Andrew Ferguson - AState Athletics

Comparing Big 10 and SEC states in baseball talent.

Comparing top baseball talent between the north and south.

The NCAA Division I baseball tournament is about to begin play and while the Red Wolves won't be in the tournament, we can still provide some useful information.

One thing you can count on each year during the tournament will be a coach, columnist or some talking head on television proclaiming that NCAA baseball is rigged to benefit southern teams. They will note (correctly) that the college season will begin while teams in the north are shoveling snow. The theory being that the balance of play is skewed because the southern teams have better early season weather and miss fewer games that have to be crowded on the end of the schedule and they miss less practice.

Those are certainly important considerations, but a look at major league players and where they are from indicates the problem begins before college.

I've taken the birthplace of everyone who played major league baseball in 2015 who came from a Big 10 or SEC state. They are the big names in college so the impact of local talent should relate better to success, presuming schools tend to win in-state recruiting battles. I considered a Sun Belt look but that would have eliminated Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina (for now) and Florida from the conversation. Now many of these players never went to college, they were drafted from high school and signed then but it should give us a reasonable idea how much high level baseball talent there is in each state. A state that produces more MLB players presumably produces more Division I talent than states with fewer MLB players. It's not perfect and it can't account for a player born in Michigan who doesn't touch a baseball until their family moved to Florida.

In general, the Big 10 states have one MLB player for every 448,990 people. SEC states one MLB player for every 235,125 people.

Big 10 states have a combined population in Census Bureau's 2015 estimate of 84,859,087 people and 189 players made an MLB appearance in 2015 who were born in a Big 10 state. The SEC states estimated population was 95,460,695 with 406 MLB player. Texas really throws these numbers out there. Omitting Texas, the rest of the SEC had a population 67,991,581 with 292 MLB players. That's one MLB player for every 232,848 people.

The longer playing season in the south quite likely produces the majority of the difference as players can start youth seasons earlier and play longer. As a result, larger numbers of high level players. 

The numbers for Arkansas are unsurprisingly out of line with Mississippi which has a nearly identical population but much of the state is farther south and with better weather. What is surprising is that Missouri with a bit more than double the population, produced three times more MLB players in 2015.

Big Ten States

State Population MLB Players
Illinois
12,859,995
39
Indiana
6,619,680
29
Iowa
3,123,899
5
Maryland
6,006,401
10
Michigan
9,884,129
10
Minnesota
5,489,594
10
Nebraska
1,896,190
10
New Jersey
8,791,936
16
Ohio
11,613,423
30
Pennsylvania
12,802,503
25
Wisconsin
5,771,337
5
Total 84,859,087 189

SEC States

State Population MLB Players
Alabama
4,858,979
18
Arkansas
2,978,204
5
Florida
20,271,272
117
Georgia
10,214,860
44
Kentucky
4,425,092
19
Louisiana
4,670,724
14
Mississippi
2,992,333
12
Missouri
6,083,672
21
South Carolina
4,896,146
17
Tennessee
6,600,299
25
Texas
27,469,114
114
Total 95,460,695 406