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Measuring Fairness?

Publication Date: June 4, 2002

How Do You Tell?

Last week, I wrote that I thought that the baseball committee had done a better-than-usual job with a few bad spots, given the constraints that had been placed on them by the Championship/Competition Cabinet. I still stand by that assessment, but this week I want to look at the effect that those travel constraints have had.

Measuring the fairness of a field is a difficult thing, because randomness plays a large part in sports (go back and re-read last year's column from this week if you're obsessing over conference results from last weekend), and it's difficult to determine what part of the results is "right" and what part is due to "upsets". Did Miami deserve to be in the tournament? I think so, and said so last week. Did they prove that they deserved to be in last weekend? Of course not, there's no way to do that in four games. The best that you can do is to look at the totality of the results and see how many of the best teams won, by whatever definition of "best" you want to use that isn't circular by means of defining the "best" team to be the one that wins whatever contest you're looking at.

In an attempt to see how strong the super-regional field was (and, stated another way, how strong the regional winners were), I took the ISR's for each of the 64-team field years from the end of the conference tournaments and added up the ranking of each team that won a regional. In other words, if the #1, #3, #6, and #12 teams won, that's worth 22 points. The lowest possible score is 136, but that's extremely unlikely, since it would require that the committee not pair any of the top 16 in the same regional and that they all win. Here are the totals for the last four years:

1999  238
2000  208
2001  259
2002  313

In short, this is the weakest super-regional field we've had. There have only been three teams in the history of the 64-team field to make the supers despite being worse than #50 -- two of them are there this year. Most of the top 10 made it through, with only #7 Wake and #8 Alabama falling short, but the geographic limitations meant that when the top seeds slipped, the lower seeds that took advantage were much weaker than in past years.

In addition, there's another sign of a fairness problem. Before this year, there had been only one super-regional pairing where the teams added up to only 13 points -- the 2000 matchup between #6 Georgia Tech and #7 Southern California. This year we have #3 Texas playing #6 Houston and #2 Rice playing #11 LSU, all of whom deserved better.

New Probabilities

Here are the adjusted probabilities for the remaining teams to win the super-regional and CWS after last weekend (see last week's column for more detail on what these mean):

Florida State        92/17
Notre Dame            8/ 0
Stanford             72/11
Southern California  28/ 1
Rice                 65/ 9
Louisiana State      35/ 2
Texas                52/ 7
Houston              48/ 6
Clemson              86/18
Arkansas             14/ 0
Richmond             27/ 0
Nebraska             73/ 4
Florida Atlantic     14/ 0
Georgia Tech         86/11
South Carolina       81/12
Miami, Florida       19/ 0

These still don't take home field advantage into account, so feel free to bump the home teams for this weekend up a couple of percent if you like.

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 or, on the other hand, starts where pitchers were pulled according to plan early despite pitching extremely well in close games.

Date Team Pitcher Opponent IP H R ER BB SO AB BF Pitches
May 31 South Alabama Sam Smith Kent State 7.0 11 4 4 4 5 28 35 136
May 31 San Diego Ricky Barrett Arizona State 7.2 13 6 6 3 1 32 39 149
May 31 Stanford Jeremy Guthrie Cal State Fullerton 13.0 9 2 1 3 4 42 52 146 (*)
June 1 Ohio State Scott Lewis South Alabama 9.0 10 4 4 0 10 37 37 126
June 1 Cal State Fullerton Gordon DeJong San Jose State 9.0 6 1 1 6 6 31 37 142 (*)
June 1 Louisiana State Lane Mestepey Louisiana-Lafayette 9.0 9 5 3 0 6 36 39 135
June 1 Louisiana State Bo Pettit Tulane 9.0 7 2 2 2 11 33 35 145
June 1 Bethune-Cookman Helpiz Moises Florida International 9.0 10 4 4 4 7 38 43 161 (*)
June 1 Coastal Carolina Seamus Donovan Louisville 9.0 9 1 1 3 3 34 39 133
June 2 South Carolina Blake Taylor North Carolina 9.0 7 1 1 3 11 34 38 153 (*)

'Tis the season, I suppose.

(*) Pitch count is estimated.

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Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> Measuring Fairness? About the author, Boyd Nation