We’ve got just two regular season weekends left for much of the nation (we see you, Big West and Pac-12!), and that means that the College Baseball RPI is being scrutinized like never before.
Each and every result sends fans, coaches, and players from coast to coast scurrying to look and see where their team is after a win or loss, hoping that it will help their postseason odds.
Let’s take a look at a handful of teams that are going to be doing a lot of RPI watching as the season winds down.
NOTE: RPI figures were current as of Thursday, 4/11/2017.
Oklahoma- RPI: 22
Quietly, the Sooners have worked their way into the periphery of the hosting discussion. That’s life in the Big 12, as the top-ranked College Baseball RPI conference in the country, when you win a series against the lowest-ranked team in the league (Kansas State- RPI: 98), and it’s still a helpful series win.
As it stands today, OU would be on the outside looking in to host, and that’s not solely because of an RPI that is likely outside of the range the committee will be looking for. Their 10-8 league record probably is a little soft for a host team. Their 9-9 record against the RPI top 50 is pretty solid and right in line with many other host contenders, but the 13-15 record against the top 100 isn’t as much of a feather in their cap.
Then there’s also the strange situation where they’re actually directly behind three other Big 12 teams that have similar resumes. Baylor is ranked 19 in the RPI, with a league record of 8-10 and a 19-15 record against the top 100. West Virginia is 20 in the RPI with an 11-10 league record and a 18-19 record against the top 100. Texas is 21 in the RPI with a 9-11 Big 12 mark and a 21-15 record against the top 100.
The difference between the teams might be what Oklahoma still has ahead of them, however. This coming weekend, they have a series with TCU (RPI 6), and to end the season, they have a neutral site series with rival Oklahoma State (RPI 59), giving them much more opportunity to move up in the pecking order than their counterparts in the league.
If they can win these last two series and then avoid a quick ouster in the Big 12 tournament, the Sooners might just be playing at home come June.
Rhode Island- RPI: 47
If you had said that Rhode Island would be leading the Atlantic 10 conference and have far and away the best RPI in the league by the time May rolls around, there aren’t many who would have challenged you on that. But if you had said that the Rams would have an RPI right around at-large range, there probably would have been a bit more pushback. Keeping an RPI where it needs to be to stay in the at-large conversation is just not something that typically happens in the A-10, but here they are.
They have benefitting from some breaks going their way. Even though they lost both games, having Missouri State (RPI 13) and McNeese State (RPI 45) on the schedule for opening weekend has been a huge boon. While most thought those teams would be good, it was far from a certainty that those would be big RPI-boosting games. They also captured a win over NC State during the third weekend of the season. For a while, that win wasn’t doing a whole lot for them, but now that the Wolfpack are playing better baseball and have moved inside the top 50, it’s helping a little bit, especially since that was a true road game.
They also have nice single wins against Arkansas (RPI 15), as part of a road series loss to the Hogs, and against UConn (RPI 46), but that’s about it as far as potential game-changing wins go. Their best winning weekend is a series win at home against Saint Louis (RPI 145) over the first weekend in April.
Not surprisingly, their metrics outside of the RPI aren’t doing them many favors. They have a 3-4 mark against the RPI top 50 and a 3-5 mark against the top 100. Also, according to the Boyd’s World RPI Needs Report, it’s projected that there is no way for Rhode Island to move up into the top 45 during the regular season, and with much of the Atlantic 10 150-plus in the RPI, it’s unlikely to happen in the postseason, either.
Sometimes, teams from the northeast get the benefit of the doubt from the committee when it comes to RPI (St. John’s has benefitted from this in the past), but Rhode Island is, at best, going to be a very borderline at-large team, with a real chance to fall off the bubble completely should they stumble down the stretch or should the bubble shrink after some bids are stolen in conference tournaments.
Still, the Rams are likely going to be the favorites going into the A-10 tournament, and with their regional experience, if they can win and get in, they’re not going to be a team that any host team wants to see show up in their regional on Selection Monday.
Rice- RPI: 57
It took them long enough, and it might be too little and too late, but Rice is on the move. They themselves have done some heavy lifting, what with three consecutive series wins against Western Kentucky, UTSA, and Charlotte, but part of their move has also come from the improvement of others from an RPI standpoint.
Texas, Southeastern Louisiana (RPI 39), Stanford (RPI 10), Sam Houston State (RPI 63), Old Dominion (RPI 42), FAU (RPI 55), Louisiana Tech (RPI 39), and Southern Miss (RPI 17) are all teams that have been on the move in the RPI lately, and while the Owls don’t have a series win against any one of those teams, they have at least one win against each, and like it or not, avoiding getting swept against the best teams on your schedule (and then averaging winning five out of six against the weaker teams on your slate) is a tried-and-true path to putting yourself in position for an at-large bid.
Still, there are a couple of issues with Rice’s postseason aspirations. For one, just like Rhode Island, Boyd’s World projects that they won’t be able to get into the top 45 in the regular season. Unlike Rhody, however, Conference USA has enough good teams that they perhaps could get there with a couple of wins in their conference tournament.
The other issue, of course, is getting back over .500 overall. As it stands today, Rice is 22-27 with six regular season games left, plus the conference tournament. The good news is that they will be favored to win every game from here on out with series against Middle Tennessee State (RPI 109) and UAB (RPI 175) still ahead, along with a midweek game against Texas State (RPI 187). The bad news is that they don’t really have much margin for error.
Rice has made a torrid run to at least get back into the postseason picture, and at this rate, they’re certainly going to be a factor in the Conference USA Tournament, but the fact of the matter is that they have to have two things go right. For one, they nearly have to win out to make sure they get over .500, and then they have to hope they get some breaks in the RPI to get into at-large range. That’s a tough ask.
Washington- RPI: 68
The Huskies’ RPI figure has been right around at-large range for much of the season, but they’ve always felt pretty secure as a regional team.
Now, that’s far from a certainty with a College Baseball RPI nearing 70. In a lot of ways, Washington’s is a postseason-worthy resume. They’ve got a 10-11 mark in Pac-12 play, far from stellar, but usually about where it needs to be to toy with getting into a regional. They’re also 15-13 against the RPI top 100. Again, that figure doesn’t blow your socks off, but it compares pretty favorably with many other at-large teams, and it blows away the mark of most of the teams in their general vicinity in the RPI.
They also have some nice series wins. In early-April, they collected a series win over Baylor, and they followed that up with a series win over UCLA the very next weekend. To start Pac-12 play back in March, they swept a series from Utah. But at the same time, they have some results that have absolutely hampered them. They’re 1-5 against Oregon State and Arizona, their two best chances for game-changing series wins. The lost series to rival Washington State (RPI 113) doesn’t help, either. The biggest mark against them, though, is that they’ve lost two out of their three games this season to Seattle (RPI 274).
There’s still hope for them, though. According to the College Baseball RPI Needs Report, they can still get into the top 45 if they win out, but the optimism isn’t necessarily tied up in the hope that they can get inside the top 45. Rather, it’s that they can win most of their remaining games, get inside the top 55, and hope that the rest of their metrics will be strong enough to get them into the field of 64. Much like the northeast, teams on the west coast sometimes get the benefit of the doubt from the committee.
And there’s precedent here. Like last season’s Washington team, for instance. They were in the 50s in the RPI at the end of the season and they got in nonetheless. St. Mary’s also got in when it was all said and done, and they were in the high-50s in the RPI.
Long story short, they’ve got a lot of ground to make up, but it can be done, and there’s precedent for a team with a resume similar to theirs getting into the field.