The numbers don’t lie … or do they?
In the big leagues, the benchmark for a good year at the plate is batting .300. A player hits that or better, there’s pretty much no debate about it — he’s had a good year.
On the mound, if a player pitches to an earned run average under 4.00, that’s good. And if that number dips below 3.00, that’s great.
But how about in the Ivy League? What marks a good season — would those same figures equate to stellar campaigns?
Last year, the Penn baseball team had three of its nine regular starters with at least 95 plate appearances surpass the .300 mark: Ryan Deitrich (.350), Greg Zebrack (.343) and Rick Brebner (.313).
It’s not often that a major league lineup features a trio of .300 hitters. In the Ivy League, it’s commonplace — last season every team but Yale had at least three regulars reach the mark.
Likewise, in the bigs, Deitrich’s .350 average would’ve had him in the running for a hitting crown almost any season. An average as low as .301 has even won the batting title (Carl Yastrzemski, 1968).
But Deitrich was never in the running. He finished eighth in the conference in the category — very good, but not off the charts. The champion, Dartmouth’s Jake Carlson, hit .397.
In general, the Ancient Eight features significantly more hitting than its professional counterpart. In 2012, the eight teams combined to bat .277 overall on the season, with averages ranging from Dartmouth’s .298 to Yale’s .250.
The stats are fairly consistent with those of two years ago, when the across-the-league average was .271. It isn’t relevant to go back any further than that since the Ivies switched to a bat with a smaller sweet spot and less drive after 2010, when the conference hit .299 as a whole.
Comparing those figures with those from the American League — since both it and the Ancient Eight utilize a designated hitter — teams combined to hit .255 last year, with the Angels topping them all at .274 and the lowly Mariners placing last at .234.
The 2010 and 2011 seasons yielded similar results as well, with squads combining to bat .260 and .258, respectively.
So while a .300 average is good in the Ivy League, it certainly doesn’t have as much special meaning as is typically associated with it in the major leagues.
For pitchers, there’s almost a full run’s difference between the two leagues — 5.25 in the Ivies to 4.40 in the AL in 2012, 5.03 to 4.08 in 2011.
An ERA under 4.00 in the Ancient Eight is, in fact, very good. A sub-3.00 mark in the league? Almost unheard of. Only three pitchers — including 2012 Penn grad Vince Voiro — threw at least 50 innings and kept their ERA in the twos last year.
So no, the numbers don’t lie after all — you just need to know what to compare them to.