I’ve gotten interested lately in making a study of velocity expectations for college-bound pitchers. Of course, most people here are aware that there are 3 NCAA divisions, JUCOs, and “other” athletic associations. Altogether, the total numbers and diversity are staggering and can’t be considered in a single essay.
So, one might start with NCAA D1–how many colleges are there at that level? Turns out, there are 30 separate D1 Baseball Conferences containing a total of about 285 colleges. I say “about” because" membership is somewhat fluid–colleges drop in and out, sometimes cancelling baseball programs for financial reasons, sometimes (more rarely) bootstrapping a new program and joining an established conference. And so on.
Nevertheless, lets call it about 285 and each school can theoretically carry a roster of up to 35 players, although many carry somewhat fewer than the allowed number. All told, the numbers suggest just around 10,000 roster spots on D1 teams. Somewhere around 30 - 40+ % of those roster spots are filled by pitchers, i.e., a total of about 3000 to 4000+ pitchers at the D1 level.
Since 285 schools and 3 to 4+ thousand pitchers are too many for a convenient analysis, I decided to choose single examples of “strong”, “medium”, and “weak” D1 conference and see what I could do with just the RHPs who are currently pitching in those conferences.
I decided to extract velocity data from Perfect Game records because they seem reliable and cover the entire nation. Obviously, not every college-bound player goes to a Perfect Game showcase, so I included data to show how much PG data was available for a given conference.
Not surprisingly, the “strong” conference that I chose (Atlantic Coast Conference) had the highest percentage of pitchers whose data could be found at PG…makes sense, most of the ACC RHPs throw very hard and they tended to maximize their pre-college exposure via showcases.
Here’s the data:
Strong conference: Atlantic Coast Conference. Number of teams = 12. Total number of RHPs = 123. Number of RHPs with PG radar data = 101 (82%). [That’s a very high % of coverage in my opinion.]
ave. RHP velocity = 89.2 mph (std dev = +/- 3.0 mph). [That is, around 70% of ACC RHPs fell within the range of 86 - 92 mph before they went to a college in the ACC. Note also, about 15% were above that range and about 15% of RHPs were below that range before pitching for a college in the ACC.]
Medium conference: West Coast Conference. Number of teams = 9. Total number of RHPs = 97. Number of RHPs with PG radar data = 34 (35%). [That is a low % in my opinion, and may reflect that West Coast players have other showcase options].
ave. RHP velocity = 87.3 mph (std. dev. = 3.5 mph). [Thus, about 70% of WCC RHPs threw within the range of 84 - 90 mph before attending college in the WCC].
Weak conference: American East. Number of teams = 6 [Note: The NCAA page still lists 7 teams in this conference, but the University of Vermont dropped baseball last year, citing financial issues]. Total number of RHPs = 64. Number of RHPs with PG radar data = 29 (45%). [Not bad coverage for a small, lesser known conference].
ave. RHP velocity = 84.9 mph (std. dev. = 4.3 mph). [Thus, about 70% of AEC RHPs threw within the range of 80.5 - 89 mph before joining an AEC college baseball program].
So far, although a study of RHPs in three conferences cannot possibly tell the whole story, I’d say that the actual data pretty much squares up with the knowledgeable “off-the-cuff” opinion that I’ve heard from experienced baseball people.
If there’s a take-home message, it might be–there are few absolutes. Even among the “strong” conference’s rosters (and ACC is a very strong conference, I hope no one would dispute that) there are many examples of RHPs who threw mid 80s, and even a significant number who recorded low 80s numbers at PG) before playing for a college in that tough conference.
Clearly, there are many, many more variables to consider than this simplistic study is capable of…but, it’s a brief start. :lol: Well, not that brief, maybe.