September 25, 2020

Southeastern Conference Champs and Statistical Leaders

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Some baseball guys and gals swear by the old idiom that “defense and pitching wins championships.” Others are more inclined to go with the more recently popular “chicks did the long ball.” Still others believe the best way to win is to out hit your opponents and you most often do that by leading the league in team batting average. In the Southeastern Conference the jury is still out on which one is more important.

Looking briefly at the last 29 years of conference records it seems more likely that the conference champs led in at least one of those categories, but 13 of the 29 years a team won the championship without leading either in team Batting Average (BA), Earned Run Average (ERA) or Team Home Runs (HR). The 16-13 stat is not an overwhelming vote of confidence one way or the other. So let’s see what the stats really have to say in this matter.

The team with the best BA won the league championship the least amount of time. SEC teams who led the league have won 5 of the 29 championships between 1980 and 2008. The last team to win the championship while leading the league in BA was the ’07 Vanderbilt Commodores. They were also the last team to lead the league in two of the three categories and also win the conference title. The negative side of that is that if you lead the conference in average you have a roughly one in six chance to win the conference championship.

The team that had the best pitching numbers in terms of ERA has won the title 8 times during that same span. The previously mentioned ’07 Vandy team and the ’96 LSU Tigers were the only two teams to lead in both ERA and BA and win the championship. Three other teams, ’08 Kentucky Wildcats, ’99 Mississippi State Bulldogs, ’97 Auburn Tigers, led in both of those categories but failed to win the conference championship. Your chances of winning the SEC are greater if you lead the league in ERA but overall, you are still more likely to not win it.

How did the team that led the SEC in home runs fare? Nine conference champs have led the league in the long ball category while taking home the trophy. The ’06 Kentucky Wildcats are the last team to do so. They shared the title with Alabama who also led the league in ERA that season. Four teams during that 29 year span led the league in both HRs and BA and failed to win the championship, ’80 and ‘87 Georgia Bulldogs, ’88 MSU Bulldogs, and ’92 South Carolina Gamecocks. Only one team, the ’96 LSU squad was able to lead in both and win the championship. They were also the only team to lead all three categories in the same year regardless of whether they won the championship or not. There were two years where the HR and ERA leading team won the championship, ’00 and ’01 South Carolina Gamecocks, and two years when the team leading in both categories did not win the title, ’81 MSU Bulldogs and ’98 LSU Tigers. If you lead the league in dingers you have a roughly one in three chance to win the league.

Statistically speaking, the only 100% sure way to win the SEC is to lead the league in all three categories. However, the ironic thing is that the LSU team that was the only team to do so in the last 29 years, had to share the title with Alabama and Florida. So if you want to give your team a better than 50% chance to win the title, you need to lead the league in one of the categories mentioned above. The problem is that you never know which year will be the year of the pitcher, the hitter, or the slugger. That’s why we love the game, because victories often hinge on things that don’t show up in the box scores. Although I’m sure there are some who will disagree with that statement as well. Ah, I love this game!

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