Introducing College Splitsby Jeff Sackmann and Kent Bonham
February 09, 2007
Last week, Baseball Prospectus prospect guru Kevin Goldstein marked the opening of the college baseball season with a reminder of just how little we "know" about college players:
At the end of the year, Ike Davis' 9-for-11, four-double weekend or Matt Spencer’s 7-for-9 run with 15 total bases will do wonders for their final totals, but not be especially informative. Until college statistics get more advanced, with not just much-needed standard splits, but also a separation based on competition, I’ll stick to the 20-80 scouting scores for making my judgments.
To some, that could be taken as a warning; to others, it reads as a simple celebration of the role of the scout. To us, it was further confirmation of what we have felt has been missing all along. It's because of this glaring need that, today, we launched CollegeSplits.com.
For as long as minor league splits have been readily available, better college data has been the next logical step. Last fall, we decided to make it our quest. Since then, we've built a database of more than 9,400 active college baseball players, from more than 270 teams. And counting.
For those already familiar with the format and layout of MinorLeagueSplits.com, the site should be pretty straightforward. As many splits as humanly (or technically) possible, for every single college player. That’s the goal.
While the vast majority of those thousands of players will never make an impact in pro ball, we think college splits are an even more interesting field for study than their minor league counterparts. College baseball has many characteristics we don't normally associate with even the lowest levels of the minors:
- lopsided, exhibition-like games (think Yankees vs. Royals...Burlington Royals)
- crazily different parks, with run factors below 80 and above 150
- short, unbalanced schedules
- very different ability levels even on single teams
Much of sabermetrics is about adjusting for all the stuff that old-fashioned stats don't take into account. Given the degree to which major- and minor-league stats can be profitably tweaked based on context, it stands to reason that the same work ought to be done with even greater fervor for college numbers. So let's get at it.
In this work, as in so much else, we're indebted to many other researchers. In the world of college baseball stats, the deepest tip of the cap goes to Boyd Nation, who has tirelessly collected (and made freely available!) traditional stats for college players. And his "Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha" column is a must-read for anyone interested in keeping up to date on research related to the college game. His site is the unrivaled standard-bearer.
Now it's time to build on those achievements, taking advantage of the wealth of freely available information. Home/road, left/right, situational hitting, start/relief, pinch-hitting, position-by-position, inning-by-inning—if you can dream it up, we've probably got it on our list. Not only that, but with the power of avilable play-by-play data, we can begin to adjust for many of the vagaries of college baseball in even greater detail.
At this early stage of the season, no team has played more than a few games, many of which are hugely mismatched. So, while we're tracking this data, we're not about to claim to give you numerical proof of who's the best context-adjusted hitter or pitcher, or opine on who your favorite team should draft this June based on stats alone. However, we have put together some data so you can get a taste of what we'll be tracking throughout the season.
For example, here are some splits for Mitch Canham, an Oregon State catcher drafted but not signed by the St. Louis Cardinals last year:
Split AB H 2B HR BB HP K BA OBP SLG Overall 11 6 2 0 4 1 0 0.545 0.688 0.727 vs LHP 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.500 0.500 0.500 vs RHP 9 5 2 0 4 1 0 0.556 0.714 0.778 Home 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 Road 11 6 2 0 4 1 0 0.545 0.688 0.727 RISP 3 1 0 0 1 0 0 0.333 0.500 0.333 C & L 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 C & L: Close and LateAs we said, there's still quite a lot of baseball to be played. The four games the Beavers have logged so far came against the University of Hawaii-Hilo, not exactly a powerhouse (average temperature: 81 degrees; average runs scored per game: 1.67). But as more college teams kick off their seasons in the next few days and the data pile up, there will be plenty more to be found on the site. And as the carpal tunnel in our fingers begins to subside, we'll give you new and different splits, each with greater levels of granularity.
Want to know the direction or type of each batted ball hit by Vandy’s Pedro Alvarez, and who’s playing in the field at each defensive position at the time? Want to be able to view a season-long hit chart for Washington State’s Jared Prince, without having to constantly listen to the annoying “ping!” of an aluminum bat? Want to know how your favorite hitting prospect performs against the top 10% of opposing pitchers? So do we.
Some of these splits will be available publicly right away; others will take some time. But we’ll do all we can to get them in your hands, as soon as we can. We've kicked off the site with a few sets of hitting and pitching splits for the defending champ Oregon State Beavers, which you can check out by clicking here.
While you wait for the rest of the NCAA, remember: While most of major league-fandom is stuck in the cold of winter, there’s a great big world of baseball already being played near you. Head to the
Jeff Sackmann is the creator of MinorLeagueSplits.com. With Kent Bonham, he founded CollegeSplits.com. Jeff and Kent blog about college baseball and the draft, and you can follow them on Twitter for bite-sized snacks of minor league and college stats. Jeff also has an email address.