Top-25 state of mind for baseball
April 19, 2017
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When it comes to all successful sports at San Diego State, there is a central question to be asked. It was asked of basketball before their last couple of down years, and football is currently in the conversation as well.
Is the Mountain West holding the big-ticket sports back?
The answer is yes.
The conference is weighing down a team that should be receiving more national attention and deserves to be in the top-25 conversation.
Aztec baseball currently sits in second place in the MW with a 12-5 conference record, behind a University of New Mexico squad that sports an 11-2-1 mark to go along with a Rating Percentage Index of 39 in Division I of the NCAA. RPI takes into account a team’s record and its strength of schedule.
The men on the Mesa find themselves much farther down with an RPI of 101, which in itself is ridiculous, even with a relatively weak schedule.
The rest of the MW foes are ranked 149th (Fresno State), 214th (San Jose State), 222nd (University of Nevada, Reno), 227th (UNLV) and 240th (Air Force Academy). Wins against them aren’t going to do the Aztecs any favors in the rankings.
The 12-5 record against those teams isn’t terrible, but even five losses against teams of that caliber are going to hurt the Aztecs, who have yet to play New Mexico.
What helps SDSU’s case is its overall record, which sits at 26-11 and includes a perfect 4-0 record against current top-25 teams in most major polls, including the USA Today Coaches’ Poll and the D1Baseball.com Top 25.
There’s their first one of the year, a 5-4 victory against juggernaut Cal State Fullerton in late February, who checked in with a No. 7 ranking at the time.
If you don’t like that close win, there’s a 10-1 drubbing of the University of San Diego, at that point ranked 25th.
Finally, there’s not one but two wins against Long Beach State, currently slotted in at No. 12 in Baseball America’s rankings. Those two victories, by the scores of 6-2 and 12-5, were not close wins. The latter showcases an offense that is one of the best in the country.
Compare that to New Mexico, who has played a handful of games against ranked opponents and hasn’t fared nearly as well. Their record against top-25 opponents is a miserable 1-10, including a three-game sweep at the hands of Fullerton and a 7-2 loss against USD.
The Lobos’ lone win came against No. 23 Dallas Baptist in their second series of the season, but that win was bookended with losses. Dallas Baptist is no longer in any top-25 ranking and has an RPI of 63.
The point is if the Lobos have done enough to receive the title of 39th best team in the country, the Aztecs deserve an RPI much higher than 101st.
Does their smaller sample size against ranked teams immediately propel them higher than New Mexico? No, the Lobos are leading the MW for a reason, but SDSU has done more than enough to earn a higher ranking.
Standing at .318, the Scarlet and Black’s team batting average is tied with three other teams, including New Mexico, for the tenth best mark in the NCAA.
It’s an offense that has scored 36 runs in its last two games, with 20-6 and 16-3 wins against UNLV. Led by a whopping 10 batters hitting over .300, including junior outfielder Tyler Adkison’s team-leading .392 clip, they have averaged 6.6 runs a game.
That doesn’t undermine their pitching though, which is tied for 29th in the country with a 3.35 ERA. There are seven pitchers with at least 10 innings recorded that have ERAs under three. The bullpen, which includes five of those in the aforementioned group, has kept the Aztecs in games and held leads.
A stronger schedule is needed for SDSU to prove itself deserving of a top-25 ranking, but if the stats say anything, they Aztecs done enough to warrant consideration among the nation’s elite.
With a three game series against New Mexico coming up April 29 and another game against the Toreros later in the season, the Aztecs have the potential to prove that they do belong higher in the rankings.