College Leaderboard Analysis

It’s easy to get lost in a daily sea of box scores during the college season, but sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. The NCAA has updated its statistics database after four weeks of play. A month into the season, here are a few things that jump out from the national leaderboards:

• A number of elite talents are performing at an elite level. The nation’s co-leaders in home runs are first-team preseason All-American Kris Bryant of San Diego and second-teamer D.J. Peterson of New Mexico. Another first-teamer, Phillip Ervin of Samford, is all alone in third place with seven long balls. Peterson also leads the nation in slugging (1.138), while Bryant ranks fourth (.897), first-teamer Trea Turner is sixth (.893), and Ervin is ninth (.828).

• Troy’s Danny Collins is all over the offensive leaderboards. He leads the nation in batting (.511), on-base percentage (.619) and RBIs per game (1.64), while ranking third in slugging (1.043). For more on Collins, see last week’s Streakin’ blog.

• Carlos Rodon has had a couple of rough outings in his first four starts for North Carolina State, but he still leads the nation with a whopping 17.01 strikeouts per nine innings. Rice’s Austin Kubitza is next at 15.58, while Oklahoma lefthander Billy Waltrip ranks third (14.73). All three of them have one thing in common: They all own wipeout power sliders. Waltrip complemented his 90-92 fastball with an 81-84 slider that helped him rack up a pair of strikeouts in the ninth inning Saturday at UCLA. Waltrip started the year in Oklahoma’s rotation, but he has found a home at the back of the bullpen.

“Billy’s got that good slider,” OU pitching coach Jack Giese said this weekend. “If we’re going to put him in that role for us, we might as well just put him in the stretch and see what happens.”

• Nolan Belcher has been a revelation as a senior for South Carolina, emerging as a stellar Sunday starter. He is riding an 18-inning scoreless streak into Southeastern Conference play this weekend. One statistic captures Belcher’s success perfectly: He leads the nation in strikeout-to-walk ratio, 30-to-1.

“For the first time since Nolan’s freshman year, he’s more confident,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “Our players believe in him, he’s one of the leaders of our team, a captain. He’s got four pitches, a plus changeup that is a really good pitch for him. Not only is his velocity up a tick, but his command has been much much sharper.”

• Mississippi shortstop Austin Anderson is enjoying a breakthrough year as a junior, hitting .387/.444/.500 with 14 RBIs. Most impressively, Anderson has been the toughest player to strike out in Division I—he has yet to strike out in 62 at-bats. Four other players have yet to strike out in 28 or more at-bats: Elon’s Sebastian Gomez (54 at-bats), St. Peter’s Matt Speckmann (38 AB), Louisiana State’s Tyler Moore (34 AB) and Harvard’s Carlton Bailey (28 AB).

• Arkansas has something special in freshman righthander Trey Killian, who leads the nation in WHIP (0.33) and ranks second in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (2.57).

• Only one pitcher in Division I has thrown at least 17 innings and maintained a 0.00 ERA: Texas Tech junior righthander Trey Masek, who has yet to allow a run—earned or otherwise—through 32 innings.

• Arizona and Virginia rack up triples every year by driving the alleys in their spacious ballparks; they ranked third and fourth nationally in triples a year ago. The Wildcats and Cavaliers are tied for the national lead this year with 15 triples, and Arizona’s Trent Gilbert is tied for the lead among all players with five. Southern’s Sean Washington also has five.

• A year after winning a school-record 41 games, Campbell is off to another strong start (13-2). The Camels have been running opponents ragged, leading the nation with 61 stolen bases in just 64 attempts—a remarkable 95 percent success rate. Leading the way is senior center fielder Ben McQuown, who leads the nation with 24 stolen bases in 24 tries. The undersized McQuown earned obvious comparisons to fellow Hawaiian Shane Victorino two summers ago in the Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League, where he ranked as the No. 10 prospect. Here’s an excerpt from Mike Lemaire’s report on him at the end of that 2011 summer, right before he transferred to Campbell: “Considered the best defensive center fielder in the league, McQuown has excellent speed, takes good routes to the ball and has a solid arm and strong release. He is an intelligent baserunner who takes good jumps and uses his speed to take extra bases.”

Louisville’s Adam Engel ranks second with 18 steals; the Cardinals also rank second as a team with 59 steals. We might have sold them short with a 70 speed grade in our preseason Top 25 scouting reports.

• Campbell is also the nation’s highest scoring team, averaging 9.93 runs per game (albeit against mostly softer Northern competition). Georgia Tech is not far behind at 9.875 runs per game against better competition.

• Dartmouth has only played three games, but it leads the nation with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. UC Irvine is fielding .993 in 16 games, and Lamar is fielding .992 in 16 games. Fifteen teams are fielding .980 or better.

• Cal State Fullerton led the nation in fewest walks per nine innings last year (1.87), and the Titans are doing even better through 16 games in 2013, leading the nation with 1.51 walks per nine innings. Fullerton coach Rick Vanderhook discussed his team’s strike-throwing prowess in detail in our March 1-3 Weekend Preview.

“The No. 1 key to everything is throwing strikes,” he said. “If you don’t give up free bases, and you take the outs that you should get, people are going to score runs, but you can limit the number of runs being scored.”

That philosophy is working for the eighth-ranked Titans, who have a solid 2.83 ERA. But the national leader in ERA is Oregon State, which has a miniscule 1.19 ERA through 15 games. Incidentally, the Beavers remain unbeaten.