Baseball: At mid-season, new RPI calculations still drawing slew of opinions

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Matt Erickson and the Fairview Knights sit at 11th in RPI in 5A after starting the year 7-3.

  • Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer

    Erie pitcher Ruben Portillo, left, is congratulated by a teammate during a game on March 9. Tigers coach Harold Simmons is confident his team can move up in the RPI standings despite starting the season 1-9.

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Holy Family coach Marc Cowell said he's still figuring out the RPI system in his first year back leading the Tigers.



Holy Family head baseball coach Marc Cowell — a man who has guided his teams to great heights in the past and once again has the Tigers playing well in 2017 — can’t help but be snared in thought by the nuances of the ratings percentage index.

To Cowell, who returned to the HFHS bench after a couple of years off, we must say “join the club.”

“I haven’t had any discussions with coaches myself since that all was implemented while I was out for those couple years,” Cowell said, his team 8-2 and playing well in the Class 4A Tri-Valley League. “But since it is my first year I really, really have an interest in it because I am starting to understand some of the ins and outs a little bit better. I’m still in that learning phase, as I’m sure a lot of coaches are.”

For baseball coaches in the area and elsewhere, dealing with the RPI is still very much an opinionated matter. Some, such as Fairview’s David Castillo, are choosing to ignore it at the moment and perhaps get a little more of a feel for things when it comes closer to the end of the season.

In reality, the RPI — the formula for calculating a team’s strength, essentially, and the basis of CHSAA’s playoff seeding — is intended for just that, looking at each team’s schedule after all games have been played.

But the fact that it is published and updated daily still gets a lot of people talking.

For baseball in Colorado, in particular, the formula for calculating a team’s RPI has changed since its 2016 “guinea pig” run (all other sports started using the RPI during this 2016-17 school year).

Whereas a combined 75 percent of a team’s rating last year came down to strength of schedule and opponents strength of schedule, in 2017 that number has decreased to a combined 65 percent.

It still seems skewed, but a quick glance at Friday’s RPI would show that only four Class 5A teams sit in the top 32 with sub.-500 records and of those only one (Mullen) is two games below .500 at 5-7. In 4A, two sub-.500 teams sit at 30 (Roosevelt) and 32 (Discovery Canyon).

In other words, teams seem to be rewarded for actually winning games a little bit more than losing to good teams.

“It’s difficult because we picked some non-league teams to play that we thought would help us with the strength of schedule, and it’s just not panning out this year,” Cowell said, his Tigers sitting at No. 21. “There’s nothing you can do about that part. But when they made the change in percentages, I personally was very happy about that because, again, that’s the part that you have some control over.”

Erie coach Harold Simmons and his Tigers are feeling a bit more of the brunt of new formula, though he fully believes his 1-9 Tigers have time to recover and get in to the postseason field.

The Tigers sit No. 50 in 4A — this despite losing one-run games to Fort Morgan (4A No. 9), Valor Christian (4A No. 8), Mountain View (4A No. 10) and Delta (3A No. 13). Erie also has played Windsor and Holy Family a combined four times already (1-3 record).

“I think the numbers are now pretty darn close to where they should be, at least getting there,” Simmons said. “But I don’t know if you can ever get it right without having a couple different number systems and then a human element to it. They are better than last year, I’d say.

“With us at 1-9, we’d have been sitting maybe 30th last year as opposed to 50th, with it being 50 percent opponents’ winning percentage. At least this way it feels more like you just have to say, ‘we’ve got to win games.’ If we were 4-6 instead of 1-9, we might be in the 20’s with our strength of schedule.”

At 7-3 and No. 11 in 5A RPI, Fairview is in a good spot at the midway point. But, in yet another example of the quirkiness of a formula with no human element attached, the Knights sit below 8-3 Legacy (No. 5) despite beating them head-to-head.

Broomfield is 21st in 5A despite beating Fairview, as well.

And thus reason for the ongoing debates.

“As of right now, it’s just too early for us to really look deep into it, and we’re just trying to tackle the games ahead of us,” Castillo said. “It’s in the back of our mind, and you watch other teams and see how they are doing. But once it really gets into the stretch run, I think you’d want to observe it a little bit more.

“But for scheduling purposes, I think it does make you aware of who you want for your non-league games.”

If indeed wins rather than opponents make the difference between getting into playoffs and being left out, there are plenty of teams locally that need to start collecting more positive results.

In 5A, 6-4 Boulder is No. 35 and 3-7 Monarch is right there at 42nd.

In 4A, Skyline and Mead are Nos. 39 and 40, respectively.

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