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Returning Talent

Publication Date: January 31, 2006

Who's Coming Back?

Don't take this too seriously; it's just something I've been playing with.

I've ranted periodically about the essential worthlessness of preseason polls, so I've decided to see if there's anything that can be done to actually provide useful a preseason rating stick for likely success. Even if I find one, it won't matter once the season seriously begins, but I understand why there are preseason polls, since we do need something to talk about in January. What I've done is to attempt to measure the contribution to the team's success that the returning players made for each team last year, so we can see if that turns out to be a predictive tool.

I got ragged last week by the too-much-detail crowd, so I'll skip the exact implementation details (so I can be ragged by the not-rigorous-enough crowd this time), but what I did was to compute the runs created above (or saved below, for pitchers) average, park- and competition-adjusted, for each player who was both on the 2005 and 2006 roster for a team and sum those to see who had the highest totals. There are a couple dozen teams who still don't have 2006 rosters up on their web sites (bad SID, no Mountain Dew!), with Baylor and Fresno State the most likely to be significant. Of the others, here are the 50 teams with the most returning firepower:

 # Team                       RCAA

 1 Oregon State               127.42
 2 Georgia Tech               123.87
 3 Rice                       122.55
 4 Florida State              121.02
 5 Mississippi                106.14
 6 Texas                      101.15
 7 Florida                     95.55
 8 Nebraska                    85.98
 9 Virginia Commonwealth       78.51
10 Cal State Fullerton         73.84
11 Dallas Baptist              73.06
12 Missouri                    72.66
13 Central Michigan            70.81
14 Rhode Island                70.34
15 North Carolina-Wilmington   70.20
16 Tennessee                   69.83
17 Texas Christian             68.43
18 Clemson                     67.69
19 Miami, Florida              67.54
20 College of Charleston       66.84
21 San Francisco               60.24
22 Virginia                    57.31
23 Tulane                      57.21
24 Winthrop                    56.95
25 Kansas State                56.58
26 Ohio State                  56.05
27 Oral Roberts                55.81
28 Creighton                   54.71
29 Oklahoma State              53.85
30 Kentucky                    53.14
31 Stetson                     50.44
32 Army                        48.99
33 Illinois-Chicago            48.20
34 Southern California         47.73
35 Mississippi State           47.26
36 Liberty                     44.29
37 Central Florida             44.13
38 Vanderbilt                  43.72
39 Washington                  43.33
40 Georgia                     42.88
41 Kansas                      42.11
42 Bradley                     40.75
43 Stanford                    40.45
44 Middle Tennessee State      39.11
45 Arizona                     36.43
46 Boston College              36.34
47 Arkansas                    35.53
48 South Carolina              34.67
49 Manhattan                   34.44
50 Troy                        33.68

Now, you'll notice that this bears some, but not that much, resemblance to the preseason poll of your choice. At the very top, the names are the same but jumbled, but after that it gets interesting. Mississippi, for example, is hanging around the bottom end of most top 25's because they lost Head and Pettway, but they also return a ton of talent, headed up by Chris Coghlan and Mark Wright. The Virginia Commonwealth placement shows the potential benefit of one great player, with Scott Sizemore worth almost 30 runs above an average player last year. How much that's worth in real life, though, is an interesting question, since it's likely that 30 runs is only worth about 3 wins (remind me to actually answer that question at some point) over the course of the season. Some other teams, like Clemson and Mississippi State, face the problem that they got "everyone" back, but they weren't really world beaters last year.

There are all sorts of reasons that this might not be a good method, of course, from the problems inherent with using average as a baseline to the lack of any notion of depth (an unused Texas bench player is probably better than an unused Towson bench player, but neither of them count here). The next step, though, is to go back and see how a list from preseason 2005 would have compared to the preseason polls. Unfortunately, that will involve finding copies of the 2005 preseason polls (ever notice how fast those get buried?), but I'll try to put it together for next week.

While I've got the data handy, I'll send you off with a list of the 50 most valuable players by this measure who returned for this season (ignoring injuries):

 RCAA  Team                      Player

 61.16 Florida State             Shane Robinson      
 42.78 Missouri                  Max Scherzer        
 39.36 Florida                   Matt Laporta        
 39.31 Pepperdine                Chad Tracy          
 38.97 Mississippi               Chris Coghlan       
 36.11 Army                      Nick Hill           
 35.75 Davidson                  Jay Heafner         
 35.59 Southern Mississippi      Marc Maddox         
 34.40 Oregon State              Dallas Buck         
 33.55 Nebraska                  Johnny Dorn         
 32.35 Campbell                  Mike Priest         
 32.16 Mississippi               Mark Wright         
 31.15 Georgia Tech              Matt Wieters        
 29.88 Manhattan                 Chris Cody          
 29.74 Rice                      Joe Savery          
 29.46 Georgia Tech              Wes Hodges          
 29.37 Virginia Commonwealth     Scott Sizemore      
 28.89 Austin Peay State         Rowdy Hardy         
 28.55 Georgia                   Josh Morris         
 28.38 Louisiana-Monroe          James Bennett       
 27.81 Nebraska                  Joba Chamberlain    
 27.76 Tennessee                 J. P. Arencibia     
 26.96 Stetson                   Chris Johnson       
 26.53 Southern California       Ian Kennedy         
 26.31 Elon                      Chris Price         
 26.29 Miami, Florida            Jon Jay             
 26.22 Middle Tennessee State    Matt Scott          
 25.96 College of Charleston     Chris Campbell      
 25.77 Texas Christian           Chad Huffman        
 25.73 Texas                     Drew Stubbs         
 25.39 Florida Atlantic          Mickey Storey       
 25.30 Manhattan                 Matt Rizzotti       
 25.22 North Carolina-Wilmington John Raynor         
 24.86 Middle Tennessee State    Todd Martin         
 24.56 Oklahoma State            Corey Brown         
 24.46 Akron                     Ross Liersemann     
 24.24 Pacific                   Justin Baum         
 24.23 Oregon State              Jonah Nickerson     
 24.22 Rice                      Eddie Degerman      
 24.18 San Diego State           Bruce Billings      
 24.09 College of Charleston     Phillip Coker       
 24.09 Boston College            Jared McGuire       
 24.03 Georgia Tech              Jeff Kindel         
 24.02 Central Michigan          Ty Dunham           
 23.67 Tulane                    Nathan Southard     
 23.64 Rice                      Josh Rodriguez      
 23.33 Florida State             Ryne Malone         
 23.28 San Diego                 Shane Buschini      
 22.99 Vermont                   Miguel Magrass      
 22.85 Liberty                   Aaron Grijalva      
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