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Intangibles and Long Odds

I want to first say that I love Boyd World’s site.  I think it is an invaluable resource for college baseball fans, and he is the foremost guy on the net applying some sort of statistical rigor to college baseball.  I think his ISR rankings are a better metric than RPI, which is horribly flawed, and I really miss his weekly column.  Enough sucking up, right?  Because you know what is coming next. 

His odds on the Supers are 70/30 in favor of UC-Irvine.   There’s just no way that is accurate.  If UCI has a 70% chance of winning this series, that would mean that LSU is vastly, vastly overseeded and that UCI should be a national seed.  While LSU’s seed is borderline and UCI was screwed with a 2-seed, those two propositions just aren’t true and I would venture to guess Boys knows it. 

I have no problem with saying UCI is the favorite.  They’re the team coming off a CWS campaign and LSU is back in the tourney off of a layoff.  UCI is great program and they can pitch lights out.  But 70/30 is a blowout.  That’s a mismatch, and I’m sorry, if LSU wins this series, it will not be a massive upset.  Maybe a slight one, but to say that UCI would win more than two-thirds of the times these teams meet in the Box is just absurd.  I love the numbers.  I’m a numbers guy, but there’s a point when you have to sit back and say: what are the numbers telling me?  Does this make sense? 

So instead of going into the weeds on pitching and hitting again, let’s look at some non-statistical factors in this series.  We already know UCI has the pitching edge, and LSU has the hitting edge, so let’s look at a few other factors which may not show up in the statsheet:

1.       COACHING

The verdict is still out on Mainieri, but I think the early returns are very positive.  I think the biggest positive is that he is not a “by the book” coach.  He played a lot of small ball at Notre Dame, but as soon as he was able to recruit some mashers at LSU, he’s let them hit.  He will lay down the occasional bunt, and he loves to send guys in motion.  Just about everyone is a threat to run on his team.  He’s willing to play it however the game is going.  And I love his management of the pitching staff.  LSU has lacked a third starter all year, and he’s been fine using Bradford as a super reliever.  He uses his best reliever as a middle innings guy.  He just isn’t a doctrinaire sort of coach.  And that is a real virtue.  Gillespe is a great coach, and he has a CWS title on his resume, but I will say he is married to small ball.  Get a guy on first with less than two outs, and he’s gonna bunt.  That’s just how he plays the game.  His bullpen use is far more traditional, but then again, he’s got a much better rotation to play with.  He’s just not as flexible of a coach.  I don’t think he needs to be, because obviously his system works, but it is something to keep in mind.

2.       WEATHER

It’s gonna be hot.  The Sunday game starts at 4 PM, and it will be charitably described as sweltering.  Have you ever been to California this time of year?  Well, let me tell you, it’s beautiful.  It’s almost the absence of weather.  And now they are flying down to a swamp which has the weather conditions you might expect in hell.   It’s not a huge factor, but don’t doubt the ability of Southern Louisiana heat to strip away your will to live, much less play baseball.

3.       THE BALLPARK

To win this game, UCI has got to keep the ball in the yard.  They can’t afford a slugfest.  Alex Box is a tiny park with the kind of power alleys that make a pitcher break out into hives.  The park is condusive to high scoring games.  High scoring games likely means an LSU victory.    

4.       EMOTION

Intangibles are often the last refuge of scoundrels and sportswriters, and I normally don’t pay them that much heed.  Mainly because both teams really want to win and have leadership and blah blah blah.  No one got to the supers without some clutch hitting and intangibles.  But it is worth mentioning this is the farewell to the Box.  The place ought to be absolutely jumping as we try and close out the Box with the good guys making a dogpile. 

 

So… who’s gonna win?  Beats the hell out of me.  Both teams are really good.  But let me tell you, I absolutely cannot wait for these games to start.  Just get on with it, already.