Thursday, May 21, 2009

UPA College Finals 2009- It's Go Time!


UPA college finals begins this Friday.

Men's bracket is here

Women's bracket is here

I've already made my observations as follows:

Team USA versus College All Star Alums- Who will win?

Factoid that Might Only be Interesting to me and Peter King

Comparison of RRI, UPA Top 25 and Actual Open Finals Participants

UPA College Finals-Teams Determined.

But I want to hear from you! Who will win each division? Will the winners be top four finalists from last year? How will Ottawa do?

Best of luck to our Gee Gee ladies... bring the ladies title back to Canada for a second year in a row!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Revisting the 2005 CUC Semi-Final


The Test Subject- 2005 CUC Semi Final- Phoenix versus Nomads

Phoenix in 2005 (Ottawa Open Team) was considered a strong candidate to wing CUC 2005. The team had managed to stock their roster with every single local talent they had coveted for years, and looked to be a very strong young team with lots of speed, athleticism and exciting talent.

Coming off their first Ontario Regionals victory against Toronto rivals GOAT, nationals seemed like an exciting opportunity, and the team made no secret that they expected to be in the open finals are the very least.

It didn't happen. The team lost in the semis to a Victoria Team (Nomads). Nomads seemed like an older team that had some very skilled players, but would be challenged physically by the Phoenix squad. Looks can be deceiving.

I went through the entire game, play by play, pass by pass and took individual stats for each and every player to find out what went wrong.


I collected the following:
• Individual Points ( o or d)
• throw attempts
• throw completions
• dump attempts
• dump made
• short throw attempts (anything up field that collects less than 10 yards)
• short throw completions
• medium throw attempt (anything 10-30 yards)
• medium throw made
• Hucks attempted (30 plus yards)
• Hucks made
• Special throw attempts and made
• Catches (and the type of catch if layout, sky, etc)
• Total Turns (with separate fields for throw, catch, etc)
• Fouls Called On
• Fouls Called Against
• Thrown Goals (and fields for type)
• Caught Goals (and fields for type)

Here's what I can say with certainty

• The offence (o line and d line) had some memorable turns, but their efficiency in the wind was pretty impressive. They completed over 89% of total throws. However, they struggled with hucks (45% including one player going a perfect 3 for 3) but even more so with medium throws (7 turns and 68% effectiveness)
• Almost all the team turnovers were unforced throwaways and only 0.5 could be attributed to the receiver.
• I was very surprised by the lack of turnovers forced by the Phoenix defense. They forced only 3 turnovers (one of them from an o line player on an o point) in the entire game. With the players involved, you would have a very hard time believing this.
• Just calculating who scored the goals and got assists would have given a much different picture from who were the most efficient players on offence.
• One starting player had as many turnovers as points, and made 40% of his throws. He actually had more turns than catches. That's hard to do, but it looks like the team recognized this good player was having an off day and made a change quick

A very interesting game that had a disappointing end for the Ottawa team. Looking at the Nomads team before the game, one would be hard pressed to think they were the better team. However, you're minds eye lies. The Nomads ended up beating GOAT in the finals to win nationals.

Nomads (despite the disgraceful hammer and sickle logo) were a very efficient offensive team in 2005. They didn't cause the turnovers that every team thinks of championship teams creating. They never blocked, layout d or skyed Phoenix. Instead, they are a bunch of experienced players that are "good at ultimate". They limit opportunities, don't take many fouls (5 all game) and score when they get the disc.

Using Video for Ultimate Stats and Analysis


I've long said that video was the next step in better understanding the game of ultimate and the value of players on a given team/level.

Why video? The game can be better explained from more than just scores and player goals and assists. That is a small part of the bigger picture teams can use to better evaluate their team/opponents. The more data and games you can collect, the more meaningful your data. It is still impossible to perfectly predict future results, but you can create an arbitrage and understanding of what you need to do to win.

Based on my master thesis on the NHL, I certainly have an interest in bringing some form of better stats to ultimate. Also, my involvement in the game as a player also inspires me. If there is a link between stats and ultimate wins, I want to find it. (hypothesis is still that all around efficiency is the best predictor of success)

I can think a specific incident last year where my open team had a injured player from our open program (a very respect player of considerable reputation of perceived talent) took stats while watching us play a tournament. This person took these primitive stats ( number of points, goals. assists, turns) and made some "conclusions" about players (one defensive player in particular) which eventually made an influence in how that player was treated and seen on the depth chart all season. So, because this player wasn't flashy and didn't fit the prototype, all it took was some poor stats from a small sample to seal his fate. I'd really like to do something to help prevent those kinds of things happening.

People have experimented taking their own stats and using a palm pda on site to take stats as they go. However, I think the time constraints and speed of the game leave these methods susceptible to stat errors and omissions. Video is the way to go.

What are our current restraints?
  • Not a lot of games are done in full and available for viewing. You have to videotape your own games
  • I now realize that it takes 3-4 hours to watch a game and decode it for both offense and defensive stats. You need to have several players on a team helping to decode it with the same legend guide.. because it takes time and effort.
  • We don't have organized leagues and stats from each team that would allow us to compute the average of teams and players, and use that to determine how players mark up versus the average player at his/her position.

This was one of the few weekends that I had free time on the weekend. I finally decided to put my money where my mouth was and test out data collection via video.

The next post is my first venture. After my first game decode/transcribe, I feel even more confident that teams willing to videotape their games and break down the footage can learn something about their opponents, and much more about themselves