WSU road woes hurting in more ways than one

IN COLLEGE BASEBALL, a win is a win and a loss is a loss. Except that it isn't, not really. Indeed, the Cougs' loss at Oregon on Thursday counts more against them than did a loss last week at home to Oregon State.

That's because of the college baseball RPI, a key tool that the selection committee uses in the postseason selection process.

Most prognosticators are predicting 5-6 teams from the Pac-12 will get into the postseason round of 64. The Cougs are sixth in the conference standings.

But even if they were fifth, it's hard to see them getting an at-large bid if the season ended today because the Cougs' RPI is nowhere near what it needs to be.

WSU's RPI is 109. Before Oregon State took two of three from the Cougs, it was 89. But if WSU can take the next two games from Oregon in Eugene, they can make a larger jump up the standings than 20 spots.

That's because changes were implemented last season to the RPI in baseball. The revised formula means each road victory is valued as 1.3 instead of 1.0, each home win is valued at 0.7 instead of 1.0. (Neutral-site games retain the same value of 1.0.)

The change was made to level the playing field. Schools where the spring weather is drier around the country were scheduling nearly entire non-conference slates at home, a decided edge considering the home team wins 62 percent of the time in college baseball.

The problem for the Cougs in 2014 is their road record is killing their RPI. The Cougs are 8-10 on the road this season.

IF WSU WERE to finish, say, fourth in the standings, one might think that would likely mean enough future road wins and their RPI should take care of itself. Maybe.

Last year, UC Santa Barbara got in with an RPI of 57, a number that usually doesn't result in an at-large bid. But Arizona didn't make it with an RPI of 58, a 34-21 overall mark and a conference record of 15-15. In 2011, LSU was stunned when the selection committee passed them over despite an RPI of 26.

What it all means is that WSU needs to make some hay, especially on the road and especially because there are so few road games left for the Cougs. They've already used up a lot of their margin for error.

The good news in terms of postseason selection for the Cougars is that finishing high in a major conference with a respectable RPI has been more important in recent years than finishing with a high RPI, but lower conference standing. But the wins have to start coming in bunches for the Cougs. And they have to start now.

WSU meets Oregon at 6 p.m. on Friday night. Free live video and audio streams are available HERE

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Thirty teams will be awarded automatic bids as conference champions in the college baseball postseason. Thirty-four non-automatic qualifying teams will be awarded at-large berths by the committee.

  • The weighting for a college baseball team's RPI: Division I winning percentage (25 percent); Opponent's Division I winning percentage (50 percent); Opponents' Opponents' Division I winning percentage (25 percent).

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