Given that college basketball just ended, most college sports fans feel as though spring football is the next university sanctioned athletic activity for their enjoyment. While most in the Southeastern Conference agree with this sentiment, there’s another university sponsored sport for their entertainment already taking place; that sport being America’s past time, baseball. While this isn’t the most popular sport in Kentucky, among the southern states, college baseball is a weekend tradition with large stadiums filled to the brim. For proof, examine schools like Mississippi State, LSU, and Arkansas who routinely pack 10,000 fans into their ballparks for a single game. Since the game’s popularity often draws discussions as to who cheers for the best team, I wanted to continue my ratings from last season and determine who the league’s best team is with a simple and time tested formula.
Baseball has long been a game driven by numbers. On Base Percentage, Batting Average, and Wins Above Replacement are just some of the vital statistics used in evaluating teams and players, but one formula created by statistician, Bill James, is the most useful in my mind. If you’re unfamiliar, I’m talking about Pythagorean Win Expectancy, which takes the ratio of a team’s runs scored/runs allowed and gives you an expected win percentage. For example if a team scores 100 runs and surrenders 25, they’d be expected to win 94% of their games. If a team scores 50 while allowing 50, they’d be expected to win 50% of their games. In the most simple terms, in order for a high rating, you want to score many more than you allow (obviously). Once you’ve gathered team data and put it in a per-9 inning format, you can use the numbers to predict future scores among the SEC’s members.
Many dispute the need for this formula when it comes to college athletics as they feel it inspires teams to run up the score when only a basic win is required. While I agree that a team’s winning percentage and strength of schedule should be the primary factors in selecting a post-season tournament, those metrics are poor predictors of future performance. However, my adjusted Pythagorean system has been outstanding in selecting outcomes, even with limited early season data, correctly picking 70% (60-26) of winners in SEC play. So without further delay, here are this week’s power rankings, score predictions, and a brief bio for the two most notable series.
Run per inning totals may not match the prediction chart due to home-field advantage.
LSU (32-2) at Arkansas (24-10)
The Tigers of LSU have been nearly unbeatable this season and their record proves it, winning 32 of their 34 games on the year. If you remember back to last weekend, Paul Mainieri’s Tigers dismantled Kentucky, sweeping the series by a combined 25 runs. Of course, LSU has been blowing teams out all season long as proven by their SEC best 5-run scoring differential (per-9). LSU will travel to north to Arkansas this weekend and take on Dave van Horn’s Razorbacks in Baum Stadium. Arkansas’ record may not suggest a close series, but their scoring margin does. Early in the season, the Hogs lost a number of close games to quality competition. However, since their March 17th loss to Ole Miss, Arkansas has won 10 of their last 13 games on the shoulders of the SEC’s best defense.
Tennessee (14-17) at Kentucky (23-9)
After a disappointing series in Baton Rouge, Gary Henderson’s Bat Cats look to bounce back in a big way against heated rival, Tennessee. After such a poor showing against LSU, the Cats dropped from second to third in the SEC East standings, two games behind South Carolina. Kentucky needs to win this series in the worst way as the Gamecocks can realistically boost their lead on UK against SEC cellar dweller, Florida. While offense and defense were severe issues last weekend, they shouldn’t be this time around as the Volunteers are an average offensive team and a poor defensive team, ranking 6th and 14th in those categories respectively. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend before or after the Spring Game, go see the Wildcats in action at Cliff Hagan Stadium. It’s cheap family entertainment and the squad needs your support. Directions and parking info can be found here.