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Getting to know Stanford, Arizona, and Vanderbilt

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There’s a doins a-transpirin’.

College World Series Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

NC State played 33 ACC games during the regular season as well as 10 non-conference games, and all of the latter were against teams in North Carolina. We hadn’t seen any opponent from another power conference prior to Ruston, and as far as we’d known before then, they may as well have existed on the moon.

So let’s get to know our new temporary enemies a bit better.

Vanderbilt is not necessarily the most complete team in the College World Series but easily boasts the best frontline pitching talent. Arizona has been excellent offensively all year and clubbed Mississippi to death last weekend. Stanford is the other team in the group to win a Super Regional on the road (2-0 at Texas Tech). NC State is good and beloved far and wide.

I’m going to have a look at how these four compare very generally, since that’s the best I can do with the college baseball statistics that are easily accessible.

Offense

Bracket 1 R/G AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO
Bracket 1 R/G AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO
NC State 7.0 .289 .370 .501 .871 .212
Stanford 6.7 .281 .368 .463 .831 .182
Arizona 8.5 .327 .426 .507 .933 .180
Vanderbilt 7.1 .297 .388 .503 .891 .206

These numbers are neither adjusted for schedule strength nor park factors (i.e., how hitter- or pitcher- friendly the ballparks are), which makes me twitchy, but again, I’m working with what I’ve got.

Arizona stands out in terms of both batting average and OPS, though the Wildcats lag behind the others in home-run power, which is not necessarily a big deal. NC State leads this bracket in raw power (ISO) and has six players with double-figure homers, while Stanford and Vandy have three apiece, and Arizona has two. (Another thing worth noting: NC State and Stanford have played 53 games, while Arizona and Vanderbilt have played 60.)

But you get this far, you end up picking at nits, because the differences aren’t substantial, and these teams can get it done in different ways. NC State is 73-89 (82%) on stolen bases and Vandy is 86-98 (88%), while Stanford (48-63; 76%) and Arizona (31-42; 74%) don’t run so much. Vanderbilt and NC State swing-and-miss more frequently than the Wildcats and Cardinal.

Pitching

Bracket 1 ERA Opp. AVG K/BB K/9 BB/9 HR/9
Bracket 1 ERA Opp. AVG K/BB K/9 BB/9 HR/9
NC State 5.12 .241 2.5 8.9 3.5 1.4
Stanford 4.57 .242 2.1 8.4 4.0 0.8
Arizona 4.45 .257 2.4 9.4 3.9 0.4
Vanderbilt 3.37 .185 3.2 11.8 3.7 1.2

If you were wondering why Vandy is the favorite to win the whole thing, well, here you go. The Commodores’ offense is good enough, and their pitching is a major separator. It helps when you have two starting pitchers who will be top-10 draft picks very soon.

Stanford’s pitching staff is probably the worst of the bunch here, though the Cardinal have a bonafide ace in Brendan Beck. Once past Beck though, there’s a gaggle of dudes with underwhelming peripherals (strikeout and walk rates). Unfortunately, NC State will first have to get past Beck.

The other game is an interesting matchup of the high-average Wildcats against whichever ace Vanderbilt decides to throw. Jack Leiter has a .127 batting average against, and Kumar Rocker has a .157 batting average against. Both of those guys are just plain nasty and probably aren’t far removed from pitching in the majors. Leiter is a bit prone to the long ball (12 HR allowed in 96 IP) but that’s less a problem against Arizona, it would appear.

And the ballpark in Omaha, as you may remember from a certain moment during the 2013 series that will not be mentioned, is pitcher-friendly. Perhaps overly so.

Which also brings me to defense—there’s no good way to evaluate how these teams compare in that respect, but this is I think an area where NC State might be just a little better than everybody else. The left side of the infield is elite, and Tyler McDonough can cover a lot of ground in center. Defensive execution is more important in pitcher-friendly parks, and for whatever it’s worth, NC State has committed 32 errors this year, compared to Stanford’s 39, Vandy’s 52, and Arizona’s 77 (yikes).