Top Talent-Producing Universities

Well, it’s a snow day here in Milwaukee – twelve inches of snow in the overnight and early-morning hours will do that – so I didn’t do much this morning except sleep in, watch 30 Rock, and goof off on the computer (there was a new iPod thrown in there too, so that kept me pretty busy). Part of that goofing off is, of course, playing with various baseball statistics.

While doing just that, I decided to look at what colleges have produced the best players. It’s easy to look at some lists and see that Arizona St. has produced the likes Barry Bonds and Reggie Jackson, or that USC has produced Tom Seaver, Mark McGwire, and Randy Johnson, but that seems a little too subjective to me. I decided to try something a little more objective to see what we get.

Using the database info available at Baseball Databank and the Win Shares info found on the Baseball Graphs Blog (limited through 2007 for now), I calculated how many players have come from each school and then summed up the total Win Shares of each of those players. In order to rank the schools in a meaningful way, I found the average Win Shares of each school’s alumni. So, for example, there were 26 MLB players who attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and those 26 players accumulated a total of 933 Win Shares throughout their career (with Harvey Kuenn earning the most with 223 WS). That gives UW an average Win Share value of 35.9.

Using that admittedly-basic methodology, I created two lists of the top talent-producing schools, one for all players and one only for players since 1950. However, there are a number of schools who only ever produced one or two players, and when they happen to be quality players, the average gets a little skewed. The ultimate example of this is Texas Wesleyan University, which has produced only two major leaguers: Tris Speaker, who had 630 Win Shares in his career, and Jeff Moronko, a career minor leaguer who played in 7 games in each of 1984 and 1987. This gives Texas Wesleyan an average of 315 Win Shares between its two alumni, but that is clearly a misleading number. The lists, therefore, are limited to schools who have produced 10 or more players.

Average Win Shares of Alumni, by College (All-Time)

School # Major Leaguers Avg WS Notable Alumni
Columbia University 12 102.2* Lou Gehrig (489 WS), Eddie Collins (574 WS)
Guilford College 10 65.5 Tony Womack (118 WS), Rick Ferrell (206 WS), Tom Zachary (205 WS)
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo 10 63.3 Ozzie Smith (325 WS), Thornton Lee (165 WS), Mike Krukow (109 WS)
University of Vermont 12 62.3 Larry Gardner (258 WS), Ed Reulbach (206 WS)
University of South Alabama 18 54.7 Luis Gonzalez (316 WS), Juan Pierre (122 WS), Jon Lieber (109 WS)
San Diego State University 34 51.7 Tony Gwynn (398 WS), Graig Nettles (321 WS), Mark Grace (294 WS)
University of Minnesota 31 51.3 Dave Winfield (415 WS), Paul Molitor (414 WS), Terry Steinbach (173 WS)
Ohio University 23 51.0 Mike Schmidt (467 WS), Bob Brenly (93 WS)
Seton Hall University 28 49.6 Craig Biggio (431 WS), Mo Vaughn (200 WS), Johnny Briggs (159 WS)
Arizona State University 88 48.2 Barry Bonds (714 WS), Reggie Jackson (444 WS), Sal Bando (283 WS)

* Updated: The Average Win Shares value for Columbia was originally incorrectly transcribed as 66.6. I apologize for that.

Average Win Shares of Alumni, by College (finishing career since 1950)

School # Major Leaguers Avg WS Notable Alumni
Seton Hall University 20 66.6 Craig Biggio (431 WS), Mo Vaughn (200 WS), Johnny Briggs (159 WS)
Purdue University 10 55.5 Bob Friend (207 WS), Bill Skowron (183 WS)
University of Minnesota 29 54.8 Dave Winfield (415 WS), Paul Molitor (414 WS), Terry Steinbach (173 WS)
University of South Alabama 18 54.7 Luis Gonzalez (316 WS), Juan Pierre (122 WS), Jon Lieber (109 WS)
Ohio University 17 54.2 Mike Schmidt (467 WS), Bob Brenly (93 WS)
San Diego State University 32 52.8 Tony Gwynn (398 WS), Graig Nettles (321 WS), Mark Grace (294 WS)
Mississippi State University 25 52.6 Rafael Palmiero (395 WS), Will Clark (331 WS)
Saint Mary’s College of California 16 52.1 Von Hayes (177 WS), Tom Candiotti (158 WS)
Michigan State University 31 50.9 Robin Roberts (339 WS), Steve Garvey (279 WS), Kirk Gibson (218 WS)
University of Southern California 91 49.5 Tom Seaver (388 WS), Mark McGwire (343 WS), Randy Johnson (315 WS), Fred Lynn (280 WS)



A few notes:

  • As a Cal Poly alum myself, I’m quite proud to see it place so highly on the list
  • There are alumni from 698 different universities in MLB history
  • The three schools that have the most alumni in MLB history are: USC (100), University of Texas at Austin (95), and Arizona St. (88)
  • The three schools with the most alumni in MLB history who accumulated 50 or more Win Shares in their careers are: Arizona St. (24), USC (22), and UCLA (19) & Michigan (19)
  • The three schools with the most alumni in MLB history who accumulated 100 or more Win Shares in their careers are: USC (17), Arizona St. (12), and St. Mary’s College of California (11)
  • It’s hard to decide what the minimum number of alum should be… is 10 too few? what about 20? Of the 698 different universities that have had alumni in the major leagues, only 53 have 30 or more alumni and only 160 have 10 or more alumni

I’ll keep looking at these numbers and post any findings as they come. There’s actually a lot fewer top-producing schools than I imagined, but it does at least feel good to have graduated from one of the schools near the top of the list (sure, they barely meet eligibility, but that’s beside the point).

Larry Granillo

About Larry Granillo

Larry Granillo has been writing Wezen Ball since 2008 and has dealt with such touchy topics as Charlie Brown's baseball stats and Ferris Bueller's day off. In 2010, he got the bright idea to time every home run trot in baseball; he has been missing ever since.

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