Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The loser's lament

“We coulda had ‘em.” (Losers have bad grammar, too.) I used to scoff at teams that thought they had a chance against the DoG powerhouse teams just because it was tied at 6-6 or they were up in the semis at Nationals 10-4. Now I’m writing the same thing. Of course, this time the situation is totally different, for reasons I’m sure I could come up with given enough time. But what is it about sports that makes us play what-if?

I guess it’s human nature to feel that victories are inevitable manifestations of greatness, while defeats are a combination of bad luck, bad calls, and momentum-changing close plays. To wit, if we score at 7-7 in the semis, then we go into half up a break; instead, they’re on serve and we have to gain a break to take the ad away from them. Or, at 14-11, we have the disc twice going upwind, but a cloggy offense and a bunch of picks and a poach block stop up from scoring. If we score, it’s 14-12 and we’re going downwind, so maybe we score that, then all of a sudden it’s 14-13 and Sockeye is feeling the pressure, so maybe we score the tying goal, then we have the wind again…So, am I right in thinking this? Was the previous Jim right in thinking, “Oh, those guys gave us a little scare for awhile, but we knew all along that we would win.” We both see the 6-1 run they had, but our view is that it was a bad stretch that should have gone differently while they see it as about how the rest of the game should have gone.

Or maybe we’re both wrong, that we’re both inferring patterns that aren’t really there.

No real point to this entry, just felt I should point this out.


Coach Becker said...

No, I've thought the same thing often, reading you and your compadres' incisive ponderings.

Brains seek patterns in information, repetition, categories, anything to make sense of things. So, whether we're talking about everday experience or an athletic event, our brains work on this information in the same way. Especially if we're "emotionally" invested in the experience, we're even more likely to spend time reflecting, trying to organize the scatter-shot of information and to recognize patterns.

Always, some of these patterns that seem to stick are too local, and don't really point to any over-arching truth in the matter. Some of the patterns we notice, however, make sense in relation to OTHER similar experiences--that's when you've got something.

So, if you have noticed that, usually, DoG has no problem erasing a 2-break lead in the second half, then yes, you should have won the game. If this is the exception rather than the rule, well, I suspect you just got beat, fair n square.

Come-from-behind victories would be another great topic for a thread. What does it take to come from behind? SPECIFICALLY, which o/d strategies are suitable for a comeback situation? What does it take from an individual to play at the top of his game when the score is lopsided in the wrong direction.

Anonymous said...

Ok I have a question regarding the loser's lament. You and Al consistently talk about how the Dog offense values the disc while other teams seem to value it less and how it's sad to see such a style succeed.
Now I mean no offense by this but: Seeing as how both you guys only play offense I am curious as to how you can't say that this offensive style does not lead to turnovers against these other suppossedly riskier teams? If your O was as so risk free, well you'd at least hold serve, no? Games would only be lost by one point no?
A question is why is it not successful (I think Hawaii and was the last time the offensive strategy proved victorious).

Now I watched you guys at the Boston invite and in the final I think the O only turned 2 or 3 times (getting 2 back on both points- plus a beautiful sub by the Count for an injured DOG player on a layout D). Now the system was beautiful too watch but I had some thoughts regarding it that I know you've examined as well.

If the dump-shorter throw strategy that DOG uses is effective at 95% per throw they would need to score within 6 throws to beat an offense that hucks with 70% effectiveness. Now I know you've examined this, but I was thinking of the consequences of the turnovers as the above calculations are simple.

But what about the turnovers:
if you consider that the reprecussions of a missed huck lead to Dog having to make those 6 throws again (as they must travel the length of the field) without a turnover then the hucking strategy ensures that you must have that 95% completion strategy hold up again and your offense doesn't benefit anymore from a turn than from a pull. But if Dog turns over before the 6th throw it would be safe to assume that the hucking team might have improved chances to score- from either a higher percentage shorter huck or from say 3 shorter throws at 90%.
When I get a chance I might set these up as a simulation model say 200 games to 15.
I figured you've explored such ideas before and just wanted your thoughts.

parinella said...

Well, certainly one benefit of the long game is that the other team has to go the length of the field after a turnover.

And yes, you need only one huck to gain as many yards as a bunch of shorter passes.

You really see this as a strategy in heavy wind games, or in some strategic games at lower levels, where one team just punts it and waits for the other team to turn it over.

Regarding DoG and other teams, though, none of us are close to 100% efficiency on a regular basis. There are certainly good games, like our quarters against Bravo where we scored all 8 times going downwind without a turnover and had just the one turnover upwind on our only upwind point.

The implied claim from Al and me is that those other teams have players with better raw skills (particularly speed and being able to throw it a long way) but that their offensive efficiency isn't nearly as good as it could be because they are too huck-happy. They could either a) work in more of a short game or b) be more selective in choosing to throw long, either of which would make them better.

Generally, DoG's hucks are either decently-thrown and easily completed or crappily-thrown and intercepted. It is rare that a well-thrown (looking at the throw out of context) huck is incomplete, whereas other teams have, oh, 25% of their hucks fall incomplete because they throw it too far on what will usually be called a "sweet throw" by their teammates on the sideline. And that 25% is a starting point, so if the conditions are difficult or the throws are a little off or the defense is tight, the incompletion rate is a lot higher.

Edward Lee said...

But if Dog turns over before the 6th throw it would be safe to assume that the hucking team might have improved chances to score- from either a higher percentage shorter huck or from say 3 shorter throws at 90%.

So where do the DoG offense's turnovers occur? Are most of them near the opponent's goal line?

mick said...

Nice post Jim.

I've thought about this too. I've played games where you feel like you will win - but the scoreline is still close at half. As a winner, you tend not to think that the other team was really that close. Maybe they give you a little scare and you pick up the intensity and steamroll them, either that or you just keep playing and they get killed anyway. It's also funny how as a loser it can feel like the game just slipped out of your hands.

My dad was a hotshot Rugby coach. I asked him about this (with regard to Rugby). He replied that it was pretty well-known that most teams can keep up with a really good team for 20 mins, and maybe stretch it out till the end of the first half. Actually, the 5 mins before half are often referred to as the "championship" period. It's around then that the better team begins to step up.

The differences between two teams become more apparent as the game goes on. In order to keep up with the better team, the weaker team burns more energy and needs to chance their hand more. Most of the time, the weak team gets more tired and luck seems to turn against them. Whereas the stronger team doesn't have to do much, they are naturally playing at a higher level and ultimately the points start to come.

Good Rugby coaches teach their teams this. They are taught not to freak out if they were struggling to bury a bad team in the first 20 minutes, but rather to stick at it and just wait (then again if you are behind at half-time then you can freak).