Saturday, December 31, 2005

Last and first

More random thoughts to end and begin the year.

The boy just loved his new train set and didn't play with anything else the whole day. He does seem to be Inertia Boy, where whatever he's currently doing is the thing he wants to be doing next, but this was a whole new level. He also whined incessantly whenever the train went off the track or the two cars became disconnected. kids, whattya gonna do.

Field sense is tough to teach. My wife asked me tonight whether field sense was in the book. At first I said it wasn't, but then decided that it was, just not using that phrase. Much of the Cutting chapter was about when to cut and why, trying to give people guidelines (but not rules, since nothing always applies). But we should have been more explicit in talking about field sense. But I'm still not sure how to drill it into someone's head, other than forcing them to think about it. The stages of field sense are: No clue, will understand when explained to, will recognize right when it's too late, will be able to recognize in time to execute, will do it instictively, then the final stage of recognizing it immediately but being too damn old to do anything about it. Hopefully, you'll have a few years in between those last two stages.

I'll freely admit to reference-counting in the Ultimate History Book. Mooney wins the DoG contest hands-down, so much that he needed to be subindexed ("Mooney, Steve, 62, 68, 113; on Death or Glory, 102, 103a, 115-116; influence of, 47, 86, 94, 130; in Japan, 164; on Philly 8, 114; in Japan, 164; on Rude Boys, 54, 58-59; on Titanic, 67, 76; at Wugc, 162). Seeger was under-referenced, but most others were in fair proportion. It's fun to just look through the index for names, although sometimes I wondered why the hell so-and-so was worth a mention. Didn't make it to see how often Dobyns got mentioned yet.

Speaking of which, he's back. What's the over/under before he appears here to say he would never appear here except to wonder what the hell has happened to the game?

And Mike G, too. He might make an interesting podcast guest, or he could just be Bill O'Reilly. You decide.

Boy those west coast kids just like to chuck that disc. Kids today.

Newsletter arrived today. One bad thing about the UPA getting up to speed is that the articles have already appeared online, so there was nothing new in the stories of Nationals. I had hoped that Shelton had gotten some second- or third-hand reports on the "other" semi that started an hour before the important one and that did not start out 5-0, but no, it was the same old song.

Were there really only 81 turnovers in the women's finals, or did they just not record some of them to be nice? There were 48 in the first 4 points, 26-22, so Riot only had 13 turnovers for their last 11 goals. 63 TOs in the men's final (8 by Cruickshank, surprisingly), 93 in the Mixed final (10 each by Pat Hard and Tim Hertz; 73 by men; 23 of 26 assists by men, 18 goals caught), and only only 29 in a Masters final played on a less windy Saturday.

Continuing my Luke-like review (but with capitalization) of the Newsletter....

No mention of Corey in the Lei-out Beach League article.
American Jews teaching frisbee in Israel, sounds like a great thing for them to do (except I think they spelled the author's name wrong).
Some ads and public service announcements. Ooh, get this, the UPA has the nerve to suggest that people read through the rules first if they have a college eligibility question.
2004 financial statement was in there. UPA added $175K in net assets in 2004, very nice. Got an extra $225K in dues and $75K in nationals fees, 50K in sponsorship and donations. Spent an extra $40K on the Champ Series plus added a new line item for Nationals Teams costing $113K. I think they may have decided to separate the costs and fees for the Nationals tournaments instead of rolling them into "championship series".
Ah, super, Kyle Weisbrod scolds players who behave inappropriately/rudely. Glad to see it, although it's also sad to see things change, in a way. Dobyns alluded to the milk toast (sic) teams today who weren't obnoxious assholes like his team. It was a different day back then, when you could do what you wanted in anonyminity and obscurity (although that wasn't the point he was trying to make).
The pictures are good, but I hope that the ones on the devoted page were not the 10 best, in the UPA's opinion.

Ok, time to watch the New Year ring in.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

More on the Hall of Fame

On the other HoF thread, someone asked who will be the first DoG player enshrined. I said it was Mooney, if for no other reason than he's so much older than the rest of us.

But he will be one of the "inner-circle" members of the Hall. Bill James, the baseball stat guy/writer/Red Sox employee, has studied baseball's Hall of Fame a lot, and we've drawn from his insights in crafting ultimate's Hall (disclaimer: I'm currently on the HoF Committee). One of the ideas concerns "peak" and "career" value.

Sandy Koufax is the classic example of a "peak" HoFer, someone with a short career (just 12 years in the majors, only six of them as above-average) but at such a brilliant high that you can't ignore him. Eddie Murray is a good example of "career", as he almost never led the league in anything but was pretty damn good for a pretty damn long time.

Well, Mooney is one of the tops in ultimate for both peak and career. His career value easily outdistances the rest of the field, even Kenny Dobyns, the only other player in the discussion when you combine your "peak" and "career" top 10 lists into "best player ever." (I write this only because I know neither of them will ever read this.)

It will be interesting to see how DoG and NYNY populate the Hall over the years. It will be a few more years until most of the core of those teams become eligible. As a rough guess, each team will probably have about five HoFers and another five guys who belong in the Hall of Very Good, guys who were either one of the very best for a short time or guys who were consistently excellent but never one of the elite of the elite. But these numbers really depend on how the Hall plays out.

A maximum of 5 players and contributors can be elected per year. There is currently a backlog of Hall-worthy players, so you'd expect that there'd be five new inductees each year, but it's possible that qualified candidates will split the vote and thus only three or four will be inducted. (There is a multi-step process to make sure that this isn't too much of a problem.) I'll guess without calculating that it will take 10-15 years for the Hall to be really current, such that the leading candidates in any given year will be those who just hit the minimum age (48 for men/45 for women this year, moving down to 43/40 by 2010).

It's an unfortunate reality that some of the early greats will probably not make it because of the dense field.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

New Hall of Fame inductees announced

Check it out on rsd and on the UPA site.

Congrats and thanks to Contributors Sholom (Eric) Simon and Kathy Pufahl, Players Jon "JC" Cohn, Jim Herrick and Kelly Green, and Special Merit inductees Joel Silver, Buzzy Hellring, and Jonny Hines.

Click here
for the press release.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Relative value of O and D

Here’s a paradox:
  • Offense and defense are equally important in ultimate.
  • Most of the important players are important because of their offense.
  • If you add up the individual values of all the players, the sum of the offensive guys will be more than that of the defensive guys. But see #1.

Is one of these assumptions in error? Which one(s)?

I’m going to go with the first assumption, and here’s why. The advanced view of “value” is “contribution above replacement level.” However, a lot of defense is simply showing up and not screwing up so badly that you hand away goals. A "replacement level" defense is still going to get turns, while a replacement level offense (especially in women's ultimate) is going to do really badly.

Let's just guess that in a decent game between decent teams, offenses score 50% of the time (and defenses get turnovers 50% of the time). In a blowout, say 15-5, the offense will still probably have maybe 10 turnovers, yielding a 60% efficiency against a replacement defense, meaning the other's team's (replacement) offense scores on only about 20% of their possessions. So, the average offense is (50% - 20%) better than a replacement offense, but an average defense is only (60% - 50%) better than a replacement defense.

Maybe this is what people are saying when they say defensive strategy is practically non-existent. Most of the value in playing defense is just being in position.

Part I of an ongoing thread on analysis of ultimate. (I don't really want to call it statisticial analysis because the numbers aren't the important thing, it's the concepts behind the numbers.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

close games and semis

I'm not sure why, but I feel the urge to talk about the evolution of strategy. No reason in particular that it's on my mind, really.

Kidding, I'm kidding. Sheesh, I can't keep up with all the new blog entries coming out. What's amazing about the frisbee blog acceleration is that blogging is like so three years ago. You'd think that with a sport that prides itself on being so high tech and college-y that blogging would have hit bigtime awhile ago.

I thought I'd go over Corey's Dangerfieldesque comment about how Jim/DoG gives no respect. I'm really not sure how this post will turn out and whether he'll be right or I'll be vindicated, but that's the beauty of live Internet.

DoG in the winning years had its fair share of close games, some of them elimination games. But we won 52 games in a row over 7 years before being knocked out in the semis in 2000, something that surely passes even the most anal statistician's significance test.

With a little help from google, which has a neat Advanced Search by date function for the news groups, here are the close games year by year. I am writing this as dispassionately as can be done, and the guy writing this tonight has disassociated himself from the guy who played in those games:
1994: pool 19-16 over Boulder, 18-13 over Rhino. The Rhino game seemed closer. The Boulder game had a lot of offense on both sides, as 20 of the 35 points had no turnovers. DoG got broken 6 of 14 times by Rhino, however, at a time in the tournament when no one had any idea that Rhino would go 0-5. Looking back, and contemplating the Loser's Lament, I'll say that we had almost no chance at losing the Boulder game and a 10% chance in the Rhino game. Semis: 19-17 over Cojones in a game that merits consideration for the Best Game Ever. It was a great battle that either team could have won, even though we had handled them easily all year (6-1, counting games against the springtime We Smoke Weed). Finals 21-11 over Double Happiness. After the previous day's catharsis, Sunday victory was a foregone conclusion.
1995: pool 18-15 over Double, 19-16 over San Diego. Double game was close to a tossup. San Diego game was one of those where it shouldn't have been that close and they didn't belong with us yada yada no respect. Semis was another possible Best Game Ever win over Cojones, 21-17. Slightly higher quality than the year before because of the win, but it wasn't as historic because it was a repeat. Finals was 21-10 over Sockeye in what might be the Best Played Game Ever (3 turnovers).
Scorecard so far: 2 "no respect" close wins, 1 "just a little", 3 "great games", and 2 "we are so great" not-close games.
1996: pool 15-14 over Saucy Jack after being down 11-4. Start the excuse wagon, it's going to be a long ride. We had a first-round bye and didn't get into the game quickly, they were on a roll having scored 6 in a row to come back against Randall's Island, the game was unlikely to have any implications on where we would finish, we got some bad breaks/plays in the first half, and we were still chuckling to ourselves about Mooney getting stalled on what should have been the very first pass of the tournament. I'm not ready to call this a "no respect" win, but I can't help but think of it as a fluke, so I'm not sure how to categorize it. Semis 19-9 over Z. Finals 19-16 over Sockeye. Never tied after 2-2, although Sockeye had it to tie at 6 and 8. As close as 14-12 in the 2nd half, but then 17-12 and 19-16. Didn't really feel all that close. This could have been DoG's strongest team ever, just because we won so easily without playing our A game.
1997: pool 17-5, 17-10, 17-9 (over semifinalist Z), 15-12, 17-9, 17-6. The close game was against Double, which had failed to qualify for Nationals but got to go after Oregon's Pack of Lies decided to stay home. I think that this is probably where Idris got the term "nicest cheaters", since there were some calls of ours that they disagreed with (although I can't remember what any of them might have been or even whether I thought they were bad/ok/good calls). Not a great game, but could have gone either way. Hard to classify it, though. There is some respect for the game because of the history of having close games against Double, but everything else about the game points to it as one of those which Corey would have accused us of not having respect. (Hey, also check out this thread. Faust was thought (incorrectly, as discovered after Nationals) to have been left off the team's roster at a Sectionals he didn't attend and so there was a big brouhaha about whether he should be allowed to play. That was close to the end of the Golden Days of RSD, by the way.) Semis 17-15 against Ring, after being down 10-4. Some superficial similarities to the Saucy game before, but Ring was just playing phenomenally to earn their lead. Finals 16-10 over Sockeye. 7-0, 7-5, 16-10. Sockeye's first goal in the finals came on a Full Haskell.
1998: Pool play had that one point win over the Condors, a blowout over a Furious team that had taken it to us at Worlds and Tuneup, and some other not close games. Semis over NY (Corey played in this one so must have felt personally aggrieved). Gewirtz wrote of it: "NY gave DoG a good fight. DoG went ahead by 2 upwind goals. WSL was resilient, though, and equalized toward the end of the first half. DoG took a 1 goal lead to the intermission. DoG regained their cushion and NY fought back, but, fell short." I wrote simply, "Semis was uneventful win against NY." Leonardo wrote that it was 6-2, 8-8, 13-8, 14-12 (of this rally, he commented "WSL finally got on track (or Boston eased up in anticipation of closing the game big. It’s remarkable how much these guys really can turn it on and off)."), 17-12. Chalk one up for Corey. Perhaps part of this was that virtually everyone from the NY years and even almost all the key players from the Cojones team of 1995 were no longer with the team, and so we probably felt that any close game against them (the Regional finals were 18-16, and probably felt about the same) was just from us playing badly or uninspired. Finals was 17-15 over Condors, down 6-4 (hmm, don't remember that part), up 14-10 (_That's_ what I remember), tied 14-14 going into a strong wind, 16-14, 17-15. The Condors games were tight contests, no doubt. Way too much wind to be considered great games, though.
1999: Tight Day 2 games against Jam and Ring, both probably games with "too little respect." The offense was great that tournament, not struggling in even a single game, so perhaps that's a common thread. (The other common thread I've identified is that a close game against a team where there's a history of close wins or defeats is much more likely to be considered a good game than a close game against a team that had never beaten us in an important or semi-important game.) But to be fair, a 15-12 game with only 2 breaks isn't really as close as a 15-12 with a lot of breaks, since in the first game the losers would have had to more than double the number of breaks in order to win. Quarters may have been as close as 7-7 before finishing 15-8. Semis was a nail-biter over Furious, finals a 17-12 masterpiece over the Condors (only one break and four turnovers in that game).
2000: wow, rsd says that our first round pool play game against Sockeye was 12-12. Also beat Jam by 2, according to my web page, but all I wrote about Nationals was "Errr. DoG has now won 52 of our last 53 games at Nationals?" No recollection right now of either of those close games. Funny how that memory thing works.

Well, that's it. As I said at the start of this, I wrote this as dispassionately and as disassociated as I could, like I was peering into someone else's head for a documentary, and it's not always pretty. But I said I'd write it and see how it goes, and that's how it went. Tough luck, I guess.

But to go back to the original question, I think I answered it in the 1999 comments. Respect doesn't come from one close game, but from a history of them.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A history of Boston ultimate

I'm not sure why this is on my mind now, but I wrote a piece back in 1994 about the history of Boston ultimate. The short story is that two equal teams in an area will not exist. There will be a top team, a second team will form and may stay together for awhile but eventually its top players will join up with the top team. The second team then has a few lean years before it all starts over again.

From 1992-1995, the 2nd team fell upon hard times, not making Nationals with the 3rd spot. 1996 saw the emergence of Snapple, which morphed into Dark Horse and RoQ the next couple years (but they'll always be Snapple to me). In those years, DoG had relatively few additions to the roster, most of them being players who had moved from other cities (Cameros, Greff) or unretirements (Seeger, Axon). Zaz was one of the few who worked his way up the ladder, having played with Boston Kremes before.

DoG absorbed the top players (and Lyn) from Snapple in 1999 after a triumphant Worlds championship that summer, leaving a skeleton crew to form into Blackjack, which missed Nationals that fall before making it the following year. BJ missed again in 2001, causing another reforming into Boss Hogg. BH lasted until its top players and DoG simultaneously decided they had had enough and formed a new team (called DoG) in 2004. Twisted Metal formed, not out of the remnants, but out of something completely different. The BH guys who didn't play on DoG mostly played Coed that year. Had BH not dissolved, probably some of the TM guys would have played with them and maybe one or two would have made DoG, but the absence of a clear 2nd team paved the way for their existence.

1999 signalled a change to a youth movement which has never stopped. While such dinosaurs as Al and myself have stayed around, we slowly lost the rest of the old guard. Nepotist Wicks brought in a bunch of Brown players and recent alumni. The team might still be old compared to other teams (Jam's oldest is 32, Sockeye's 33) but has continued to get younger.

(By the way, I should note that other than some split squad losses to Twisted at WMO this year and a scrimmage loss or two to Snapple/Hogg, the 2nd team hasn't beaten the 1st team since 1991. We've lost to a whole bunch of teams, but not Boston B.)

Is there really animosity towards DoG from TM? If so, then I wouldn't have exhorted Jeff Graham to cut in a pivotal point against Condors when he was just standing around. I don't really talk to those guys, though, so who knows whether to believe a couple rumor-mongers who have already stated that they deliberately exaggerate to get hits.

Anyway, I've always felt that DoG has respected the sovereignty of the 2nd Boston team, even during the years with massive defections.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Random thoughts...

Columnists often do a “Nobody asked me but…” column whenever they run out of ideas. Over the last week, I’ve been commenting on other guys’ blogs but haven’t produced anything myself, so here goes.

I’m pissed that Arrested Development has been cancelled. Best show on TV.

The odometer on my car somehow is off by about 3%. I noticed this on a recent 100 mile trip when the miles-to-go according to the highway signs differed from what my odometer would have indicated. Do I need to worry about this?

I’m always trapped between hating rules lawyers and wanting to be one. On the first point of a recent game, the marker in a zone would begin the stall with “One” while still about six yards away. Could I call a foul right then since that is two fast count violations at once? Should I just let it go?

A women’s sport (or a coed sport) has arrived when spectators don’t say “Great play” when a woman makes a play that a man would be expected to make. Do you see anyone saying “Wow” when a WNBA player makes a three-pointer or does a crossover dribble (or would you see that if anyone watched the WNBA)? This is the soft bigotry of low expectations that some politicians talk about.

It’s hard not to feel that a whole team is a bunch of cheaters when one player makes what may be a bad call on a pivotal point. This weekend, I went undercover to sample the Mixed game, and in the semis, one of our opponents caught a disc which appeared to bounce first. After the usual ridiculous arguments, the disc went back, and they scored. We scored six in a row after that, though, and I said, “Justice!” after each one. (Incidentally, that was the third game in a row in which a disc appears to have bounced before the catch.)

“Back to the thrower” is often not an equitable solution. Consider a contested catch in the end zone. If it was really up, it should be a goal, and if it was really down, it should be a turnover, and there are odds associated with each. You are theoretically able to calculate what a fair compromise is such that the odds of scoring haven’t changed, and those odds don’t depend on where the throw came from. Thus, if it’s a 2 yard pass that’s contested, the offense comes out way ahead if it’s really a 50/50 call (because they haven’t lost any yardage and they keep possession). Only if the likelihood that the disc was up was equal to the odds of scoring the point (somewhere in the 90-95% range probably) is the most fair solution to send it back to the thrower. Perhaps a better solution on these validly contested calls would be to give the offense the disc 20 or 30 yards back from the call (but no deeper than their own goal line, or half the distance to an X-rules offsides mark (something like 10 yards deep in the endzone)). Or maybe those clowns who want to give close calls to the D because they’re the D had it right for the wrong reason.

Hmm, should an Observer in that situation use this calculus? With most calls, you’re going to be more than 90% certain of a call, but what about the ones with less certainty? Suppose you think it’s 60% likely that the catch was up. Is that enough to rule it up?

There was a lot of dead time during the tournament this weekend. Pulls out the back of the endzone were the worst, taking at least a minute to retrieve. Solution to that: have a “corner disc” available and let someone else chase the errant disc. It’s already in the rules somewhere, isn’t it?

And what the hell’s up with George? Stop posting so much, dammit!

And has anyone seen AJ or Alex?