Shifting college statistics cant always be trusted
By John Manuel
When Baseball America rates college players for the draft, statistics dont factor much into the equation.
Scouts want to see players perform, and statistics can be a good measure of performance. But college stats can be deceiving.
Theres the aluminum bat, of course, and the fact that not all college parks are created equal. For example, one university official, showing off his programs new ballpark, pointed out the 400-foot sign in center field. "It used to say 400 out there, but now it really is 400," he said.
Scoring games in college baseball isnt an exact science, either. A players numbers may not tell the whole story because those numbers might depend on whether scoring rules are interpreted correctly or whos doing the scoring.
Thats true of baseball at any level, and NCAA Division I is no different. NCAA statistics director Jim Wrightthe guy who compiles the Ratings Percentage Index for baseballsays the home team is designated as the official scorer in the NCAAs eyes.
So if, as one story goes, the official scorer at State says any fly ball that advances a runner is a sacrifice fly (not just the ones that score runners), then thats what gets into the books. Because sac flies dont count as official at-bats, States batters might get a boost to their batting averages over a 56-game schedule.
"Were totally reliant on the sports information directors, who usually work as the official scorers," Wright said. "There are just so many games going on. Theres really no solid oversight on our part."
Recipe For Problems
Discrepancies can arise in a number of ways. Oral Roberts says it set a school record with 29 hits in a 22-5 victory at Kansas, and that four players had four hits in the game. But a box score on the Kansas Website says the Golden Eagles got just 28 hits. So whats the record?
In a Feb. 6 game at Florida International, Miami credits senior shortstop Javy Rodriguez with three hits in five trips during a 7-1 defeat. But the Golden Panthersthe home teamscored two of those three as errors, not hits. So starting pitcher Josh Banks gave up no earned runs in his five-inning stint, as opposed to the one earned run Miamis box score charged him.
Baseball isnt the only sport that has such discrepancies. Wright says Division I-A and I-AA football are the only classifications in which the NCAA has total control over national statistics, so home-team scoring crops up often in sports like basketball and soccer. In part because baseballs schedule overlaps with the basketball and hockey Final Fours, the NCAA doesnt even compile national statistics for baseball until April.
"For football, the home team reports the statistics, and we dont change stats unless it goes through and gets approved by the home team," Wright said. "For baseball, we really dont change them. Theres really nothing we can do if the two teams report things differently.
"With seven people in the office, we dont have the manpower to make changes like that or to keep up with baseball stats while basketball is going on."
Just another reason why we turn to scouts as much as stats when it comes time to put players on our All-America teams and when we choose our College Player of the Year.
News & Notes
North Carolina senior Chris Maples might be the least-heralded player making a significant contribution on a Top 25 team. When he came out of Orange High in Hillsborough, N.C., Maples was considered a fringe Atlantic Coast Conference player. After hitting three home runs in the Tar Heels three-game sweep of Florida State, Maples looked anything but fringy. Playing third base and right field as well as pitching out of the bullpen, Maples has become one of the ACCs most valuable players. After a two-homer, seven-RBI performance in an 18-2 win against Towson, Maples was hitting .320-11-34.
Has any player meant as much to his program as righthander Shane Kominethe Hawaiian Punchoutto Nebraska? Komine, recently featured in Sports Illustrateds Faces in the Crowd, holds virtually every pitching record worth having for the Huskers, who have won three Big 12 Conference tournaments since he arrived on campus and have sold out their season tickets for new Hawks Field at Haymarket Park. He hasnt lost in league play in two years. The last such pitcher might just be another Hawaii native and strikeout king, Rainbows lefthander Derek Tatsuno back in the late 1970s.
The two most attractive coaching openings for the offseason are at Fresno State and Michigan. The Bulldogs offer a strong baseball tradition, an above-average ballpark and a strong fan base. Athletic director Scott Johnson also has to name a pair of basketball coaches to fill Fresno States new arena, but he has made the baseball job a priority. Michigans position has its attractionsit is Michigan, after all. But an associate athletic director is heading up the search. The fact the AD isnt involved could indicate to prospective candidates that the Wolverines arent ready to upgrade their commitment to baseball.
UC Irvine was off to a 16-13 start after bringing its program back this season, thanks in part to a pair of stellar freshmen. First baseman Matt Anderson was leading the team in hitting at .420-1-17 and had a .496 on-base percentage. Lefthander Glenn Swanson pitched his way into the rotation between talented juniors Paul French and Sean Tracey. Swanson, a 6-footer listed at 155 pounds, was 4-1, 2.70 and had allowed just 36 hits in 50 innings.
John Manuel is Baseball Americas senior writer for college baseball. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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