As we inch closer to the start of another college baseball season, I wanted to take a look at the conference from a more sabermetric standpoint and identify what each team lost, returns, and also brings in with regards to recruits.
Building a database and analyzing information on a deeper level has always been a passion of mine and I have not seen any other outlets utilize the tools we have at our disposal to evaluate baseball statistics on the college level like they do at the pro level. Here are the results of that study.
In evaluating hitters I wanted to use metrics that would have all the information needed to compute readily available to me, as well as providing a better understand of the value provided than simple counting stats or batting average would provide. With that in mind, here is the list of criteria I chose:
wOBA- Weighted On Base Average is a catch-all stat that measures a hitter’s overall offensive value, based on the relative values of each distinct offensive event. Batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging do not measure the value of events accurately, as obviously a double is not worth twice as much as single and a walk is not worth quite as much as a single. wOBA measures each specific action relative to the run environment in which the team plays in (so a single is less valuable in a run environment where runs are plentiful, versus one where runs are scarce and vice versa). The Valley run environment most closely resembled that of 1888 in the MLB (you can see the reason college baseball needed to do something about its run environment). This metric is scaled to resemble OBP, so that it is easier to understand what the data is telling us.
wRAA- Weighted Runs Above Average measures the number of offensive runs a player contributes to their team compared to the average player. They do this by using linear weights. The great thing about this metric is that it is scaled so that 0 always equals an average player. A positive number equals an above average hitter and a negative number equals a below average hitter. For my own personal context, I also broke this down by position, because as we all know, a 1B should generally be a better hitter than a SS etc. With this metric, it Is generally accepted that ~10 runs equals one win, so for every 10 runs of wRAA, the player contributed one win to his team. The scale works as follows: Excellent= 20 runs, Good = 10 runs, Average = 0 runs, Below Average= -5 runs, Awful = -10 runs.
wSB- Weighted Stolen Base Runs estimates the number of runs a player contributes to his team by stealing bases, as compared to the average player. You calculate this by using linear weights to weight it to zero and then determine the number of outs committed on the season and then determine the run value of each out. A stolen base is worth a flat .200 runs for each stolen base, but each out is worth -.478 runs, so you need to be safe a vast majority of the times you run to make the attempt worth it.
I then add the totals of wRAA and wSB together to come up with the number of runs contributed to your team offensively. Since I do not have all the baserunning numbers for each player (i. e. going 1st to 3rd etc) this is the most comprehensive number we can achieve for a players value added offensively.
DIPS Theory- Defense Independent Pitching Statistics try to determine the value the pitcher has actually contributed to his team without accounting for defense. For the most part, once a pitcher releases the ball, he loses all control over the outcome. A smash line drive caught by the 3B’man would be treated the same as a strikeout in ERA, but obviously the pitcher had far more to do with obtaining the out against the player he struck out then the player who hit a shot right at someone. The same holds true for a bloop down the RF line that falls in when the pitcher made a great pitch. This theory strips all of the noise away and looks at what the pitcher more closely controls (Walks, Hit Batsmen, Strikeouts, and HR’s allowed). This is evaluated in two ways: FIP, which is Fielding Independent Pitching and xFIP, which tries to normalize a pitcher’s HR rate to league average, as this is seen as more closely aligned with true talent from year to year. I prefer to use FIP when evaluating, as I believe groundball pitchers and pitchers who allow weaker contact deserve credit for that.
BABIP- Batting Average on Balls in Play tries to measure whether there was some good fortune involved in the stats that a player contributed to his team. Line drives have the highest BABIP, followed by ground balls, and then fly balls. Popups are generally considered the same as a strikeout, since they are an out about the same percentage of the time. For the Valley, the average BABIP was .309, so a player with a significantly higher BABIP may have seen good fortune in putting up his stat line while someone with a significantly lower BABIP may have been rather unlucky in his season.
Recruits- When evaluating past recruits and their pending results in the Valley, I only used results from 2011-2014, as college baseball underwent a large change in their run environment through the introduction of the BBCOR bat. This bat attempted to mirror the batted ball coefficient of restitution of a wood bat. In English, that basically means the bat loses more energy when the baseball makes contact with the bat, which results in lower exit velocity and reduces the trampoline effect that aluminum bats had become known for. I used summer results for high school players, as high school stats against uneven/unpredictable competition has proven to be virtually meaningless. What I found was that for JUCO hitters, the results are all over the place compared to how they fared in Junior College vs. the Valley, but their K and BB rates had a high correlation. You can use the K and BB rates to forecast batting average and OBP respectively. You can use their summer ISO to forecast slugging percentages and come up with an expected wRAA for the recruit.
Here are the results for each position based on the 2014 season, as well as what each team returns for 2015. In 2014, these are the wRAA positional averages:
It is no surprise that 1B would carry the highest average wRAA positionally, but what did surprise me is that C came in second among all position groups. On the flip side, I am quite floored that DH came in as the worst positional grouping. DH would traditionally be a spot that teams would put a masher without the athleticism to be a plus defender on the diamond.
1. Dallas Baptist
The preseason favorite and the team that ended the Bears season last year is loaded once again. DBU found a way to win multiple one-run games against the Bears last year and return preseason All-American closer Brandon Koch. Dallas Baptist was the only Valley team to top 100 runs on offense last year at 106.05, but it should be noted they play in very much a hitter’s park. I did not include park factors in my analysis because of the volatile nature of them in college baseball and the fact that Hammons Field is considered a pitcher’s park in college baseball, but very much a hitter’s park in minor league baseball (*side note* left-handed hitters have a distinct advantage at Hammons, and I’d like to see us recruit some more lefties with thump).
Of offense, DBU returns eight position players, and 73 runs total. They were the only team to be above zero in every single position last year. The one position they were receiving below average production at, SS, they moved a freshman All-American to and he solidified the lineup replacing Sonnier.
DBU has strengths up and down their lineup, returning by far the best C in the Valley in Salters (24.97 runs), and double digit runs at every position except for SS and DH.
Anytime you bring back a swingman capable of going three innings to close out a game or just get you three outs, you’re going to be trouble late in ballgames. Koch had a 0.66 ERA and a ludicrous 1.55 FIP last year. He’s good.
Cory Taylor is back to anchor the weekend rotation, and two other pitchers return with starter experience.
It’s difficult to call it a weakness, but losing Cy Sneed will hurt. Sneed was a workhorse who usually delivered on Friday night. He had a 3.44 FIP in 104 innings and that will be tough to replace. They also lose their Saturday starter, Voelker, who contributed a 3.67 FIP in 93 innings. That’s quite a bit of experience and innings to replace.
Luckily for the Bears, DBU’s recruiting class was hit hard by the MLB draft and they lost some stud arms. They do bring in two top-notch arms in Eric White (9.5 score from Perfect Game) and Seth Elledge (9.0 score from Perfect Game).
This team will be tough to beat.
Wichita returns -4.53 of offense, so they went out and brought in multiple Juco’s in a recruiting class that touted as one of the best in the nation. Wichita returns only four position players and four pitchers, which is by far the fewest in the league. Wichita’s offense last year relied on Connor Gillespie who produced 77.68 runs on offense. For reference, that was more than the entire combined lineups of all but Dallas Baptist and Illinois State.
Bringing in six Juco’s who spurned the MLB draft and two high school players who said no to the draft, you can see they are bringing in serious talent.
Looking for strengths will be difficult simply due to the limited nature of returning players. Wichita returns Sam Tewes, who had to leave the Cape Cod league due to arm soreness. He will anchor their staff and pitch on Friday night. I do not project him to be their best pitcher however (4.13 FIP last year compared to a 3.27 ERA).
Wichita returns only one position player who produced a positive wRAA in OF Kihle. They also lose the best hitter the league has seen in years. That will leave the team relying on speed and small ball to score runs this year.
Butler likes having Dearman leadoff for some reason (-5.28 runs on offense), but he suffered a high ankle sprain and will miss the start of the season. How Butler arranges his lineup will go a long way towards how Wichita fares this season.
Wichita suffered a big loss when projected starter at SS Phillips left to follow an assistant coach to a Juco. Phillips was only a freshman and produced above average results at an important position (1.30 runs on offense).
This is where things get scary. Their best recruit in my mind is Sam Hilliard, a two way player from Crowder. He will start at 1B and be their mid-week starter at the beginning of the year, but I expect the Lefty to quickly join the weekend rotation. I project him for 14.23 runs on offense on the strength of his HR power and solid ratios (16.2 K% and 9.4 BB%).
Chase Rader was a 1st team Juco All-American last year at 1B, but he will play 3B for Wichita. I reviewed previous Juco All-Americans and the data was limited as normally the players turn pro. Rader was drafted in the 13th round, but spurned the pros for a year at Wichita. He underwhelmed over the summer and I project him to produce 13.87 runs on offense. He is extremely athletic and stole 42 bases in Juco last year. I project him for 20 stolen bases and only 4 CS.
Keenan Eaton is a high school recruit who originally signed with Vanderbilt, but did not qualify. This is a big-time recruit who also was drafted but came to school. He didn’t blow up the summer, however, and I predict him to be slightly above average at 1.14 runs. He will play a lot early in the season as Dearman gets healthy.
Schwanke is another two-way player for Wichita who absolutely mashed at a DII Juco. There is virtually no correlation between the DII Juco’s and success at the DI level, so I relied heavily on his summer performance, which was very good. I project him to be the DH for Wichita and produce 11.47 runs on offense.
Tinkham is a talented C who was also drafted and comes with a good bat for the position. He suffered a shoulder injury and had surgery to help with the injury. If he is able to play C, it would mean big things for the Shockers, as it allows them to get Schwanke’s bat into the lineup as well. If he has to DH, they lose a ton on offense having to rely on Bob Arens instead (though he is very good defensively).
On the mound, Chase Anderson will be their Saturday starter, and I project him to have a solid 3.66 FIP and give innings. Schwanke will be their Sunday starter and I project him to have a 3.66 FIP as well, though eventually I believe Hilliard will overtake him for the weekend. Hilliard has knockout stuff and dominated the summer as well. I project him at a 32.5 K% and a league leading 1.78 FIP this season if he pitches in a reliever/starter role. Juco transfer Hayes has a little less stuff and I project him at a 4.55 FIP and pitching out of the bullpen. Freshman Ferrendelli has been a pleasant surprise and I think he’ll carve out a role on the team with a 3.03 FIP. The Shockers have a wildcard in Juco transfer Williams, who was always a basketball player at 6-6, but he got on a mound and took off. He was drafted, but has serious command issues, pulling a great ‘Wild Thing’ impression last season in Juco. I have him for a 7.14 FIP, but his stuff is excellent and he could far outperform that projection.
This team really reminds me of the 2011 Bears who brought in a ton of Juco’s and had a quick turnaround with Brock Chafffin (32.73 runs on offense), Brent Seifert (11.50 runs), Spiker Helms (16.55 runs), Kyle Hardy (-2.83 runs), Derek Mattea (0.22 runs) with Dan Kickham on the mound (3.71 FIP, 13 saves), Cody Schumacher (2.74 FIP in 99 innings), Erik Shannahan (1.24 FIP), Danny McMurtrey (2.56 FIP). That team knocked out Miami in the Regionals and led Stony Brook 7-2 in the 7th before collapsing.
3. Missouri State
If you’re here reading this, obviously you’re most interested in what the forecast for Missouri State looking like heading into 2015 within the Valley. The results are encouraging to me. Missouri State is the only team with a higher returning wRAA than what they had last year offensively. What that means is that the players who left the team were actually hurting the team offensively and replacing them with even average players would result in a large net gain for the team. I’ll spend the most time on MSU’s results and then provide short previews of each team for comparison’ sake.
Last year’s lineup produced a total wRAA of 37.11 runs above average. The returning players, however, contributed 43.13 wRAA, which means our departed players were actually contributing negative value. Here is how our lineup broke down last year:
CF: 24.73 wRAA
Missouri State has four elite players in Tate Matheny (24.73wRAA), Eric Cheray (22.08 wRAA), Jon Harris (3.07 FIP), and Matt Hall (3.87 FIP, dominated Cape Cod league to a 2.46 FIP). That quartet is as strong as any team in the league.
The bullpen is a strength of the team as returnees Sam Perez (3.44 FIP), Adam Anawalt (3.16 FIP), Zach Merciez (3.49 FIP) all return to give solid innings.
Depth is going to be a strong suit for the Bears this year, as they return 11 lettermen and add a couple of impact recruits to add balance.
The schedule aligns to give the Bears a good shot to accomplish their goals this season. A solid non-conference schedule will provide a lot of opportunity for big wins, and the conference schedule has the majority of the contenders at home. Indiana State, Dallas Baptist, and Wichita State should all be good teams this year, and the Bears get them all at home.
A return to health would really benefit the Bears, as Spencer Johnson was one of their better hitters as a freshman, but was slowed by a shoulder injury all season. Pitchers Adam Anawalt and Bryan Young were injured early in the season and missed the rest of the year.
While fielding percentage is not the best indicator of defensive prowess, the Bears did lead the Valley with a .972 fielding percentage last season.
The Sunday and midweek starters are yet to be sorted out and one of the top options for the role, Brad Archer, is hurt and may not pitch much this year. Right now Coach Guttin indicated the most likely Sunday starter to be Jordan Knutson, who suffered through a nightmarish freshman season with an 8.38 FIP in a small sample size. Over the summer Knutson fared somewhat better with a 3.40 FIP, but for context, that was third worst on the team, and had a second worst K%-BB%, which has proven to be a good predictor of future success. Adam Anawalt is another candidate but he is coming off an injury and didn’t pitch over the summer. He was a starter in Juco with a very good 2.72 FIP and 11.7% K-BB%. The Juco averages from my study of former Juco recruits was 11.5% and 2.74 FIP, so he was a fraction better than average. Those pitchers contributed a 3.27 FIP and 10.6% K-BB% in college, so he can be expected to be decent in the role if he wins it. Zach Merciez is the final candidate for a starter role, and he is coming off a solid season with a 3.49 FIP, which was buoyed by a solid BB% of 7.9%. Merciez had a great summer with a 1.28 ERA and a 2.94 FIP. My choice for the role would be Sam Perez, who had a great season (3.44 FIP, but was under 3 until a disastrous start in final game of season), followed by a great summer (2.82 FIP in 59.33 innings as a starter). How this plays out will be one of the biggest determining factors of our season.
The Bears have addition by subtraction in their lineup by losing 389 at bats from Patrick Drake, Connor Smith, Trey Massenburg, Trey Hair, and Tyler Harris that -9.43 wRAA to the team. Where they really need to improve is with their lineup depth featuring 476 at bats from Matt Fultz, Joey Hawkins, and Aaron Meyer that contributed -16.21 wRAA. Fultz needs to get on base a tick more to contribute positive value. Hawkins is a solid SS and we have very little in the way of positive options, so we have to hope his summer showing portends to a better season (he was -.01 wRAA over the summer, but he needs to run less if he is going to contribute value as he went 5-10 on SB attempts over the summer). Where we can immediately improve is by giving at bats to Jefferson (1.05 wRAA), Dezort (1.35 wRAA), and incoming freshmen instead of Meyer, who was the second worst offensive player in the Valley at -9.31 wRAA over 124 at bats. I just hope being named Freshmen of the Year doesn’t translate to a starting spot for Meyer.
For the Bears to improve even further, they need to do a better job with the hidden stats like improving on their wSB (-0.25 and only 53 SB, but 22 CS). The Bears also had the fewest hit batsmen in the Valley with 34. Southern Illinois was next fewest with 42, which is 24% more than the Bears. Evansville had 82 hit batsmen in two fewer games, which is 140% more and an extra 38 bases for their offense.
For high school recruits I used Perfect Game’s ranking numbers as a guide to see if they correlated to better success in-season and for the players they rated it held true. I started at 8.5, as the players rated with an 8 tended to not actually come to school there, or receive much playing time. The Valley had players score 9 and 9.5, but no players received a 10. For my Juco research, there was a very high correlation with their K and BB% in Juco vs. how they fared in their first season.
The recruit that should make the biggest impact for the Bears this season is Juco transfer Justin Paulsen. Paulsen walked more than he struck out in Juco and over the summer, so he should be expected to hit for a decent average, but has little pop. He posted a 17.10 wRAA over the summer and I project him for 15.03 offense this season. Last season, the 1B position produced a lowly -0.38. A difference of almost two full wins all on its own.
Castro should add pop to the DH position and at times the C position. Castro slugged the ball in Juco and then followed that up with a very solid .210 ISO over the summer and K% and BB% of 16.4% and 9.0% respectively. I have him projected for 5.60 wRAA, which would significantly help the C and DH positions, which contributed only -4.40 wRAA and 1.72 wRAA. The position where the Bears fared the worst last year in comparison to the league average was C.
Jake Burger is going to play 3B quite a bit this year and definitely to start the season as Dylan Becker is suffering from shoulder soreness and will DH to begin the year. Burger had a great summer in the St. Louis league filled with college players, putting up a .243 ISO. Burger should add pop, and make decent contact, but his BB rate of 4.2% leaves a lot to be desired. I project Burger to produce 0.60 wRAA on the season, which is solid for a 8.5 rated player with Perfect Game.
Kyle Reed had an unlucky summer, with a .250 BABIP, where he didn’t produce an extra base hit, but had outstanding ratios of 9.3% for K and 18.6% for BB rate. Because of the high correlation for hitters who make contact and control the strike zone, I project Reed to produce 6.64 offense and hopefully take over the LF job as the season goes along.
On the mound Austin Knight should contribute out of the bullpen, as he is a competitive pitcher with solid stuff. Nick Brown has the best velocity on the team, but will need to improve his control to get meaningful innings. If he does harness that control, he has great upside.
I project both of the Walker twins to produce negative value, but both have the athleticism to contribute on the defensive end.
4. Illinois State
ISUr is a scrappy team that score a lot of runs. They work hard to get on base and tied with Dallas Baptist for the most HBP with 82. They understand the value of an out, having the fewest bunts in the league with only 23 on the season. They return the second most runs on offense at 68.01 and will be tough to pitch to. Last year ISUr led the Valley in FIP at 3.14.
Any time you have an All-American in your lineup, you have a chance to score some runs. Paul DeJong contributed 30.57 wRAA last year (second in the Valley) and returns to the middle of the ISUr lineup. They return seven above average hitters from last year and ten lettermen on offense.
ISUr returns one of the biggest potential bounceback pitchers from last year in Will Headen.
ISUr returns only two pitchers from last year’s team, and one of them doesn’t figure into their plans.
They also have a new Coach this year and his strategy is yet to be seen, and he does not know the league quite yet.
Illinois State had their hearts broken when the only 10 rated recruit in the Valley, C Simeon Lucas, signed with the Indians. Riley Pawelski will contribute innings this year as a freshman. Mitch Vogrin was dominant in high school, and though he may be short in stature, he is expected to pitch quite a bit this year for the Redbirds. Mitch Weis transfers in from Jefferson College and is expected to be a weekend guy for them. Caleb Ratzman is a transfer from Indian Hills and is a speedy OF who controls the strike zone well (far more walks than K’s). Jake Sale transfers in from Parkland College and will be the closer for the Redbirds. Alec Altmyer is a sleeper RHP recruit for the Redbirds (rated #89 in Illinois). Jeff Barton is a late signee as a RHP. Tyler Feece is a little LHP who will add depth off a redshirt. Jacob Hendren is a DII transfer from Heartland. He’s a LHP who has a chance to start. Twin brother Jared is one of the fastest players in the entire country, with a documented 6.31 60. Both have three years to play at ISUr and are good recruits. Ryan Koziol will transfer in from Gulf Coast and probably start at 3B, where ISUr has nothing returning of note. This is a strong and deep class.
The defending champs should be solid again, but losing Kyle Freeland will be a major blow. Freeland posted a 1.90 ERA and 1.25 FIP in 99 innings last year. They do return eight players from their lineup and seven pitchers who threw at least 17 innings last year. Alex Gould is a tiny right-hander, but he was extremely effective last year (2.04 ERA, 2.65 FIP). Two other pitchers threw 50 innings with FIP’s in the mid-3’s.
Evansville can hit the baseball (they actually led the Valley in wOBA at .3809). They return 59.50 runs on offense and just about all of them are back this season. The best 2B’man in the league, Synek returns (20.88 runs of offense).
Depth of the bullpen will be a plus, with multiple options to bridge a game in the middle innings.
Evansville loses a true anchor off their pitching staff and do not really have a replacement at this point.
Evansville does not have a catcher on their roster with true experience. Billy Lipari transferred from Pittsburgh, where he played sparingly. Former football player for the Panthers as well.
Evansville lost their best recruit when Luke Rouse did not come to school, but they bring in a solid class without him. Patrick Schnieders is a kid who was a teammate of Justin Paulsen at Jefferson last year and he struck out 77 in 59 IP. He’ll be in their weekend rotation. Nick Cecil is a lefty who will provide depth. Nick Eggemeyer is a tall righty with decent upside (8.0 on Perfect Game). Travis Tokarek is the player who will make the most immediate impact in the lineup for the Aces, as he should start at C. The undersized athletic left-handed hitter doesn’t have the strongest arm, so hopefully the Bears exploit that. Korbin Williams is an athletic kid with a lot of pop. Evansville got a good player here.
6. Indiana State
ISUb is a team severely lacking in offense as they had a .3309 wOBA (lowest in the league), and -36.62 wRAA (by far the lowest in the league). Some of that was misfortune as they had a BABIP of .277 (the only team in the Valley to be under .300). On the pitching side, ISUb had the best ERA at 3.34 as a team, but the second worst FIP at 3.98, signifying the bad luck they had on offense was good fortune on the mound (.276 BABIP, lowest in the league). They lose their best hitter in C Mike Fitzgerald, who got on base 45.2% of the time last season.
ISUb returns their top two weekend starters, their closer, and their midweek starter as well.
They are strong on the bases, adding 3.43 runs from SB’s by going 71-93 on stolen base attempts (second in the Valley).
ISUb was completely devoid of power last year, finishing last in doubles (71) and HR’s (14) in the Valley. To top it off, Fitzgerald was second on the team in slugging at .402.
Gritty SS Tyler Wampler will need to be replaced and he was a key part of the offense and defense last year. He was nominated for Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Award last year and is a big loss.
ISUb brought in one of the top recruits in the Valley this year in RHP Anthony Herron Jr. (9.5 rating). He was a higher draft prospect until his velocity dipped in the spring, but when he’s right he throws low 90’s and has a dynamite splitter. I wanted the Bears to get this kid badly. Dane Tofteland is a solid 3B prospect (8.0 rating) with good size. Andy DeJesus transfers over to play SS from Iowa Western, but he was pretty terrible last year. Tyler Friis is a quick, small SS with good hands and a great glove.
The Braves struggled last year, but expect them to take a step forward this season. Bradley loses their two best hitters, and move from 62.16 runs on offense to 15.66 returning, The reason why I expect them to take a step forward is the fact they return all of their pitching from last season. By far the most in the league.
Bradley returns six pitchers with a FIP under four. Only one pitcher made any starts for Bradley last year that does not return and he had a 8.59 ERA.
The nucleus is there for a solid lineup, comprised mostly of infielders, which gives them a great start.
Bradley’s OF is the worst in the Valley and they will rely on several recruits to step in immediately and provide offense. Starter soph. Evan Gruener is from Logan-Rogersville.
Bradley will be improved, but will not be a factor in the championship.
8. Southern Illinois
SIU is looking at a long year. They had the best DH in the league last year, but he is going and while their offense was poor to begin with (18.12 wRAA), their returning players combined for -8.91 wRAA- by far the worst in the league.
They return a weekend starter who had a 4.06 FIP and their best reliever had a .209 BABIP, so when you’re looking for strengths on a really bad team, this is what you get.
Pretty much everything else.
Chase Slone is a SS who had interest from several SEC programs. Hunter Anderson is rated as a 9.0 and can play 3B/OF. He should play a lot for them. Nick Hutchins drew some interest from SEC programs and is a nice C prospect. Ryan Netemeyer was an accomplished HS player, but is an undersized righty. He’ll pitch a lot for them. Braden Mosley is a physically advanced OF with pop and a great arm. Top-notch recruit and should be an instant starter. I expect Juco transfer Colton Selvey will be their Friday night starter and help them remain competitive. It’s obvious SIU was pitching instant playing time, because this is an upper level recruiting class, but SIU was picked last for a reason.
Missouri State returns the fourth most runs in the Valley, but they are literally gaining runs by losing players from last year. On the mound, they boast the best one-two returning punch in the league, but they need the rotation depth to emerge.
The Valley is going to be very strong this year, with as many as five teams contenders to make the tournament in Missouri State, Dallas Baptist, Evansville, Illinois State, and Wichita State. Indiana State should be quite good and Bradley and Southern are much improved and should post top-200 RPI’s.
To reach their goals, the Bears are going to need to start fast, and fare better in mid-week games. The key is to build a non-conference resume before hitting conference play. I’d like to see more of an emphasis on winning those games- even if it comes at the expense of some Sunday Valley games, where we may just need to mash our way to some wins. I’m confident that this is a good Bears team, but Dallas Baptist is the clear favorite, with the Bears, Evansville, Wichita and ISUr all fairly equal on paper. Should be a great season for Valley baseball!