5

Vanderbilt

45th

4th

-25.5

Arkansas

41st

8th

-25.5

Auburn

46th

15th

-37.5

North Carolina

53rd

13th

-42.5

Miss South

66th

3rd

-45.5

UCLA

70th

11th

-57.5

Gonzaga

73rd

9th

-58.5

state of florida

84th

5th

-65.5

Alabama

77th

14th

-67.5

Unsurprisingly, Tennessee tops the list by a considerable margin. At this point, it’s Tennessee’s national title up for grabs. Oregon State, Texas, and Stanford are the next three that most closely meet the criteria. Notre Dame and LSU are close behind, as is Virginia. Other teams to watch are Florida and Virginia Tech.

Notably, there are several teams that should take a huge step forward offensively. Teams like Southern Mississippi, Vanderbilt and Florida State all rank in the top five on the mound, but weak offensive numbers have pushed them down this list. That should come as no surprise to Seminoles fans — last season they ranked in the Top 10 in pitching but failed to make it out of regionals thanks to a lower-ranked offense.

Well, just for fun…

  • Here are the 10 most “unbalanced” teams over the past 10 years. As you can imagine, none came out of the regionals. Morehead State was a quick double in the Louisville Regional after a year in which it homered 66 and hit .332 as a team, but allowed 76 and posted a 6.35 ERA.

YEAR

CREW

STOPPED

DEF

2015

Morehead State

15th

243rd

2011

James Madison

11th

226th

2016

West Carolina

34th

239th

2019

Coastal Carolina

5th

198th

2018

Morehead State

31st

220th

2012

New Mexico State

5th

189th

2011

Seton room

206th

31st

2019

Fordham

265th

95th

2016

duke

196th

27

  • Here are the top 10 teams in the dataset to fail to win a title. This is a list Tennessee will look to avoid making, as the Volunteers currently rank first and third in offense and throwing, respectively.

YEAR

CREW

STOPPED

DEF

BEST TEAM ON THE PITCH?

RESULTS

2011

Vanderbilt

2

2

NOT

CFS

2015

Florida

1

4

NOT

CFS

2015

Vanderbilt

4

2

NOT

CWS, finalist

2021

our Lady

2

5

NOT

Super Regionals

2016

TOS

4

3

NOT

CFS

2016

Texas A&M

1

seven

NOT

CWS, finalist

2012

UCLA

seven

1

NOT

CFS

2018

UCLA

4

5

NOT

Regionals

2018

Arkansas

seven

3

Y*

CWS, finalist

2013

North Carolina

3

seven

NOT

CFS

* 2018 Oregon State ranked first in offense and defense

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