February 14, 2016

Updated Basketball Metrics – 24 Games

Complete through 24 games.

2016 Basket All 242016 Basket Comps 24

Note: Last 10 games shown, but AVG column includes all games played in for season.  Also, there are minuscule differences in the game by game minutes played numbers shown for a few players below and season total minutes shown on clemsontigers.com.  I am researching these differences.2016 Basket MP 2242016 Basket Game by Game 24

Opinion: Monte Lee right man, Clemson will be back in Omaha

In 1958 Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, Elvis was inducted into the army, a B-47 accidentally dropped an atom bomb on Mars Bluff, South Carolina and Bill Wilhelm coached his first baseball game at Clemson.

Thirty-six years, 1,161 wins, 17 ACC titles and 6 College World Series (CWS) appearances later Wilhelm handed the keys to Jack Leggett, who remained in the position for the next 22 seasons and racked up 955 wins and 5 CWS appearances of his own.

When the first pitch is thrown on February 19th the Clemson Tigers will open the college baseball season with a different head coach for only the third time in 59 seasons and 2,897 games.

This is not a program that takes change lightly.

Yet, a change was needed.

Since reaching the brink of a College World Series final in 2010, Clemson began a slow backslide that saw the Tigers fail to get out of a regional 5 consecutive seasons, culminating in being eliminated in 2 games in both 2014 and 2015.

There’s an old saying that goes, “You never stay the same, you’re either getting better or getting worse.”  It’s clear the Tigers weren’t getting better.

More than numbers though, a malaise seemed to surround the program and fan base.  Fans that once expected occasional trips to Omaha and certainly Super Regional births, slowly, but surely settled for hosting a Regional and then just making the tournament.

Fans that once expected to win, now just hoped to win.

As we’ve seen in many programs and in many sports, it would have been easy to retain the Hall of Fame coach that made the playoffs (or March Madness or Bowl Game, etc.).  It’s more difficult and uncomfortable to make a change  when the program is listing, but not yet at the bottom of the sea.

An old joke about change may fit here. “I’m all for change as long as it doesn’t affect me.”  That applies to a lot of Clemson baseball fans, too.

Making a change, recognizing that not everyone is going to be happy with that change and being willing to put your name and reputation on the line when it would be easier to remain with the status quo takes leadership and vision.

By all accounts Monte Lee is the man to lead Clemson baseball into the future.  Young, but experienced. A players coach whose former players rave about and recruits flock to, aggressive, enthusiastic and focused.

Lee seems to check all the boxes and has the pieces that need to be fit together to make the the Tigers relevant again. He has support from the administration up to the president, new and improved facilities, top notch assistants and most of all, he has Clemson University.

There will be hurdles, both on the field and in the heart of some fans.  The first comment heard after the Tigers were picked 5th in their division was, “Did that ever happen under Jack?”  As if being picked 5th before he’s ever coached a game was somehow Lee’s fault.  There will be doubters, those that don’t like change or had an “in” with the previous staff.

Make no mistake, it won’t be easy and this team will be a work in progress.  What you see in 2016 is not what you’ll see in 2017 and beyond.  While the team has some bats, it appears the pitching will be young and inexperienced and even Lee is not sure what to expect in the field.

Yet, there’s a different feel around the program, something in the air.  Optimism and hope.  Anticipation and excitement and perhaps a little curiosity.  After all, a new coach for Clemson baseball happens only slightly more frequently than Halley’s Comet appears, or so it seems.

In a few days the season will begin with a lot of unknowns and open ended questions that may take a while to answer and it may not end with a Regional.

On the other hand, if Clemson fans show patience, give Lee time and support through the growing pains ahead the Tigers will return to Omaha sooner rather than later.   

Yards Still Matter

If you spend any time on this site you know that one of my favorite college football metrics is also one of the most straightforward – total yards.  With the exception of yards per play, and it’s close, you’d be hard pressed to find a metric that correlates more to winning than total yardage differential between two teams.  Why?  Because yards = points.

Every time I hear someone say yards don’t matter – and provide an example of a game where a team with less yards won – my head wants to explode.  Yes, there are exceptions to the rule.  Just like there are exceptions to “You have to win the turnover battle” or “You have to run the ball to win”.  For every example you provide of a team winning despite having less total yards, I can provide more where a team won the turnover battle and lost.

If you made it through freshman stats then the graph below should tell you a story.  I’ve plotted every college football game from 2011 through 2015 (D1 vs. D1 only, 3,580 games and 7,160 data points) with yards and points.  Notice the slope of the line that goes through the data points.  It’s pointing up, as in more yards means more points.

Points and Yards Graph 2011-2015

This is significant for Clemson because one of the narratives of the offseason is that the Tigers defense lost a lot of talent and will have to “rebuild”. Fair enough.

In the period covered, teams that reached the magic 500 yard mark won 79% of the time, without regard to any other metric.  Clemson has reeled off 10 straight (and counting) 500 yard games.  Just by the fact that your offense is gaining 500 yards means you are highly likely to win.  

But it gets better.

The Clemson defense gave up 313.0 yards per game in 2015.  For arguments sake, lets say the Tigers 2016 defense regresses to “average”, which in NCAA terms in 2015 was 400 yards per game.  That’s an additional 87 yards per game given up (27.7% increase).

In our mythical game Clemson gets 500 (or more) yards and gives up 400 yards (regressed to average).  What are the chances the Tigers win?  Over the same time period (2011-2015) teams with this profile won 94% of the time (671-43).

Yards+Points Diff

To recap, the Clemson offense is likely going to be so good that the Tigers can absorb a defensive regression to “average” and still have a high probability of winning.

Obviously, there are no guarantees and every game is an independent data point on a graph such as the one above. The Tigers may reach 400 yards in one game (reducing the odds of winning) and 600 (very high probability of winning) in the next.

The point is an offense that’s likely to reach 500 yards in any given game and give up an “average” amount in the same game is still likely to win and is also why our early win probabilities have the Tigers favored in all 12 games.

As we saw in the championship game 500 yards of offense a game is not a 100% guarantee of a win, but 500 yards of offense combined with holding your opponent to 400 or less is about as close as it gets.

Getting to know Monte Lee as new era begins

Editor’s Note: The Clemson Tiger baseball team has a new head coach for just the 3rd time in the last 59 seasons.  With such a monumental change comes a lot of unknowns about the coach, his methods and expectations for his first Clemson team.

Fortunately, Seldom Used Reserve has Chris Cox on staff to provide a perspective on new Clemson Baseball Head Coach Monte Lee.  Chris is a former Division I baseball player who has contacts with players that played for Coach Lee at previous stops.  With that in mind, I asked Chris to share his thoughts on Coach Lee and the Tigers in the Q&A below.

SUR: As a former Division I college baseball player in the state of South Carolina you’re familiar with Monte Lee. What’s your take on the hire?

CC: When news broke that Clemson was going to part ways with long-time skipper Jack Leggett the first candidate that came to mind as a replacement was Monte. He’s a known commodity within this state and he turned the College of Charleston into a national power.  What’s even more impressive is he put the Cougars on the national scene with a roster dominated by players from the Palmetto State, which was one of Leggett’s biggest problems during his time at Clemson. He’ll breathe some fresh air into a stagnant program, and Clemson fans should be pretty amped about the hire.

SUR: The players seemed to really love playing for, and were very loyal to, Jack Leggett until the end which could make for a difficult transition for returning players.  What’s your thought on how Lee will handle the transition?

CC:  I don’t anticipate there being any difficulty transitioning from Leggett to Lee.  Monte is quite familiar with the program considering his whole coaching career has taken place in the state of South Carolina. I also believe he both understands and respects the foundation that Coach Leggett laid here. Sure his style is going to be a little bit of a culture shock compared to the prior regime, but I highly doubt the players are going to be resistant to his coaching style.

One of my closest friends had the opportunity to play under Lee at CofC and he describes him as the definition of a player’s coach.  Another tidbit passed along to me was that Lee simply lets his assistants coach. A lot of times you see head coaches overstep their bounds, but that will not be the case with the new headman. Another factor that aids in making this a smooth transition is the fact Clemson was able to keep Bradley Lecroy on staff.  He was instrumental in the recruitment of the majority of players on the current roster so retaining him should help reduce the gap from Leggett to Lee.

SUR:  One of the criticisms in the past was that the team often played “tight” in crucial situations and weren’t aggressive enough at the plate.  From what you know of Lee, how do you see his team performing in similar situations?

CC:  Nothing against Leggett, but I think he just “out-aged” his players during his last few years at Clemson.  I don’t want to make it out like Coach Leggett was a bad coach, because he’s without a doubt one of the best to ever coach at Clemson regardless of sport.  It just seemed he didn’t adjust, or evolve, with the game as the years rolled by. I’m not inside the locker room so I can’t attest to the inner workings of what went on, but I look at the hiring of Monte Lee as a necessary move in a different direction. I believe Monte will bring a sense of looseness to a program that’s played uptight for the better part of the last 3-4 years.

Perhaps the biggest difference for Clemson under Lee will come at the plate.  Under Leggett, the Tigers prided themselves on “small ball” and moving guys from base to base.  This meant that all players were taught to swing a certain way once they arrived on campus, which I believe took away diversity within the batting order.  Under Lee, you can expect to see a more laid back, free-swinging approach at the plate.  Sure he’ll tweak some swings here and there, but for the most part he’s going to let guys play to their strengths instead of trying to mold them with a singular approach. Again, I’m not saying that what Leggett did was bad because it worked for the better part of his career. I’m just painting a picture of the contrast you can expect when the Tigers are at the plate.

SUR:  Most Clemson fans understand that Lee has a rebuilding project in front of him as evidenced by the media picking the Tigers to finish 5th in their division. On the other hand, Lee certainly has the facilities and pedigree to recruit top notch talent to Clemson.  How long until Clemson is back in the national conversation?

CC:  This will not be a quick fix, plain and simple. I’m not crazy about the returning talent on the roster, especially on the mound.  When you lose your 51 of your 61 starts from a year ago there’s reason for concern.  Lee brought in a ton of fresh arms, but it’s not reasonable to expect those guys to shut down teams like FSU and Louisville in year one.  I think the Tigers will be fine at the plate, and I hope to see the pitching staff simply compete.  That means filling up the zone and making opposing hitters earn their runs by putting the ball in play.

As far as how long before Clemson is back in the national conversation? I honestly believe it’ll be around year 3 under Lee.  Believe it or not, I don’t have a magical crystal ball telling me that’s the year so don’t hold me to that timeframe, but I think that gives Monte time to really get a firm grasp on this program.  The facility upgrades are icing on the cake for Lee, who is one of the best recruiters in the country and I would anticipate Clemson bringing in top 10 classes year in year out due to those factors.  It’ll be a bumpy ride, but you can take it to the bank that Clemson baseball will be back.

Metrics Favor Tigers & Schedule from Toughest to Easiest

If you are a believer in football analytics to any degree, then you’re probably familiar with Bill Connelly of SB Nation.  

Connelly does the type of analysis that guys like me wish they had the time and smarts to accomplish, digging into the minutiae of all 128 college football teams.

Of interest this week is his preliminary S&P+ College Football Team Ratings, where Clemson sits at #3.  This rating is comprised of 3 components (in order of weight): Returning production, recruiting, and recent history.

Connelly ranks Clemson as tops in the nation for returning production (easy to see why), but notes that LSU has the most returning production, but because Alabama and Clemson were better (the returnees had more impact on the S&P+ ratings) in 2015, Clemson ends up being ranked first, with Alabama second and LSU third in returning production.

Breaking down the returning production into units, Connelly assigns 90% to the offense and 50% to the Clemson defense, averaging out to 70%.

Without digging into the details too much, just note that the Tigers are the top ranked ACC team in Connelly’s early rankings, just ahead of 5th ranked Florida State.  The Tigers also easily out rank their two non-conference SEC foes (Auburn is 24 and South Carolina is 63rd).

Finally, scrolling down on Connelly’s post you will see that he spends some time discussing the improvement of the ACC, which his rankings project as the second best conference in 2016.

Here’s a look at the 2016 schedule in game order with the S&P+ Rankings.

Sched Date Order

And here’s the schedule in order of S&P Ranking as they stand today:

Sched S&P+ Order

Important to note that these are “preliminary” rankings and things can, and will, change before the season begins.  After all, going in to 2015 Clemson had a solid left tackle in Isaiah Battle and a steady place kicker and kick off man in Amon Lakip on the roster.

Metrics for Returning Baseball Players

Below are the metrics from 2015 for the returning Clemson baseball players.

Pitching2016 Return Pitch All 2016 Return Pitch RH2016 Return Pitch LH

Batting

2016 Returning Batters All2016 Returning Batters RH2016 Returning Batters LH

Please note that the ROB% and RISP% is not the batting average with ROB or RISP.  It is an attempt to measure the percentage of runners on that were knocked in in those situations. For example, if a batter comes to the plate with runners on second and third and singles scoring one runner this metric would show .500 under RISP because he knocked in 50% of runners in scoring position during the plate appearance.2016 Returning Batters GBR

Swinney Talks 2016 Signing Class

Dabo discusses 2016 recruits with video of each recruit at the Wendy’s Recruiting Wrap on Wednesday, February 3.

Video courtesy of tv.clemson.edu and signee videos courtesy of Clemson Athletics.

Clemson Basketball Metrics – 22 Games

Complete through 22 games.

2016 Basketball All 222016 Basketball MP 222016 Basketball Comps 222016 Basketball Game by Game 22

Clemson Basketball Metrics – 21 Games

Complete through February 1.

2016 Basketball Detail 21

Details for minutes played in last 10 games shown, but AVG column includes average for games played for the entire season.2016 Basketball MP 212016 Basketball Comps 212016 Basketball Game by Game 21

Clemson Basketball Metrics Through 20 Games

Complete through January 29, 2016.

2016 Basket All 202016 Basket Game by Game 202016 Basket Sum 20

Minutes played shown for last 10 games.  “AVG” column includes all games played in for season.

2016 Basket MP 20