Yesterday, I posted my statistical – based predictions for who would win the 2010 College World Series. I got a positive response from all the readers, but they know, like I do, that in the playoffs, you can just about throw away all the stats from the regular season – The College World Series is all about what you’ve done lately, how you’re playing over the past couple of weeks, and which team has the heart to win it all.
So like I promised yesterday, here is part two of my 2010 CWS prediction analysis which pretty much ignores all the stats I gave you yesterday and attempts to analyze the “intangibles.”
Who’s Hot Right Now?
The short answer is…everyone. If you have made it this far, you are undoubtedly playing your best ball of the season. But there are some teams who stand out from the pack. When we look at the best of the best in this year’s College World Series, we need to look at the teams who are doing it on both sides of the ball – offensively and defensively. Clemson, Oklahoma, and TCU are putting together some of their best ball of the season.
Clemson has been an offensive machine all season long, and they seem to be getting even hotter as the playoffs move along. Putting up 19 runs against a Super Regional Team is no easy feat, but the Tigers did it. With the exception of their Super Regional Game 1, they are looking as good as any team in this tournament.
Oklahoma improved every single game of their Super Regional Series against Virginia. After losing a nail biter in Game 1, they came back and brought the lumber putting up 10 and 11 runs in games two and three respectively. Their pitching also effectively shut down a very potent Cavaliers lineup. It is safe to say that they are playing their best ball of the year as well.
TCU. I don’t even know what to say about them other than wow. I don’t think anyone had them winning their matchup against Texas but they did it anyways, and most surprising of which, they did it with pitching. Even though they are at their hottest, they are still a tentative pick to win any matchups because their pitching could go in either direction. They aren’t going to put up the runs to blow anyone away, but if their pitching shows up, they are the most dangerous team in this tournament.
Valiant in the Face of Opposition
This year’s CWS has a mixture of both favorites and underdogs from the 2010 Super Regionals. There are only three national seeds left, with some big names going down including Texas, Virginia, and Coastal Carolina. That means that at least three of the teams in the CWS went on the road and outplayed a heavily favored opponent to earn their trip to Omaha. This is such a crucial characteristic for a team to have because nobody has a “Home Game” in Omaha.
Geographically, some teams might have an advantage (think Oklahoma), and other teams might have a great travelling fan base (Florida), but in the end, teams that know how to win in hostile environments will have a definite advantage. For this reason, Oklahoma and TCU probably have the upper hand in this category. TCU possibly had the toughest draw of anyone left in the CWS and they came through with flying colors. They didn’t get down on themselves after getting trounced by Texas 14-1, instead they came back to play what might be their best game all year, beating the second seeded Longhorns 4-1.
Cool Under Pressure
For some teams, being down by a run or two in the late innings is equivalent to a death sentence. Other teams relish the opportunity to come through in the clutch. Teams that stay cool under pressure have more than just confidence and a relaxed approach to the game, they also do the little things that allow them to even have a shot when the 8th and 9th innings roll around. Deep bullpens and solid hitting 1-9 are the tangible factors that equate to late inning comebacks, but even then, it’s not always enough to get over the hump and earn that come from behind victory.
In the Super Regionals, I saw three teams that seemed to stay cool no matter what the situation was. UCLA was all but dead, one out away from being swept. But they stayed cool and took advantage of Fullerton’s mistakes.
Arizona State played a pair of 12 inning games that literally could have gone either way. They were down to their final strike in Game 1, but found a way to tie the game and eventually win. Game 2 also came down to the wire, but a clutch homer gave them the win. When games that could “Go Either Way” consistently end up as wins for a particular team, this is something to take notice of.
South Carolina is another one of those teams. Their back and forth affairs with Coastal Carolina were probably some of the least talked about games of the Super Regionals, but both times they came out on top, giving them a series sweep of nationally seeded coastal Carolina. They didn’t back down when facing one or two run deficits, showing that they really are cool under pressure.
Been There, Done That
Nothing comes as a surprise to championship teams. They seem to expect; even anticipate every scenario and this is a product of great coaching. Teams that display the “Been there, done that” attitude aren’t cocky, they are just confident because they have played enough games against quality opponents to be able to comfortably make split second decisions with the game on the line.
In the late innings, knowing where to place a bunt can mean the difference between killing a rally or breaking the game wide open. On the defensive side of things, great teams seem to always be in control of the situation. Teams never seem to take the extra base against them, they are always just a double play away from getting out of a jam, and more often than not, they get that ground ball.
Florida State is one of those teams that seems to be playing an “easy” version of the game. They don’t make mistakes in the late innings because they are so well coached. Every throw is crisp, every pitch is on point and every offensive strategy is perfectly executed.
Arizona State also puts out an air of confidence. They never seem to stress when they are called upon to make a play or execute a pitch because they have been there so many times. They played the toughest schedule in the nation according to their RPI, and as a result, they have met every challenge from the best teams in the nation. This is important heading into Omaha, because every single team playing for the 2010 College Baseball Championship is a great team.
And the Predicted Winner Is?
So who has the advantage this year. Obviously it’s anyone’s tournament to win or lose, but to find our winner, we have to go back to the most important intangible of all – Cool Under Pressure. Since this is such an evenly matched College World Series, we have to look at teams that are able to tip the scales in their favor which gives ASU, UCLA and South Carolina the immediate advantage. Combine that with experience and the ability to play well in the face of opposition and we are left with just one team standing. Arizona State University. The Devils have the statistical advantage without a doubt, but it also appears that they have the intangible advantage as well.
No idea how the 2010 CWS will turn out, but if I had to pick a winner, the Sun Devils would be my choice. That’s not slamming any other teams in the tournament, because they are all quality ball clubs; it’s just a prediction.
Now Let’s Hear Yours (Comments Below).