2020 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Stock Watch
This offseason, we're going to take a deep dive into all 31 Division I college baseball conferences. Using five years' worth of data, we'll examine where each league has been and try to project forward to where it might go.
Canisius has been the clear class of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in recent seasons. While it hasn’t famously dominated in-conference competition the way Oral Roberts has in the Summit League, for example, it has been the best the league has to offer by any measure.
In the last five seasons, it was head and shoulders above the competition in terms of winning percentage, it has been to more regionals than any other program and it has had more players drafted into pro baseball than any other team.
It’s the only team in this data sample to not have a season of .500 or worse in league play. In fact, it’s worst league record in that time is 16-8, which was its MAAC record each year from 2015-2018. The closest any program came to matching that is Marist, which falls short because of a 12-12 record in conference play in 2015.
It also does a better job of competing outside of the conference than the rest of the league. In the last five seasons, there have been five instances of a MAAC team winning 33 or more games overall. Canisius accounts for four of the five.
Behind Canisius, it’s tough to gauge which program is the second best in the conference right now. Monmouth, Marist, Quinnipiac and perhaps even Fairfield all have a case to make, but the fact that there’s no obvious answer goes to show just how compact the conference is behind Canisius and above Saint Peter’s, which is the clear bottom team in the hierarchy as it stands now.
*2020 records not included
|Team||MAAC Record||Winning Pct.||Overall Record||Winning Pct.|
With more than eight percentage points between Canisius and second-place Monmouth, you can see the hold the Golden Griffins have on the top spot. For comparison’s sake, that’s wider than the space between Monmouth and seventh-place Manhattan. Furthermore, with fewer than 19 percentage points between second and 10th, the compactness of the conference is clear.
Team-by-Team Five-Year Trends
The following are summations of how each MAAC program performed over the last five full seasons. The arrow designation of up, down and to the side represent the results of the last five seasons, not a projection of the years to come.
Over the last five seasons, Canisius has continued its excellence that began more than a decade ago. What it hasn’t done in recent years is win 40 or more games overall as it did in 2008 (41 wins), 2013 (42) and 2014 (40), but what it has done is go to two regionals in five seasons, which is the first time that has happened in program history. Canisius hasn’t finished under .500 in MAAC play since going 9-18 in 2006 and has only finished worse than 15-9 in conference play twice in the time since. As it stands now, Canisius is still firmly perched atop the Metro Atlantic.
The Hawks moved from the Northeast Conference to the Metro Atlantic in time for the 2014 season, just before this data set began, and since then, they have been consistently competitive within the league, save for 2017, when they finished eighth in the only season in which they were under .500 in MAAC play. As the best program in the league to not break through to a regional in the last five seasons, the next step for the Hawks is obvious.
In the early 2000s, Marist was the class of the MAAC, going to regionals four times between 2000-2005. It hasn’t gotten back to that level since then, but it has continued to be among the best teams in the conference. Its worst record in the last five seasons was a 12-12 mark in the MAAC in 2015, and in 2017, it won the automatic bid to get into a regional for the first time since 2009.
Like Monmouth, Quinnipiac came over from the NEC ahead of the 2014 season, and after finishing in the middle of the pack or worse in its final stretch of seasons in its previous conference, it has been extremely competitive as a member of the MAAC. The 2019 season was a highlight for the Bobcats, as they not only got into their first regional since 2005 but then pulled off a massive upset by beating host East Carolina in their first game of that regional.
Tony Rossi, the longest-tenured coach in Division I college baseball at 50 years, continues to keep his Saints teams competitive. Just once in the last five seasons have they finished under .500 in the MAAC and they came in fourth in the league standings on three different occasions during that time. However, the arrow points down simply because Siena got to a regional in 2014, which was its first since 1999 and second in history, and it didn’t match that high-water mark in this data sample of the last five seasons.
Fairfield has been an ascendent program in the Metro Atlantic under coach Bill Currier. You can take your pick of any number of pieces of evidence. It won the regular-season title in 2016 for the first time since 1997 and then did it again in 2017. It was also in 2016 that the Stags broke through to a regional for the first time in Division I program history. In 2019, they also set a Division I program record with 35 wins overall. If it continues on this trajectory, Fairfield is a team that could be much higher in the standings if we were to do this exercise again in five years.
Manhattan had a run as the top team in the MAAC in 2011 and 2012, winning the regular-season title and automatic bid both times. The 2011 season was particularly impressive, as it won the league with a 20-2 conference record. It hasn’t reached those heights in the last five seasons, when the Jaspers best finish inside the MAAC was fifth during the 2019 season.
The Broncs had an outstanding run from 2010-2014, getting to a regional in 2010, winning the regular-season title in 2013 and also tying the Division I program record for wins with 35 in 2013. They also had a second-place, third-place and fourth-place finish in the league during that time. Rider did win the regular-season title again in 2015, but it also has a ninth-place finish and two 10th-place finishes in the last five seasons, and it simply hasn’t matched the overall level of achievement seen in the previous five seasons.
Although it hasn’t been expressed in Niagara winning any MAAC regular-season titles or making any regional appearances, the program has shown improvement in the last five seasons. Between 2010-2014, the Purple Eagles averaged 8.4 MAAC wins per season. In the last five seasons, that average has jumped by two full wins to 10.4. Their 10-12 conference record in 2016 was the best since 2010, which Niagara then bettered by going 12-12 in 2017 and 13-11 in 2018. Niagara is still looking for its first regional appearance.
Like Niagara, it might be subtle, but Iona has improved over the last five seasons.Leading up to this data sample, which begins in 2015, the Gaels had won more than nine conference games once since 2005. And they hadn’t finished over .500 in league play since 2003. Since then, however, Iona has won 10 or more conference games in three out of five seasons and broke the under-.500 streak with a 14-10 conference record in 2017. Additionally, Iona’s 25 wins overall in 2017 were the most since it won 31 games back in 2000.
There is no way to sugarcoat how difficult the last five seasons have been for Saint Peter’s. In that time, it endured a winless season in 2017, went through three head coaches (in addition to a change in head coach after 2014 as well) and finished in last place in the MAAC each year. Current coach Lou Proietti has his work cut out for him, but there is nowhere to go but up.
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Regional Recap by Year
|2019||Quinnipiac||1-2 in Greenville Regional|
|2018||Canisius||0-2 in Minneapolis Regional|
|2017||Marist||0-2 in Gainesville Regional|
|2016||Fairfield||0-2 in Lubbock Regional|
|2015||Canisius||0-2 in Springfield Regional|
With two regional trips in five seasons, this is another area where Canisius leads the MAAC. The win-loss record in the postseason isn’t very good for the conference overall, but there are intermittent bright spots for the league in regional play. Last year, Quinnipiac upset East Carolina in its regional opener and then came up one run short of winning a winner’s bracket game against Campbell the next day. Marist also competed well in 2017, playing a close game with Florida to open the regional before dropping a 4-2 decision to Bethune-Cookman in an elimination game. Manhattan is the last MAAC team to win more than one game in the postseason, as it did in the 2006 Lincoln Regional.
Top Draft Selections
|Matthew Brash, RHP, Niagara||2019||113th overall|
|Mariano Rivera, RHP, Iona||2015||134th overall|
|Tyler Smith, RHP, Canisius||2018||241st overall|
|Connor Panas, INF, Canisius||2015||272nd overall|
|Devon Stewart, RHP, Canisius||2015||274th overall|
From a conference-wide standpoint, the 2015 draft was a high-water moment, as three of the top five draft picks in the last five seasons came from that single draft. The 2015 and 2018 drafts were the two best in terms of the volume of players selected, as each of those drafts saw five MAAC players selected.
|2019||Saint Peter's||Danny Ramirez||Lou Proietti|
|2018||Iona||Pat Carey||Paul Panik|
|2017||Canisius||Mike McRae||Matt Mazurek|
|2017||Manhattan||Jim Duffy||Mike Cole|
|2016||Saint Peter's||T.J. Baxter||Danny Ramirez|
The coach with the biggest shoes to fill is undoubtedly Mazurek at Canisius. In the three years before McRae arrived, the Golden Griffins finished last in the league. McRae was at Canisius for 13 seasons, and in his last 10 seasons there, the team won the regular-season title three times, got to two regionals and finished lower than third in the conference once. Mazurek has kept the ball rolling early in his tenure, but the level McRae set is incredibly high. The toughest job belongs to Proietti at Saint Peter’s. The downward trend of that program is so profound at this point, and any progress back in the right direction should be celebrated.