Thursday, February 23, 2012

Timeouts- A Coach's greatest weapon....for failure?

When we started our journey to look deeper at Lacrosse statistical analysis, we wanted to use other sports as areas that could generate some ideas for discussion.

In doing so, we keep getting drawn towards Basketball as a source of great information. It's a sport that has fully embraced statistical analysis and more importantly, it is the one sport that is most similar to Lacrosse in style of play. The depth of analysis in Basketball is comparible to what is being done in Baseball.

ESPN has been a real fountain of stats and they posted the following article the other day about Timeouts and the impact on team offensive success in the NBA.

In the study they noted that a team's shooting percentage was lower AFTER a timeout than it was WITHOUT a timeout being called. They looked at close games (less than 5 points behind or tied) and at various points in the final 5 minutes of the game (Winning Time as we like to call it).

How often have you been to a Lacrosse game and the trailing team calls their timeout with less than a minute to go? I coach and I know it's common. Heck even my team calls the timeout in that situation! Then I thought about the other side of it.

As the defending team, I like having 60 seconds to set our defence and get my best 5 defenders on the floor but why would I not think the opposite way as the attacking team? Why allow the opponent to rest their D guys and get on the floor where they want them to be? Why not force a defender to rush out on the floor, find his cover in transition and then also figure out what play is being run?

The questions is, would a trailing team be more successful if they eschewed the Timeout and had their offence attack in transition?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Peaks and Valleys- Ball Hogs part 2

If you read our posting from Tuesday, you will know that we were inspired by an article from Freakonomics to look at the relationship between volume shooters and efficient shooters. We are taking a look at the Top 15 Shots at Goal (SAG) vs Top 15 in Shooting Efficiency (eS%)and how that translates into team success. Special thanks to Dan Shirley for providing us with the date on eS% for individuals and the teams in general.

Top 15 SAG:
Player                Team        SAG    eS%    Team Win %age

Cody Jamieson   ROC        90      0.309         0.333
John Grant Jr.     COL        87      0.326         1.000
Lewis Ratcliff     WAS        84      0.201         0.200
Rhys Duch         WAS        75      0.222         0.200
Luke Wiles         BUF         74      0.299         0.333
John Tavares      BUF         62      0.371         0.333
Brendan Mundorf PHI        61      0.177         0.600
Kevin Crowley   PHI          61      0.335         0.600
Stephen Keogh  ROC        60       0.235         0.333
Jeff Shattler        CGY        59       0.256         0.600
Drew Westervelt PHI         58       0.370         0.600
Shawn Evans     CGY        56        0.227         0.600
Mike Accursi     ROC        56       0.287          0.333
Ryan Benesch    MIN         54       0.417          0.600
Dane Dobbie    CGY          53       0.214          0.600

The average Team winning %age for this group? It's .484.

Top 15 eS% (minimum 18 SAG):
Player             Team        eS%     Team Win %age

Adam Jones    COL       0.455          1.000
Johnny Powless ROC     0.441          0.333
Ryan Benesch   MIN      0.417          0.600
Jordan MacIntosh MIN  0.413          0.600
Cory Vitarelli    ROC      0.399          0.333
Corbyn Tao     MIN       0.393          0.600
John Tavares    BUF       0.371          0.333
Drew Westervelt PHI     0.370           0.600
Chad Culp        BUF      0.362           0.333
Josh Sanderson TOR      0.356           0.600
Kevin Crowley  PHI       0.335           0.600
John Grant Jr.   COL      0.326           1.000
Gavin Prout      COL      0.321           1.000
Scott Evans     EDM       0.321           0.250
Scott Ranger   CGY       0.321           0.600

The average Team Winning %age for this group? It's .585 which is a huge gap from the average for high volume shooters. I would read this as the better teams have more efficient offences. The game still comes down to the ability to outscore your opponents. If you can score on 30% of your shots at goal and your opponent only does it on 27% of their shots on goal, you are more likely to win unless you are outshot by a wide margin.

Colorado is undefeated because they have all 3 of their top Offensive players in the Top 15 in eS% including an incredible 0.455 for rookie, Adam Jones (not surprising to those of us in Ontario who knew how good Jones would be). Washington is in last place because Duch and Ratcliff are dominating the shot totals while being inefficient scorers. Efficient offence equals wins.

It was also interesting that 3 rookies are in the top 4 in eS% (MacIntosh and Powless on top of Jones) which shows how deep the past year's draft really was.

On a lark, I expanded the grouping to look at players with 10 shots or more (about an average of 2 per game)which should include more Transition players which are an important source of scoring this year. The top 3 in eS% in this expanded level would be Andrew Suitor of Minnesota (0.643 eS%), Jamie Rooney of Toronto (0.562 eS%) and Brodie Merrill of Philadelphia (0.467 eS%). It's no surprise that they all play for teams with winning records. Rooney is showing that he belongs in the Toronto lineup after being a healthy scratch in the Rock's first two games.

The Ugly side of that are Ned Crotty of Philadelphia (0.090 eS%), Joel Henry of Minnesota (0.100 eS%) and Dean Hill of Washington (0.109 eS%). Maybe those three should dish to the Offence and take less shots.

Those who wish to hear more stats talk from Dan Shirley, follow him on Twitter @danshirley. He talks Lax and Washington State University athletics (Go Cougs)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ball Hogs Get All The Girls

We retweeted an interesting article from the guys at Freakonomics yesterday that looked some statistics around group meetings and which person was viewed most positively after the meeting. Sounds kind boring but they took it a step further and compared that to Basketball and a team who has a high volume shooter.

The question became "does a high volume shooter benefit in his reputation simply because he shoots a lot?". It's an interesting question and one that can translate quite easily to Lacrosse. We have commented on the exploits of John Grant Jr. already this season but he is a high volume shooter (currently leading NLL in shots at Net per game). Cody Jamieson is another high volume shooter (second in shots on net). Do they benefit in the fan's mind from our bias towards thinking "the guy who shoots a lot is obviously the best player"? It is an interesting question and one that we will take a detailed look at later this week in Peaks and Valleys.

For now, here is the article from Freakonomics:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Peaks and Valleys- A Weekly Look at NLL Trends

It was All-Star roster week and there were some mild surprises on both sides. It is a bit premature to name the All Stars when most teams have played 1/4 of their season games but we will not split hairs here. Let's take a closer look at the rosters:

Valley- All-Star errors East Division

If the goal of the All Star Game is to reward those players which are playing the best that specific season then one player stands out on the East roster; Colin Doyle.

Doyle has had a fantastic career and this selection may have been a career achievement choice because his stats on the season are well below others and his own career stats. Sure he has missed the last 2 Rock games because of injury but 4 goals in 3 games is not the Popeye of old. More worrisome is his 4 looseballs. That's not an average, that's his total for the season!
Watching games this season, Doyle has seemed a step slow. It has translated to his early season stats. It may just be a concidence but Toronto's offence has been much better over the past 2 games and Stephen Leblanc has found his game after seeming lost early in the season.

Another error is the premature inclusion of Johnny Powless in his rookie season. Powless has had a solid start to his NLL Career but to name him to the All Star roster based on his early play neglects better choices from Rochester. He is 6th on his team in scoring (9G, 6A for 15 Points, 12 LBs) and has been outplayed in all areas by Stephen Keogh (9G, 12A for 21 Points, 16 LBs) and Cory Vitarelli (11G, 7A for 18 Points, 25 LBs) on his own Knighthawks team.

Powless will be a strong player in the future but Vitarelli or Keogh are more deserving of All Star nods based on this year's results.

Valley- All Star errors West Division

The West Division has been the better division after the first quarter of the season. It shows in the depth of their All Star choices. Grant, Prout and the rookie, Jones have been lights out for Colorado all season and are deserving choices. Crawford and Benesch from Minny are having quietly productive seasons. You can make a solid argument for all the players on the team.

The omission though? Scott Ranger from Calgary. Ranger has been a threat for Calgary in all their games and is tied for the team lead in goals with about half the shots at net when compared to Dobbie and Dickson. I think Ranger is caught in a "they all look the same" dilemma when trying to figure out Roughnecks All Stars. The difference between Ranger, Dickson, Shattler, Evans and Dobbie is so small overall that selecting the reigning league MVP (Shattler) is the easy choice.

Peaks- All Star Rookies

A number of first timers were selected and it is nice to see the league transition from the old guard to the new guard. Twelve players were selected to their first All Star game which is a good sign for the future of the league. Congratulations to them all and I hope they will be at many more All Star games.

One could argue that Mike Thompson as the East Starting goalie is an error but no goalie in the East Division has really exerted themselves over the season so far. You could throw a blanket over all the tenders right now. One of the problems with choosing All Stars after 3-4 games I guess. Given a few more games it is likely that someone would have risen from the East pack. I do think Thompson benefitted from a great performance against the Rock when he was clearly superior to Roik in a big game.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Peaks and Valleys- A Weekly look at NLL Trends

What a difference one weekend can make! Last week it looked like Toronto was done and Buffalo would take the East. A 2-0 weekend for the Rock has righted the ship, a poor result in Minnesota by the Bandits and suddenly the Philadelphia Wings (?) are in first place. The league is very tight and the small plays that go unnoticed can make all the difference.

Valley- Dane Dobbie reported as missing

In the Calgary's season opener at Toronto, Dobbie was at his mercurial best. Mixing it up with everyone, driving to the net hard and generally impacting the game with his effort. Fast forward to the rematch in Calgary this past weekend and notice the discrepancy in stats.
In Game 1 he finished with 3 goals and 3 assists. In Game 2 he had 1 goal and 3 assists. Both are respectable point totals but it's the other stats that tell the true story.
In Game 1, Dobbie took 17 shots at the net, had 3 LBs, 2 Turnovers, 1 Takeaway and a penalty. A typical Dobbie game over his career.
In Game 2 this past Saturday, Dobbie had 3 shots at the net, 1 Turnover and ZERO LBs and Takeaways.
For Calgary to have any success, they need a lot more of Game 1 Dobbie and a lot less of Game 2 Dobbie.

Peak- Kasey Beirnes, The underrated star in Toronto

I've always been a fan of Kasey Beirnes' game. He's not the fastest, doesn't have a booming shot and is not particularly imposing when you see his name next to Sanderson, Doyle, Leblanc and Billings. But make no mistake, Kasey Beirnes has a huge impact on Toronto's offence in all categories. Let's take a look at his season so far:
In 4 games he has 5 Goals and 6 Assists which is about on average for his career. Now in the 11th year of his career, Beirnes has averaged about 4.75 Looseballs per game and has been fairly consistent. This year though he has upped his average to 5.75 looseballs per game. Over the past 3 games he has 22 LBs (Many of which are LB Plus) which is an average over 7 LBs a game. That's a great average for any player. Beirnes may not be putting up the big points but his hard work is allowing players like Sanderson and Billings to post big numbers and for his team to win games.

Valley- Stealth; Having the ability to prevent detection

Never has a dictionary definition better described a Lacrosse team than it currently does with the Washington Stealth. Dropping their last game AT HOME to Edmonton by a 16-5 score is hopefully the low point for last year's Champions Cup Finalists. Oh and Three isn't the end of the world but averaging 8 goals a game on offence just won't cut it this year.
They have been outscored 12-5 in the first quarter so far this season which is a worrisome trend. In order to right the ship they will need better starts than what they have gotten so far.

Can someone please tell the NLL to add more servers to the system? The redesign is nice but there are many times when we are unable to retrieve data from their website because the servers are too slow/too few.
After watching 4 weeks of action it is time to come out and state our approval of the new rules. The 8 second count to cross centre has had some impact on speeding up the game. The tightened up change rules are allowing more transition shots which is improving flow. The best rule however has been the immediate drop the ball on possession changes. One simple rule has taken away all the stupidity and tactics that have slowed the game down for years. Now all we need is for that rule to come to the summer leagues in Canada. Let's get it done, CLA!