Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> Fun with Formats About the author, Boyd Nation

Got a professional interest in college stats?
I've got an offer for you.

Fun with Formats

Publication Date: June 14, 2005


There are quite a few CWS previews out there, so you don't need me to provide another one of those. There's also no reason that you should be interested in my opinion of what will happen in Omaha (Oregon State over Nebraska in three; OSU's speed game will play well in Rosenblatt), although I'll throw in the ISR-based probabilities, since there's usually some interest in them (the odds shown are percentage chances of reaching the final series and winning it):

Oregon State    39/28
Tulane          24/15
Texas           22/14
Baylor          14/ 7
Nebraska        34/14
Arizona State   28/10
Florida         21/ 7
Tennessee       17/ 5

If these are right, then there's a 13% chance that we get an Oregon State-Nebraska matchup for the title, which will wreak havoc with the argument that you can't develop good programs in places with bad weather. I've seen the theory that bad-weather teams in conferences which are divided into good- and bad-weather regions have a better chance than those in pure Northern climes; it might be worth watching the fortunes of the teams moving in and out of C-USA the next couple of years to look for an effect.

The Four-Day Regional

With that out of the way, I want to take a few minutes to look at a couple of format issues. For all that we want to think that the best team always wins, how the games are scheduled can have a huge impact on who survives. That's especially true in baseball, where variations in the quality of starting pitching within a team's rotation can make the difference in whether opponents want to see them coming or not. This year, the regional schedule was changed to a possible four-day format, with the if-necessary game 7 moved to Monday. It's too soon to tell exactly what impact this will have, but I thought I'd look at a couple of the places where it might logically matter and see if we could spot something in the tea leaves.

One of the hardest things to do, it always seemed to me, was to lose the Saturday afternoon winner's bracket game and have to come right back to play the Saturday night elimination game. It's impossible to be certain, but that did seem to play out as a factor on the field. Despite the fact that you'd expect the team in that situation to be a higher seed in the Saturday night game, in regionals between 1999 and 2004 that didn't have schedule changes due to weather, the team that lost on Saturday afternoon went only 55-34. This year, though, that team, now playing on Sunday afternoon, went 11-4, a difference in winning percentage of .733 to .618. As I said, this is too small a sample size to declare the experiment a success, but it looks good so far.

The other boundary that changed was the if necessary game. It's harder to predict what should happen in that game (you'd expect the winner's bracket team to have an advantage based on having played one fewer game, but there's no way to assume they should be the better team), but the results from 1999-2004 were that the winner's bracket team, who had just lost game 6, went 21-15. This year, they went 2-2. That's the fewest number of if necessary games to be played under the four-team format, which may point out a different change -- the loser's bracket survivor may be less likely to win that Sunday evening game against a well-rested 2-0 team.

All of these changes combined may very well explain the predictability of the regionals that I talked about last week and could be a reason to expect more stability (and, therefore, possibly less fun) in future years.

The Division II CWS

The other format that caught my eye was from the Division II CWS. The bracket there is similar to the Omaha format, with one crucial difference. The losers of game 6 and game 8, the big winner's bracket game on each side, switch places, so that they drop to the loser's bracket in the other side of the bracket. I don't have a great way to analyze this using past results, but logically, I think it's an improvement. Although it disturbs the purity of the sides of the bracket, it improves the chances of the two best teams in the tournament meeting in the final round, since they can't knock each other out earlier. Given the frequency of times that the two best teams are on the same side, this would be a nice, easy fix. Aesthetically, it also improves the fan experience, since it gets rid of that "travelled 2000 miles to watch 'em play their cross-state rival twice" syndrome that so many of us are familiar with.

Pitch Count Watch

Rather than keep returning to the subject of pitch counts and pitcher usage in general too often for my main theme, I'm just going to run a standard feature down here where I point out potential problems; feel free to stop reading above this if the subject doesn't interest you. This will just be a quick listing of questionable starts that have caught my eye -- the general threshold for listing is 120 actual pitches or 130 estimated, although short rest will also get a pitcher listed if I catch it. Don't blame me; I'm just the messenger.

Date   Team   Pitcher   Opponent   IP   H   R   ER   BB   SO   AB   BF   Pitches
June 03 Arkansas Charley Boyce Miami, Ohio 8.0 12 5 5 0 5 35 37 122
June 05 Nebraska Zach Kroenke Creighton 9.0 7 2 2 2 13 33 35 128
June 06 Stanford Greg Reynolds Baylor 11.0 10 4 4 1 10 41 44 138
June 06 Arkansas Charley Boyce Texas 7.0 12 4 3 0 6 31 33 121
June 10 Florida Tommy Boss Florida State 9.0 7 1 1 1 3 32 33 122
June 11 Florida Alan Horne Florida State 8.1 8 5 5 5 8 29 37 148
June 11 Oregon State Dallas Buck Southern California 7.2 7 4 4 6 2 28 37 140(*)
June 12 Baylor Mark McCormick Clemson 8.1 5 1 1 6 10 28 34 137
June 12 Texas Adrian Alaniz Mississippi 6.2 6 1 1 6 6 26 32 132

(*) Pitch count is estimated.

If you're interested in reprinting this or any other Boyd's World material for your publication or Web site, please read the reprint policy and contact me


Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> Fun with Formats About the author, Boyd Nation