All the anecdotal evidence resulting from the NCAA’s compacted schedule this year, from scores in our inbox to coaches’ comments, told us scoring was up. Now, there is hard evidence to back it up.
The NCAA, after a two-year hiatus, issued its midseason trends report for baseball today, and it shows that scoring is up significantly. Last year, teams were averaging 6.13 runs per game at midseason and finished up at 6.10. This year, scoring is at 6.50 runs per game, an increase of just more than six percent. Home runs also have increased from 0.65 at midseason 2007 to 0.77 in ’08, an increase of just over 15 percent.
It makes sense that earned run averages also would be up, and they are, to 5.43 from 5.10, but strikeouts also have jumped, from 6.75 to 7.03.
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This isn’t all the result of the compacted schedule, of course, but that schedule is the biggest change in college baseball from last year to this one, and coaches have talked all season about either having to use pitchers they otherwise wouldn’t have used due to staff fatigue, or having their offenses take advantage of another team’s tired pitchers. North Carolina, for example, is in a stretch of eight straight weeks playing five games a week. Most teams don’t have the Tar Heels’ pitching depth to withstand such a grueling schedule without at least a few high-scoring games thrown in.
Among the usual high-scoring teams is Georgia Southern, which lost a 14-8 game Wednesday to visiting Georgia Tech. The Eagles have played 35 games, and at least one team has scored in double figures in 24 of them; they had one three-game series with Western Carolina in which both teams scored double figures in each game. With College of Charleston in the same league, it comes as no surprise that the Southern Conference is the most offensive league in the land, hitting .308 collectively and averaging 7.92 runs per game per team, well ahead of the second-place Pacific-10 (7.31).
The Southeastern Conference, normally thought of as an offense-first league, actually leads the nation with a collective 4.23 ERA, followed by three other power conferences—Big 12 (4.36), Pac-10 (4.40) and ACC (4.51). South Carolina, whose pitching staff was doubted here and elsewhere entering the season, just tossed a shutout last night that doesn’t even count in these stats, which are through games of April 13. The Gamecocks shut out sliding rival Clemson 6-0 (more on the Tigers tomorrow).
We had some debate in putting our midseason 64-team field together over who was more worthy of a No. 1 seed, Oklahoma State or Texas. This week’s answer is neither, at least according to Texas-Arlington. The Mavericks, just 17-20 overall, beat both teams this week, winning 4-3 at Texas on Wednesday night after beating the Cowboys 7-3 on Tuesday.