As we are now well into the playoffs for all spring sports — but mainly for baseball for which this article will focus on — it is time to look back on the season. But, after getting some feedback from local athletes, namely baseball players, it was decided to reflect on the season in a more unique manner.
It is no secret, nor a surprise, that many baseball players were questioning the playoff seeds, which are based off of Heal Points. The Heal Points are used by the Maine Principal’s Association, the governing body for high school athletics in Maine, to determine the seeds.
In the case of Eastern Class B — which involves many local teams including Camden Hills, Belfast, Oceanside, Medomak Valley and Mt. View — this could be one of, if not the, most controversial groups in terms of who should get what seed.
Many athletes have questioned how 6-10 Ellsworth gets an 11 seed, 7-9 Presque Isle gets a 12 seed and 9-7 Belfast just barely snuck into the playoffs at seed number 13. Only 13 teams make the playoffs in this 19–team region. (It is also worth noting that 8-8 Erskine Academy missed the playoffs, despite having a .500 winning percentage.)
The list of questions goes on — How does 9-7 Mt. Desert Island get placed higher than 13-3 Winslow? How does 10-6 Foxcroft Academy rank lower than 8-8 John Bapst Memorial? Why did Nokomis miss the playoffs when they had the same record as Ellsworth?
Luckily, the Penobscot Bay Pilot was able to chat with MPA Executive Director Dick Durost to discuss the Heal Point Standings.
“Around 1960, the Heal Point system was developed by Durwood Heal, the principal at Schenck High School [in East Millinocket],” Durost said about when the Heal Points system was first implemented. “Prior to that time, teams advancing to the tournament came out of local regions and were seeded by a seeding committee.”
According to Durost, the system “gives value to strength of opponents and not just the number of wins.”
Therefore, Durost points out that Ellsworth got a higher ranking because they “defeated opponents who were more point worthy [in the] preliminary index than the seven-win team did.”
Now, before we go any farther, let us examine just how exactly the Heal Point System works. Durost pointed directly to Appendix K in the rule book that outlines how the system works.
From the guidelines, “The Heal Point System is designed to select teams for tournament play on the basis of athletic strength as demonstrated through the regular season schedule.”
It is then noted that the athletic strength of a team is determined by a two-step process.
Step one involves the preliminary index of the school. The guidelines state that the preliminary index is computed by assigning 40 points for each Class A victory, 35 points for Class B, 30 for Class C and 25 for Class D. The points are then added up and then divided by the total number of games played in the regular season.
Step two is the tournament index, which determines what seed a team will receive for the playoffs.
“The tournament index … would be determined by adding the preliminary indices of the schools from which it had one a victory,” the guideline said. “This total would be divided by the number of games in the schedule.”
So basically, the seeds are determined based on strength of schedule and how hard of an opponent you defeat. In other words, if you muster up victories of teams who are considered not that difficult in the particular season, you will not get as high of a seed versus a team that is collecting victories over some of the top programs in the state.
Durost also said that the association is “not likely” to change formats and perhaps rely on team records or some other format for playoff seeding in the near future.
“At one time, the values for each class were 40 for A, 30 for B, 20 for C and 10 for D. Those changed to what they are today to encourage teams to play against other classes, especially with travel costs in mind,” he said.
Durost also made it clear that the association would not consider switching to a coaches or media poll to determine seeding because it would be “too subjective and open to bias.”
With that said, it appears we all should embrace the unique ways of the Heal Point system since it looks like they will be around for a while and accept that maybe judging teams based off their strength of schedule is not such a bad idea.
Of course, with the College Football Playoff committee looking for strength of schedule and many powerhouse schools opting to cease scheduling lower-ranked opponents, who knows if ranking teams off of their strength of schedule is a good thing or not.
To reach George Harvey or to submit tips and scores, email firstname.lastname@example.org.