Part 1: Evaluating the D-I Super Regionals

Part 1: Evaluating the D-I Super Regionals

With 16 teams remaining in the Super Regionals, it’s easier to dive a little deeper into the numbers behind each team than was reasonable for the round of 64.

Here is my evaluation of each team from the left side of the bracket. The following charts are based on each team’s likely nine starting batters according to their collective wOBA (weighted on-base average), their two top pitchers using FIP (fielding independent pitching), and team defense as measured by DER (defensive efficiency rating). Green is good on one side of the spectrum and red is bad on the other side, with shades of yellow somewhere in-between.

Alabama (45-17) at Florida (53-7)

Analysis: While the hitting for these two teams is below average when compared to the other Super Regional teams, Florida’s pitching certainly stands out. Kelly Barnhill has been otherworldly for the Gators while posting a minuscule 0.15 FIP this season. As a statistic, FIP measures what a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs) and provides a number similar to ERA. In other words, Barnhill’s 0.15 is incredibly low! Not only that but Florida’s Delanie Gourley is the second best pitcher remaining in the tournament next to Barnhill as measured by FIP.
On offense, Florida’s Kayli Kvistad (.349 wOBA) and leadoff hitter Amanda Lorenz (.336) are the two best hitters on either team, although Alabama’s Bailey Hemphill (.330) isn’t far behind. Those are the only hitters batting over .300 according to wOBA, which takes into account a number of offensive categories such as singles, doubles, triples, home runs, walks, etc., and provides a metric on a scale similar to batting average.
On defense, Alabama is slightly better than Florida according to DER, which measures the effectiveness of a defense in converting batted balls into outs. DER evaluates a team’s hits allowed (minus home runs) and compares that to its defensive opportunities.
Prediction: Barnhill and Gourley are that good and will be enough to help Florida past Alabama in a low-scoring Super Regional.

Texas A&M (45-10) at Tennessee (47-10)

Analysis: Texas A&M will likely make someone other than one of the game’s top hitters, Tennessee’s Meghan Gregg (.397 wOBA), beat them. It is unlikely, however, that Texas A&M’s pitchers can exploit Tennessee’s reliance on Gregg. When on offense, Texas A&M boasts two very good hitters in Tori Vidales (.319), who bats third in the Aggies’ lineup, and Riley Sartain (.318), who likely bats sixth.
Prediction: Offense rules the day in this Super Regional, which plays into Tennessee’s strength. As a result Tennessee advances to the World Series, although this could get interesting if Texas A&M can keep Gregg from coming up in situations where they have to pitch to her.

Ole Miss (43-18) at UCLA (45-13)

Analysis: This will be a fun series to watch if for nothing other than its unpredictability. Ole Miss doesn’t hit the ball well, depending upon leadoff hitter Elantra Cox (.290 wOBA) to get things started. The Rebels have also relied heavily on starting pitcher Kaitlin Lee and her 239 innings pitched this season, meaning that unless Ole Miss sweeps, they’re going to need someone other than Lee to pitch. That could spell trouble.
UCLA has the big three on offense in Delaney Spaulding (.343), Briana Tautalafua (.307), and Madeline Jelenicki (.303). The Bruins also have better balance from the circle in Rachel Garcia (167.2 innings pitched) and Selina Ta’amilo (100 innings pitched).
On defense, Ole Miss might be able to exploit UCLA’s below-average defense by simply putting the ball in play.
Prediction: I expect UCLA will advance thanks to their advantage on offense and slightly better pitching, but there could be a chance for an upset if the Bruins’ defense lets them down.

LSU (45-19) at FSU (54-6-1)

Analysis: Florida State’s Jessica Warren (.425 wOBA) is by far the best hitter to reach the Super Regionals. But LSU can’t work around Warren, who bats second, too often because she is followed in the lineup by Alex Powers (.313). On the LSU side of things, Sahvanna Jaquish (.342) could present similar problems. Jaquish, who also bats second, is followed by Landry Bailey (.292). With each team’s best hitter batting second it makes me wonder….has a sabermetrics approach to batting order begun to creep into the college game? For more on that approach read my article on lineup analysis from last year’s WCWS.
The Seminoles also pitch the ball better than LSU, which leaves Tiger fans hoping that their team can exploit FSU’s Achilles heel: defense.
Prediction: With better hitting and Jessica Burroughs in the circle, Florida State advances to the WCWS.