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Changes in Fortunes
Publication Date: March 30, 2004
Turning the Corner
I got a question from a coach a couple of months ago: "What are the biggest turnarounds in college baseball history?" Now, you can be sure when a coach asks you a question like that, he thinks his team is on the list, but it's an interesting question nonetheless, so I drew up some definitions and went forward, and this week you get the results (sorry, Coach, you didn't make the list yet by my definition, although you most likely will at the end of the 2005 season).
What I wanted was a list of teams who had been quite bad within the context of their conference for quite a while and then became good for at least the length of one recruiting class. Solidifying those terms, I searched for teams who had the biggest improvement in their conference record from a ten-year period to the next three years (I played around with shorter bad periods; it didn't change the results much). The data for this comes from the conference standings archives available over in The Filing Cabinet. I'm working on updating those and adding to them, but they're complete enough for these purposes (and a really fun way to kill a slow afternoon, besides).
The team had to be in the same conference for the whole period -- this eliminates a couple of the more interesting possibilities in the recent Rice and Houston improvements upon leaving the Southwest Conference, but I don't know of any way to quantify those. That said, here are the top 5:
5. Princeton, EIBL -- 1930-1939, 38-72; 1940-1942, 26-10. As I discussed last week, the EIBL was the dominant conference in the nation at this point. The Tigers fared rather poorly at first, but caught fire in the early '40's and never really looked back, remaining a conference contender for most years through the next few decades.
4. Santa Clara, CIBA -- 1952-1961, 50-108; 1962-1964, 37-15. The CIBA was technically the southern division of the Pac-8, sort of, but there was no real interdivision play and some schools which weren't Pac-8 members in other sports were allowed in at times, so it's worth considering as a separate entity. One of those other teams, St. Mary's, was probably the league's top team for a good stretch in the '30's, but Santa Clara had usually been the picked-on little brothers, occasionally topping .500 briefly only to sink back towards last. In the early '60's, though, the team put together a nice run, finishing well above .500 from 1962 through 1964 and holding their own for a couple more years before leaving to help start the West Coast Conference.
3. Pennsylvania, EIBL -- 1963-1972, 31-63; 1973-1975, 31-10. The EIBL at this point was still a fairly respectable league, unlikely to challenge for a national title but still capable of holding their own against the lower half of any of the power conferences of the day. Penn's marks had been mixed over the years, but they had suffered for a while before turning it on beginning in 1973 and culminating with a 12-2 record in 1975. The team has varied somewhat since but has generally stayed in the upper division as the league (or its successor of sorts, as the Ivy League became self-contained for baseball) dropped out of the national scene.
2. Columbia, EIBL -- 1966-1975, 34-81; 1976-1978, 31-11. Columbia, on the other hand, usually wasn't a contender in the EIBL, but they put together a nice run starting with a 12-2 mark in 1976 before returning to mediocrity.
1. Vanderbilt, SEC -- 1961-1970, 12-65; 1971-1973, 35-13. It was probably inevitable that someone's perennial doormat should lead the list. The '60's were unkind to the Commodores in spectacular ways, including four seasons with one or fewer wins, but in the early '70's the team came to life for a while, running off an 11-5, 13-3, and 11-5 run, winning the SEC's Eastern Division all three years. The prosperity dipped a bit, but the team continued to post winning conference records for most of the '70's and has never really returned to the depths it suffered through in the '60's.
This list really has a more historical feel to it than I intended, so here are a few more modern contenders:
7. William and Mary, CAA -- 1991-2000, 46-133; 2001-2003, 36-22
8. Tennessee, SEC -- 1983-1992, 93-153; 1993-1995, 66-23
13. Duke, ACC -- 1982-1991, 32-117; 1992-1994, 39-33
This means absolutely nothing, ignore it.
Actually, this is an experiment for me to see how predictable the postseason makeup is. I want to see how accurate my picks are (using myself as the test subject as a moderately knowledgeable observer with no input into the results) at various distances from the selection. I'm not going to bother picking a team from the one-bid conferences, since the conference tournament will just be a crapshoot, but if I only list one team from a conference, they'll get an at large bid if they don't get the automatic bid.
Southern Conf. Florida State Notre Dame Louisiana State Atlantic 10 North Carolina St. Birmingham-Southern Mississippi CAA Virginia UC Irvine South Carolina Horizon Clemson Long Beach State Florida MAAC North Carolina Cal Poly Arkansas MAC Florida Atlantic Cal State Fullerton Tennessee MEAC Central Florida Southern Mississippi Auburn Mountain West Texas East Carolina Vanderbilt NEC Texas A&M Tulane Texas State OVC Nebraska Texas Christian Lamar Patriot Oklahoma Stanford La.-Lafayette SWAC Oral Roberts Arizona State South Alabama Albany Texas Tech Washington Rice Coastal Carolina Oklahoma State Arizona San Jose State Miami, Florida Minnesota Oregon State Loyola Marymount Wichita State Penn State Washington State San Diego
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 12||Florida Atlantic||Randy Beam||Campbell||8.0||10||2||1||3||9||32||38||125|
|Mar 26||Jacksonville||Dennis Robinson||Florida Atlantic||9.0||11||5||5||3||7||38||42||156(*)|
|Mar 26||Texas A&M||Jason Meyer||Texas Tech||7.0||3||1||1||4||11||23||27||126|
|Mar 26||Charleston Southern||R. J. Swindle||Liberty||8.2||5||3||3||3||13||31||34||145(*)|
|Mar 26||Hawaii-Hilo||Scott Siegfried||UC Riverside||8.0||4||5||3||7||4||27||38||141(*)|
|Mar 26||Delaware||Scott Rambo||William and Mary||5.2||5||6||6||4||11||22||26||128|
|Mar 26||North Carolina-Wilmington||Ronald Hill||James Madison||9.0||12||4||3||1||3||38||42||148(*)|
|Mar 26||South Alabama||Jeramy Simmons||Oral Roberts||9.0||7||2||2||2||11||34||36||147(*)|
|Mar 26||Creighton||Steve Grasley||Southwest Missouri State||10.0||3||0||0||2||12||31||34||136(*)|
|Mar 26||Florida||Justin Hoyman||Kentucky||8.2||6||4||2||4||7||31||37||127|
|Mar 26||Sam Houston State||Zach Adkisson||Southeastern Louisiana||8.2||10||4||4||3||10||36||40||155(*)|
|Mar 26||New Orleans||Thomas Diamond||Arkansas State||9.0||4||3||3||1||17||31||32||124|
|Mar 27||Massachusetts||Matt Torra||George Washington||6.1||8||1||1||1||9||27||29||122|
|Mar 27||Central Florida||Matt Fox||Stetson||7.0||7||3||3||4||4||25||31||126|
|Mar 27||Campbell||Josh Blades||Troy State||7.0||10||6||5||4||4||29||34||125|
|Mar 27||Northwestern||Dan Brauer||Dartmouth||6.1||5||3||1||2||9||24||26||120|
|Mar 27||Texas A&M||Zach Jackson||Texas Tech||9.0||3||1||1||2||14||30||36||144|
|Mar 27||West Virginia||Zac Cline||Notre Dame||7.0||8||3||3||3||3||30||33||127|
|Mar 27||Delaware||Mike Mihalik||William and Mary||6.2||9||4||4||6||8||26||35||121|
|Mar 27||Canisius||Dennis Wellman||St. Peter's||8.1||7||1||1||3||7||33||37||152(*)|
|Mar 27||Siena||Ryan Bitter||Rider||10.0||2||0||0||2||9||35||37||152(*)|
|Mar 27||Rider||Eric Weiner||Siena||10.0||3||0||0||4||11||31||35||138(*)|
|Mar 27||Coppin State||B. Crossley||Florida A&M||6.0||19||14||14||2||4||39||43||165(*)|
|Mar 27||Evansville||Ryan Lancaster||Illinois State||8.0||10||3||2||2||13||33||35||146(*)|
|Mar 27||Austin Peay State||Rowdy Hardy||Morehead State||8.0||9||3||2||1||6||33||35||126|
|Mar 27||Bucknell||Kevin Miller||Navy||9.0||5||1||0||2||10||32||35||130(*)|
|Mar 27||Alabama||Wade LeBlanc||Mississippi||9.0||6||1||1||1||8||31||33||122|
|Mar 27||Middle Tennessee State||John Williams||New Mexico State||9.0||7||5||2||6||14||35||41||153|
|Mar 28||Delaware||Jarame Beaupre||William and Mary||8.0||5||5||4||4||3||28||35||131|
|Mar 28||Cincinnati||Aaron Moll||Louisville||7.1||9||7||7||7||3||27||36||134(*)|
|Mar 28||Tulane||Cory Hahn||North Carolina-Charlotte||8.0||11||8||7||1||13||35||36||147(*)|
|Mar 28||Detroit Mercy||Bob Lothian||Oakland||10.0||7||2||2||1||6||37||41||150(*)|
|Mar 28||Columbia||Greg Mullens||Pennsylvania||9.0||6||2||1||4||6||32||37||141(*)|
|Mar 28||Coppin State||M. Davis||Florida A&M||8.0||9||6||5||2||4||36||40||156(*)|
|Mar 28||Western Carolina||Brad Josey||Davidson||8.2||8||2||1||1||8||33||35||123|
The Beam count from March 12 is a correction based on an actual pitch count.
(*) Pitch count is estimated.
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