Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> The Annual Watchout Report About the author, Boyd Nation

The Annual Watchout Report

Publication Date: January 21, 2004

A Larger View

I've been trying to stay away from the columns that I had been doing annually this year, mostly in order to keep myself interested, but I want to take a different twist on one of them this time. In past years, I've tried to designate three teams that probably weren't on your radar but might make some noise in the postseason, based on a history of success that hadn't quite made the national stage. I'm starting to run out of those, though, and since I don't want to find myself in 2038 pushing for a St. Mary's-Fairfield title game, I'm going to change focus this year and look at teams who have underperformed in the past in the postseason, with the understanding that bad luck isn't particularly accumulative.

You see, I don't believe there's any such thing as a choke, other than as an after-the-fact explanation, at the level that these guys play. Before I get a hundred responses from guys telling me that they played ball, and I couldn't possibly have or I wouldn't think this, let me head them off by saying that I believe that psychological factors can matter considerably at lower levels but that by the time you reach the point where you're talking about guys playing a significant role on a team playing with a realistic chance at a CWS title, the guys who tend to fold under pressure have long since done so, and it just doesn't come into play. Teams that have done worse than expected in the postseason have done so because they lost too many games at the wrong time; teams that overperform have just been fortunate in their timing. Those who believe otherwise may begin their case by explaining that Notre Dame was actually better than Florida State in 2002, for example.

With that said, who's being discounted because they haven't gone as far as might have been expected in the postseason? Well, if you look at the five-year ISR's, one name leaps to mind. Over the last five years, Baylor has been the fifth best team in the country, and they have zero Omaha appearances to show for it, much less a title. They've been to two super-regionals during that time, being upset by Oklahoma State in 1999 and unfairly sent to LSU last year, but they're still waiting for a CWS appearance. They're facing the normal amounts of personnel turnover this year, but counting them out would be a mistake.

The other member of the top ten who hasn't made it to Omaha in that span has a much easier explanation -- Arizona State has been as consistently mistreated by the selection committee as anyone in the nation over the last ten years. Last year, they should have been a national #1 seed but were sent to Fullerton for the super. In 2002, they were a legitimate #2 seed and lost in the regional, but in 2001, they were the #10 team in the country in the ISR's, but were sent to Fullerton as a #2 seed. In 1999, they were omitted entirely from the field despite a #35 ISR. This year's team is as loaded as any in recent memory; with just the slightest break from the committee, they should be around until close to the end.

Who's the best team to never win a regional under the current format? For that, you've got to go down to #19 Texas Tech. Tech's probably for the most part has been a terrible consistency -- every year from 2000-2002, they deserved a #2 seed and couldn't pull off an upset when given a #2 or #3. They were mistreated in 1999 and off their game last year, but they're certainly in the range where they're worth paying attention to when you're filling out your preseason pool entry (what, they don't run a preseason CWS pool in your office?).

Finally, remember that UC Riverside was a legitimate top 10 team last year. They could actually drop off a bit this year and still make a deep postseason run with some fair treatment from the committee.

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Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> The Annual Watchout Report About the author, Boyd Nation