Softball Notebook

The Softball Channel’s Fastpitch Blog

26  01 2018

Secret of College’s Best Teams: Defense!

Florida Did It Best in 2017

By Daniel Urban
TSC Analyst/Contributor

The NCAA website keeps a pretty dynamite archive of statistical data from the prior season based on team and individual performance. It keeps rankings for 12 stat categories. The team stat categories range from practical ones, like team scoring and team home runs per game, to the less than practical, like team doubles per game.

I poured over all of the statistical categories provided by the NCAA website to see how the 64 playoff teams from 2017 ranked in each statistical category. A few interesting things popped out when I analyzed this data:

1. It’s amazing just how dominant Florida’s defense was last season, especially considering that it plays in the toughest division in college softball. Florida ranked #1 in both ERA and fielding percentage. It surprised me that Florida’s offensive numbers were not as dominant—especially in the power numbers. Florida ranked 59th in home runs, 21st in scoring and 34th in slugging %, but the Gators were able to make up for it by consistently getting players on base—as evidenced by its #8 on-base percentage ranking. The most important thing for a hitter is not getting out! And the Gators excelled at that in 2017—combine that with a #1 defense and you have a recipe for success!

2. I was also surprised with just how high Arizona’s offense ranked: #4 in batting average, #1 in home runs, #2 in scoring and #1 in slugging percentage. No other team even came close to matching its offensive numbers. But I feel like Arizona did not get much press as being an offensive juggernaut last year. The press should have been paying closer attention to these numbers!

3. Think stolen bases are important? They aren’t. None of the top 16 teams ranked in the top 20 nationally in stolen bases. The average national ranking for stolen bases was 79 in the nation. Not exactly impressive.

4. Want to know which category the top 16 seeds were most commonly at the top of? Earned run average. The average ranking of the top 16 teams was 20.8. The next closest was fielding % at 28.8, followed by scoring at 38, slugging at 43, and batting average at 39. So the one common theme among the top 16 teams was (as you might expect) defense!

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