In the third edition of Scout Angles, Luke Smailes and Greg Hunter focused on the small colleges and universities of America by analyzing the ABCA’s D3 all-American selections.

With Greg being a former scout and Luke a data analyst, they have different takes on what exactly makes an all-American. With 6-4-3 Charts’ tools at their disposal, they debate where and why the ABCA got some of their selections wrong while also critiquing each other. Overall, they were much happier with the ABCA’s D3 nominations compared to their D1 picks as well as NFCA’s D1 picks. They only figure seven total snubs here, but had 12 snubs for the D1 baseball nominations and ten for D1 softball.

The Snubs

  1. Branton Sanders (Anderson – IN) (Luke)

Luke:

Sanders was more deserving of the first base all-American nomination than Tyler Calvert. Berry College was a better team than Anderson University, and Calvert played the tougher strength of schedule. But other than batting average (which weighs every hit as equal no matter the outcome and thus doesn’t tell you as much about a hitter compared to more modern metrics), Sanders was much better than Calvert across the board. My top offensive metrics of consideration for these analyses are wOBA (Sanders holds a 61-point advantage) and wRAA (Sanders holds a 10.5-run advantage). At 37.1, Sanders’ wRAA was the third highest in the country, trailing only St. John Fisher’s Adam Zebrowski and Penn State Harrisburg’s Bret Williams. Sanders also had Division-III’s sixth highest walk rate at 20.9% with only an 11% strikeout rate. Calvert’s K-BB% was really good (-4.1% put him in the 91st percentile), but Sanders’ -9.9 was special. 

His .571 OBP makes me feel like I’m Brad Pitt as Billy Beene in Moneyball preaching to his scouts.

Sanders also had the division’s seventh best ISO, so he was extremely disciplined and extremely powerful at the same time, and this combo creates an elite hitter.

Greg:

Luke I have so many issues with your thinking here, and it doesn’t end with you comparing yourself to Brad Pitt. When I started going through the numbers, I jumped aboard the Jack Barry train a little too quickly. He tied for first in the country with 19 home runs and had the highest OPS of all other first basemen. His 52 RBIs is solid but not spectacular compared to Tyler Calvert who won first team honors with 62 RBIs in six more plate appearances. So, it started to boil down to comparing Barry’s HR and OPS numbers vs. Calvert’s RBI production. Thanks to 6-4-3 Charts’ Interactive Web Application, I found that 13 of Berry’s 19 bombs were at home and his teammate Austin Denlinger hit 15 of his 19 HRs at home (that’s right, two players on York tied for the most HRs in the country.) This all leads me to believe that York is playing in a bandbox which devalues Berry’s power production. Before I give you my final answer, let’s address Luke’s Branton Sanders selection. First off, why is this guy playing first base? He can obviously run as he stole 29 of 34 bags and gets on base at a very high level (.571); it is his power (12 HRs) and lack of run production (34 RBIs) that I have issues with. It just doesn’t profile at first base. Luke, RBIs are important at first base, I am sure you know this as your South Side Sox 1B Jose Abreu has had some MVP mentions this year with a .261 average and (a modest in today’s game) 30 HRs. Why is that? Because he drove in 117 runs. RBI is an important metric when passing out awards at first base. At the end of the day, the ABCA got it correct, Calvert and his 62 RBIs that were the most of any first baseman earned him first team honors. 

  1. Clayton Dwyer (Salisbury) (Greg)

Greg:

When it comes to pitching, the ABCA did what I think is an “OK” job of selecting the first team. As you dig into the numbers it becomes obvious that they have an affinity for ERA, as all their selections are under 2.00, but Clayton Dwyer had a 2.18 ERA. Dwyer’s record was a perfect 10-0 and he recorded 3 saves. He was the ace for the national champion Sea Gulls and recorded the save in their final game. It seems that the ABCA didn’t take much more than ERA into consideration. No Sea Gull made the All American first team by the way. Getting a little nerdier as I am sure Luke will do, Dwyer had the second best FIP in the country at 2.49. Clear misstep by the ABCA in leaving Dwyer off.

Luke:

For the national champion Salisbury Sea Gulls, Dwyer had a better season than Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Matt O’Sullivan and thus he’s my one pitching snub. Dwyer’s 2.49 FIP was 75 points better than O’Sullivan’s, his WHIP was 79 points better, and he had the slight 0.5% K-BB% advantage. O’Sullivan’s 1.96 ERA was better than Dwyer’s 2.18, and this is likely what gave the former the slight advantage in the eyes of the ABCA, as Greg noted. The better FIP along with Dwyer pitching as the ace of a national title team gives him the slight advantage for me. Oh, and nice reference of FIP there, Greg.

 

  1. Luke Broadhurst (Eastern Connecticut St.) (Luke)

Luke:

The batting average truthers will consistently hate my picks. Concordia Wisconsin’s Sam Beers held a 45-point batting average advantage over Luke Broadhurst and committed only six errors at third base as opposed to Broadhurst’s 11. This is what probably pushed Beers to the first team nomination and Broadhurst down to the second team. But as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast”. Broadhurst got on base at a better clip and out-slugged Beers. He also had a 26-point wOBA advantage and a 4.5 wRAA advantage. While the offensive discrepancy is not as large as some of my other snubs, it still exists here. In terms of strength of schedule, Concordia Wisconsin lost in their conference tournament. Eastern Connecticut State played in a regional after securing an at-large bid from a 32-win campaign in a tough Little East Conference. They proceeded to go “0-2 barbeque” after being upset by the U.S. Marine Merchant Academy and then losing to World Series-bound SUNY Cortland.

Greg:

Luke, I feel like you have come a long way over the last few weeks. Now that you are taking strength of schedule into consideration and giving guys credit for winning meaningful games, we might have the beginnings of some common ground, but we still have some work to do. Do you remember when you got on me for taking winning too seriously? Baby steps, anyways, looking closer at Broadhurst and Beers, I would agree, this is a close call. Interestingly, they both had 179 PA. Broadhurst seems to have the edge with a slightly higher OPS and more HR, but Beers had more RBI and appears to have played a little better third base defense. I could go either way on this one, but for the sake of argument, I’m sticking with Beers.

  1. Jacob Perry (UT-Dallas) (Greg)

Greg:

I started digging around a little bit when it came to naming my first team outfielders. I don’t think it’s right to simply stamp the top three OPS producers as the first team winners. We should give one award for each position, and the profile for each of the three spots differs. I weigh defensive value slightly higher than offensive production for CF. The right fielder needs to be a run producer with a good arm. The left fielder needs to be a well-rounded offensive contributor. Jacob Perry was selected as an all-American Gold Glove winner by the ABCA, so he has the defensive side of the ball covered. However, to be on the 1st team, your bat should also be an asset too. In 209 PAs for UT-Dallas, Perry’s slash of .384/.495/.585 with 54 runs and 22 of 25 bags stolen fits that profile. He was a solid table setter with excellent defense in center. He was the best D3 center fielder in the country and should have been rewarded.  

Luke:

I respect your praise for outfield defense in consideration for these all-American slots. Unless your pitching staff generates groundballs or strikeouts at a staggering rate, the defensive ability of your outfield is an integral part of the success of your team. That said, with the base-level defensive stats that we have access to, I don’t feel confident taking someone like Perry over another outfielder like Ryan Bixler who produced 12 more runs (by wRAA) and had an 80-point wOBA advantage over him at the plate. We know that Bixler was 12 runs better than Perry the plate, but we don’t know how many runs Perry was or was not better than Bixler in the outfield. Error rulings than drive fielding percentage can be be too subjective at times.

  1. Ryan Bixler (Franklin) (Luke)

Luke:

Bixler should have secured the final outfield slot in my opinion. After Bret Williams, he was the most productive outfielder offensively. Turner Hill had a tremendous season for Marietta College who played in a regional and it was hard leaving him off my roster. The problem is, even though Bixler only played on a (albeit respectable) 25-win Franklin team, he had 187-point OPS, 178-point ISO and 64-point wOBA advantages over Hill. Batting average was likely overvalued here along with Hill’s miniscule 3.5% strikeout rate. Don’t get me wrong, putting balls in play consistently, especially in division-III baseball, is a sound strategy. However, Bixler’s power production was efficient enough in 2021 to create more runs than Hill’s contact-oriented approach. Finally, both had identical .978 fielding percentages as the right fielders for their respective teams, so their defensive comparison is essentially moot based on what we have to go off of.

Greg:

Bixler played right field and I pitted him against Kyle Schroedle after I narrowed things down. I have to say, it was a close race and wasn’t an easy decision. Bixler has a better average and OBP but Schroedle had more power and run production in 38 fewer PAs. Bixler did show some arm skills with five assists in 42 games vs. Schroedle’s three assists in 35 games (assists per game played). This obviously doesn’t paint the entire picture,  and I’m taking that with a grain of salt. Overall, I like the power and run production for my choice in right field.  

  1. Kyle Schroedle (Crown) (Greg)

Greg:

Sticking with how they profile, I am going with Kyle Schroedle as my 1st team right fielder. The ABCA nominated 2 left fielders and 1 right fielder to their team. Turner Hill was the right fielder, and his 1 HR and 30 RBI in 231 PA is not going to cut it for me. Hill was a table setter, as he got on base and stole bags well, but he definitely didn’t hit for power or drive in runs; Kyle Schroedle did. Schroedle’s 1.374 OPS, 17 HR and 52 RBI in 163 PA was better than any other right fielder in the country, and his RBI to PA (more to come on this stat) totals were second only to Bret Williams of all outfielders. He also had three assists in 35 games and pitched 7.1 innings, so we can assume the arm is there. Schroedle is my pick for first team right fielder. 

Luke:

Greg, you’re going with a three true outcome hitter on your all-American team? I’m surprised, but that’s very “advanced-statsy” of you! Schroedle hit more homers than singles in 2021, but to his credit, he did also mixed in 15 doubles, so he wasn’t a complete three true outcomes hitter. He was the best power hitter in division-III with a massive .531 ISO, and he backed that up with a 20.2% walk rate. That’s all fantastic. For me, that 31.3% strikeout rate was too high to make the final cut, as it was the eight highest of any hitter with at least 100 PAs. Everyone else in the K-rate top-ten had negative wRAAs, but Schroedle’s was impressively 29.1, the 14th best in the division. It was truly a unique offensive profile.

  1. Aaron Whitley (Rochester) (Luke)

Luke:

For my DH slot, I did not restrict my pool to those that were strictly DHs in 2021. I simply took the next best hitter, and that’s Whitley. He had the tenth highest wRAA among D-III hitters and the third highest OPS and wOBA. He also stole 28 bags in 30 chances, the eighth most in the nation. While Bushnell had a great offensive season for Benedictine, his wRAA was 49th and thus shouldn’t have warranted first team consideration. Whitley rode a .486 BABIP (his speed certainly helped) en route to a staggering .475 batting average. His .372 ISO was also nothing to ignore, as it was the 19th best out of 1,188 qualified hitters.

Greg:

Whitely is a nice name, and I appreciate you bringing him up as he is on my honorable mention list, but doesn’t quite cut it for my first team. Matt Korman from Wisconsin-Whitewater was the more impressive offensive player in my opinion.

  1. Matt Korman (Wisconsin-Whitewater) (Greg)

Greg:

As you mention, we decided to go with the best bat that didn’t make the first team at any position for our DH selection. This really tests Bushnell’s production as he was a true DH and had by far had the best numbers there, but why give him credit for not being able to handle a position? The names bouncing around my head are Bushnell, Avery Neaves, and Matt Korman. All three can drive in runs and that is what I am going to base my decision on (surprise, surprise) for this position, or in this case, lack of position. Luke, I know how much you love OBP and if you can weigh it, you will. I actually liked Moneyball despite being a scout, and it undoubtedly began a major shift in the way MLB teams evaluate players and talent. But I am going to go with production when passing out first team awards for a DH, and I just created a new stat called RBI/PA. Neaves led the country in RBI with 69, Korman was 2nd with 68, and Bushnell had a respectable 57, but the number of PA needs to be considered as Neaves had 49 more PA than Bushnell and 40 more than Korman. So based on my new stat where Bushnell came in at 30%, Neaves 29% and Korman at a whopping 34%, my first team DH award goes to Matt Korman. How’s that for analytics?!

Luke:

I’m not sure if the sabermetric community will adopt your new metric, but at least its better than the RBI statistic alone. For Korman, it was a lot easier for him to drive in runs when literally their entire lineup had OBPs above .400. That’s my gripe with the RBI stat; if player A hits a triple and player B dribbles a weak ground ball to the second baseman to drive the run home, which player did more to “produce” that run?

With Korman, I just don’t think his advanced numbers show that he was an all-American. He had the 84th highest wRAA and the 147th highest wOBA. All of those RBIs were largely products of opportunity from a loaded Wisconsin-Whitewater lineup.

Luke’s Full First Team

  • P – Matt Mulhearn (Webster)

  • P – Clayton Dwyer (Salisbury)
  • P – Sam Mathews (Marrieta)
  • P – Jordy Allard (Babson)

  • P – Ryan Loutos (Washington in St. Louis)

  • C – Adam Zebrowski (St. John Fisher)

  • 1B –  Branton Sanders (Anderson – IN)
  • 2B – Colby Martin (Shenandoah)

  • 3B – Luke Broadhurst (Eastern Connecticut St.)
  • SS – Jake Reinhardt (North Park)

  • OF – Bret Williams (Penn St. Harrisburg)

  • OF – Avery Neaves (Lynchburg)

  • OF – Ryan Bixler (Franklin)
  • DH – Aaron Whitley (Rochester)
  • UT – T.J. Johnson (Coe)

Honorable Mentions / Just Missed List

  • SP – Matt O’Sullivan (Wisconsin-Whitewater)
  • SP – Sam Carpenter (Piedmont)
  • 1B – Jack Barry (York – PA)
  • SS – Chase Anderson (Pacific – OR)
  • OF – Jonathan Kelso (Wisconsin-Platteville)
  • OF – Corey Vondra (Aurora)
  • OF – Turner Hill (Marietta)
  • DH – Brian Schaub (Trinity – TX)

Greg’s Full First Team

  • P – Matt Mulhearn (Webster)
  • P – Ryan Loutos (Washington in St. Louis)
  • P – Clayton Dwyer (Salisbury)
  • P – Sam Mathews (Marrieta)
  • P – Matt O’Sullivan (Wisconsin-Whitewater)

  • C – Adam Zebrowski (St. John Fisher)
  • 1B – Tyler Calvert (Berry)
  • 2B – Colby Martin (Shenandoah)
  • 3B – Sam Beers (Concordia Wisconsin)
  • SS – Jake Reinhardt (North Park)
  • OF – Bret Williams (Penn St. Harrisburg)
  • OF – Jacob Perry (UT Dallas)
  • OF – Tyler Schroedle (Crown)
  • DH – Matt Korman (Wisconsin-Whitewater)
  • UT – T.J. Johnson (Coe)

Honorable Mentions / Just Missed List

  • 1B – Branton Sanders (Anderson – IN)
  • 1B – Jack Barry (York – PA)
  • 3B – Luke Broadhurst (Eastern Connecticut St.)
  • SS – Chase Anderson (Pacific – OR)
  • OF – Avery Neaves (Lynchburg)
  • OF – Turner Hill (Marietta)
  • OF – Aaron Whitley (Rochester)
  • OF – Ryan Bixler (Franklin)
  • DH – Kevin Bushnell (Benedictine – IL)

Both recently joining the 6-4-3 Charts team, Greg worked in scouting and player development for the Seattle Mariners for more than 20 years while Luke has worked with Pitcher List, SB Nation and the Coe College baseball team as a data analyst and writer for the past four years.