Well that was fun.
I know the season is only four games old, but that was really fun. After picking up a loss on opening day to the Nevada Wolfpack, Boston College made Santa Clara its personal baseball playground. The Birdballers picked up three consecutive wins in three distinct fashions - they won a solid, 4-1 game; they won a statement, 7-3 game; they won a comeback, 8-6 thriller.
Let's take a look at some of the stories that came out of the trip west as BC gets set for the trip south:
The bullpen could be really deep.
In his preseason interviews, Mike Gambino talked about his depth of pitching. It was something hard to believe considering the team's ERA last year was somewhere north of 2012 John Lackey. But through the first four games of a very long season, the small case study is that these arms, in one offseason, have a ceiling, which is something they didn't have before.
Andrew Chin, John Gorman, and Eric Stevens all turned in solid performances, meaning BC could be seeing the development of a weekend rotation. Behind them, John Nicklas, Jesse Adams, Eric Stone, Mike King, and Bobby Skogsbergh all turned in innings of good relief. Jeff Burke didn't fare as well as the others, but even if he remains as a fourth starter or long reliever capable of giving innings, BC is going to be formidable.
It's too early to tell if this team will play better against better competition; they'll have a true test in a couple of weeks when they play both Florida Atlantic and Miami. But to even have an average ceiling is an improvement over the last two seasons.
After watching BC anemically swing and miss at pretty much everything last year, we were all hoping for something better out of the team this year. What we got far exceeded expectations, at least for the start of the year. Remember that we're not looking for BC to be great or above average; we're looking for them merely to be competitive. We're looking for them to spray the ball to the right fields, get good wood...er...aluminum on the ball, and at least put themselves in position to score some runs. That clearly happened.
BC knocked 34 hits over the four game span. Last season, they averaged just under seven hits per game and under four runs per game. This past weekend, they averaged just about nine hits per game and scored a minimum of four runs in their three wins. It's proof that if they can get timely, competitive hitting, they will be able to win more ballgames this year than last year.
SABRmetrics are great to determine how well a team is playing against their opponents. Boston College last year created 139 of their 174 runs scored. This means opponents made them work for every inch they had to get. It also explains how their Pythagorean win-loss had them with 12 wins, the exact amount they ended up winning. But BC didn't nearly make their opponents work as hard; of the 322 runs allowed, opponents "created" 255.8, meaning BC gave away nearly 70 runs on the season. That means they gave away half of their own production.
Assuming the fielding and pitching improves to a competitive level, it'll take the strain off the hitters. In order to reach 500, BC will need to create the same amount of runs as their opponent. If BC can get opposing teams to "create" 200 runs, thereby cutting roughly 50 runs they gave away, they'll just need to find ways to manufacture 60 more runs. While that seems like a lot, it really isn't, and if BC can hit at a clip of nine hits per game, they would end the season with 477 hits.
BC last season had 359 hits and 480 total bases, a clip of roughly 1.33 bases per hit. Using the runs created formula, we can rightly assume that BC this year would end up with 477 hits and 634 total bases. We would want to keep the same amount of at-bats since BC would merely be hitting better, and we also want to be keeping the same amount of walks since that isn't dependent on the amount of at-bats or hits.
By using the runs created formula, BC would be able to manufacture, on their own, 223 runs this season, nearly 100 better than last season's disappointment.
Finally, a sample for some analysis!
So if BC can merely get better aluminum on the ball at the same clip they are now, a relatively average number of nine hits per game in college ball, they could manufacture and create 223 runs. By creating 223 runs and allowing 255 (the amount that opponents actually created out of the number allowed), BC can predict a Pythagorean win-loss of 43.34%. With a 53 game schedule, BC would, under these circumstances, be a 22 or 23-win program, a 10-win improvement over last season. If they cut the created runs allowed by 50 to 200, that Pythagorean win-loss becomes 55.4%. Under those circumstances, BC wins 30 games.
Whether or not that's the predicted number we should be shooting for, I don't know. But I do know that if BC can perform better at the plate, they'll be a better team. The wins and losses then can be analyzed through pitching and fielding, which we have to assume are going to be better this year. Based strictly on hitting, BC would need 477 hits and 634 total bases to become a 20-win baseball program. And that gives us, as fans and analysts, something tangible to be rooting and watching.
There are obviously other elements in play. If the pitching and fielding gives away more runs, we'll be able to determine if the season is a disappointment or not. Now that we have a sample size from this past weekend, we can continue to temper expectations via statistics against that. It's impossible to think BC will continue to pitch as well as they did this weekend or perform at as high a level once they hit ACC play. But if they can elevate their play accordingly and continue to improve, there's no reason why this team can't make the conference tournament.
This is the major storyline to watch, and now, after four games, we have a predictor we can use as a bar to tally. As the sample gets bigger, we'll have to watch if they're close to that.
We'll be back hopefully next week after the Stetson series, but that depends on if my head explodes or not from these numbers. That Billy Beane was really onto something, eh?