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 a regression 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.