Monday, February 06, 2012

The Diva Dilemma

Coming from Madison Club to Boston in 2010 -- adjustments were made to my playing style. Vertical stack rather than horizontal offense. Possession instead of field position. Position man defense instead of space/lane poaching. However, the biggest difference is the effect I can have on a game. In college, if I played well, we won. In club, if I played well, we usually won, but not always. In elite club, it seems not to matter. Remove one or two players and the result is largely the same.

In elite level club, making a difference is hard to do. Sometimes impossible. Ironside lost only twice in 2010 -- once in quarterfinals of worlds to Sockeye 15-17 and once in Club National Finals to Revolver 10-15. Of any game that season, those two were the hardest to be on the field and make a significant impact. The game-changing, momentum-swinging knockout-uppercut to propel the team to victory.

This last season specifically -- I felt like my fantasy value dwindled, as I found it more difficult to land power-punch impacts constantly. The large turnover of the roster, developing roles and overall immense talent of the team, made superstar players difficult to generate consistently. Perhaps there are just less touches at the highest level. I can't get over the feeling of not winning my battle and playing a major role in our success. On every ultimate team I've ever played on -- I was one of the main contributors. In college and club in the Midwest, I was driving the offense, getting resets and completely controlling the game. Last year, I felt like I wasn't able to finish at to the level I've come to expect from myself down the stretch.

I've always prided myself in being a deadly weapon. Threatening the ability to throw a goal from anywhere on the field, at any moment. That was high school, then college, then club, but not so much elite club. The windows are smaller, the defenders faster, the deep cuts not as often. That's what frustrates me the most. When I have the disc, why are the cutter's setting up for 5-10 yard under-cuts? It doesn't make sense. I have a rocket launcher with a scope. A loaded arm cannon with a loose trigger. Get the disc in my hands.. and let the magic happen. But Boston runs a different "ultimate brand." It is consistent, conservative, dependable and most importantly, boring. The odds make sense actually. 22 passes for 4 yards at 99.8% completion percentage will amount to more goals than 1 pass for 75 yards at 80% completion percentage. I get that.

I'm not sure I'm cut out to just be one of the sailors. I've always had the rage of a massive wild Hodag. Having a smaller role, watching plays happen rather than doing, it all feels like a step backwards? I can contribute more; I can win those battles to 15. I have every throw. Complete confidence, total control. Breakside, deep, open side, resets.. I know them all. I can drive an offense, take over a game and mentally win each crucial moment. Developing in a midwest was the best situation for me. It's always windy. Most players struggle in high winds. Soon I realized the swing off the sideline is 50/50 at best. Sometimes I don't completely trust my teammates, because I've learned their tendencies and can predict their bad habits. I realized as a sophomore in college that the most difficult throw is usually the first one. Especially for the D line bringing the disc up to the cone. I call it the cone of death with Worcester Flatball. The one place on the field where no one has throws. However, that is my favorite place to be. In the pressure cooker, forced to make plays in brutal conditions. These are the situations that make you stronger. Because if you can execute here - everywhere else is a breeze. I know I can do it because I've done it so many times before and in all sorts of high stress situations. The stronger the wind, the bigger my advantage is. I like the responsibility of having to do the heavy lifting, especially when the pressure is on. Rising to the challenge and embracing the moment is where glory happens.


Charles Kaneb said...

The "hi-percentage, short-distance" stuff makes sense on paper, and if your team has good players, it looks like it works...

But think about it for a second. What are the odds really like on a short reset throw? If I know the offense is trying the "death by a thousand cuts" strategy, I'm taking silly/crazy chances on every pass to the man I'm covering - if I knock it from a 99 1/2% pass to 90%, how often can I afford to get broken/end up way out of position and chasing?

If your offense takes 10 90% passes but gets 10 nearly-free (99.9%) resets because of being out of position, it scores 35% of the time... this is worse than an 80% feed to a cannon for a 50/50 pass to the end zone.

Brett said...

This is a good assessment Charles, but the issue is that people always treat each event independently and do these analyses, let alone do it with static dynamics. The problem we are dealing with is conditioned on events, specifically events with temporal dynamics. Therefore, you will need to make these probabilities conditional.

Basically, you are issuing conditional dynamics to the problem by assuming the defense will change its pressure based upon the assumption that the offense is grounded in a no huck game and that they will always take the highest percentage non-huck option. You are issuing a temporal dynamic to the prior on the defense, as an offensive team throws more passes, the defense will adapt their prior knowledge (normal defense) and condition, or adapt, to a more stringent underneath defense. This is accurate, but you can't use the idea of independence in probability anymore and will need to use a Bayesian strategy to analyze this. Also, based upon the idea of temporal dynamics, you are now in the realm of sequential Bayesian.

In reality, the offense would adapt to take advantage of some of this tight underneath defense to take high percentage deep looks. This could be taken into account, along with a spectrum of events, and you could make a transition kernal density to account for all these events in a markov chain like procedure. (ie a up line dump leads to a huck more often then not, while a backfield dump leads to a swing more often then not and these have probabilities based upon these conditions) In others words, you have the option to throw any option at any time (dump can throw a swing, huck, under, dump), but with specified probabilities conditioning on the fact you caught a dump.

Lastly, looking at your 80% feed the cannon approach, using the same principles of your previous defensive analysis, the defense would condition its prior on a more liberal deep game and likely turn that 80% down to a 65%. I think if you watch enough elite level video and calculate a top hucker's completion percentage, it is roughly around 65% (2/3) at best.

Kyle Weisbrod said...

Muffin, if your super power is your bombs (which I agree that it is), do you believe that part of the issue is that you play on the D-line which means that in games against possession oriented teams (which include Revolver) you get fewer opportunities to use your super power and influence the game?

Not that your assessment of the impact of your team's strategy on your influence is wrong, just that your role may also play a part as well.

Anonymous said...

I watched several games of Ironside's on video this year, and it didn't seem to me that the o-line played conservatively. It seemed rather as if they hucked quite a bit. (Mike Lawler, I think is his name, did some statistical analyses of the ETP games in which he concluded that Ironside hucked too much, if I remember correctly.) If the d-line's strategy was to play conservatively after the turn, I suppose I could understand why, though maybe you're right about it not being the best use of personnel. I also don't think that completion percentages of short passes are anywhere near 99.8% at this level of competition.