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Publication Date: March 9, 2004
Who Were Those Guys, Anyway?
One of the more frequent requests for new functionality on the site (remind me to get back to this topic later on in this column) is for ratings for other levels of play besides Division I. I've never been able to do that, because I don't have the resources to gather full score data for the other divisions (covering NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III, and the NAIA would essentially get everybody), and there aren't any reasonable rating measures that don't require full or nearly full score data. There's some hope on that front; I've had discussions with one of my score sources about potential plans to add other levels for the 2005 season, but for now it's just not going to be done yet.
Sometimes, though, those requests segue into a question that I can try to answer -- how much overlap is there between the other divisions and Division I? Usually this gets phrased as, "Don't you think < insert name of writer's favorite local school> would beat up on most D1 teams if they got the chance?" Usually, the answer is, "Probably not," but there certainly is a considerable bit of overlap between the divisions. The secondary questions, then, include things like, "How would the D2 national champ do in D1 in any given year?" and, "Are there a few lower-division teams that are really out of place?"
The second one's fairly easy ("No, mostly."), so I'll start there. In any given year, the same handful of teams tend to show up in the World Series for each of the three divisions in question, but no more so than in Division I. The one possible exception (the "mostly" above) is Lewis-Clark State, who has won four of the last five NAIA titles. However, they're usually reasonably pressed to do so, and they haven't posted outrageously great regular-season records against NAIA teams, so I don't think they're that extreme an outlier.
On the first question, there's some anecdotal evidence from teams that have moved up to Division I and competed well that indicates that the top teams in Division II or the NAIA might not be that far from the top teams in Division I. UC Riverside is the most extreme example; they went from Division II in 2000 to being a legitimate top 10 team in Division I in 2003. Birmingham-Southern won the NAIA title in 2001 and has moved to the middle of the pack for the Big South, which puts them around the middle of the pack for all of Division I. Dallas Baptist, which isn't really even in Division I yet, was #33 in this week's ISR's, although they'll move down as more teams reach the 10-game qualifying level and move in ahead of them. I'm not convinced that these examples constitute compelling proof, though, because they were able to recruit with the move to Division I as a selling point; that should have improved their teams in a way that teams staying in a lower level couldn't rely on.
Given that evidence, though, it's worth it to run a little study and see what we get. What I've done is to take all teams who were not in Division I at any point in the last five full seasons but who played at least ten games against Division I teams and look at their records in those games. As expected, the overall trend favors the D1 teams, but here are the best records looked at three different ways:
Team Division Wins Lewis-Clark State NAIA 38 Delta State NCAA D2 25 Rollins NCAA D2 24 Mesa State NCAA D2 23 North Florida NCAA D2 18 St. Mary's TX NCAA D2 16 Incarnate Word NCAA D2 13 Arkansas-Monticello NCAA D2 11 Houston Baptist NAIA 11 Hawaii Pacific NCAA D2 11 Team Division % W L Delta State NCAA D2 0.962 25 1 West Virginia Wesleyan NCAA D2 0.818 9 2 Arkansas-Monticello NCAA D2 0.647 11 6 North Florida NCAA D2 0.600 18 12 Rollins NCAA D2 0.585 24 17 Georgia College and State NCAA D2 0.583 7 5 Mesa State NCAA D2 0.575 23 17 Lewis-Clark State NAIA 0.567 38 29 Southern Connecticut State NCAA D2 0.545 6 5 Team Division fISR Delta State NCAA D2 109.5 Lewis-Clark State NAIA 107.9 North Florida NCAA D2 106.5 Mesa State NCAA D2 106.3 Oklahoma City NAIA 105.0 Georgia College and State NCAA D2 103.0 Point Loma Nazarene NAIA 99.5 St. Edward's NCAA D2 99.5 Rollins NCAA D2 98.6 Wisconsin-Parkside NCAA D2 97.9
What I have labelled as "fISR" here is something that I may start using a bit when it's handy -- it's a fake ISR computed by taking the average of the actual ISR's for a team's opponents over a given span and adjusting it by the winning percentage in those games (it's the same thing I did last week in computing the quality of a 10-game start by looking at the whole year's ratings). It's not a real ISR because inserting a new team would change everyone's ratings slightly, but it's close enough to give you a good feel for how a team has performed in a given set of games.
There's a small problem with evaluating these numbers that shows up right at the top of the last two lists -- with the exception of a few of the California teams, the top Division I teams just don't play non-D1 teams very often, and that makes it hard to get the context right. Delta State epitomizes that -- in the five years in question, they beat Ole Miss one time and won two of three against Nicholls State, and they went 22-0 against SWAC teams. In short, it looked a lot like last year's Southern Jaguars' season, and I had no idea how good they were, either. On the one hand, the fISR number is not particularly out of line with the teams behind them. On the other hand, Delta State has made several trips to the D2 CWS recently but hasn't won one, so it's doubtful that they're actually going to legitimately end up at the top of the list. Interestingly, many of the top D2 teams seem to never play D1 teams, either, so there could actually be D2 teams better than this.
Having taken that particular pinch of salt, though, I would say that Lewis-Clark State's ranking certainly looks reasonable; they've played 67 games (that I can find) against Division I teams with a good but not great winning percentage, which is enough to make me comfortable with this.
That leads me to a comfortable answer to the original question -- an ISR like those above would put a team in the #50-#60 range and give them about a 10% chance of beating the #1 team most years. In other words, the top of Division II and the NAIA is comfortably below the top of Division I, but the overlap is considerable.
I'm often accused of trying to hide stuff on the site. That's not true, of course, but a lot of folks come in directly to Breadcrumbs or to the ratings, and that causes them to miss things in the Filing Cabinet, for example. I work to cut down on the number of clicks it takes to find a particular piece of information, but that minimizes your chances for finding something by serendipity. Anyway, what I wanted to point out here are a couple of things in The Filing Cabinet that I'm doing this season. First of all, the game scores database is being updated weekly when I do the ratings. There are still faster sources for scores online, and I have no interest in competing with them, but this is intended to be handy for researchers or those doing their own rating systems. Secondly, I've set it up so that the hitters and pitchers databases are updating daily with 2004 stats. This is done by an automated process that pulls the stats reports from all the team Web sites (many thanks to Paul Kislanko for his help in identifying all of those), so I don't have as much control as I usually like over the contents, but I think the value added is worth letting a little of that go. There are about thirty teams which don't have current reports up yet, and almost nobody updates daily, of course, but I think the ability to do in-season leader lists or prospect analysis is worth a little noise in the signal. As always, feedback is welcomed and, indeed, begged for.
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.
|Mar 05||Maryland||Chris Clem||Buffalo||9.0||6||1||1||0||15||34||34||130(*)|
|Mar 05||Ohio State||Josh Newman||North Florida||9.0||2||0||0||2||6||28||30||110|
|Mar 05||Norfolk State||C. Blotter||Virginia Military||8.0||11||9||9||6||3||31||41||141(*)|
|Mar 05||New Orleans||Thomas Diamond||Northern Illinois||9.0||3||1||1||1||15||31||32||131|
|Mar 05||Rice||Wade Townsend||Texas State||7.2||6||4||4||2||9||28||31||130|
|Mar 06||Bucknell||Kevin Miller||Fordham||7.2||5||4||3||7||6||29||37||149(*)|
|Mar 06||Texas Tech||Steven Thomas||Harvard||9.0||8||6||5||3||12||36||39||132|
|Mar 06||Texas-Arlington||Michael Gardner||St. John's||7.0||3||2||0||2||4||25||28||123|
|Mar 06||Norfolk State||A. Renshaw||Virginia Military||8.1||13||7||5||3||8||37||43||154(*)|
|Mar 06||San Francisco||Derek Tate||Pacific||10.0||7||2||0||0||7||38||38||130(*)|
|Mar 06||Old Dominion||James Burok||Princeton||9.0||9||6||5||4||3||36||40||145(*)|
|Mar 06||Arizona||Luis Cortez||Cal State Sacramento||8.2||8||2||2||3||8||32||35||146|
|Mar 06||Iona||Sean Kramer||New Mexico State||6.2||8||9||8||4||7||29||33||135|
|Mar 06||Eastern Illinois||Kirk Miller||Mississippi||8.0||8||3||3||3||5||29||33||123|
|Mar 06||Portland||Stephen Ball||Gonzaga||8.1||6||4||4||6||8||31||41||157(*)|
|Mar 07||Wake Forest||Justin Keadle||Winthrop||8.0||9||3||3||2||7||31||34||135|
|Mar 07||Ohio State||Mike Madsen||Western Michigan||8.0||10||3||2||2||7||33||35||126|
|Mar 07||Texas||J. P. Howell||Cal State Fullerton||9.0||3||1||1||3||9||29||33||133|
|Mar 07||Texas A&M-Corpus Christi||Trey Hearne||Northwestern State||9.0||12||6||6||1||6||40||42||156(*)|
|Mar 07||Michigan State||Jeff Gerbe||Butler||6.0||8||3||3||8||7||27||35||155(*)|
|Mar 07||Miami, Ohio||Keith Weiser||Rider||9.0||16||8||5||3||7||40||44||142|
|Mar 08||Chicago State||Paul Darby||Fresno State||5.2||9||5||4||4||7||25||29||127|
|Mar 09||Western Illinois||Patrick Kohorst||Hawaii-Hilo||9.0||4||0||0||3||12||31||36||149(*)|
(*) Pitch count is estimated.
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