Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Drive for 35

What’s the magic number in baseball? What’s that super number that people will look back and use to determine if a season is a true success or not?

In basketball it’s 20 wins. In College Football? It’s 10 wins. Now these numbers don’t guarantee a NCAA appearance, but they do give a good indication of your team’s worth and inclusion argument come selection time.

For college baseball, I think, that number is 35. 35 wins and you can make a  definite case for an NCAA bid. (40 wins and you have a definite case for hosting a regional). Why 35?

Last year the SEC sent 9 teams to the NCAA Baseball Tournament. South Carolina (38-21); UGA (35-21-1), Ole Miss (37-24), Kentucky (42-17), Arkansas (34-22), Alabama (34-26), Florida (34-22), LSU (43-16-1) and Vanderbilt (40-20). With an average of 37.4 wins. Given Auburn’s RPI and Strength of Schedule this year, I gave us a leeway of 2 game. Plus, Drive for 35 rhymes.

Can Auburn make it to 35? Well, other than just looking at the schedule and going by name alone, it’s hard to tell. Unless you look at the numbers. Especially the ISR.

THE ISR 

Developed by Boyd’s World, the ISR (Iterative Strength Ratings) is a good no-nonsense way to tell if one team is better than the other and who would be favored if the two teams played each other. But just what is it?  I’ll let him explain it a little better:

What are the ISR's?

The ISR's are the results of an algorithm designed to measure the quality of a team's season to date by combining their winning percentage with the difficulty of their schedule. The algorithm computes all teams simultaneously and attempts to take advantage of inter-regional games more accurately than other rating systems.

How are the ISR's computed?

The basic idea is an iterative one. Begin with all teams set to an even rating -- 100 in this case. Then, for each game played, give each team the value of their opponent's rating plus or minus a factor for winning or losing the game -- 25 in this case. Total all of a team's results, divide by the number of games played, and that's the end of a cycle. Then use those numbers as the start of the next cycle until you get the same results for each team for two consecutive cycles.

So how can you use it to calculate a schedule? You can read the Boyd’s World explanation. Basically, the bigger the gap, the bigger the probability of winning.

 



THE SCHEDULE



Auburn’s current ISR is 31. Only 4 opponents on Auburn’s schedule (Arkansas, Elon, Kentucky, Georgia Southern) have higher ISRs. The ISR fluctuates throughout the year, so for now, it’s hard to use the ISR math for games past but we can try to use it to get a good judge of Auburn’s future.



Opponent/ISR/Difference



Tennessee/131/+100



Charleston Southern/195/+164



Arkansas/29/-2



Samford/166/+135



Troy/45/+14



Vanderbilt/51/+20



South Alabama/106/+75



Mississippi State/48/+17



Georgia State/112/+81



Florida/66/+35



South Carolina/57/+26



Ole Miss/52/+21



Kentucky/8/-23



Georgia Southern/30/-1



Alabama/74/+43



THE PROBABLE WINS



Gaps of more than 70 will be counted as probable wins. That gives us series against UT (+3), Charleston Southern (+2), Samford (+2), Georgia State (+1), South Alabama (+2) for a total of 10 more wins, (21 total).



THE PROBABLE LOSSES



Only Kentucky looks like a probable loss, based on the ISR. So that’s now –3 for a record of 21-14.



The only teams left with a Higher ISR are Georgia Southern and Arkansas. But just barely. 4 games total. Let’s say Auburn on wins 1 of these games. Bringing the record to 22-17.



THE TOSS UPS



The rest are essential toss ups. Let’s say, for arguments sake, that gaps between 20-30 points are even pushes, Gaps less than 20 have the opponent favored, and over 30 are Auburn favored.



OVER 30



That would be a six game series with Alabama and Florida. We’ll set Auburn at 4-2 for that set. (26-19)



20-30



Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Ole Miss. 9 games. Again, just to argue, We’ll set these as a straight split, with 1 extra game that could go either way. We’ll say 5-4. (31-23)



LESS THAN 20



That leaves 2 other opponents (Troy, Mississippi State). 5 games. 2-3. (33-26).



WILL THIS WORK?



Possibly. It’s better than just randomly saying one team is better than the other. But using this system as is, puts Auburn at 33 wins. Two short of the goal of 35.



It will be a good measuring stick for the rest of the year. Even if the ISR doesn’t pan out, Auburn still knows it needs to shoot for 35 wins for any chance of a post season.

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