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Kentucky Wildcats Baseball: College World Series At-Large Chances

The 2015 College World Series Field of 64 will be announced on Monday at noon. The Kentucky Wildcats hope to slide in as a bubble team, but their one-and-done performance at the SEC Tournament has put that hope in jeopardy.

Baseball America recently looked at the history of bubble teams over the last several years to see what separates the  teams that make the CWS from the ones that don't.  The article is quite long, but does an excellent job going through the various measures used by the committee to determine the tournament field and linking discriminators (the results that separate in vs out) with comments from the committee regarding what they look for when selecting the last few teams in the field.

Here is where Kentucky stands with relation to other bubble teams from Power 4 conferences (SEC, ACC, Big 12, PAC 12) from past seasons (RPI and SOS are from

Bubble In Bubble Out UK
RPI Rank 36.7 44.3 59
Conference Win% 0.489 0.412 0.467
SOS Rank 36.7 30.8 31
Road Win% 0.469 0.417 0.409
RPI Top 50 Win% 0.426 0.382 0.318
RPI Top 100 Win% 0.477 0.426 0.382
  • RPI Rank: Low for a Power 4 conference team.  BA found that P4 bubble teams had an average RPI of 36.7 while those missing out had an average rank of 44.3.  No P4 team has gotten in with an RPI lower than 52 the last five years.
  • Conference Win%: This is okay, although losing to Auburn hurt as it prevented UK from a chance at finishing .500 or above.  This mark doesn't help too much, but it doesn't hurt either.
  • SOS Rank: The average P4 bubble team average was 36.7 so UK is above average, but BA found that SOS didn't have much impact in bubble team selections, likely because of how it is already incorporated with the RPI.  In short, it would be better to trade a few losses against good teams for some wins against easier competition.
  • Road Win%: This is UK's record in true road games, they are also 6-1 at neutral sites. It is well below what BA found for bubble teams that made the field.  The Wildcats went 7-8 on the road in conference play which is good, but went 2-5 in nonconference games.  Much of that is because their toughest NC games were on the road to the likes of Louisville, USC, and UC Santa Barbara (1-4 combined record).
  • vs Top 50/100 Win%: Kentucky's performance against the best is well below average for bubble teams, but they have 2 really impressive series wins on the road against LSU and Florida. The loss to Auburn was another missed opportunity to add a Top 50 win.

There's no way to sugar coat it - the Kentucky Wildcats are very unlikely to make the field.  Their slim hope after losing to Auburn was for the other bubble teams to lose early as well and for 1-bid leagues to stay that way.  Unfortunately, after Saturday's action there are a number of bid thieves either in or potentially in.  It is difficult to find a scenario that results in more baseball for UK this year.