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BWC SOS Takes A Step Backwards


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Welcome to Dirtbags Baseball blog! I was introduced to Long Beach State baseball in 2002 when my nephew, Neil Jamison, joined the team (and university) as a freshman. I started the blog in March of 2004, and generally discuss the team, current players and those that have moved on to professional baseball - as Neil has done in the San Diego Padres organization. Living in San Diego County, and with Neil moving to the next level, I won't be attending as many Dirtbags games. But, mostly from a distance, I'll remain a Dirtbags fan. I welcome tips on stories and information concerning the Dirtbags (current, past and future). I can be contacted at


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Friday, December 23, 2005

BWC SOS Takes A Step Backwards

When the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee makes its choices for at-large post-season bids, they consider a number of factors but few would argue that Ratings Performance Index (or RPI) is the most important. To raise RPI, a team has to win, and at least as important, its opponents have to win (at least against their other opponents). Strength of Schedule (or SOS) is a measure of the quality of a teams opponents (and their opponent's opponents).

For several years, Boyd Nation has calculated and published his SOS, both intended and actual, at Intended SOS is the anticipated strength of schedule before any games are played, and is based upon the previous season's results. Actual SOS is calculated based upon actual results for the season in question. Boyd publishes them as the season progresses, and as final numbers after all the games are done. Boyd's SOS is the average of a team's opponent's Iterative Strength Rating (or ISR). ISR is a modification to the RPI used by the NCAA which corrects for bias primarily against teams in the western U.S. This bias is caused by the relative scarcity of Division I baseball programs in the west, compared to other parts of the country (especially the southeastern U.S.). This scarcity causes a team's opponent's winning percentage to come closer to .500 than it does in areas such as the southeast (since there tend to be a lot of common opponents for western teams).

This year, Paul Kislanko and have come out with it's version of intended SOS, both non-conference and overall. These ordinals are included in the table below. SEBaseball's calculations are somewhat different than Boyd Nation's. You can read all about it here, but the significant differences are:
SEBaseball uses RPI, while Boyd Nation uses ISR.
SEBaseball uses ordinal rankings, while Boyd Nation uses numeric values.
The RPI versus ISR difference is a little more obvious. We in the west like ISR because it (usually) seems a more fair measure of the quality of a team. But using the RPI in SOS is more pragmatic. It is, unfortunately, the value used by the Committee for at-large bids, so in the real world we gotta live and deal with it.

Be sure to read's explanation of why they are using ranking order, rather than numeric values. Paul can explain it better than I can, with my limited math and statistics accumen. But in a nutshell, Paul maintains that their formula does a better job of reflecting the depth of a schedule, as well as its overall strength. He explains that it corrects for extremes, and takes into account how weighted a schedule is to highly ranked, or lowly ranked, opponents.

The table below shows SEBaseball's intended non-conference, and overall, SOS for the upcoming season, for teams in the Big West Conference. These 2 columns are followed by Boyd Nation's intended 2005 SOS, and then the actual 2005 SOS. Unfortunately, Boyd is not out with his 2006 intended SOS article yet. I'll revisit this post when he is. There will be differences between SEBaseball and Boyd, and some may be substantial. But as I discuss below, these numbers have got to give Beach fans (and fans of other Big West teams) cause for some concern.
                   Intended    Intended    Intended   Actual
Non-conf. Overall Overall Overall
2006 SOS 2006 SOS 2005 SOS 2005 SOS
SEBaseball SEBaseball BoydsWrld BoydsWrld

Long Beach State 1 21 14 3

CS Fullerton 4 25 6 6
CS Northridge 13 27 17 21
UC Riverside 43 51 10 10
UC Irvine 61 53 13 9
UC Santa Barbara 75 57 8 8
Pacific 97 58 22 24
Cal. Poly SLO 114 85 16 23
UC Davis 141 71 26 25
While Boyd's numbers will likely be better, if only because he uses the ISR, I'm willing to bet that Cal. Poly and UC Davis aren't going to go from 114 and 141 in SEBaseball's SOS, to the numbers they had in Boyd's intended SOS last season (16 and 26). The 2 calculation methods don't appear to be grossly different. A 20 or 30 place improvement I'd buy, but not 100 slots. With the exception of Long Beach State, Fullerton and Northridge, the other 6 teams in the Big West appear to have taken a huge step down in scheduling. A couple of years ago, it looked like the Big West was headed towards 3 and sometimes 4 bids. Unfortunately, the bottom line is that unless 1 of those 6 wins the Conference title, it seems likely that the BWC isn't likely to have more than 2 teams playing in Regionals.

You have to admire Northridge's willingness to maintain a very demanding schedule. Last season they were 18-36 (17-36 against Div. I opponents), and finished 177th in RPI, and 120th in ISR. It would be understandable for them to schedule lighter to improve the W-L percentage.

What I can't understand is the huge step back for Cal. Poly. Last season they were 36-20, 57th in RPI and 15th in ISR. Had they played only a slightly more difficult schedule, they would likely have been selected to play in a Regional. Of their 29 scheduled non-conference games, only 5 are against teams with 2005 RPIs under 99 (3 against Washington, and 2 against Oregon State). That's digging a hole it will be hard to get out of. That said, there is hope that their actual SOS will be better than their intended SOS. Four of their opponents with 2005 RPIs worse than 100th are ranked in Collegiate Baseball's pre-season poll: San Diego at 36th (130th 2005 RPI), Fresno State at 40th (168th 2005 RPI), San Diego State at 60th (170th 2005 RPI) and Loyola Marymount at 68th (102nd 2005 RPI).

If the Big West Conference wants to remain a top 6 baseball power conference, its members - top to bottom - are going to have to schedule aggressively. Winning 40 games is great, but not if it's against such an easy schedule that it doesn't get you into the post-season.

posted on 12/23/2005 by Jeff Agnew

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