Stats & Info: CWS

Gamecocks can cap SEC’s dominant year

June, 24, 2012

AP PhotoSouth Carolina is looking to celebrate its third straight CWS title.
The South Carolina Gamecocks, which open play in the CWS Finals tonight (ESPN2, 8 ET) against the Arizona Wildcats, are looking for their third straight title. If they are successful, it will cap an amazing year for the Southeastern Conference.

This school year, the SEC has won national championships in nine sports. Two more wins for the Gamecocks will give the conference titles in half of the 20 sports that it sponsors, with the wealth spread among five schools.

Alabama won four national titles this year, in football, softball, women’s gymnastics and women’s golf.

Florida also finished first in multiple sports, with championships in women’s tennis and both men’s indoor and outdoor track and field.

They were joined by Kentucky, which won the men’s basketball title, and LSU, which claimed the women’s outdoor track and field crown.

The SEC has the chance to be the fourth conference to win the national title in football, men’s basketball and baseball in the same school year. The last conference to do so was the Pac-8 in 1972-73.

Gamecocks go for third straight
Beyond conference supremacy, South Carolina has a chance to rewrite the college baseball record book.

The Gamecocks are the back-to-back defending national champion. If they can beat Arizona in the CWS Finals, they will be just the second team to win three straight titles. The USC Trojans won five straight from 1970 to 1974.

The key for South Carolina during its run has been pitching. The Gamecocks have allowed eight runs in their first five games in Omaha, and are on pace to be just the sixth team since aluminum bats were introduced in 1974 to allow an average of two or fewer runs per game in the CWS.

The string of pitching success stretches back to 2004. South Carolina has allowed four runs or fewer in each of its last 19 CWS games. That’s the second longest streak in CWS history. Arizona State went 22 straight games from 1965 to 1973 without allowing more than four runs.

Heavyweight conferences battle for supremacy
The Championship Finals feature the two conferences with the most storied history at the College World Series.

Current Pac-12 schools have won 23 baseball titles, easily the most by any conference. Most of the legacy was built during the first 40 years of the College World Series. Since Stanford won back-to-back titles in 1987 and 1988, the Pac-12 has only three titles.

On the other hand, the SEC didn’t win its first baseball title until 1990. But the conference has been a dominant force since then, winning nine of the last 22 championships and sending 10 different schools to Omaha.

This year’s tilt between South Carolina is the fourth time that current Pac-12 and SEC schools have met in the title game. The SEC came out on top the last two times, with South Carolina beating UCLA in 2010 and LSU beating Stanford in 2000.

The only loss came in 1977, when South Carolina lost to Arizona State. At that time, the Sun Devils were in the WAC and the Gamecocks were independent in baseball.

South Carolina looks to make CWS history

June, 28, 2011
The South Carolina Gamecocks can capture their second straight College World Series title with a win Tuesday night, while shattering a few records in the process.

The Gamecocks have won 15 straight NCAA Tournament games, tied with the Texas Longhorns for the all-time record. They’ve also won 10 straight CWS games, tied with the LSU Tigers and the USC Trojans for the all-time mark. South Carolina would become the sixth different team to win back-to-back CWS titles.

South Carolina’s run in this year's CWS has been memorable for a number of different reasons. The 4-0 start has been in part due to good defense, timely hitting, great pitching ... and luck:

June 19 vs Texas A&M Aggies
After giving up four runs in the top of the first in its first game in Omaha, South Carolina tied the score in the bottom half against the nation’s win leader, Ross Stripling (14 wins). In the bottom of the ninth -- and still tied -- Scott Wingo's walk-off hit gave the Gamecocks the win, their second straight walk-off win in Omaha (last CWS game vs UCLA in 2010).

June 21 vs No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers
Facing top-seeded Virginia in their second game, the Gamecocks scored six runs in the first four innings against Will Roberts, who suffered just his second loss of the season.

June 24 vs No. 1 Virginia
South Carolina and Virginia went to extra innings with the score tied at two, after the Gamecocks got out of three bases-loaded jams in the final four innings of regulation, all with closer Matt Price on the mound. Price went 5 2/3 innings, throwing 95 pitches. South Carolina scored the winning run in the 13th inning on throwing errors on consecutive sacrifice bunts.

June 27 vs No. 2 Florida Gators
Florida ace Hudson Randall cruised through the first seven innings, retiring 18 of 19 batters at one point. However, the Gamecocks tied the game with a two-out RBI single in the eighth, then got out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the ninth and threw a runner out at home to end the 10th inning. Christian Walker (playing with a broken bone in his hand) scored the game-winning run in the 11th on a botched hit-and-run (which resulted in a stolen base), and two throwing errors on the same play.

Why home runs are way down at CWS

June, 27, 2011
Home runs are down at the 2011 College World Series -- way down. Headed into the start of the finals on Monday in Omaha, Neb., only seven home runs have been hit in 12 games, compared to 32 in 14 games in 2010.

This dramatic power outage coincides with the cross-town move from Rosenblatt Stadium to TD Ameritrade Park. The dimensions of the two parks are virtually the same, and the change of venue has nothing to do with the drop in home runs. Nor is it due to an isolated cluster of unusually strong pitching performances.

The difference is in the bats.

On Jan. 1, the NCAA implemented a long-anticipated new standard for regulating the performance of bats. The NCAA originally sent a memorandum to bat manufacturers on Sept. 16, 2008, explaining the intention to achieve “wood-like performance in non-wood bats.” The details of how the NCAA bat standards changed are rather involved, but the net effect is quite simple: The bats are less “bouncy,” and balls come off the bats slower.

According to Dr. Alan Nathan, a baseball physicist who also serves as a member of the NCAA Baseball Research Panel, the NCAA changed the way it measures bats in order to provide a more consistent performance limit (for a detailed explanation of the old and new measurement methods, read Dr. Nathan's article). The limit for non-wood bats was set at a level that is just barely “bouncier” than the bounciest wood bats available.

Nathan’s research has indicated that restricting bats via the new standard lowers the batted ball speed by about 6 mph for a typical fly ball of 380-400 feet.

Analyzing an aerodynamic model for batted balls (Hit Tracker), a reduction of 6 mph in batted ball speed corresponds to a 30-foot reduction in distance. Home run data from MLB over the last five and one-half seasons suggests that this would reduce home runs by roughly 50 percent. Data from all Division I games in 2010 and 2011 fit well with this analytical estimate: Home runs have dropped from 0.94 per team per game in 2010 to 0.52 in 2011, a 42 percent reduction.

What will be the long-term impact of the bat standard changes? Scouts and analysts will have to adjust their methods of assessing college players to factor in the dramatic discontinuity in college baseball stats and performance from 2010 to 2011. The lower power and run-scoring environment may favor players specializing in speed or defense in the short term. However, some college home run fences may need to come in to rebalance the game, as the rough equilibrium between the existing fences and the superseded bats has been disturbed.

Runs per game dropped an unprecedented 20 percent this season. Nevertheless, the harmonization of the performance of college and professional bats has removed a major difference between the two games.


ACC is long overdue for national title

June, 17, 2011
If you've watched the College World Series on even a semi-regular basis over the last 10 years, you've probably heard that an ACC team hasn't won college baseball's national championship since Wake Forest did so in 1955.

That sounds bad on the surface, but when you dig deeper, it may seem even worse.

From 2006-2010, the ACC had 12 CWS participants -- the most of any conference. Over that span, the Pac-10 had five fewer representatives and won two national titles. The SEC had eight representatives in those five years and also had two championships to show for it. And just for good measure, the WAC had only one participant (Fresno State in 2008) and, you guessed it, one title to match.

But this is much larger than a five-year problem. We're talking 55 straight seasons without a title, which seems like an odds-defying drought for a conference of the ACC's caliber. So, just how unlikely is it?

With eight teams in Omaha every season, assuming each has an equal chance of winning the championship, any one team has a 12.5 percent chance of taking home the trophy (and an 87.5 percent chance of not doing so).

Not counting this year's two ACC representatives (Virginia and North Carolina), the conference has had 37 teams play in the CWS since its last national title. Given the odds just mentioned, that means the combined probability of the ACC not capturing a baseball championship since 1956 is a mere 1.6 percent.

(The simplest way to define the calculation: it means that all 37 teams independently needed to not win the title. Each team has an 87.5 percent (7/8) chance of falling short of the title after reaching the CWS. The chances of all 37 teams falling short is the product of the individual probabilities -- .875 ^ 37 -- or about 1.6 percent.)

Needless to say, the ACC is due.