Predicting a Team’s Conference Performance

Predicting a Team’s Conference Performance

In his book Analytic Methods in Sports, Dr. Thomas Severini looked at the first-half records of Major League Baseball teams to see if this predicts their second-half performances. Spoiler alert: there is little relationship between first-half and second-half performances.

This got me curious about women’s college softball since the season can be divided into non-conference and conference games. Does one predict the other?

Using the non-conference and conference winning percentages for all 295 D-I teams in 2017, I ran an analysis to look at the relationship. Even more so than in baseball, there is little correlation between the two in softball. The correlation in women’s softball between the non-conference and conference records was just 0.116. That’s not much of a relationship. As for the Power 5 (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC) teams, the correlation was a little stronger but still just .288.

If you’re coaching or a fan of D-I softball, the message here is that if your team has struggled in the non-conference part of the schedule, statistically that’s no indication of how the conference schedule will go. Conversely, a successful non-conference season should give you little comfort on how the conference season will play out.