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2020 Ivy League Baseball Stock Watch



The Ivy League stands out as the most unique Division I athletic conference in the country, and not just because of the academic standing of its member institutions.

From an athletic standpoint, its membership is locked in. Membership as an Ivy League institution goes far beyond athletics, another unique quality of the conference, so its members aren’t looking for a way out, and while the Ivy League has occasionally poked around at the idea of expanding, nothing has come to pass or appeared imminent in recent years.

On the diamond, there is a lot of parity. No one team has dominated the proceedings over the last five full seasons, and most teams in the league have taken a turn or two competing near the top of the standings during that time.

Four different teams represented the Ivy League in the NCAA Tournament in the last five seasons, and in a show of what the conference is capable of, two different teams advanced to regional finals once they got there.

Five-Year Standings
*2020 records not included

TeamIvy RecordWinning Pct.Overall RecordWinning Pct.
Columbia64-3862.75108-11748.00
Yale60-4159.41108-11348.87
Pennsylvania58-4357.43103-10250.24
Dartmouth58-4357.4393-11245.37
Harvard49-5348.04103-10749.05
Princeton39-5242.8667-13433.33
Cornell42-6041.1876-11440.00
Brown36-6635.2962-12932.46

Columbia, which entered the years in this data sample as the clear class of the Ivy League, is rewarded for its consistency here. It finished atop the five-year standings thanks in large part to being the only team not to have any seasons under .500 in conference play in the last five years. On the other end of the spectrum, Cornell and Brown consistently struggled to keep up, with no better than .500 seasons between them. Every other team was on the roller coaster to some degree, with standout seasons and underwhelming ones in just about equal measure.

Team-by-Team Five-Year Trends

The following are summations of how each Ivy League program performed over the last five full seasons. The arrow designation of up, down and to the side represent the results of the last five seasons, not a projection of the years to come.

Columbia—⬅️➡️

Columbia comes out of this five-year sample as the most successful Ivy League program, but it also came into the five-year sample as the most successful Ivy League program, so the arrows point to the side. The Lions reached the NCAA Tournament in 2015 and 2018, and in the former instance, pushed host Miami to a seventh game in their regional. While it’s true that no one team in recent years has really established itself as the dominant force in the Ivy League, Columbia has come closest.

Yale—⬆️

Yale enjoyed a big breakthrough in 2017, winning the Ivy League’s automatic bid for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1993. Then the Bulldogs put some icing on that cake by advancing to the regional final in Corvallis. Also, a run of four consecutive seasons finishing better than .500 in conference play from 2016-2019 is the first time Yale has finished over .500 four years in a row since the 90s, when it did so every year from 1991-1998.

Pennsylvania—⬅️➡️

Penn was consistently competitive within the Ivy League over the last five seasons, which is similar to what it did in the years leading up to this data sample. A 16-4 Ivy League record in 2015 was the high-water mark for the last five years, followed by a 12-8 conference record in 2017. The Quakers are currently looking for their first Ivy League championship and NCAA Tournament appearance since 1995.

Dartmouth—⬇️

A down arrow for Dartmouth is harsh because it has mostly continued to compete near the top of the conference under longtime coach Bob Whalen. The quality of play, at least in terms of regular season wins and losses, hasn’t dipped all that much. However, the 2017 season broke a streak of nine consecutive years that Dartmouth competed in the Ivy League championship, and in 2019, an 8-13 record brought the first under-.500 season in conference play since 2007. It’s fair to expect Dartmouth to bounce right back moving forward as it looks for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010.

Harvard—⬆️

After struggling to stay competitive in the Ivy League for much of the 2010s, Harvard came on strong the last couple of years. In 2018, it finished over .500 in conference play for the first time since 2007, and in 2019, it took a big step and won the Ivy’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament for its first postseason appearance since 2005. More so than any other program in the conference, Harvard’s fortunes have completely turned around within the last five seasons.

Princeton—⬅️➡️

The Tigers reached one NCAA Tournament in the last five seasons, as they advanced to the big stage at the end of the 2016 season. That’s identical to the previous five seasons, when it went to a regional once, in 2011. In fact, in a statistical quirk, Princeton’s last three postseason appearances have all come exactly five years apart from each other. Although the team has been inconsistent in the years since that 2016 regional appearance, if the pattern holds, expect a rebound for the Tigers in short order.

Cornell—⬇️

Most of Cornell’s notable recent successes came in the years just prior to this five-year data sample getting underway. Specifically, its last NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2012, and its most recent season finishing over .500 in conference play came in 2013. The Big Red haven’t really bottomed out in recent years by any stretch of the imagination and they still managed to win more than 40% of their games in the last five years, but they’ll go into the next five years really looking for some forward momentum.

Brown—⬅️➡️

Brown’s last five seasons aren’t much different than the previous five seasons, which is to say that it was a struggle to stay competitive year to year. The last time the Bears finished at least .500 in conference play was 2010, and of the last five seasons, the 2019 season was the only one in which Brown didn’t finish last in its division (the Ivy League used a divisional format until 2017) or last in the conference overall.

Ealy, Jerrion And Plumlee, John Rhys Football (Courtesy Of Ole Miss)

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Regional Recap by Year

YearTeamResult
2019Harvard0-2 in Oklahoma City Regional
2018Columbia0-2 in Gainesville Regional
2017Yale2-2 in Corvallis Regional
2016Princeton0-2 in Lafayette Regional
2015Columbia3-2 in Coral Gables Regional

In the last five postseasons, there has been no middle ground in the performance of Ivy League teams. They have either gone quietly with 0-2 showings or have advanced to regional finals. In the case of Columbia in 2015, it not only reached the final, but then beat host Miami to force a deciding seventh game. While Ivy League teams are almost always going to be less talented than the other teams in a regional, it makes sense that certain Ivy League teams can compete in that setting. Because teams in the conference don’t typically have the types of players who leave early in the draft and because they don’t rely on transient talent from the transfer portal or from junior colleges, the champion of the Ivy League is generally a team made up of an older group of players who have been playing together for a long time.

Top Draft Picks

PlayerYearPick
Simon Whiteman, SS, Yale2019266th overall
Duncan Robinson, RHP, Dartmouth2016284th overall
Beau Sulser, RHP, Dartmouth2017298th overall
Patrick McColl, 1B, Harvard2019314th overall
Austin Bossart, C, Pennsylvania2015414th overall

Whiteman was the highest-drafted position player from the Ivy League since big leaguer Ryan Lavarnway was drafted 202nd overall out of Yale in 2008. The 2019 draft was also the first time the Ivy League had multiple position players taken in the first 10 rounds since 2004. Sulser was part of a bumper crop of Ivy League players moving into pro baseball in 2017, as he was one of 13 players selected that year. The next year, that number was down to just four players, but was back up to nine in 2019, the same number of draftees as 2015 and 2016. Robinson was, and perhaps still is, the closest of this group to the big leagues. He went to spring training with the Cubs in 2019 and was slated to pitch that season in Triple-A, but that May, he underwent Tommy John surgery.

Coaching Changes

YearTeamOutIn
2015CornellBill WalkenbachDan Pepicelli

The Ivy League is a conference full of established, tenured coaches. Four of the eight sitting head coaches have been in their post for more than 10 years, and three of those four have been in place for more than 20 years. So it’s no big surprise that there was just one coaching change in the past five offseasons. Pepicelli came to Cornell after six seasons spent as an assistant to Jack Leggett at Clemson.

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