Are the Gamecocks the least talented team in Omaha?: A talent comparison of 2011 College World Series teams

Talent only gets you so far, right UCLA?

The College World Series will begin in less than a day's time, at which point we fans will be forced to forgo our  prognosticating and hand-wringing and let the chips fall where they may. Until that time, however, there is plenty of meaningless analysis to be done. After all, what would baseball be without obscure statistics?

One angle that I don't think has received much attention is the impact the MLB draft has on the College World Series. Although there is likely little in the way of causal relationships between the MLB draft and the CWS, correlational relationships may exist. What the MLB draft can tell us is how major league organizations value the players on the CWS teams. From there, one might infer the talent level of each club and thereby make an educated guess as to which teams should perform at a higher level.

To test this, I compiled and averaged each CWS team's draft picks both by round and by overall pick. Admittedly, this method of evaluation is rudimentary. I don't mean to imply that a team whose roster includes higher draft picks is guaranteed to win a game anymore than I would say that a higher seeded team is guaranteed to win. Besides, everyone knows talent does not equate to success. Still, I thought a ranking of the draftable talent of each CWS team would be interesting, if nothing else. Have a look at where the teams shake out after the jump. Some of the rankings are counter-intuitive, to say the least.

1.) As one would expect, the Vanderbilt Commodores have the most talented team by MLB standards. The Commodores had a team-record 12 players taken in the draft - 10 of which were taken before the 15th round. Vanderbilt's average round selection was 10.4 and their average overall pick was 327.6. Those numbers outclass the rest of the College World Series field by a wide margin.

2.) Surprisingly, the second most talented team in Omaha is also the one with the numerically highest seed. The California Golden Bears are less than a year removed from news that their baseball program would be cut from the budget, but they still had 7 players taken in the draft. Their round average was 14.3 and their overall pick average was 443. The Golden Bears had 6 players taken before the 20th round.

3.) Not far behind Cal is the Virginia Cavaliers. The Cavs had an average round selection of 15.4 and an overall average of  464.5.The Cavs had five players taken before the 11th round.

4.) The Texas Longhorns occupy 4th place with a 18.5 round average and a 571.8 pick average. The longhorns had a total of eight players selected, four before the tenth round and four after the 20th round.

5.) In fifth place is the Florida Gators. The Gators had 11 players selected in the draft for a round average of 19.5 and a selection average of 599.6.

6.) Sixth place belongs to the North Carolina Tarheels. The Tarheels had just five players selected for a round average of 20.0 and a selection average of 612.

7.) The Texas A&M Aggies occupy the penultimate position. The Aggies had eight players selected for a round average of 23 and a selection average of 708.

8.) Perhaps most intriguing is the fact that the defending National Champions are ranked last by this metric. The South Carolina Gamecocks had an average round of 25.7 and an average overall selection of 783.5. Those numbers fall even further to 28.2 and 857.8 when adjusted for the absence of All-American Jackie Bradley, Jr. It should be noted, though that the Gamecocks had the second most players drafted at 11. On first blush one might assume that a National Championship team that lost its entire weekend rotation should endure a fall-off in talent. However, Sam Dyson was the only Gamecock pitcher to be drafted in the early rounds last year. In fact, according to Orel Hershiser the Gamecocks' best pitcher of the 2010 season, Blake Cooper,  was not drafted at all. However, the way the Gamecocks have been playing this year I would have thought they would get a few more players drafted in the early rounds.

Of course this type of analysis is easily skewed by teams with very few players drafted or teams with an unusually high number of players drafted. In an attempt to correct for this, I took the top 5 players drafted from each team and ranked the teams accordingly. I chose five because UNC had the fewest players drafted, which happened to be five.  Below you can find those rankings in table form.

 

  Round   Overall  
Vanderbilt 2.0   69.2  
UVA 5.4   160.2  
Texas 7.6   240.2  
Florida 8.4   265.8  
Cal 9.8   309.0  
South Carolina 12.2   376.0  
Texas A&M 16.0   502.2  
UNC 20.0   612.0  
         

 

As you can see, there's quite a bit of movement after this approach is taken. Vanderbilt is still on top, but UVA jumps up to #2, Cal falls all the way to #5, and the Gamecocks and Tarheels flip places.

Another flaw with this line of analysis is that it completely ignores the presence of talented players too young to be eligible for the draft. I know this, but like I said earlier, I'm not trying to publish a dissertation here. If anyone knows that games are decided on the field and not on the stat sheet, it's Gamecock fans. A lot more goes into winning baseball games than draft rankings. At the end of the day, I would just as soon the players take a page out of Han Solo's book, which I'm sure they will do. Come Saturday, the only thing left to do will be to play the games.

I've attached my excel file below in case anyone out there wants to check my work or use the data to run more interesting analyses.

2011 CWS Draft Comparison

Go 'Cocks!

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