2020 Patriot League Baseball Stock Watch
This offseason, we’re going to take deep dives into all 31 Division I baseball conferences, using five years’ worth of data to examine where each league has been and to try to project forward to where they might go.
Paul Kostacopoulos has built a well-oiled machine in the Navy baseball program, as the Midshipmen have finished in at least a tie atop the Patriot League standings in each of the last five seasons and have finished no worse than 13-7 in conference play during that time. Overall, Navy was 16 games better than any other Patriot League team between 2015-2019.
However, rival Army can hold one thing over Navy, and that’s that the Black Knights have been to two regionals in the last five years, in 2018 and 2019, whereas the Midshipmen went to just one, in 2016.
When you go beyond Navy in the standings, success in the Patriot League has been fairly well spread out.
Army has two regional appearances. Holy Cross has had just one season under .500 in the Patriot League in the last five years and made a regional appearance in 2017. Lehigh also made a regional appearance (in 2015) and produced the highest draft pick from the conference in the last five drafts in righthander Levi Stoudt.
In a college athletics landscape that has been marked by conference realignment over the last two decades, membership in the Patriot League has been remarkably stable. No school has departed since Colgate shuttered its program after the 1994 season and Fordham left one year later for the Atlantic 10.
*2020 records not included
|Team||Patriot Record||Winning Pct.||Overall Record||Winning Pct.|
Navy's dominance is not only seen in how much space there is between it and Holy Cross in second place, but also in the overall record and winning percentage. The Midshipmen are the only Patriot League team to win more total games than it lost in the last five seasons, and furthermore, when looking at overall winning percentage, it is more than 20 percentage points better than anyone else. Holy Cross’ consistency really gets rewarded here with its second-place standing. The Crusaders have finished in second place behind Navy in three of the last five seasons, and it has just once finished under .500 in conference play, when it went 11-14 in 2018.
Team-by-Team Five-Year Trends
The following are summations of how each Patriot 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.
Five-year runs don’t get much better than the one Navy just had. The last five seasons were marked by five regular-season titles and dominance over the competition, particularly on the mound, where Navy has had the conference’s pitcher of the year four of the last five years, including in 2019, when the award went to righthander Noah Song, a fourth-round pick of the Red Sox.
In 2017, Holy Cross made its first postseason appearance since 1978, and that alone is enough for the arrow to point up for the Crusaders, but their success in recent years goes beyond that one season. Three second-place finishes in the last five seasons is a good run for a program that had, until this five-year run, finished in second place or better just twice since 2000.
Before Navy developed into the most consistent program in the Patriot League, Army was the better of the two service academies and was arguably the best team in the conference. It went to regionals in 2012 and 2013, won the regular-season title in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and finished in a tie with Bucknell atop the standings in 2014. So while getting to back-to-back regionals in 2018 and 2019 is impressive, it’s mostly a mirror of what the program was doing previously.
The Mountain Hawks began this data set flying high, as they finished second in the Patriot League standings and then earned the conference’s automatic bid into regionals. While it hasn’t gone as well since, with a third-place finish and three consecutive fifth-place finishes to close out the sample, the arrow points up because the 2015 regional trip was the first for the program since 2006.
Although it hasn’t always done so while enjoying a ton of regular-season success, Bucknell has been a fairly regular participant in regionals through the years, and it most recently made trips in 2010 and 2014. It hasn’t enjoyed any of that type of success in the last five years, however, with just one season over .500 in Patriot League play and a third-place finish the best to show for this period of time.
The Leopards have struggled to remain competitive within the Patriot League over the last five seasons, with fourth-place finishes in 2015 and 2019 the best in the bunch, and that mirrors the previous five seasons. Between 2010-2014, Lafayette did have one third-place finish in the conference standings, but didn’t have any seasons playing better than .500 baseball in the Patriot League.
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Regional Recap by Year
|2019||Army||0-2 in Lubbock Regional|
|2018||Army||1-2 in Raleigh Regional|
|2017||Holy Cross||1-2 in Corvallis Regional|
|2016||Navy||1-2 in Raleigh Regional|
|2015||Lehigh||0-2 in Baton Rouge Regional|
Despite its status as a low-major league, the Patriot League’s participants in regionals have done a good job of competing once they arrive on the big stage, with three of the last five entrants winning a game. The only time a Patriot League team has won more than one game in a regional was 2009, when Army got to the regional final of the Austin Regional before being eliminated by host Texas. The Army teams of the last two years and any of the Navy teams of the last five years looked capable of achieving that, but it wasn’t to be.
Top Draft Picks
|Levi Stoudt, RHP, Lehigh||2019||97th overall|
|Noah Song, RHP, Navy||2019||137th overall|
|Connor Van Hoose, RHP, Bucknell||2018||247th overall|
|Justin Pacchioli, OF, Lehigh||2015||297th overall|
|Stephen Moore, RHP, Navy||2015||300th overall|
Stoudt and Song became the second and third-highest drafted players in Patriot League history, behind only Lehigh’s Matt McBride (75th overall) from 2006, but that’s not the only reason that 2019 was a standout draft for the league. The five total players selected are tied for second for the most selected in any one year from the conference, trailing only the six players selected in 2008. The 2015 draft, with two players featured in the table above, also had five players taken. Song is one of the most interesting prospects in recent history. There was no doubting his talent, but his service commitment to the Navy after graduation, and whether he might be able to defer said commitment, made his situation trickier than your average prospect.
|2016||Army||Matt Reid||Jim Foster|
The Patriot League made just one change in the offseasons following the 2015-2019 seasons, but it was one that paid dividends right away, with Foster leading the Black Knights into regionals in years two and three of his tenure. It’s worth noting that there were two coaching changes made in 2020. Longtime Lafayette coach Joe Kinney was set to retire at the end of the 2020 season, although no one could have predicted that time would come in March rather than May or June. Assistant coach Tim Reilly was elevated to take Kinney’s place. Holy Cross also made a change, with former coach Greg DiCenzo leaving to manage in the minor leagues for the Indians. Like Lafayette, Holy Cross chose to elevate an assistant coach with Ed Kahovec, who was the interim coach after DiCenzo’s departure, taking the reins.