Archive for Thursday, June 15, 2006

Opinion: All-league lists don’t add up

June 15, 2006

When it comes to sports, I've always been a numbers guy. Fifteen years ago you probably could have found me sitting on the floor of my room surrounded by a pile of baseball cards, painstakingly studying the statistics on the back of each card, noting which years were players' best, which years they led the league in certain categories, and how each player's stats measured up against the others.

So when this year's all-league softball lists came out I went online and looked up all the stats I could find. The more numbers I found the more confused I got. In the end just one thing seemed clear: softball coaches place a lot of emphasis on team success when they choose all-league players. There's no other way to explain the way Basehor-Linwood players slipped this year.

Most of the Lady Bobcats thought Kristal Holland deserved to be a first-team pitcher, and you could certainly make a case for her, statistically. Her 1.07 ERA was comparable to Lansing's Brittney Lang and Tonganoxie's Amie Riddle, the two pitchers selected ahead of her, and Holland's strikeouts-to-innings-pitched ratio (1.28), was significantly higher than Riddle's (0.83).

It's easy to make a case for Holland to move from second team to first, but it might be even easier for Chelsey Patton.

Patton was relegated to second team this year despite hitting .360 with eight extra base hits, while also making just four errors at second base. By contrast, Mill Valley's Erin Leslie ended up on the first team with a .319 batting average and seven extra base hits. What makes Patton's case even more of a head-scratcher is that she made the first team last season despite hitting just .277. How do you tell her that even though she raised her batting average by nearly 100 points, her status in the league has gone down? Has the Kaw Valley League gotten that much better in one year?

Things get even more crazy in the outfield. Erin Shore went from second team all-state last year to being left off both league lists this year. Yes, her batting average dropped from .368 to .314, but that was still higher than Lansing's Nicole Holland, who made second team outfield despite hitting less than .300.

But the worst snub in my mind was Jennifer Sirridge. The BLHS center fielder hit .380, had a .563 on base percentage and made just one error while playing the toughest outfield position. The fact that she didn't even make second team is absolutely bewildering, especially considering Tonganoxie's Tracie Hileman made the first team with a nearly identical batting average (.373) and three errors.

I thought it was interesting to see Mill Valley soccer coach Arlan Vonhof tell the Shawnee Dispatch he was upset that his 11-4 team had no players named to the all-league first team (the Lady Jaguars had six second-teamers). I've interviewed Vonhof before and I think he's a great guy and a brilliant coach, but I also think he missed the boat here. You see, he had a superbly balanced team this year; no one scored more than seven goals. Basehor-Linwood, on the other hand, had Jessica Smith, who scored 18 and Shanna Couch, who scored eight.

Should those girls switch places with a couple of Lady Jaguars since BLHS finished at just 7-8-2? I don't think so; these are supposed to be individual awards, after all.

I guess I'm just still a numbers guy, because in my mind the soccer coaches got it right and the softball coaches got it wrong.

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