Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> The Racial Composition of College Baseball About the author, Boyd Nation

The Racial Composition of College Baseball

Publication Date: September 26, 2006

Ice So Thin You Can't Even See It

OK, let's go ahead and get the hard part out of the way first. A white guy from Mississippi is going to talk about race. Take a quick look inside and decide if you're one of those for whom there is no possible good outcome from that first sentence and move on to or whatever's next on the daily reading list. For the rest of us, I want to have a serious discussion about race in the game, peppered with some actual data so we'll know what we're actually talking about.

I've been challenged before when I've talked briefly a couple of times about the problems the college game has with race, so I want to address some of those issues before we get down to the numbers. I'm not in favor of quotas or affirmative action of any kind, for reasons that are outside the scope of this discussion but that I'll be happy to discuss in email if anyone wants to, but frankly that's not really an issue here; while a baseball scholarship has some value, there are almost no full scholarships given in the current college game, and almost no one gets to go to college because of their baseball skills. As a general rule, baseball players decide to go to college and are able to and then decide to play baseball, not the other way around as it often is in football or basketball. I'm not calling for there to be more minority representation within the game because of a moral issue, I'm calling for it because of a baseball reason.

I care about the quality of the game as it is played on the field in general in the college ranks, and I care about the quality of the game as it is played by one particular team, "my team". If you're reading this, you may care about the former and almost certainly care about the latter, if you substitute "your team" for "my team". The single biggest influence that the coaching staff has on the game is the decision of who gets to be on the field, with the underlying factors of who was successfully recruited to be available in the first place. There are significant constraints already in place on the recruiting process, most notably time and budget constraints with the added difficulty of talent identification built in. If another significant constraint is added by not considering the entire available population, then the end result is that the talent level on the field gets even weaker.

This is especially true in the light of the philosophy described in Moneyball but seldom understood -- the best way to find talent easily is to identify an area that's being undervalued by everyone else. Mining communities that are currently being under-recruited has great potential.

The other problem, one that I haven't fully been able to handle yet, is that it's hard to know what the numbers "should" be. I have the numbers for professional baseball, but those numbers don't make for a good comparison because there are significant numbers of professional players of international origin, and for most of those college in the U. S. wasn't a serious option. I can't find numbers for the general student body population, which would probably be the best comparison. This piece of the puzzle warrants further investigation.

This data was gathered from 2006 media guides, where available, and from team web sites (thank you for being patient during the long silence while I gathered it, by the way). I was able to gather data for 267 teams, and those teams are spread fairly evenly over all conferences, so there shouldn't be any significant bias issues involved in the analysis. One of the first things you realize in doing this sort of thing is that, when you get to the individual level, the whole exercise can be fairly silly on multiple levels. I suspect that in 100 years, the notion of "Hispanic" as a separate ethnicity in American society will be about as worthy of tracking as "Irish" or "Italian" is now. When you start to realize the number of people who are obviously of mixed ancestry, it's pointless to try to decide what bucket a California-raised kid with an American-born father of mostly German descent and a Japanese-born mother goes in. At the 10,000-foot level, though, those determinations can help to identify possible cultural effects that can have an impact on the recruiting process, so the overall trends can matter.

Here then, are the numbers for the 8,591 players checked:

White            90.4%
Black             5.3%
Hispanic          3.5%
Asian             0.3%
Pacific Islander  0.4%

The numbers broken down by conference:

Conference         Teams   W      B     H     A     PI

ACC                  12   90.7   2.6   6.7   0.0   0.0
America East          6   94.8   2.9   1.7   0.6   0.0
Atlantic 10          14   96.6   1.9   1.2   0.2   0.0
Atlantic Sun          8   94.4   2.2   3.3   0.0   0.0
Big 12               10   94.8   1.9   3.0   0.3   0.0
Big East             10   94.0   3.1   2.8   0.0   0.0
Big South             9   96.9   2.4   0.7   0.0   0.0
Big Ten              10   95.6   3.2   0.0   0.9   0.3
Big West              7   90.6   1.6   5.7   0.8   1.2
C-USA                 9   94.7   2.8   2.2   0.3   0.0
CAA                  10   94.2   4.0   1.5   0.4   0.0
Horizon               6   92.9   2.0   4.5   0.5   0.0
Independents         11   84.8   2.4   7.9   0.3   4.6
Ivy                   8   94.8   1.9   0.9   2.4   0.0
MAAC                  8   93.5   2.2   4.3   0.0   0.0
MAC                  11   97.2   2.5   0.3   0.0   0.0
MEAC                  6   43.7  39.2  17.1   0.0   0.0
MVC                   8   95.9   3.0   0.7   0.0   0.4
Mid-Continent         6   96.1   1.0   2.0   0.0   1.0
Mountain West         7   90.9   1.2   5.0   1.7   1.2
NEC                   6   95.2   2.4   2.4   0.0   0.0
OVC                   8   95.0   3.3   1.2   0.4   0.0
Pac 10                9   94.7   2.1   2.9   0.0   0.3
Patriot               6   96.1   0.6   3.3   0.0   0.0
SEC                  12   91.9   5.4   2.5   0.2   0.0
SWAC                  7    8.3  85.4   6.3   0.0   0.0
Southern              9   96.0   3.6   0.4   0.0   0.0
Southland            11   94.6   2.7   2.7   0.0   0.0
Sun Belt              8   90.3   2.2   7.6   0.0   0.0
WAC                   7   82.0   4.4   8.8   0.9   3.9
WCC                   8   88.3   3.0   7.2   1.1   0.4

The final numbers I want to leave you with are these: There were 59 teams in my study which were, as far as I can tell, all white. Those 59 combined for a .502 winning percentage last year. The rest of the teams combined for a .509 percentage. It appears that just being willing to integrate the roster is worth, on average, a win every other year.

If you're interested in reprinting this or any other Boyd's World material for your publication or Web site, please read the reprint policy and contact me


Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> The Racial Composition of College Baseball About the author, Boyd Nation