Image credit: TCU SS Tommy Sacco (Photo courtesy of TCU)
ARLINGTON, Texas — If you look at the numbers that don’t involve mathematical formulas, Texas Christian has a pretty conventional, non-controversial case to host a regional.
It won the Big 12 regular season title with a 16-8 record, has a 36-20 overall record, went a respectable 7-5 against the four other projected regional teams in the Big 12 and it went into the Big 12 Tournament ranked in the top 10 in the Baseball America Top 25.
The problems crop up when you look at RPI. As of Saturday afternoon, the Horned Frogs’ RPI was stuck at 36. Reasonable people can look at that RPI and understand that it doesn’t accurately reflect the quality of the team or its resume, but as far as hosting goes, history suggests that an RPI that high is a non-starter.
A team hosting with an RPI in the 30s isn’t without precedent. UCLA hosted with a 34 RPI in 2011, a year in which it also won the Pac-12 regular season title. But that example might not be all that relevant.
The West Coast tends to get special dispensation in the RPI—it’s not uncommon for West Coast bubble teams to get into the field with RPIs in the 50s—and in 2011, that dispensation appears to have carried over to the host discussion.
TCU, fair or not, is not likely to get that same RPI allowance. It doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. It just means that TCU hosting would be a pretty sizable break from the norm.
It’s a conundrum on two fronts. For one, it is a bit strange that the team that won the Big 12 title is having RPI problems to begin with, especially when you consider that TCU also played quality games in non-conference play, including a tournament in Arizona that included games against top-100 RPI teams in California and Houston, and a road series against Kentucky.
There’s also a lot of general incredulity at the idea that it’s possible TCU won’t host, which is often expressed in frustration about how often RPI is seemingly taken as gospel in committee deliberations.
Acting head coach Bill Mosiello, who moved into the role when Kirk Saarloos was suspended after being ejected Thursday, voiced those kinds of frustrations after TCU’s loss to Oklahoma State Friday.
“The RPI is so strange,” he said. “Even I’m confused. It seems like teams get a lot of points for their RPI when they beat us, but it doesn’t seem like we get a whole lot of points when we beat somebody else. (The Big 12) is the third-rated RPI conference. It’s the balanced one where it’s not a deal where you don’t play three teams.
“We had to play in a great Big 12, we won it outright. So to me, how are you not a host? If you’re in the third-best RPI league, most years it’s two (in RPI). We win it outright, then we should be a host, but that’s not for me to say.”
Adding to the things that might work against TCU is that it can’t do anything else to help itself. It went 1-2 in the Big 12 Tournament and its one win was over Baylor, which didn’t help the Frogs’ metrics.
That’s compounded by the fact that Texas has moved more comfortably into hosting position and with a win over the Longhorns to begin the day Saturday in Arlington, Oklahoma State pushed its RPI up to 10.
Outside of the Big 12, North Carolina, East Carolina and Louisiana State have all played their way into the hosting discussion this week, which has further muddied the waters.
Ultimately, though, one can look at TCU’s resume up, down and sideways, but it’s going to come down to how the committee chooses to approach the debate between RPI versus an overall body of work.
If the RPI rules the day, as it so often has, TCU’s host hopes are in peril, at the very least. If the overall body of work takes precedence, it’s still going to be a crowded host picture, but the Horned Frogs should be no less than right in the middle of the discussion.