By Kurt Wirth
It strikes me, being the stats nerd I am, how under-developed college baseball coverage is. I mean, it’s really, really poor. PerfectGame and BaseballAmerica are both Rivals-esque sites, relying more heavily upon writing and features than statistics and data. WarrenNolan does some fancy numbers work, but only weighted crunching to produce RPIs. The only reliable source for those of you unfortunate enough to share my addiction to numbers is d1baseball.com, though the depth just can’t match what’s available for college football and basketball.
Okay, enough with the complaining.
I bring the previous point up because I wanted to compare the major conferences and their performances thus far, and it took a great deal more effort than I expected. I was able to pull some data together, and it’s not a pretty picture for several of them.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The SEC is dominating the college baseball scene so far. Owning the best overall record in the country, the league also has played more games versus major-conference teams than any other. Here’s how the performances compare:
- SEC 40-13 (.755)
- ACC 29-10 (.744)
- Pac 12 24-13 (.649)
- Big 12 23-13 (.639)
- C-USA 17-16 (.515)
- Big 10 11-22 (.333)
- Big East 9-21 (.300)
For the record, I counted Conference USA due to its relevance on the college baseball landscape and the Big East because its considered a major conference in other sports.
It seems obvious that there are three levels of play on the college baseball diamond this year. There’s the SEC and the ACC, a gap followed by the Pac 12 and the Big 12, another gap and then everyone else. Admittedly, it’s early, but this follows a trend. Here’s the conference RPI rankings by WarrenNolan last season:
1. SEC .5728
2. ACC .5720
3. Pac 12 .5640
4. Big 12 .5435
6. C-USA .5329
11. Big 10 .5170
13. Big East .5104
Unlike football, there isn’t a media outcry about scheduling for the Southeastern Conference baseball teams. The league has played the most games against the other “majors” and holds the second-best record in those games. This on top of the disastrous Mizzou weekend sweep by Southern Miss of C-USA. Here’s the conferences’ records against each other:
- SEC 9-4 (.692)
- ACC 6-5 (.545)
- Pac 12 7-3 (.700)
- Big 12 0-4 (.000)
- C-USA 5-3 (.625)
- Big 10 4-6 (.400)
- Big East 1-7 (.125)
In short, the SEC is – once again – the haven for college baseball talent. Not a bad place to be for fans, either. Due in large part to the sunny weather (minus a few snow storms this past weekend) and mild temperatures this time of year, the SEC also held the top five spots nationally for average attendance. Led by LSU, with an average more than double that of sixth place (!), the conference held the top five attendance spots for the weekend and 10 of the top 25.
I say this, though, with some caution. No matter how much SEC fans may scream, call and comment, there very clearly is a gap in both talent and practice time between the SEC and northern schools. There is little coincidence that a conference as wealthy and powerful as the Big 10 is located primarily in the Midwestern states and holds an 11-22 record after a weekend.
I’d also like to point out that the SEC’s performance in football is far and away more impressive than its domination on the diamond. College football is infinitely more competitive, receiving more funding and television exposure across the board. Schools must compete in football. Financially, baseball is a novelty.
This is relevant because winning seven-straight national titles in college football, after the sport has matured to where it is today, is darn-near unthinkable. This comparison can be paralleled to Nick Saban, and his growing dynasty, and Bear Bryant. Saban’s current beastly program, again, is far more impressive today than Bryant’s was. It’s simply easier to excel when you’ve got less competition.
Regardless, 2013 is looking like a pretty fantastic year for Southeastern Conference fans, particularly in its exceedingly sizeable baseball stadiums.
Kurt Wirth is graduating in the spring with a Master’s in Communication and Media Technology. A lifelong follower of SEC athletics, you can follow him on Twitter @SEC_Nerd.