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April 3, 2012

The Process

Which College Programs Have Produced the Most Value?

by Bradley Ankrom

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Among pitchers who have debuted since 1965, three of the five best career WARP totals belong to players drafted out of the collegiate ranks. Former Texas Longhorn Roger Clemens leads the way with 103.4 WARP earned over 24 big-league seasons, followed by ex-Southern Cal star Randy Johnson (90.7). Prep hurlers Greg Maddux (83.9) and Steve Carlton (73.4) take the third and fourth spots, and another former Trojan, Tom Seaver (72.9), rounds out the top five. 

While schools like Texas and USC are well known on the national stage, successful baseball programs can claim significant credit for increasing the profiles of several less-familiar colleges and universities, including Pepperdine, Cal State Fullerton, and Long Beach State, three schools lacking the profile (and revenue) associated with Division I football programs.

Using wins above replacement player, it is possible to determine how much major-league value each program has delivered through the draft. Throughout the rest of this article, we'll explore multiple ways of looking at the value returned by each program with the goal of identifying a single fair and accurate number that represents the value each program has produced. 

The Data
This study includes all four-year college pitchers drafted and signed out of the first 10 rounds of the draft between 1965 and 2001, totaling 1,845 players and representing 428 schools. More than 40 percent of the schools in the study produced only one signed draft pick, and three out of four—76.9 percent—are represented by five or fewer picks.

Three programs—Arizona State (38), Texas (34), and Southern California (30)—featured 30 or more picks in the study, and a total of 14 contributed 20 or more. Predictably, the five most common pick totals were one through five, but the sixth-highest count was nine, seen 15 times in the study.

The data utilized in the analysis that follows is drawn from the first 10 full professional years of each player’s career. For example, statistics attributed to Jamie Moyer, whom the Cubs selected in the sixth round of the 1984 draft, are only those accrued between 1984 (year zero) and 1994 (year 10). Though we’ll refer to these figures as 10-year totals throughout this article, it is possible for players to have 11 seasons' worth of data included in their 10-year totals. This happens when players reach the major leagues in the same year they are drafted (year zero), such as when Greg Swindell made nine late-season starts for Cleveland less than three months after the Indians made him the second-overall pick in 1986.

Going forward, all statistics appended with “10” are 10-year totals.

One final note regarding the data you’ll see in this article. Taking a cue from Rany Jazayerli, I’ve opted to zero out WARP totals for players who reached the major leagues but accrued below-replacement level WARP. Quoth Rany:

Given that most draft picks don’t reach the major leagues at all, it would be misleading to penalize a player who was good enough to reach the majors for having a negative-WARP season, relative to a player who might never have gotten out of rookie ball.

Determining Value
There are myriad methods that could be used to determine which school’s products returned the most value, and we’ll explore a few of them throughout this article. In addition to raw WARP totals, we’ll also look at some less-traditional ways of determining value.

The most obvious, and least-telling, method is to simply sum all of the WARP10 earned by each program’s players.

Total WARP10 Returned by Program

Rank School Picks WARP10 WARP10/Pick
1 Southern Califronia 30 119.26 3.98
2 Texas 34 115.13 3.39
3 Pepperdine 20 72.69 3.63
4 Stanford 29 71.04 2.45
5 Oklahoma 22 60.72 2.76
6 Arizona State 38 54.74 1.44
7 Louisiana State 21 42.80 2.04
8 Fresno State 23 41.88 1.82
9 St. John's 10 41.64 4.16
10 Auburn 16 40.27 2.52

If you read the introduction to this article, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that USC and Texas top all programs in WARP10 returned with 119.26 and 115.13, respectively. After the top two, there’s a significant drop-off to the third-ranked program, Pepperdine (72.69), and another sizable gap is found between the sixth (Arizona State, 54.74) and seventh (Louisiana State, 42.80) schools. 

While total WARP10 is a quick and easy way to stack programs up against one another, is it a reliable way to determine the overall value of a program’s contributions to the major leagues? 

USC received 63.6 percent of its total WARP10 from the two players referenced earlier, Tom Seaver (48.12) and Randy Johnson (27.76), and 96.8 percent from those two plus Barry Zito (22.96) and Mark Prior (16.68). Similarly, Roger Clemens accounts for 41.3 percent of Texas’ total WARP10, and only three other Longhorns contributed more than 3.5 WARP10. Things fall off abruptly for Stanford who, despite being anchored by two of the top-25 pitchers of the 1990s in Mike Mussina and Jack McDowell,  produced only one other pitcher (Rick Helling, 10.31) worth more than two WARP10 from among their 16 non-Mussina/McDowell picks to reach the major leagues.

Three of the top four schools received 40 percent or more of their total WARP10 from a single player. We’ll investigate the benefits and drawbacks of quantity and quality a little later.

Number of Above-Replacement Level Seasons Returned by Program

Rank School Picks ARP10 ARP10/Pick
T-1 Texas 34 54 1.59
T-1 Louisiana State 21 54 2.57
3 Arizona State 38 51 1.34
4 Stanford 29 50 1.72
5 Southern California 30 47 1.57
6 Michigan 26 45 1.73
7 Auburn 16 44 2.75
T-8 Florida State 24 43 1.79
T-8 Oklahoma 22 43 1.96
T-8 Pepperdine 20 43 2.15

Eight of the top-10 programs in WARP10 also rank among the ten schools that produced the most above-replacement level seasons (ARP10) in the study. This is a fair way to gauge which programs produced the most major league-caliber players.

Replacement-level players aren’t what clubs are mining for in the top 10 rounds of the draft, however: they’re looking for franchise cornerstones, stars, and above-average major-league contributors.

For this study, the average level of pitcher performance was determined by averaging the seasonal WARP earned by all pitchers who threw 75 or more innings during the regular season (view each year’s average here). An above-average season is credited to a pitcher whose seasonal WARP is greater than that season’s average WARP.

Number of Above-Average Seasons Returned by Program

​Rank School Picks AA10 ​AA10/Pick
T-1 Texas 34 28 0.82
T-1 Southern California 30 28 0.93
T-3 Stanford 29 21 0.72
T-3 Oklahoma 22 21 0.96
5 Pepperdine 20 18 0.90
T-6 Arizona State 38 16 0.42
T-6 Fresno State 23 16 0.70
8 Auburn 16 13 0.81
9 Brigham Young 12 12 1.00
T-10 Clemson 29 11 0.38
T-10 Louisiana State 21 11 0.52
T-10 Michigan 26 11 0.42

Reviewing gross totals is a convenient way to determine which programs have produced the most overall value, but, as you’ve seen, there’s a correlation between the number of players drafted from a program and that program’s value returned.

Another way to look at this data is to find the average value returned per pick. For example, if we sort the data in the ARP10 table above by ARP10 returned by pick, the rankings change significantly. Texas (1.59) drops from the top of the list down to eighth, and Auburn (2.75) jumps from seventh to first. Louisiana State (2.57) stays put at number two, but third-ranked Arizona State (1.34) falls seven spots and brings up the rear. 

A total of 99 schools (23.1 percent) in the study had 10 or more players selected. When we include them, the number of programs that returned at least 2.00 ARP10 per pick increases to 10:

Average Number of Above-Replacement Level Seasons Returned by Program, Per Pick

​Rank School ​Picks ARP10 ARP10/Pick
1 Auburn 16 44 2.75
2 St. John's 10 27 2.70
3 Louisiana State 21 53 2.52
4 Kentucky 10 25 2.50
5 Tennessee 11 26 2.36
6 Oklahoma State 15 33 2.20
7 Pepperdine 20 43 2.15
T-8 Mississippi State 16 33 2.06
T-8 Texas A&M 16 33 2.06
10 Kent State 10 20 2.00

Similar results are seen when we re-sort the data in the AA10 table by AA10/Pick:

Average Number of Above-Average Seasons Returned by Program, Per Pick

​Rank School Picks ​AA10 ​AA10/Pick
T-1 Brigham Young 12 12 1.00
T-1 Central Michigan 10 10 1.00
3 Oklahoma 22 21 0.96
4 Southern California 30 28 0.93
T-5 Pepperdine 20 18 0.90
T-5 St. John's 10 9 0.90
7 Texas 34 28 0.82
8 Auburn 16 13 0.81
9 Kentucky 10 8 0.80
10 Stanford 29 21 0.72

Finally, let’s take a look at the average WARP10 returned per pick:

Average WARP10 Returned by Program, Per Pick

Rank School Picks WARP10 ​WARP10/Pick
1 St. John's 10 41.64 4.16
2 Southern California 30 119.26 3.98
3 Pepperdine 20 72.96 3.63
4 Texas 34 115.13 3.39
5 Kentucky 10 30.32 3.03
6 Oklahoma 22 60.72 2.76
7 Brigham Young 12 30.80 2.57
8 Central Michigan 10 25.65 2.56
9 Auburn 16 40.27 2.52
10 Stanford 29 71.04 2.45
11 Minnesota 11 24.17 2.20
12 Louisiana State 21 42.80 2.04
13 Arkansas 14 27.42 1.96
14 Tennessee 11 21.37 1.94
15 North Carolina 12 23.04 1.94
16 Oklahoma State 15 28.22 1.88
T-17 Indiana State 10 18.21 1.82
T-17 Fresno State 23 41.88 1.82
19 San Diego State 16 25.49 1.59
20 Michigan State 12 18.37 1.53
21 Baylor 19 28.19 1.48
22 Seton Hall 13 19.14 1.47
23 Kent State 10 14.60 1.46
24 Arizona State 38 54.74 1.44
25 Clemson 29 40.22 1.39
26 Michigan 26 34.88 1.34
27 Mississippi State 16 20.66 1.29
28 Arizona 17 21.62 1.27
29 Georgia 11 12.89 1.17
30 Georgia Tech 13 14.78 1.14
31 Wichita State 18 20.37 1.13
32 Ohio State 10 10.62 1.06
33 Cal State Fullerton 20 21.03 1.05
34 UCLA 23 24.03 1.04
35 Texas A&M 16 16.10 1.01
36 Long Beach State 15 14.82 0.99
37 UNLV 11 10.60 0.96
38 Hawaii 12 9.66 0.80
39 Florida State 24 19.02 0.79
40 California 12 9.36 0.78
41 Miami (FL) 23 12.41 0.54
42 Bradley 13 6.72 0.52
43 Rice 18 8.57 0.48
44 Florida 11 4.74 0.43
45 Iowa State 10 2.88 0.29
46 Central Florida 13 2.87 0.22
47 Oregon State 12 2.54 0.21
48 Santa Clara 14 2.75 0.20
T-49 Chapman 10 0.61 0.06
T-49 Alabama 12 0.74 0.06

After looking at this data from multiple angles, it’s clear that WARP10 returned per pick is the most accurate way (of the methods reviewed) to measure each program’s value returned. ARP10/pick and AA10/pick are adequate for simply determining which programs have produced useful major-league pieces, but without considering the total WARP10 produced, the impact of those players is lost.

Next week we’ll get granular and examine which players in the study represented the greatest and worst values relative to their draft position.

Related Content:  Pitching,  Draft,  Stanford

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