Thursday, June 23, 2005

Roster limits of 15

Suppose the UPA institutes a roster limit of 15 players for the fall series. What effect will this have?

80% of teams will be worse in absolute terms. The overall level of play will probably decline. There will be more parity.

How will various teams be affected?
All teams will be hurt a little because practices will be harder to do.
The best teams from big cities will be hurt a little because of this.
Conglomerate teams will be hurt significantly as practices become much more difficult to field 7s, and players decide to stay locally.
Second teams from big cities will be significantly better. There might even be enough interest in a third competitive team.
Small-market teams that currently do not lose players to conglomerate teams will be hurt a little because of the practice effect. Small-market teams that currently lose players will be helped a lot.

Why will play decline?
With this few tournament players, the level of play will have to decrease because players won’t be able to maintain that intensity and quality playing 50% more. (Roster of 21: play 1/3 of the time. Roster of 14, play ½ of the time. ½ is 50% more than 1/3.)
Practices will have no subs and won’t be intense. Many practices won’t even have 7 on 7, which means no zone or junk D practice, funny offensive lines (2 handlers, 2 middles, 1 deep?), and unrealistic spacing.
Some good players will retire/play coed rather than compete on a lesser men’s or women’s team.
Some decent players will want to play but won’t make it on any roster, and unless there is a critical mass of them and at least one or two are organizers, they’ll be out of luck.

On the other hand,
Players will have to condition better, so maybe that will raise the play.
Second-string elite teamers will now be playing bigger roles on lesser teams, bumping down those players to a lower level.

And another thing:
There will be more tournaments, as teams decide that they can’t get that much out of 6 on 6 practices and so will decide to go a relatively weak tournament. Having more tournaments that are competitive is definitely a good thing, but what is the cost? Perhaps it is that teams won’t practice much. Maybe this would lead to a rise in conglomerate teams who get together at tournaments every weekend.

And one more thing: I’ve been discussing this from a team level, but of course it is individuals who play. I listed a few types who would be hurt by this, but who is going to be helped?
Players who would prefer to be a big fish in a small pond but all the other fish prefer a big pond. (Ok, let’s be a little kinder to them: perhaps they think that it will be better for their career if they spend a year or two playing full-time at AAA instead of practicing with and riding the pine on a big league team, and without roster limits there would be no AAA team for them.)
Players on a team whose natural roster limit is 15. They actually won’t get any better or get to play more, but their best opponents will be a little worse. (Otoh, maybe their chances at making Nationals are lessened. Red Tide might have been good enough to beat Dark Horse twice when it counted, but they probably weren’t good enough to beat Dark Horse reinforced with a few of the extra players from DoG.)



Idris said...

players 16-? never seem to be that great on most teams. teams probably wouldn't have too much trouble making a starting 7 for D and for O.. with this roster limit, it just means those guys need to play a lot more. injuries and conditioning just become huge things to worry about.

for as long as I can remember, it seems when making teams... players 1-15 or so were obvious, and the whole "cuts meeting" is spent figuring out which of players 16-30 should fill the last 5-7 spots. what does that say about the quality of those players or the purpose they serve on the team. is that how other teams are made too? or is it a stuggle to figure out only the last 2 or the last 10.

15 players might require a change in the format of tournaments... in a day maybe you'd start to only play at most 3 games... but usually only 1 or 2.. not sure how that would work... maybe there are A, B, and C divisions for open, women, and mixed... you go to a tournament and only have 6 teams in your division, similar to some soccer, softball, or basketball tournaments.

it also always seemed wrong to me that you could play back to back games and not have it be a huge issue... what does that say about the conditioning required to play ultimate.

i had a conversation with some friends about game score totals in ultimate... when we started... pool play was to 13 or so... and the finals was to 21. they liked how the "big game" was to 21.. made it exciting. aside from taking 3 hrs.. I didn't like how those games (especially finals of nationals.. which is/was played on its own in a day, where no other games are) were so different from every other game you play throughout the year. i likened it to game 7 of the nba playoffs playing 6 quarters or the world series be 12 innings... simply because it was the final.

gwbuhl said...

Maybe this a some sort of "back in the day" post, as in" I remember when we had X guys on DOG and still shredded", but I'll bite anyways.

A number as low as fifteen would change the way the sport of ultimate is played. Even if players improve their conditioning, it would be extremely difficult to play at a high intensity for 50% of the points, even over as few as 6 games in a weekend. Defense is hard enough as it is. Add fatigue, and ultimate becomes even more offense oriented. Ultimate at high levels is pretty dull to watch (fun to play, but dull to watch), fewer players on the team would not improve the situation. Finals would be yawners or even worse, filled with fatigue based mental errors. A boon for the hecklers, but not so much for the average spectator.

One plus: All-around-skilled players would be at an added premium, and niche players' value would be diminished.

Matt Rodkey said...

Another thing is the role of injuries throughout the season. On KAOS we have always taken a couple of players beyond our optimal roster size when we picked our team in the late spring, and have always ended up with the right number in the fall due to injuries.

Would there need to be a farm system, or would we see a lot of teams with 12-13 players at nationals.

I guess final roster selection might not be made until right before the series, like say the World Cup Soccer team, but what happens to 16-18 who get cut from a team like Dog the week before sectionals. Sure they'd help a team out, but they would not have practiced with that team at all, and would take spots from other players on that team.

parinella said...

This started as a "why roster limits are bad" post as a response to a comment on the previous entry, but as I started thinking about it, I realized that some aspects of the change might be good, and other things would just be changes, neither inherently good or bad.

Some amount of fatigue based mental errors adds to the entertainment and human drama value, as long as it doesn't turn into a swillfest.

It would make it difficult for teams to carry full and mostly separate O and D squads. I occasionally find myself looking at DoG games as two separate games, one in which I participate (the O game) and one in which I'm barely a spectator (the D game), and somehow they combine the two games to declare a winner (something to do with having fewer breaks).

Another side effect would be that injury-prone players would be more likely to be cut. Now, there is little risk in putting one of them on your roster; if he's healthy (even if he's out of shape), he'll play and help the team, and if not, you'll have 22 instead of 23.

Do your teams decide on a strict roster size and then fill out the numbers, or do you set an approximate size and then make the last few decisions on a case-by-case basis? We're more of the latter.

Idris said...

I would contend ultimate gets more fun to watch as players get tired. Last night I played pick up with guys from all the top bay area teams.

It was pretty broing for the first 30 minutes.. goals were scored with out much effort. But once everyone got a little tired, all of the sudden it was a tougher to get open, more plays were contested, and it was a lot more fun to play and watch.

And as Billy Berrou might argue, adding turnovers and decreasing the value of an individual possesion, might not be a bad thing.

The injury arguement is lame though... every year, the guys who need to play... play. Are there injuries to the players? Yes... and they usually sit out practices and some tournaments during the summer... then suck it up for nationals... what studs they all are.

Its been a while since I've seen a team have one of their better players sit out nationals because of injury.

I think setting a limit of 20 to start would be a good thing. Maybe look into decreasing it by 1 over a 5 year period, with the goal being 15. If along the way, teams found serious problems, it could freeze (at like 16, 17, or 18).. and that would be the number used.

or maybe something like goaltimate... you can have X number of players on your roster, but you have to designate X number of players as inactive for that game.

Idris said...

jim's comment came while i was writing my second one... i wasn't trying to bite his thoughts.. we're just on the same page here.

we usually set an approximate size (i.e. i would say 18, they would say 22, we'd agree on 20), then go case by case... which always, always, causes it to go higher than lower... so i say 18, they say 22 and we compromise on 20-21.. but then it ends up 22-23.. and i'm happy because i know it would have been 25 if i let them.

cash27 said...

Idris, don't you mean closer to 28 or 30 :)

Also, Idris, when you say the first 15 are's the next X number of players that the caps struggle over...if the roster limit became 15, seems to me it would be the first 10-12 would be obvious and the caps would struggle over 13 - X as each player would bring different skills?

Anywho, I've always thought there should be a roster limit for the series. I would be in favor anywhere from 18-22. I can't see where a limit of 22 would have much of an impact on many of the top teams at this point, but I would venture that a limit of 18 would cause quite a stir in most locations.

If I were to compare with other pro sports, they ususally carry at least 140% of the starting lineups. Baseball 25 man rosters, football 45, Basketball 12, Hockey 21?, soccer 27? So to limit it to 18 doesn't seem out of line, but 15 seems like there would be too few least at this juncture.

Flo said...

I'd say "Welcome to European style tournaments!" Here, we usually don't have as much field space, so we cram more teams onto fewer fields (most times about 5 teams per field)---less game time per team. As a result you don't need as many players per team... and usually you don't bring as many because it would be less fun to play so little. Back-to-back games in tournaments with smaller teams are a big disadvantage to a team, so the schedules usually don't have them.

In the end, every player plays on average just as many points as in a US tournament (so in a way the whole "let more teams play" doesn't lead to "let more players play", contrary to the original intention). The tournament formats function in a way as roster limits---past the point of the opportunity for a whole sale you don't gain much by carrying more players. So if you are for roster limits, maybe this is the way to go... it's less restrictive.

So what would happen if you did either of these things (roster limit or different tourney formats) in the series? 15 is too small for serious practice, so maybe in a big market like boston or bay area you would carry 30 players through the summer, and at some point divide up in two teams...

doc said...

What does everyone think about the possibility that large teams would get even larger? Going with the model that Flo suggested, it seems like "big league" teams like the top 4 at nationals might have 30 players hanging around for practice, then split into two going into the series. I guess it depends on how well 15-18 players could accept playing on a "B" team. The A/B idea would be a sort of built in farm team. Not being part of a big time team, i'm not entirely sure how that would fly for those players.

Roster limits would be even more thorny for mixed teams, since you'd have to decide what m/f ratio you want to carry. Its a very interesting subject overall.

parinella said...

I am steadfastly against the idea of roster limits in the UPA for the near future. It's within their rights to unilaterally impose them, just as they are allowed to put geographic restrictions on residency (which I am also opposed to, although not nearly as strongly), but I think they would need to show that the game is being hurt significantly in order to overcome the restriction of choice on the individual, as well as the harm coming to those who are forced out. And I also think they'd need to consider all the unintended consequences that I'm trying to flesh out here.

doc said...

Right. I guess i was trying to flesh out the idea that one unintended consequence of capping rosters at 15-18 would be that it might have the exact opposite effect than intended...assuming that the purpose is to spread out the talent.

Someone pointed out that limiting the roster would make it tough to even have productive practices. It stands to reason that big time teams would want to have more players hanging around because of this. The only incentive for players on the cusp would be if the team planned on splitting into two complete squads. The advantage for developing players would be the opportunity to practice and learn with the top guys. The advantage for the team in general is holding on to developing players.

Anyway, in order to field two full 15-18 player teams i'd think you'd have to have even MORE players hanging around than normally. So instead of spreading the talent, it is even more concentrated. Imagine the horror of mid level teams at sectionals when DoG A and B come rolling through... etc etc.

Just a thought.

parinella said...

Imagine the horror of mid level teams at sectionals when DoG A and B come rolling through
That would be DoG and PuP.

I don't think it's farfetched to imagine all the teams in the city being part of the same club, practicing together kinda like the major league baseball teams practicing with their minor league clubs at the same complex in spring training. One big benefit would be that you could implement the same offensive and defensive systems all through the hierarchy, so you could get a much better idea as to how well a developing player will fit in at a higher level. The big downside is a loss of independence for the lower teams and an inability to improve through cross-pollination.

Someone will try this someday and be successful.

Edward Lee said...

Well, since it was my snarky comment that started this thread, I suppose I should comment.

I can't see the UPA imposing roster limits in the near future. The UPA's stated mission is to represent the players, and many players are content to get limited PT on a winning team. (There's certainly no financial motive for wanting to be a top player on a lesser team.)

If I were the commissioner of a professional ultimate league, however, I'd strongly consider a roster limit of 18 or so. (Fifteen would be feasible only if teams started playing three games a week instead of tournaments.) The league would have a direct interest in having more teams able to compete against each other without bringing down the quality of play too much.

And roster limits certainly aren't going to help second-tier teams beat DoG. Second-tier teams would become third-tier teams, and PuP would become a second-tier team with a better chance of beating DoG.

heacox said...

I believe Fury has practice players that work with the team every year but aren't on the roster come time for the club series. I think instituting a roster limit would create a situation where instead of setting a roster in May, teams would have final cuts in August or September.

The top teams would need a brother or sister squad in order to get the most of out their weekend practices. So maybe you work with 30 guys all summer, and then the best fifteen make the A team for the two months of the fall series.

Or practice scrimmages between a city's different clubs would be a regular occurence. I imagine a farm system would become standard for the best teams. You would have more teams overall, and I imagine that would lead to more people playing the sport, as many cities would have two or three distinct teams, or at least be sending two teams to a tournament when they used to only send one.

A roster limit of fifteen players seems low, although it might not matter for two or three tournaments over a two month period in the fall.

Plus, I agree with Jim that a team's offense and defense would be less distinct, and I think that's a good thing.

Justin R said...

This whole debate sounds too much like a rule in search of a problem, instead of a problem in search of rule to fix it.

If PT is an issue, players have a solution: find another team or start one. If too many good players are spending too much time on the sidelines, a new team will develop on its own accord. Why do we need a rule to force the issue? The rule will only distort behavior and the game of ultimate in ways that are not likely beneficial.

By the way, I have not thought too hard about this... but the reason the NFL, NBA etc., are able to have roster limits is because of a provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act (I think that's it... the law that authorizes the Collective Bargaining Agreement, in any case). MLB has a specific exemption from Congress from anti-trust laws.

Someone needs to tell Dennis that libertarian values are in jeopardy on this blog. hehe.

Tarr said...

Ottawa is pioneering the club farm system concept:

heacox said...

I have noticed many Canadian clubs/organizations that put resources toward their traveling teams. They seem to be much more an extension of the club than say, Chain or Ozone is affiliated with the AFDC.

I know that youth soccer and baseball/softball is run the same way in the US, where you have a supreme club that oversees the facilities and promotes the sport on league levels, but also sponsors its own traveling teams it sends to tournaments. Is the issue here just that ultimate is behind in its development compared to other sports, or will the club teams always remain independent of a larger organization?

I actually didn't mean to get so off topic here; I wanted to reply to what Justin R. said. On the surface, isn't the reason professional sports teams have roster limits is so that you can't carry ten guys at every position and win games by attirtion throughout the season? If there were no roster limits, wouldn't the teams with bigger payrolls have an advantage because it would allow them to have more depth than the other teams? They could simply pay to have mroe available players.

Now, this is probably not exactly how it works, because there are practice squads and minor leagues and whatnot, but I think this is one part of what roster limits are addressing in the professional leagues. I think the question that ultimate might need to answer is does having 24 players give you a considerable advantage over the team with 18? Does anyone have any thoughts on this?