Friday, December 01, 2006


I'm going to be doing a presentation at the Ultimate Coaches & Players Conference to be held in a suburb of Boston on January 27 of next year. As George mentioned, registration is now live. Mention that you saw it on this blog and you can register for only $40 through January 7. I think the organizers also mentioned that their meeting space will limit the number of people that can attend, so register early.

Here is the abstract for my presentation:

What separates players with equal physical ability is the mental ability to process information and make decisions on the field. While innate differences exist in this mental ability, it can also be developed through practice. This presentation will examine many areas of ultimate where decision-making comes into play (throwing, cutting, reacting to poaches, defensive positioning) and will touch upon team-level decision-making during games.

Monday, November 27, 2006

WFDF congress

WFDF held their Congress at Worlds this month, apparently. Here’s the link to the minutes. Some comments:
  1. It seems that every single request for player eligibility was approved, even the one where there was a comment “at some point we’re actually going to have to enforce these eligibility rules.” WFDF still seems to have the old UPA mindset of “yeah, ok, I guess.” Which is good in many ways, and more in line with how ultimate used to be, just not what the UPA is doing now.

  2. There were many comments on the World Games and what to change, but nowhere did it mention even considering changing from Mixed to either Open or Women’s play.
  3. WFDF is considering alternating 4 men/3 women and 3 men/4 women for Mixed rather than offense chooses. The recommendation was to switch them “every other point”, but I’m not sure if they mean “two points with 4 men, then two points with 4 women” or “one of each”. The former is better, since the latter would have one team always going upwind with 4 women (or 4 men, take your pick) and the other going that way with 3.
  4. There was some discussion of bid allocation for the next World Clubs, and a new, semi-formal system put in place. These allotments always depend on the showing at the previous WUCC and WUGC. 25% (about 7-10 for Open) go for strength and 10% for attendance. It could mean that Japan gets more bids to the next one than does the US. Although everyone in the world who cared to attend this world championship did attend, in 2010 it will likely be in Europe and may be limited to “80-90 teams” for all divisions.
  5. They are looking to update the rules, and the rules sub-committee includes some of the usual suspects, but it's odd that they made no mention of the fact that the UPA is also in the process of updating their rules. Golf recently made a great effort to get the USGA and the R&A to iron out differences in the two sets, but now ultimate might be splitting further. Of course, there is an unreconciliable difference regarding Observers, but there are other things being changed in the 11th edition of the UPA rules that will probably not be in the WFDF's new set. I suppose I could look, but nah. But here are some things I did see:
    • 2.7. Teams are guardians of the Spirit of the Game, and must:
      2.7.1. take responsibility for teaching their players the rules and good spirit,
      2.7.2. discipline players who display poor spirit; and
      2.7.3. provide positive feedback to other teams about how to improve their adherence to the Spirit of the Game.
    • No exposed metal on cleats or wristwatches, even one with a strap and no metal. Not sure how that could be dangerous, other than someone getting into a fight because of an argument about timing.
    • Pick distance is 5 meters.
    • Ok, it says that men and women alternate 4/3 after every two points.
    • Time limit is 75 seconds, not 90 as it is here.

  6. Let’s give Corey an asterisk, just because.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

HnH and SLG revisited

There are really two dimensions to the Huck ‘n’ Hope, and I’ve been ignoring one of them. Let’s consider four teams:
A: Cuts deep relentlessly, hucks it to 50% of those cuts
B: Cuts deep relentlessly, hucks it to 20% of those cuts
C: Cuts deep occasionally, hucks it to 50% of those cuts
D: Cuts deep occasionally, hucks it to 20% of those cuts

A and B might be considered aggressive. D would be labeled by all as conservative, and C probably would be considered conservative. But looking at it another way, the throwers on A and C are the aggressive players, while B and D’s throwers are considered conservative. I’ve only been considering how often teams throw deep, ignoring how often teams throw deep given the number of deep cuts they get.

I think B is probably the best strategy. This is what golf mental game guru Dr. Bob Rotella refers to as “conservative strategy, cocky swing.” The problem with A is related to decision-making. Other things being equal, B is going to have a much better huck percentage than A while still hucking on almost as many possessions (but will make more passes before hucking). A will chuck it any time the receiver has a step and they can get the throw off (think Allen Iverson). B will eschew these marginal choices and will require a little more before deciding that it’s a good choice.

It’s certainly possible to go too far. If you only take 90% chances, then maybe you’ll complete 90% of your hucks, but you’ll be passing up 80% shots when you only need maybe a 50-60% chance to come out ahead.

So, who wants to be the one to say who A, B, C, and D are? And who from those teams wants to refute?

Monday, November 06, 2006

100 000

Congrats to a visitor from from Southfield, Michigan, who is visitor #100 000 to this blog. Condolences to (99999) and 216.113.168.# (100001) who barely missed.

Interestingly, I also got page view #200 000 today.

This blog started on 3/24/05. The 1000th visitor came on 5/3/05. October had over 10 000 visitors, the most to date.

From its inception until the end of the 2005 season, the site grew every month, but then an off-season and more sporadic posting since then has resulted in up-and-down numbers. Take a look at the graph of the monthly total since last year.

I reckon this traffic puts me in the top million blogs out there, so thanks for your support!

Friday, November 03, 2006

nats comment

Welcome back to AJ, who was obviously holding onto his secrets for the past 9 months. Congrats, AJ and all of Chain, except Kid, of course, for a great tournament.

I'm reposting what I wrote at the end of the comments, just so those who only check in at ultimatetalk will be able to read about me. Nothing else new here.

I felt like I played pretty well, although I had only one play worthy of a highlight film (at least one I'd want to be part of; I also got skyed once by a taller player, although I have evidence that my feet were higher than his). It was mostly just getting open and completing passes. I think I had four turnovers and two other incompletions on passes to me. First turnover came when Forch changed his cut as I was throwing and I couldn't stop it; I almost nailed the marker in the face with that one. Second came when I threw a with-the-force backhand into the ground a lot shy of my target; there was something funky with the mark that made me think I was just going to be fouled or maybe I just lost sight of where I was throwing or something that my mechanics were way off. I dropped a low pass in the wind against Rhino (got a brushburn from that one). And I threw a pass to BVH when he wasn't open but was still cutting; it was my first point after being on the massage table for 20 minutes (I took this long only because we were up by several and there was only one O point in that time) and I was out of the flow of the game a bit, so when I caught a swing I just turned and threw, but his defender was already on his way by him by that time. He called a foul, there was some bitching about it, after about two minutes the coach went up to him and said something and I came up to him and tried to say that it wasn't a foul but he had already put the disc down. On the receiving end, Alex threw me a huck in the Furious game after we were already down by 6, I looked up to the forehand side because there was a lot of room there and I thought the force was that way, and by the time I caught sight of it and turned the other way, I had lost too much momentum and couldn't catch up to it. Had I been expecting the backhand the whole way, I would have caught it. And Doug threw me a too-weak forehand in the Sockeye game where another cutter took too long to clear out and his defender got the layout poach block.

I felt that Friday was my best day of the tournament, in sharp contrast to the past several years where Saturday was my best day. I once again felt stronger on Saturday, but the space wasn't there or something such that I didn't get the disc as much as I wanted to against Sockeye, without feeling that it was because my man was on me (although maybe he was, I don't know). Sockeye was effective at clogging the lanes against us, and maybe our overall team speed (especially on offense) killed us.

Defensively, I felt ok. No blocks, but I created several high stalls (some of them leading to turnovers) due to good non-fouling marking, and I remember preventing some cuts. There were two long passes thrown to my man and caught on the first day, but none after that despite playing some HnH teams who got the disc plenty of times when I was on the field. There were a few passes over the weekend where my guy beat me right away on an in-cut so I just ambled in after him. Maybe it's a little lazy, but there is no practical difference (given that I'm not going to administer a bump as soon as he catches it even though the kids today seem to think it's cool) since I'm not going to be able to catch up anyway and I was there by the time he caught it and turned and the force didn't change.

I played a little more than I expected and probably about as much as I deserved, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. Forch played well offensively except for a bunch of forced hucks, but otherwise I didn't feel anyone on the O stood out as playing well.

I had two points that stood out for me. One was against Furious on the first point of the game. Pitted against a defender that apparently everyone on Furious knows I can't stand playing against because of his hands and bumpiness, I was determined to show him, but I established that I wasn't going to be intimidated, got open for four or five passes with the force, and scored the goal. The other point was an upwinder against Rhino. I was called as the third handler, and got open on several resets and quickly got the disc moving again, leading to a big goal.

Overall, I was somewhat disappointed in the amount of contact and petty calls. In order, among the teams I played with and against, I would rank them Furious, Sockeye, Revolver, us, Rhino, the others. 3 of the 4 NW teams outcalled/outfouled us despite us being a little chippy ourselves. I didn't watch either semi (beer tent was too far from the fields), so I can't comment on them.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Nationals Q&A

Any questions? I'll blog in more detail in a few days, but if you have questions, fire away.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Once more unto the breach

1989. 2006. Missed 1991, as we made some mistakes and lost out to Graffiti. This is my 17th Nationals, and about the 12th or 13th where I went in somewhat planning to win the title. And last. If you don't count Masters.

Last practice of the season was today, possibly ever. After, we hung around and made fun of ourselves and joked and had a good time. I couldn't run down one long pass because my hamstrings were sore from 58 sprints on Tuesday's workouts. "If I were 39," I said, but I could still have had it at 41, or not had it at 39, depending on how I felt. That's a problem not frequently mentioned with age, that every day is not the same. You hear old people talk about some days being better than others, but it's true. Some days I feel 39, or 35, or 30, or 25, or whatever, if only for the times I'm playing. Recovery is always a problem, but the doing, well, that goes well sometimes. Luckily, I know more than any of you about how to get open, and I'm lucky genetically that I haven't fallen off the cliff yet due to advancing years, although I can see the cliff just in front of me (actually, it's been a gradual downslope mostly, too subtle to recognize while you're on it but when you're at the end, you say, "Huh"). I still have to make adjustments in my head as to what I can handle over the course of a weekend, but let's hope I can do it.

Once more. 17 years ago, attending my first Nationals, I was really just happy to be there, and had no idea what to expect from future years. Since then, I've had some good years, and some disappointing years, and while you'd think I might know what to expect, still it's a surprise when it happens. Others speak more eloquently about it, but seeing the dew-laden fields first thing on Thursday is chilling. So much ahead of you, so much having happened over the past few months and years, you hate the guys you've been playing against and now they're your teammates again, and the RRIs and seedings and blog entries are no longer just fun hypotheticals but they're people in different colored shirts who just want to kick your ass (possibly a little extra because you called them out). I can still do it, I tell myself, and yes, sometimes I still do it. The disc doesn't care if you're 41 or 21, and neither do I.

I'll still kick your ass, kid.

And good luck.

Monday, October 16, 2006

ranking algorithm

Here are the results, along with the official seed and this year's RRI:
Rank Team PMR Seed RRI
1 Sockeye 3009 2 2838
2 Furious 2997 1 2774
3 DoG 2870 3 2728
4 Bravo 2803 5 2722
5 Ring 2750 4 2731
6 SubZero 2737 7 2687
7 Revlvr 2728 6 2710
8 Chain 2719 10 2670
9 Rhino 2704 8 2690
10 Condors 2674 9 2665
11 Vicious 2673 11 2715
12 Metal 2634 12 2591
13 Machine 2608 14 2599
14 BAT 2577 13 2554
15 TrkStop 2556 15 2565
16 Monster 2365 16 2373

Here's how:

1. Enter in the tournament RRI for every team. Give a 40 point bonus for winning. Give a 20 point bonus for finishing 2nd. (Possible enhancements: make additional changes (5 or 10 points) for each win or loss in the tournament. I think RRI underweights wins, since it relies on point differential to make accurate predictions.)
2. Assign a weight to each tournament, since some are more important than others. I gave a weight of 2 to the major tournaments held in July or later (Colorado Cup, ECC, Chesapeake, Labor Day, Tuneup, each Regionals), a weight of 1 to lesser tournaments later on (including Sectionals) and major tournamentes earlier (Boston Invite, Solstice, Live Logic), and a weight of 0.5 to the lesser early tournaments. (Enhancements: tweak the weights further).
3. Take a weighted average for each team. If a team has fewer than 8 weight points, add tournaments with the RRI of a low-level Nationals team. For instance, a team has only Regionals (2 points), Sectionals (1 point), and one lesser tournament (1 point) for an average RRI of 2700. Add 4 tournaments worth of 2500 RRI for a modified RRI of 2600. This is to encourage play, make sure one fluke performance doesn't put someone too high, whatever.
4. Add points for last year's Nationals. I chose 200 points for the winner, 150 for 2nd, 100 for the semifinalists, 50 for quarters, 25 for 9-16. I decided to give partial credit to teams who didn't make it but whose regional equivalent did well. For the first iteration, the only team affected was Revolver, getting 25% credit for Jam's semis appearance. I didn't do anything to any of the Mid-Atlantic teams, though, which might not be right. (Enhancement: finer gradations; incorporate entire season.)

Comparison to my previous ranking:
Subzero down 3 to 7th
Ring up 2 to 5th
Chain up 2 to 8th
Machine up 2 to 13th
Others within 1

I can live with either, or the official.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Nationals seeding, by parinella

Here are the correct seedings, along with an explanation of allowable deviations from those seedings. Mentally, I start off with last year’s results and adjust based on this year. However, I really think you’d get about the same result if you started with this year’s and adjusted based on last year. There is a remarkable consistency from year to year.

First, I put the teams into groups. Deviations are allowable within a group but not between groups.

Ring, Bravo, Subzero, Revolver
Condors, Rhino, Chain
Metal, BAT
Machine, Truck Stop

Sockeye really should be first, which I found to be a big surprise to me since I weight a championship last year so highly, but they beat Furious 4-1 this year, three of those wins coming in August/September. But Furious won the Region, so there. And the two teams met in the finals of the two best tournaments and finished 1-2 last year.

At first I was going to group DoG with the teams below before putting us 3rd, but the body of work coupled with a semis appearance last year is too much. The lowlight of the season (DoG's only non-victory, in fact) was ECC, but Condors and Rhino finished just one win above DoG, and the two had easier schedules since they each got to face all of the East Coast times while DoG had to play all the West Coast teams (and in fact DoG had about the same RRI at the tournament).

[But a quick note about RRI or any other true-strength predictor. For purposes of seeding, it overweights close losses.]

Before looking at the data, I was going to put Bravo and Revolver 4/5, but neither has a strong body of work this year. Bravo's win at Colorado Cup (early August, at home) is outweighed by dismal performances at ECC and Labor Day. Revolver has done OK but not worthy of top 4, other than being NW #3 (only one tournament final, which they lost). Ring has a high RRI, but part of that is from winning in Texas in early May, hardly relevant. They did about the same as DoG at ECC, but lost twice at Chesapeake in their only other tournament, and they finished 13th at Nats last year. Subzero lost by 1 to Furious in the quarters last year, made semis at Labor Day, and got knocked out by DoG in finals of Tuneup and semis of Boston Invite. They trailed at Colorado Cup, but the body of work makes them the surprise #4 seed.

Rhino is like Revolver, but finished 4th at Regionals. Condors have a decent RRI, but finished in the middle at all of their competitive tournaments, and lost big to Bravo. Chain finished low at Nats last year, made finals of Chesapeake but lost three times, played .500 at Labor Day.

Vicious won Chesapeake in their only tournament, finished 15th at Nats last year. Lost big in the finals to Chain, but beat DW handily twice, and DW made quarters last year and probably would have earned about a 12 seed had they made it this year.

Metal and BAT finished 11/12 last year, both finished 2nd in their Region. Metal seems to have done a little better this year.

Truck Stop could conceivably be included with those guys, and maybe they should. Machine is C#3.

Monster has lost to Oaks, Illinois X, Old and In The Way, and Haymaker this year.

So, the seedings:
Bravo (won CC and made quarters)
Condors (get the nod based on last year)
Truck Stop

Of course, all of this may be wrong.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Regionals -- DoG

DoG earns 3 seed at Nationals; asses kicked; names not taken.

15-0. 15-6. 15-5. 15-5. No breaks. 2 turnovers in the finals. Huck-N-Hope, meet Plug-N-Play.

I have to admit that I hadn't bought my plane ticket to Nationals yet, because I have three of us (plus my parents, who are coming down to see their grandson and ohbytheway his dad) to purchase for, but I was reasonably sure we'd make it. Althought it's not as distinct as the women's (there were probably only a literal handful of games in the entire women's bracket that were closer than 15-10), the teams were stratified in playing ability and most games weren't really in doubt. That's the one area that Mixed is preferable to Open or Women's, in that there is real excitement and doubt about who is going to win. It's a better sporting event where the underdog has a fighting chance. Baseball is the best at this (suck it, Yankees fans, by the way), but ultimate would have to go to games to 3 to achieve the same level of parity.

So, Regionals. I skipped the first game to hang out with my incredibly sweet although worthy of being slapped around (although of course I wouldn't do that) boy while my wife played. Somehow we won 15-0 without me. Then 15-6 against Montreal, about what the point spread said. O turned it a couple times, D played their technological advances, we won. There was one rules discussion that thankfully kept Fortch occupied for about 45 minutes looking through the rule book (although I think most of that was him looking for his own name), but otherwise it went according to seed. I applaud those guys and wished I still loved the game like they do. They've been shafted a few times at Easterns with their seeding, but still they play and win some and lose some and play. I didn't see the one guy with the long curly hair, but those guys gave it and didn't roll just because we're "DoG". O Canada!

Semis were against PoNY. They seemed to fear us. We played well, but they cooperated even more and we won 15-5. The skinny kid played some good D against me, just like the muscular kid who I didn't see today did this spring, but overall they seemed content to give us the game.

Finals were today, DoG vs Metal, "Boston" vs "Cambridge." For awhile, it looked like the famed semifinal of 2002. In the first half, Metal had three turnovers, all of them on missed or defended hucks, and found themselves down three breaks, since DoG had none. The D is starting to get their shit together on offense. Guys who were hesitant before are now starting to figure out when they should cut. We had a few long passes, no forced stalll 9 throws, and we converted. For the last few months, these guys have been bringing it on defense, generating turnovers, but the scorebook hasn't reflected it since they've sucked on O. Now, it's beginning to work. Personally, I hate them all (yes, I'm talking to you), but I am glad to have them as teammates, and if you want to keep me on the sideline by scoring, may your god bless you. You still can't cover me, but rock on.

So, finals. First point was a classic Huck-n-Hope. It went off, I said, "Sweet, turnover." But Ryan tracked it down, an amazing run at the disc, goal. We answered, although they played tough D and it took us about a dozen passes. Them, swing, swing, huck, great catch for a goal. We answered, a little more slowly, but more surely (I love the huck, don't get me wrong, but we're just not as good at putting it as these other teams so we have to be more careful). One of these next points, the huck was a little too far for Ryan's fast little legs (although again I was amazed that he was able to get there; too bad he and his buddies forsook us for Metal this spring), and we worked it down, break. I can't remember the timing, but the rest of the first half featured good O and two more missed long throws from Metal (I think Zip got one 50/50 throw and Pallaver got another). No more turns, 8-5. At some point in the second half, they gave up and decided to wait for the 2/3 game, but we took it to them with our variety of D's and intensity. This clearly was not the same team that went on to destroy GOAT in the game to go. Listless in one, a little fearful and unsure, transformed into confident and skillful the next. If you want to use this as bulletin board material, be my guest, but since this is my last year in Open (I think, for the third straight year), be my guest. I just want to play good ultimate against good opponents.

So, I think this puts us as the 3 seed. Furious/Sockeye are 1/2, and anyone who votes otherwise should have his license revoked. But 3? JAM lost at Regionals. Ring and Condors would be considerations, but they went oh-fer on Day 1 at Nationals last yaer. We beat Bravo in quarters last year and nothing has distinguished us from them this year. NW 3 and 4 are tough, I know, but they're unproven. I see it F/S 1/2, DoG 3, Revolver/Rhino/Bravo 4/5/6 (in some order), Subzero/Chain 7/8, other teams 9-16. (Oh, another point about seedings is tht you're really only qualified to argue about teams at your level. #1 should have no real opinion about #12 v #13.) On the one hand, we don't deserve the #3 seed, but otoh, we don't deserve it less than any other team.

So, a few words about Plug-N-Play. Historically, our team has had positions built around the players occupying them. I said once, way back, that our O positions were not called man and buddy but were Cork, Jim, Moons, Alex, etc., since they were tailored to each's talents and interests. Now, we have more redundancy and can afford to sit out our O guys for 1/4 of the points or to have a few Bozos out there who can handle the key D positions. Zip may be our best player, but I don't think he's indispensable in a way that half a dozen guys were 10 years ago.

So, you read it here first, DoG '06 upset champions. The retiring Parinella and de Frondeville cry while they leave their cleats at the field, saying that this was one of their seven best championships, and surely among the three least expected. We attempt to take all the glory despite the obviously contrasting stats, which we will squelch, and no one will say anything just to make sure we don't come back next year.

This is the Word of DoG.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Making Nationals

Reading Cash’s blog about Revolver qualifying for Nationals, I am reminded of my own more innocent days.

The year was 1989…

Nah, I’ve used that stylistic device too many times. This really started back in the mid-80s. I was in college at Case Western in Cleveland, playing the fall season with the team there (first Ubiquidisc, then North Coast) and summered at my family home in Pittsburgh, playing the spring Easterns series and summer league. CMU had a strong college team which made College Nationals a few times, and though there was never any real exploration of this option, I thought about trying to play with them as a ringer (the rules might have allowed for students from other colleges that did not have their own teams, or maybe it didn’t). The Pittsburgh club team (Slag, Crash) couldn’t compete with the real top teams, but could give good games to the top Mid-Atlantic teams. Cleveland was getting stronger, too, finally winning Sectionals in 1985 before going 0-3 at Regionals in Kansas City, a 17 hour van drive away. In 1986, Pittsburgh got a little stronger still, I felt comfortable and important on the team, and so I decided in my senior year to blow off the Cleveland team (which was in a Region which was dominated by Windy City and Tunas, two of the top five teams in the country) and try to qualify for Nationals with Pittsburgh, figuring that I had no idea where I would be the following year or if I would still be playing frisbee and that this might be my only chance in life to qualify for Nationals. We lost the 4/5 winner’s bracket game but clawed back to make the backdoor final. We even led by three at halftime before faltering in the second half to lose to R&B, 19-15. My parents were extremely disappointed when I told them that I would have chosen to go to Nationals had we qualified instead of spending Thanksgiving with them.

The next year, I was out of college and living in Cleveland, and again lost in the game to go, this time with North Coast to the Tunas. We took out Henry Thorne’s (and the Greffs’, or maybe just Greff Minor’s) Coffee and Donuts in the game before that. I remember that both teams wanted to wear black but C&D invoked their higher seed and we somehow allowed it (not sure why we wouldn’t have flipped for it). This gave us a little extra spark and we knocked them out. This carried over to the game to go, for a little bit. We were as close as 8-7, I think, before our best player got point-blocked near the goal line, and we only mustered one more goal en route to a 21-8 defeat. (Writing this reminds me of another game. In the semis of Worlds in 1991 with Earth Atomizer against NY, we were determined that this finally was the game where we gave them a battle, and we were in it all the way up to the opening pull, which we dropped. 21-7.)

Somewhere around this time, I was amazed by the choice one of my old summer league teammates had made. He had moved to DC and qualified for Nationals with Yo Mama (this must have been 1987 according to the UPA Hall of Champions. By the way, UPA, there have been championships played since 2002. Perhaps you could update this.). However, he decided not to go to Nationals, figuring they would get crushed. What? This would be a dream come true for some of us lowly toilers, and he just threw it away like it was nothing.

In 1988 we thought we had a chance, and went into Regionals as the #3 seed, but played a listless game in newfallen snow (Halloween weekend, Madison) against Kansas’ Dover team and got knocked out early Sunday morning.

In the spring of 1989, shortly after my 24th birthday, I moved to Boston. The move was almost completely unrelated to Frisbee. I liked my job in Cleveland well enough, but they wanted me to relocate to their manufacturing facility 60 miles east of Cleveland, so I started looking around. A headhunter found a position for me in the Boston area, and I jumped at it, because Boston had always seemed like a great place to live, and where I could actually live _in_ the city (definitely would not want to do that in Pittsburgh or Cleveland). I figured that my life path (as a right-thinking Middle American) would be to settle down in a few years anyway (a majority of my high school and college friends got married at about age 25), so might as well live a little first. I went out to one practice that spring with one of the B teams, just to get a little Frisbee time in before joining up with the Pittsburghers for one last tournament at Easterns. I went to some of the open practices that Titanic had, and despite some encouraging words from one of their leaders (no, not Mooney, it was Bob Harding), I just wasn’t willing to accept that I might be good enough for the #2 team in the country and didn’t pursue it much. I also went to a few Earth Atomizer practices but wasn’t committed to that, either, instead preferring the social life.

One day at work, I serendipitously ran into Alex (we worked in the same building at the behemoth GE plant in Lynn), who had managed to back his way into a spot on Earth that spring after being cut by Z’s captain Ted Munter (who as DoG coach now will complete the circle by cutting Alex again next spring). Alex told me that Earth was getting close to settling their fall roster so I better start coming out to practice. I missed the game a little bit by then, so I went to the next day’s tryout, skied their best jumper several times (and this reminds me of when Bob Lobel came to his first DoG practice in 1994 and made Seeger his girlfriend repeatedly that day and thus bypassed the remainder of the tryout process), and was immediately put on the team without a vote. We practiced on Tuesday and Thursday nights in Jamaica Plain under the lights, then went to tournaments on the weekend. Our performance that fall was unremarkable. Graffiti was the incumbent #3 team in the region, but we also lost to Loisaida (Lower East Side of NY), Father Throws Best (old Boston guys (old = 31)), and Nationals candidates from other regions (Philmore, DC, Chain). A typical tournament would end with us being pummeled by NY or Boston in the quarters. We almost beat Titanic at Purchase, but also lost to NY 17-1. We even had close games against Slipped Disc (Connecticut). But still we thought we had a chance.

We finished 4th in the Boston section, behind Titanic, FTB, and someone else who I can’t for the life of me figure out. This put us as the 6th seed at Regionals. We knocked off 3rd seed Graffiti in the 2nd round, got drubbed by NY or Titanic in a game to qualify (back then, the finals participants were guaranteed 1st and 2nd without any of this silly modified double secret triple elimination format. We eventually found ourselves against Graffiti again in the game for the 3rd spot to Nationals. Unlike Billy, I don’t seem to remember point-by-point details of this game, just a few hazy memories (might have even involved some shutdown D, but maybe that’s someone else I’m thinking of). But what sticks is the anticipation of waiting for the game to end, and being thrilled with finally making it to the show after all those years (it seemed like a lot at the time). The next few weeks of practice and Nationals itself were just icing, almost an afterthought. We were happy to win a game, finishing in a 3 way tie with Chain and Philmore with 1-4 records.

The following year was similar. We had a better year, but still went into Regionals as the 4th seed. We lobbied hard to be seeded ahead of Graffiti since we wanted to square off against Titanic (now First Time Gary) in the semis. We had beaten them in a recent scrimmage and played them tight at other times, while we had never given a full NY squad a game (we lost by about 3 once in the semis at Van Cortlandt Park to a split squad). But Andy B was too powerful and we had to take our licking as the 4 seed. (Interestingly, Graffiti seemed to play closer games against NY than against Titanic. When the big matchup against Graffiti came, it was almost a letdown as we were just on fire and routed them, 19-9. The following week, we played off against FTG for the #2 spot (they didn’t want to play at the Regionals tournament) and pulled off what still ranks as one of my favorite all-time victories, 21-17 at the Wellesley High School fields. This victory over a four-time defending Nationals semifinalist earned us a, wait, wait, 9th seed (out of 12) at Nationals. This time, Nationals wasn’t an afterthought. We started out slowly, getting crushed by LA, 19-7, then had to face off against #2 seed Windy City in our other game of the day. (The seeding and the scheduling helped to shape my opinions on these matters.) The only detail I remember from that game is spraining my ankle badly and missing a bunch of it while getting it taped up and testing it out. Oh, and losing 19-16. We went on to win our last three games, including a tight one against my old friends from Pittsburgh, but it was too late for any semifinals hopes we had.

We hit our peak the following summer. While never actually winning a tournament except for one Clambake, we played a little better, and went into Club Worlds extremely excited. We lost an initial pool play game to Philmore, recovered to win several close games against Pittsburgh, the Condors, Dallas, and Chain, lost a close one to a bunch of cheating LA guys, then pulled off another “upset” over the other Boston team (who yet again switched their name (this time to Big Brother) in search of an identity) to qualify for the semis. It looked like we were going to get our rematch against Windy City which had surprised NY in pool play, but LA (which had already been eliminated on point differential) went and lost a “meaningless” game to the Condors to change a 3 way tie into a 2 way tie, which shifted us from 2nd in our pool to 1st, giving us NY instead. As I mentioned above, we thought we were going to give them a game this time, but folded immediately after the opening pull.

But accomplishment led to our downfall, as for some reason we decided that we needed to change things in order to compete against NY. We expanded our roster from about 16 to 25 and changed around our offense, then Dennis and I suffered injuries and hardly practiced that fall (me a sore foot, him a wanker hip injury). We entered Regionals still expecting to qualify for Nationals, but it was Graffiti’s turn to emerge from the shadows. This being only 15 years ago instead of 17, I have a few more memories remaining of this game, but the clearest is of the ride home from Dartmouth, where the Tea Party reviewed the stat book pass by pass, reliving good and bad moments one more time.

This was to be the last Regionals for me that really mattered. We’ve since won 13 of 14 Regionals, and most of those years our Region got three bids to Nationals, and only once did one of those third place teams win more than one game at Nationals. I had a tiny bit of uncertainty in 1995, when we were playing absolutely horribly and I feared that we were going to get knocked out in a 3 way tie on the first day while I was at a wedding. And again last year, I didn’t have a good feeling about how we were going to do, and Twisted Metal and Goat were big unknowns in the battle for two spots, but we needn’t have worried.

Of course, Nationals has held its share of anticipation and excitement, so do not cry for me, gentle reader. But if you so desire, you can pray for one final unexciting Regionals for me this weekend.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

format question

An irate reader asks, yet again:
Can you ask some UPA type this question: "What other sport uses the UPAs 16.3.1
format?" know, the one in which you have to beat everyone twice. I all
tried to convince them it was idiotic and failed. Format switches from
double to triple elimination, is designed to have repeat games, even on the same
day, and it simply silly. I understand the point -it protects from a specific
instance of bad seeding - but it is solving a problem that likely doesn't exist.

I will field this one.

The UPA is at the cutting edge of tournament
formatting. Some tournaments do have losers' brackets
but those are for sports where underdogs have a
fighting chance in any game and the format is designed
to pick a winner, not to sort out places 2-N.
Generally, few other sports care about picking
non-winners, simply calling the finals loser the 2nd
place team, the semis losers joint 3-4, etc., and if
they have a need to pick only 3, say, they will
declare the team that lost to the eventual winner to
be the 3rd place team. In a case like that, since the
semis are generally 1-4 and 2-3, the 4th seed would be
the most likely one to finish 3rd.

Now, onto the 16.3.1 format, the modified triple-elim
to pick three teams. Yeah, it's screwy, since the
most likely scenario is that 3 beats 4 in the backdoor
"final", loses to 2 in the 2nd place game while 4
beats 5 again (which had just beat 6), then 3 plays 4
again for 3rd. But, you know, it's easy to come up
with scenarios where N did not play N+1 and just
happened to lose to the same teams in a slightly
different order because of the seeding (which might
even be a fair seeding).

And it's always to a team's advantage to win a round,
even if the most likely scenario is that they'll lose
next round and have a rematch.

The problem, of course, is that the format thinks that
if A beats B once, it will always beat B, when that
doesn't happen all the time, and people are
uncomfortable when B beats A in the rematch, and angry
when A beats B for a second time in three rounds.

How's that?
And he irately responded:

A format that expects rematches is a bad one. I think what happened at
college regionals a few years back is a good example. Basically a bunch of
teams played each other twice and they all split. Umass lost to brown by a
point in the finals, a guy broke his leg, then went on to lose 2 more games
and be knocked out. More interesting, I think Dartmouth lost to Harvard ten
beat Harvard, same with Dartmouth Williams or something, certainly with
Dartmouth umass. It leaves a very bad taste to have to play a team twice, as a
matter of course, not some screwy 15 beats 2 scenario, and have them split,
and make the winner of the 2nd game the victor. If you want teams to play
multiple times, make it 3 and have it be a best of 3. the way it sits,
there will be multiple rematches, and likely multiple splits. I realize we
are unique in having to pick seeds 1-3 and not just 1-2, but there is a
limit to "fairness", especially when it introduces more "unfairness".

Bunch of tree-hugging wussie liberals, if you lose you don't get a
rematch just bc its nice.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

glory days

For those of you who missed it in the comments, a loyal reader watched a tape of the 1994 Nationals semifinals between DoG and Cojones, a terrific, dramatic game. In the Ultimate History Book, Tony Leonardo wrote, “This was the greatest game we had ever seen.”

Anyway, the reader wrote:
So a couple of questions are:
1.) why were you guys playing on what looked to be a brown hayfield with green grass all around you.
2.) Where was it, and was it windy?

3.) besides the very intense celebrations and field rushing, i have heard that these years ultimate was very intense, gritty, and physical, but it didn't come off as that on camera. rather, there looked to be a lack of hard marks, a lot of zone, and not a whole lot of bodying up the downfield cutters or fouls. i dont' mean to insult anyone by saying the D wasn't good, just saying that it seemed less physical and more cushiony/poachy.
4.) all things being equal, if you had a time machine and put '94 dog in the 05 nationals, how would they stack up, athletically, skill-wise, etc.
5.) there seemed to be a general lack of dump-swinging and a lack of flow (like it seemed the thrower would have the disc for 6 or 7 seconds before throwing to the force side). was this due to each teams D or was that just how the O was played?
6.)hammers. holy crap there was a lot of hammers, but i don't really recall any other break throws (except al with a couple low backhands), and there seemed to be not a whole lot of pivoting and/or trying to get the disc to the breakside.
7.) the huck-n-hope seemed to be alive and kicking in '94. thoughts?
8.) were those observers in the orange suits? what role did they serve?
9.) would you say the avearge club national player in those years had better or worse throws than the current average club national player?
10.) do you think the clam was more effective then when teams didn't have a dump (thus making the 0-1-2's jobs a bit more dynamic) than now when a lot of teams have a 2 dump system kind of taking out the 1-2 from taking the first in cutters?
11.) is DoG ever going to wear "throwback" jerseys with the cotton T's and the umbro short shorts? please.

My answers:

1 and 2) 1994 nationals was at a horse farm in Lexington, KY, cold (50s?) and windy. Semis (and finals) were on a strong upwind/downwind field. Only a few people could huck upwind, and putting it deep to just an ok cut wasn't a bad strategy. It wasn’t quite windy enough that you would just punt it to avoid the easy upwinder, though. On the final point, Cojones worked the disc to within about 25 yards of our endzone, then dumped it back to their own 20 before turning it over.

3) Downfield bodying is a recent tactic. "Hard marking" is much more common now, although it existed then, too. In general, what I typically call bs tactics or pussy calls weren't nearly as widespread. The finals against Double Happiness was criticized as being a hackorama, but there was a foul call on 5% of the throws, and a total of 47 calls on 554 passes. I think this is less than we see today typically. (I know this because someone called us out on being too aggressive on the mark, so I watched the tape and found out that Double committed more fouls per pass than we did (or rather that we called more fouls per pass).

4) You know I’m a curmudgeon, right? These kids today think they gotz skillz, but they ain’t nothin’. Anyway, at about 11-9 in one of the games we lost last year at Nationals, I said that any of the vintage DoG teams would have already won that game 15-7. Whether that’s true or not (see “curmudgeon”), it’s hard to say as the game has changed. DoG had a higher concentration of the game’s top talent (several probable Hall of Famers playing at close to their peak levels plus several more members of the Hall of Very Good), we were technologically ahead of the curve, and we were smart and experienced players. The overall level today is probably higher (it’s certainly more athletic), but I’d still take vintage DoG, if for no other reason than we didn’t lose a game at Nationals during our run, while every champion since then has lost at least once when they one.

5, 7) DoG's offense was much more north-south back then. We had two modes of operation. One was to jam it up the line all the way, and the other was to set up an iso and huck it. But we had only 5 hucks that game, 2 complete, probably all of them downwind. Our “normal” hucking game at that point probably had 75% completions without requiring many good catches.

6) I'd guess that most of the 16 hammers were upwind against the zone. DoG's zone O was still in conceptual development, but even then we eschewed the dump/swing in favor of an attack through and over the middle.

A lack of break throws could be explained by a greater distance between the marker and thrower and a deeper stack (an article I wrote way back states "The prototypical stack begins with a handler 15 to 20 yards away from the disc and spaces the remaining players at five yard intervals"). Breaks would have had to have been “around” instead of “through”, and those passes aren’t as sure in the wind.

8) Observers were there, same basic setup as today, to make a ruling if the involved parties wanted one.

9) Not sure about the average guy, since my team back then was clearly on top. The game is more specialized today, I guess.

10) The Clam was more effective when teams had a long stack and cut from in front of the disc. But one purpose of the Clam is to disrupt the offense, so if teams are moving to a different setup simply to avoid a junk D, then the D has served its purpose.

11) Let me tell you, the chicks would love it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Randomness vs out of control

In ultimate, you occasionally see great upsets, games with few turnovers, and runs of 3 or 4 breaks in a row against a good offense. Now imagine a Strat-o-Matic Ultimate game. You would still see great upsets, games with few turnovers, and runs of 3 or 4 breaks in a row against a good offense. This article either does or does not say (I can’t figure it out) that the frequency of these things in Strat-o-Matic Ultimate is no different from the frequency in real ultimate.

This says to me (if it does say anything) that it’s probably folly to use a goal/no goal system to determine if you’re playing unnaturally well or badly. The human mind is terrific at finding patterns, but sometimes it finds patterns that aren’t really there. “Uhoh, tails came up twice in a row, better change the coin.” If you perceive a pattern that isn’t there, you may end up switching to a suboptimal strategy or set of personnel.

This is where your “scouts” are useful. Sometimes experienced eyes can tell whether a run is due to bad play or bad luck. It’s harder still to know whether a good run is due to play or luck, since a bad run forces you to consider making a change, while a good run is just business as usual, or so you think. Experienced eyes will go beyond just whether you scored or not and will look at the constituents of the point. Did we force any high stall counts? Were there any near-blocks? How many first options did we shut down? For the offense, did we make any bad throw choices that came out well? Were we clogging? Are we moving the disc? Did we just take good shots that didn't work out?

But these are hard to tell. If you were to ask me how our offense is doing, I would probably take how I felt out there and project it to the squad, with perhaps an observation or two about some non-turnover-causing mistake I witnessed (e.g., so-and-so cut me off so we’re not creating space well). It’s not that I’m being petty about it, but that’s the world I’m seeing for those 12 seconds of offense.

Who has better ideas of what to focus on? Anyone have any cues to focus on?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Training, ECC preview

The four stages of training in a stud's career:
  1. Training? I don't need to train.
  2. Bring it on, beeyotch.
  3. Whenever I try, I win the race.
  4. I have to train for the training.

Bonus training tips:
  • Plan the work, work the plan. Don't cut corners.
  • If you do decide to stop in the middle of a workout, stop at the beginning of a rep, not at the end. That little extra rest between reps can change your mind.

ECC Preview:
DoG has won all of its tournaments so far this year, the first time we have gone this far since 2001, which was also the year of our only previous ECC. We started with 14 on the only hot weekend of the year there, three of whom were on their way back from a grueling week in Japan at the World Games. We lost a couple one-pointers off the bat, played some more, and survived our way to a 2-5 record. Now let us never speak of this again.

Game 1: DoG v Rhino. I don't know these guys, but I presume they're a Huck n Hope offense. DoG's patience should prevail in this one. 13-1.
Game 2: DoG v San Francisco. Huck n Hope merged with Hope n Huck. They got Safdie but have lost all their other Boston imports, but the Boston influence should make this a close game. DoG 13-6.
Game 3: DoG v Condors. They beat us handily last time at this tournament, so that ought to be worth a couple points. I don't know anyone on their team anymore except for Hollywood. He's a top-notch Boggler in his own right, although I'm still the best, so let's say DoG 13-9.
Game 4: DoG v Furious. This is the only team that has a bunch of guys I remember playing against, and we'll be tired and a little overconfident, so it'll come down to the wire. DoG 13-10.
Party: Jim and Al again dominate, although it would be a miracle if Al loses the ro-cham-dirty-dance-with-Mr.-Sensitive-Ponytail-Guy again. However, the absence of our teammates gives the party victory to some chick team, unless the Sockeye guys get really obnoxious and start heckling them for no good reason.
Game 5: DoG v Sockeye. DoG brilliantly picks up Lou Burruss, Luke Smith, and Chris van Holmes for this game and know all the Sockeye calls as well as pointers for telling apart the really big kids. However, we also pick up Brian Cameros, and his infectious attitude keeps it close. DoG 13-11, guaranteeing a finals appearance.
Game 6: DoG v Bravo. A lot of hucking, no hoping. Will Deaver threatens DoG with sanctions for years of roster abuse and Sectional tournament shenanigans. A Little League coach is seen huddling with the DoG team, and suddenly every huck from Bravo is complete. Bravo 13-2.
Round 7: DoG v bye. Grab a beer and a burrito and start diagramming all the hucks to figure out whether it's the 2nd or the 3rd pass.

Seriously, I'm looking forward to the tournament. We don't get to see the West Coast teams except at Nationals. We expect to be behind them right now, but maybe seeing them complete 85% of their 50% hucks against us will clue us in on what we need to do to stop them. Obviously, the answer is to play me on D, but I'm not a machine anymore.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

softball season, with stats

The Cougars finished up our softball season on Monday this week, getting knocked out in the first round of the B Division playoffs in the Sudbury Men’s Softball modified fast-pitch league. We gave up five runs in the last of the seventh to lose 21-20 after getting crushed 27-11 in Game 1 of the best of three.

We almost duplicated the Miracle of Castel di Sangro of getting promoted two years in a row. As longtime readers will remember, we won the C division last year to earn promotion to B. We started this year 1-3 amid a bunch of rainouts and began to fear that we would be relegated again, but won a couple close ones, then ran off our last six games to finish 10-6. Unfortunately for us, our rivals for first place won their last game to finish in a tie and took the tiebreaker.

We averaged almost exactly two runs per inning this year with remarkably little power. We probably got outhomered by a ratio of 2 or 3 to 1 this year (gave up 5 or 6 in our last playoff game versus none for us) but got on base well. We had a line (avg/OBP/slg) of .419/.475/.569 (my line was .535/.549/1.070; a late surge in walks prevented me from the dubious distinction of having an OBP less than my average (sac flies count for OBP but not avg)), our opponents were probably .350/.400/.600 or so. It’s Ichiro (but even moreso) vs Manny Ramirez.

One of the quests of baseball statistics (and all sports statistics) is to take the individual actions and figure out how they contribute to the greater good. There are many, many, many stats that do this for major league baseball, but they generally have problems dealing with extreme cases. Do you consider what a team of that player would score, or do you insert a player into a team of league average players, or do you replace the player on his actual team with an average player? For most players, there is not much difference between these methods, but if you have a Barry Bonds, it matters a lot.

Such is the problem with evaluating the Cougars. I tried using a couple run estimators (Bill James’ Runs Created, linear weights) and they dramatically underestimated how many runs we should have scored, and I’m not sure how to go about reconciling the difference. It’s probably due to a combination of the high OBP/low power offense and to having the power concentrated in the bats of a few. About ¾ of the at-bats were taken up by guys who had 140 singles, 4 doubles, and 3 singles (.378/.440/.424). I don’t think the problem is due to plays scored as errors, since our total of at-bats minus hits is pretty close to the number of outs we have made (using innings played). Adding wild pitches would get us back about a run per game, but that’s still not nearly enough to bridge the gap.

It’s not really going to help pick an MVP or anything like that, since small sample size and luck overwhelm many differences (a homer in a 40 at-bat season adds 100 points to slugging, for instance). But it probably could reveal something about the optimal strategies at this level. How often does a bunter need to get on base in order for it to make sense (note: I have never seen a sacrifice bunt attempt in this league, only bunts for hits)? Should I start uppercutting in order to hit more home runs (at the expense of other hits)? Should I start swinging down in order to get more singles and reached on errors (at the expense of power)? How good does a hitter have to be in order for it to make sense to walk him every time (although of course I would call that a pussy move)?

Anyway, Jim through the years:
2006: .535/.549/1.070
2005: .439/.465/.756
2004: played 2 games
2003: .536/.567/1.000
All: .508/.554/.958

I do not remember grounding out this year, and can only remember a few ground balls at all. Most of my outs came on poorly-hit fly balls or popups. About ¾ of my well-struck balls were line drives, with the others about split between ground balls and fly balls, and it seems that 80-90% of those fell in for hits. I did hit a few balls to the right side this year, including a fielder-aided home run, but those were all mistakes. Real men, if indeed they play softball, pull the ball.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Happy Birthday to my boy

Happy Birthday to my boy, who turns 3 today. Hard to believe how fast he’s growing. Just in the last month or two, he:

  • Learned to peddle his tricycle
  • Began riding a bicycle (with training wheels) just a week after he starting pedaling the trike.
  • Began swinging a bat. For a few weeks, every swing would be in the same plane, so a pitch had to hit a 3 inch area at his eye level in order for him to hit it, but he’s since leveled out his swing and can now move the bat to hit the ball. He still misses it a bunch, and doesn’t have any plate discipline, but there is at least a 50/50 chance that he’ll hit the pitch if it’s a strike.
  • Began hitting a golf club. He had some plastic clubs, but was using them more like an ax than like a club, chopping into the ground. But then he started taking more of an arc, and on Sunday some friends gave him a metal club and he’s been hitting balls with that now. Unfortunately, it’s a righty club and he decided to hit the ball lefty, so he’s hitting it with the back of the club. I need to go to the golf store to look for a lefty club before he develops bad habits.
  • Got potty-trained. He still sleeps at night in a diaper, but manages without one all day with only an occasional accident.
  • Began sleeping in a toddler bed. He now can climb in and out of the bed on his own. We were worried because we traveled a bit in July and thought about bringing a portable crib with us, but he did just fine sleeping on a mattress on the floor (although we had to put pillows next to the mattress for when he rolls off). At home, he has a low rail in his bed for this purpose.

And a bit of advice for new fathers: you will get hit in the crotch and face, many times. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 24, 2006

Value of a puller (warning: numbers)

What is the value of a good puller? George said he thought one of his teammates was worth 4-5 goals a game based on his pulls, but I think that a player worth 4-5 goals on defense would be the best defensive player on the planet.

So how do you go about estimating this? One way is to start by looking at breaks. Elite Open teams probably average only about 4 breaks a game against other elite teams. Splitting the credit among the 7 guys who play defense, this means each guy is only worth maybe 0.5 goal a game over an inflatable dummy. If a team averages 7-8 breaks a game (which would mean that they are more likely to score than the receiving team), then either that team is phenomenal or else (more likely) the playing environment (either bad weather or poor disc skills) means that even bad defense will get 3-4 breaks a game.

Or look at it on a point-by-point basis. Suppose that the odds of the O scoring the point (not the possession are 80% on a brick, 70% on an average/decent pull (lands in end zone, one free pass), and 60% on a terrific pull (lands in end zone and hangs long enough for D to contest first pass). 80% scoring rate would translate to 3 breaks in 15 opportunities (game to 15), 70% = 4.5 breaks, 60% = 6 breaks. A perfect puller would only be worth 3 breaks over the worst puller, and just 1.5 breaks over someone who just threw line drives into the end zone. Factor in that the perfect puller doesn’t exist (although the little guy on Bravo came awfully close when we played them at the Colorado Cup) and you are probably looking at about a 1 goal per game difference between a great puller and the average puller. (Keep in mind that the “average puller” is still better than “how the average player would pull.” Any defensive squad probably has 2-3 “average pullers”.) Now, this is quite valuable, as we showed above that a good defensive player might be worth only 0.5 goals a game over a field cone, but it’s not 4-5 goals a game.

Or consider a less efficient environment, where the O holds serve 60%, 50%, and 40% of the time on the three pulls. The team with the perfect puller would now get 9 breaks a game, but the team with the bad puller would get 6, leaving the same “value over replacement”.

You could probably do a similar exercise with O players and come up with the statement that a good O player is only worth a goal a game over a replacement. Let’s do it for fun. We’ll put the D team out there on O receiving the pull. They’ll still score, say, 60% of the time (6 breaks a game). Our great O team of great O players scores 95% of the time (0.75 breaks a game). That’s 5.25 breaks/7 players = 0.75 breaks/game/player. Maybe the best player is worth 2 and the others are worth 1.25, .75, .5, .5, and 0.25.

And going back to the kid’s observation in George’s blog, not to pick on him, but the official UPA writeup tells a different story. Wisconsin got only two breaks, at 8-6 and 9-8 (the writer makes an error by saying the break at 9-8 was their second straight), and their D forced turnovers throughout the game but were unable to convert.

Monday, July 10, 2006

World Cup

Since I play goalkeeper in an indoor league, I find myself rooting for the keepers. I was particularly excited when the Portugese keeper found his way to the French penalty area for a corner kick in the final minute of the semi.

Like “football in the groin”, “France losing” falls into the “never gets old” category.

I have envisioned my ultimate career ending like Zidane’s did, head down in shame after getting fed up with a cheating D hack and letting him have it. That would suck.

The "problem" with soccer isn't that the refs suck or that the players cheat, it's that the system causes the refs to have too much importance and provides huge incentives for the players to dive in hopes of getting a call. I couldn’t find the stats in a minute of googling, but I’d estimate that 1/3 of the World Cup goals came on penalty kicks, 1/3 on corners and direct free kicks, and only 1/3 on what most people (including diehard fans) think of as soccer, the free-flow attack and counterattack. (I don’t really mind the corner kicks much, since it seems that they are almost entirely earned by good play, and the conversion rate is low enough that you would not waste a decent scoring opportunity just to get a corner kick, whereas you might take a dive for a foul call rather than continuing to play the ball.)

It seems that a player has a better chance of scoring by drawing a foul call than by beating the defenders, and the number of goals in a game is small enough that every goal opportunity can be the gamewinner. It is said that ultimate players are more likely to make questionable or petty calls when the going gets tough. Economically speaking, this makes sense. At 0-0, a goal is only about 3-4% of the remaining scoring for the game, so a bad call then might change a team’s winning percentage from 50% to 53%, and who wants to risk their integrity for that little, especially when the other team can then make up for it with their own bad calls? At 14-14, game to 15, it’s a game to 1, and having possession might change your probability of winning from 25% to 75%, with no chance for rebuttal. In essence, every minute of a soccer game is double game point.

Changes to increase scoring from this year’s 2 goals per game (for both teams combined) to 3 or 4 would still retain the feeling that goals are stingy but not so much that a team plays conservatively with a 1-0 lead after 10 minutes. The obvious solutions (change offsides, wider goals, fewer players, more substitutions) have obvious problems, but why doesn’t someone try it out? How many leagues are there with something approaching world-class play? The MLS would be a perfect testing ground.

But the real problem isn’t that games are 1-0 or 1-1, but that the one goal that is scored can be a random award. A covered player in the penalty area with the ball might have a 5% or 10% chance to score but can change that into an 80% chance by drawing a foul call. What if instead of tinkering with the rules which some feel are essential to the game, we simply changed the penalties? The penalty shot in hockey is only awarded when there is a clear and good scoring opportunity. None of the (admittedly few) penalty kicks that I saw awarded in the World Cup would have qualified by this metric. Make it at the referee’s discretion whether a foul in the penalty area or on a breakaway is worthy of a penalty kick. Alternatively, move the kicking spot back so that it’s a 25% or 50% shot (and you could easily change the distance for lower levels of the game to retain that 25% or 50%). That way, it would be in the player’s interest to continue after a loose ball after some incidental contact in the box rather than doing a swan dive.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Boston Invite 2006

Alex covered a lot of the details here and here. I’m unaware of any other bloggers who played in the Elite Open division. Perhaps one of the Clapham fellows blogs (the other Hims had one briefly, I recall, but I don’t know if he is on Clapham or if it’s still going).

George commented on the tournament, too. I suggested to him that he ought to handle the “is this going to be on your blog?” questioners by writing “some annoying low-level player asked me” as I did once. I also told him that the low point of the tournament was when a UPA official walking by our game more or less screamed “Cheater!” after what looked to everyone 40 yards away to be a bad call by one of our players. In fairness, this person wasn’t wearing a hat at the time.

Overall, our O played pretty well. Our D played very good defense but struggled to move the disc. But enough about the D.

The team struggled with keeping intensity up in the face of a four goal lead. From a results viewpoint, this shows up more with the O, since the D might play well and still get scored on three or four points in a row, while if the O doesn’t play well, you’ll notice it on the scoreboard. Despite what your goals and expectations are, the cold facts say that elite offenses against elite defenses still get broken 3-4 times a game (or 1/3 or ¼ of the time). It’s impossible to tell with any degree of certainty whether an offense or defense is playing within their expectations (and therefore whether you expect the next point to follow the pattern of the game or the established pattern) based just on the outcome of the last few points.

Anyway, the team got into lulls now and then. Other than possibly a 1-0 deficit, it was only against Metal in the crossover game that we found ourselves down, getting outbroken 3-1 to lose half 8-5. But I think we outbroke them 4-0 in the second half to win 15-13. I am fairly certain (we kept playing time and therefore O/D stats for most but not all of the games) that the O went break-free for one half in each of our games. As Al pointed out, we didn’t have a turnover in the semis until game point (14-8), whereupon we wilted. I think we only had one break in the finals, a point that I am shocked that Alex did not blog about. The subber had called two handlers and four receivers and had to choose either Alex or me for the 3rd handler spot, and I got the nod, as Alex rolls his eyes in disgust, I raise my arms in triumph, and Tom giggles at the interplay. I stoke the fire by yelling to them from the line, “And I’m handling in the zone” even though I wasn’t. All goes well until I have the disc on the line near the end zone, don’t see any cuts far or near, and underthrow a desperation hammer to the back of the end zone.

Turnovers: I’ll recount the ones I was involved in, since there were so few, uncharacteristically. The only other one on Sunday was the first point in the first game. I was coming back to the disc on the line and didn’t have great footing, allowing Ringo to come by and get the block on Alex’s throw, a real “Dear Diary” moment for him (he never gloated about it, to his credit, even after we goaded him on the sideline later, while he was trying to invoke the concept of jury nullification in response to getting fouled on the mark by historical DoG). I believe that this was the only incompletion thrown to me all weekend (oh, scratch that, there was a turfed 8 yard stall 9 forehand in the Subzero game). This measure probably is the one that tracks most closely with my internal assessment of how I played. To some extent, I feel that my own turnovers are the roll of a die, as sometimes a good choice and decent execution can still result in a turnover or I won’t get a great cut, but when I’m in the zone as a cutter, I’m providing so much margin that even errant passes will be caught.

Throws: I led Alex on a zone pass and he cowered and dropped it even though he was at least a step away from possibly being clobbered, and I threw a mid-range forehand to BVH that he just couldn’t get to. The latter would have benefited from an extra half-second to assess the situation, or from a little more anticipation of the throw, since I didn’t fully expect to throw it since it wasn’t a strict power position (I was coming back to the disc). I had a 15 yard forehand throwaway immediately after a foul in which I found myself bantering with a guy on the sideline who didn’t hear the original foul call and thought I was calling it late. There was one other pass that went by the intended receiver but was caught, and another that the receiver had to make a good adjustment on.

I felt very good out there. My defense started out as pretty good but got gradually worse over the weekend as fatigue set in. Except for the heat, Saturday felt like Day 1 at Nationals, and our O line was pretty short. I’m trying to get used mentally to the idea of sitting out more than a token number of O points, but as we were down to 8 by Sunday afternoon, this wasn’t the weekend to put it into practice. The only point that someone could accuse me of dogging it was after I had just spent 20 seconds sprinting up and down unsuccessfully trying to get us a goal and my legs were a little rubbery. It was a little difficult to get out of bed on Sunday, and I’m generally sore and tired today, but I could play if it were Day 3 of a tournament.

I got new cleats this week, the MF890 from New Balance. I felt faster and more sure-footed in them over my Gaia’s from last year, enough so that I’m thinking of ordering another pair to practice in (thus bringing my total pairs of cleats owned to about 10). I have problems with my little toe being scrunched by most cleats, but even the standard widths for NB are wider than many cleats, so I ordered the D widths and they fit just fine. The 2E’s probably would have fit as well and would allow me to wear thicker socks more comfortably.

Tournament victory #103, for those counting at home. Without knowing what’s #34 or #36, I’ll rank this one as the 35th best.

Friday, June 09, 2006

perceptions on traveling

There have been a few comments recently on traveling and calling travels. It's not a strict relationship between the amount traveled and the likelihood of being called, either, since the perception of the marker (or nearby travel-calling defender) is important.

A Swedish player named Edmund England has written a paper on the perception of novices and experts in regards to traveling. The full title is "Differences in Perception Between Novices and Experts in Judging a Complex Movement in Ultimate Frisbee." Here is the abstract:

Sport researchers have lately realised that perception is an
important ability of the sport performer. In open sports, perceiving
movement of the co-players and opponents is crucial. Biological
motion, attention and decision-making are used as theoretical
background in this thesis. It examines the differences between one
group of experienced ultimate players and a group of novices in
their qualitative judgement of a complex movement in ultimate
frisbee. In this experimental digitalvideo study a total of 162
subjects participated, 104 experts and 58 novices. Twelve pretest
throws and 40 test throws were judged by the subjects. The result is
that experts are slightly better than novices. On the whole men
excel though less among experts. The background to this can be
that expert players don’t value this ability in comparison to other
ultimate frisbee skills. The intriguing difference found between
pretest and test can have implications for this paradigm in the

Another key quote is:
"The hypothesis in this thesis is as follows:
• Experienced ultimate player’s judge travelling in ultimate frisbee better than
In the following thesis I also intend to answer these questions:
• Can humans judge this complex situation with more certainty than random?
• Which of the independent variables examined seem to influence the result?"
My email response to him bounced, so Edmund, please respond here with a link to the paper, if you would like others to read it.

I only had a chance to skim the paper, but I'm not sure that I would agree with the classification of "expert". Some expert players and travel-callers I've seen are actually not experts at discerning travels. I would instead have tried to select Observers as the experts. Unfortunately, the WFDF world does not believe in Observers.

Ooh, here's a juicy conclusion:
Differences between men and women
By analysing previous studies in a neighbouring field, time to contact field where gender differences are found by e.g. Schiff and Oldak (1990), McLeod and Ross (1983). Their findings show that women are less accurate at judging point of contact than men judge. Schiff and Oldak, (1990) mean that this can have two reasons, either it is of the women’s tendency to underestimate or that women have poorer spatiotemporal skill. This present study show that women are more defensive in their judgements (women have lower beta values than the men) which supports the former reason of gender differences.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Death or Glory Captures Easterns; Defense Allegedly Played

That was the title of a post back in 1994, with the full text at the bottom of this blog. But it's just as relevant today, as Big Ego Ultimate won the Masters Easterns division this weekend, beating Above & Beyond (NY) in the finals, 15-10.

Per Tarr's request on George's blog, I'll rank this one as only about #70 out of 102 tournament victories, because we lost two pool play games and because it rained like a mother on Saturday.

Alex is working on a more detailed post which he won't publish until he sees something out of me, in order to generate a few extra hits for his blog due to being higher on ultimatetalk, so I need to get this out quickly and won't touch on most of the things that happened. So, some random thoughts:
  • I think I was the median for the age for players who played for us this weekend, so even for Masters, we were an old team.
  • Playing against Pittsburgh, Bim tried to throw a backhand, got hacked pretty good and couldn't get the throw off, stutter-stepped and then threw the pass anyway, calling a foul at some point. A guy off the mark called a travel on the stutter-step, even as he heard the foul call. John Bar starts to go ballistic about it. Before it could get out of hand, I interject that it's a legitimate call but also a pussy call, and this resolved the situation for everyone except for the guy who thought I called him a pussy (I didn't; love the sinner, hate the sin).
  • I had a sweet 10 yard beach throw that should have been the backbreaker in that Pittsburgh game, but John Bar (of all people!) didn't expect it and couldn't get to it, they went down and scored, scored again, etc., until finally we turned it at double game point and lost (but not by so much that we had to play the pre-semis). This ties to two blog entries. Besides the obvious one about junk throws, I never would have been in position to throw the pass if not for the post about the Cut of Death. I cut up the line for a leading pass, but decided to catch it early and ward off any potential crippling injuries instead of milking it into the end zone, as I normally would have done. Speaking of junk throws, I threw a pass from my knees on Saturday at practice, after the briefest of hesitations. It was the right thing to do there.
  • I was surprised to discover that Tiina Booth has been a devoted blog-reader, and so took the opportunity to discuss the concept of junk throws. As you all should know, she coaches Amherst High and has a book on coaching ultimate coming out soon. We discussed the difficulties of allowing "junk throws", which should really be in a player's repertoire if he wants to be great. But kids (and adults?) will throw art at every opportunity if allowed to. She felt that this latter fact was so important and came up so much more frequently that she had to institute the "no high backhand" rule, and they were thinking of making "no style" the theme of this summer's NUTC camps. I think she agreed that there are times that a high backhand or a push pass or whatever is indeed the best throw, but I didn't get a chance to pin her down on under what specific circumstances are needed(or how precocious a player had to be) in order for it to be allowable.
  • I was somewhat surprised that we were able to play with all that rain, but if anything the fields were a little hard. I shudder to think of what they'll be like later in the season after a month without rain.
  • I was happy to escape without a fatigue-related injury. I ran a little too hard at morning DoG practice on Saturday and went into my afternoon games already tired, then played all 25 points in our opening game on Sunday (we had 7-9 players), then had semis and finals. But I'm ok, thanks.

That's it.

Death or Glory withstood their first challenges of the spring in
returning the Easterns' championship to Boston for the first time
since 1983. The boys of big ego ultimate edged out Ring of Fire 19-17
in a spirited final. DOG (formerly Death and Glory) (formerly Earth
Atomizer) brought out a zone in running off four goals in a row to
pull away in the second half against the hard-running Carolinians.
This was the fifth tournament victory in five tries this spring for
Corky and the Tea Party.

"Why don't you guys play any defense?" In ending New York's 10 year
victory streak at this tournament, the "Scourge of the East" seemingly
walked on both sides of the disc, playing a shifting-a-lot-tempt-them
-into-throwing-it-away defense and a one-dump-sometimes-two-only-one
-guy-cutting-be-patient-except-when-you're-hucking offense. Boston
also struggled against a tough Rage (Philadelphia) team in the
semifinals before a heavily partisan Pennsylvanian crowd. Rage played
strong throughout the whole game, and had the disc at 17 all, but
couldn't capitalize and fell by two, 19-17.

This tournament, perhaps, marks the end of an era. Five Mid-Atlantic
teams qualified for the quarterfinals, three for the semis, in a
tournament that has been dominated by Northeast teams for the last
decade. The NY, NY based We Smoke Weed squad seemed disillusioned,
losing to Ottawa in pool play before being completely overmatched by
DOG, 15-8, in their earliest exit from a tournament since, well, ever.
Additionally, only DOG from the three Big Brother spinoff teams
managed to qualify for the quarterfinals. Whether the winds of change
will blow into Lexington, Kentucky, this fall remains to be seen.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

junk throws

Bane, or boon? Bad fundamentals, or a nuanced grasp of advanced concepts?

By junk throw, I mean anything that if a rookie threw away, he’d be immediately benched or cut. Depending on your environment, it could be a push pass, lefty backhand, or a thumber, or possibly a scoober, backhand to the forehand side, or hammer. It’s “If you throw that again, you’ll never play in this town again” throws. It’s “What the hell are you thinking?” throws. You get the picture.

(For that matter, it can also be one-handed catches, claw catches, and gratuitous layouts or failure to lay out.)

We all grew up with conventional wisdom about what works and doesn’t work. Someone recently mentioned to me how a younger player was complaining about why they were playing force middle, and this guy said, “A few years ago, we used to call that ‘defense’.” Things change. Sometimes the old strategy was a sound one but new strategies were built to adapt, other times the old strategy was a bad one that just happened to be the best one available at the time, and occasionally the old strategy was the best one but players just wanted to try something different. The point is that the favored strategy becomes “the right way to play” and is never again critically examined to see whether it makes sense.

So it is with some throws, too. I’m seeing more push passes these days, and we had a discussion last fall about lefty backhands. I’m prepared to say that these are acceptable throws, with the followings caveats:
  • Don’t fall in love with the throw.
  • Don’t use it to show off. I’m still ticked at some CU punk on Bravo who went out of his way to throw a thumber huck against us in the finals of Colorado Cup last year when they were up by 4.
  • Don’t throw it because you don’t want to make the effort to try another throw.
  • Be able to justify why you threw it instead of another throw.

The justification will be different in ultimate than it is in goaltimate, where quick decisions and creative throws are more necessary, and the cost of an incompletion is much less.

So, think of the push pass as a sand wedge or as a rescue club. Most of us should consider these as specialty clubs tailor-built for specific situations where our normal clubs might not work well. Just don't use them off the tee.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

more on hucking practice

Last week, I discussed a hucking practice session I planned to do. I set up stakes at 35 and 45 yards away and tried to land a leading pass at the stake, and measured how far the throws missed the target. First, some observations on my success:
  1. 35 yard throws were gimmes
  2. 45 yard throws had unacceptably wide variation (i.e., I shouldn’t be throwing them, if that day’s results are my true level)
  3. Error was attributable both to initial line and to curve
  4. Forehands and backhands were about the same
  5. Variation in range was less than variation in accuracy

But the main conclusion was that this isn’t the way to structure the practice. A huck isn’t a golf shot that has to end up close to the hole, but a 3-D throw where time is just as big of a factor in the catchability. While for every cut there may be an ideal throw, there are a variety of distance/speed/hang time combinations that result in sure completions. Also, the acceptable margin of error is not symmetrical, with more margin long than short. Finally, it doesn’t really matter where the disc lands, it’s where and how long the disc is at a catchable height. Without sophisticated equipment, I don’t think you’d be able to measure that.

So, I’d propose a slightly different setup. The setup is similar, with the thrower attempting to throw a pass that comes down to, say, 6’ high at a set distance. However, instead of measuring how far away the disc lands (a condition that is exacerbated by differences in disc stability), rank each throw on the following scale of 1 to 5:
5: pretty much as I planned
4: not quite as planned, but a sure completion
3: a throw where the receiver has a reasonable chance to come up with the sky or to chase it down if he’s really fast; a 50/50 throw
2: catchable, but not a throw anyone would be expected to come down with
1: uncatchable

For anything except a 5, make a note of how you missed, and see whether any patterns develop. You can also apply the same scale to your long throws in a game, although you also need to consider not just whether the throw did what you wanted but whether it was the right decision.

Monday, May 15, 2006

New Jersey invite

I was waiting for Alex to post first so that mine would appear at the top of ultimatetalk, but he needs the hits more than I, so I’ll get started.

DoG won the NJ Invite this weekend, besting the hosts 17-16 in the final. Alex and I drove down together, just like the old days, except that his two kids accompanied us as far as his parents’ house in Westchester County, and in addition to ultimate, we discussed potty-training, child sleep patterns, and the like.

On the various fronts:
1. I was reasonably satisfied with my performance. Many deep cuts, some of them thrown to me. Couldn’t get to two of them despite sprawlout bids, caught the others, most of them flat-footed. Melvin pointed out last year that I catch more hucks while on the ground than anyone else, perhaps trying to insult me, but unwittingly complimenting me on my fine reads. No embarrassing moments that might lead me to question whether I should still be playing. Devastating popping/clambusting against Pike. More than held my own against Hoagie Haven. And, most importantly, a devastating payback against one of the Pike guys.
Trey from the sideline: Hey, who's got Parimello?
Me: That's Parinella.
[passage of time]
Me: Nice game, Troy.
2. Best performance from a class of tryouts since ever. Usually at the first spring tournament, half of the tryouts are of such quality that I can comfortably forgo learning their names without fear of later embarrassment. Not so this time.
3. Introduced "Rules Corner" in which I discuss an arcane rule that I do not want to see anyone on my team calling but that we should be prepared to have called against us. (Gotta be ready for Bravo, after all.) Forch preempts me by making such a call himself. Someone directly to the right of the person directly to the left of me screams out, "Pussy call!"
4. Questioned the cult status of Hoagie Haven. Sure, it was good, but didn't appear to be worthy of the "if you’re anywhere near Princeton, you gotta stop here" name. I’m sure the Anchorman crowd is going to respond that I once again do not know what I’m talking about, but I just have to learn to live with their innocence.
5. Very interesting tiebreaker possibilities going into the final games on Sunday. It was a 7 team round robin with 4 games on Saturday. After the first round on Sunday, the top four teams were done with each other so all tie-breakers had been worked out. DoG had lost to Pike, Pike had lost to Twisted Metal, TM had lost to DoG and Potomac, and Potomac had lost to DoG and Pike. Each had one game left (over two rounds) against one of the bottom three teams. The finals would be DoG v Pike, unless DoG won, Pike lost, Twisted won, and Potomac lost, in which case it would be DoG v Twisted. The Potomac game was scheduled for the third round, which is when the finals were also tentatively scheduled for, assuming that Potomac wasn’t going to be in the finals. They couldn’t, as it turned out, but if they lost they wouldn’t have been included in the tiebreaker, which could have changed the way the criteria played out. DoG was in the Bnogo-like position of it being in our best interests to lose our last game, since our big point differential victories against TM and Potomac would have guaranteed their elimination. But we won, and Pike won, setting up the earlier final.
6. We lucked out on the weather. It poured all weekend in New England, but Saturday in NJ was 70 and sunny, and Sunday was in the 60s and overcast but dry. I packed expecting to be miserable in the rain, and so had to settle for being grumpy that it wasn’t the bad weather that I packed for. It’s tough being a curmudgeon.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Major League Ultimate

It’s about time, and I hope it works out. It sure sounds like a fun event to play in.

DoG is disrespected once again. The other three semifinalists averaged 7 players on these squads, DoG gets 1, and an over-the-hill one, at that.

Here’s an interesting take on why the Northeast will do better than expected. Pundits are already preaching that NW and SW will benefit from having so many regular teammates together. But it could be that there won’t be as much cooperation on those teams. Maybe Sockeye won’t be willing to install “their” offense because it will give away too many secrets, or they’ll install a limited version of it, neglecting some important aspects. Meanwhile, the NE will be forced to come up with a mix of offenses, no sub-group except possibly the defunct Pike will try to dominate, and everyone will just get along.

Where the hell is Tim Murray? I thought he had a post a few months ago about this event, but I don’t see his name anywhere. I should have had the foresight to blog about it too so that people would think that I had been invited but that I had to turn it down due to “commitments.” Which, of course, I did, as far as anyone knows or can prove.

(In fairness wrt the dissing, the NE is represented by 8 teams and 2.75 regions, while the NW is 3 teams and part of 1 region, so each team should have fewer representatives. Otoh, I suspect that if this had happened 10-15 years ago, the NE team would have looked much like the NW team this year, and the MA and C players would have found themselves on another team.)

hucking practice

So, I have a few frisbees of varying quality lying around my back yard, and sometimes I'll huck a few of them. Usually I'll only get to throw two of them before the boy insists on taking the next. On Friday, weather permitting, I'll try to do a mini-workout with about 10 of them.

I'm wondering how constructive this practice is. Experts get better by deliberate practice, implementing immediate feedback. But because these frisbees are all different, some of them drastically so, I might uncork identical throws back-to-back but get significantly different results. Probably I can limit this by getting rid of the worst discs, but there will still be some effect.

Anyway, what I'm going to do is similar to my wedge workout reported on previously. I have stakes set up at 10 yard intervals, and I'm going to try to huck to the stakes. While I won't have a calibrated swing for each distance, this should help me statistically assess my throws. What I'm expecting is that as distance increases, the error will increase linearly while I'm within my range, then explode when I try to force it (probably enough that I won't be able to measure it because the throws are going into the trees).

PS. Plyo workout last night, I hope I didn't hurt myself. Nothing is too sore today, so that's good.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Opening days

This weekend saw three opening days of sorts for me, in golf, softball, and hard ultimate-related workouts.

Golf: Mediocre round of 92 (handicap differential of 18.2). Poor distance control on nearly all shots. Horrible distance control on long putts (three-putted four out of four times that I had 50 feet or more on my first putt). Got one birdie on a chip-in, although even that one was a little bit lucky as it landed it three feet past where I wanted. On the plus side, I hit a few very nice drives, and most of the shots were respectable, and after all I hadn’t played since last year. But equally disconcerting was a little practice session I did on Sunday. I was trying to hit controlled ½ and ¾ shots with my wedges, but was all over the place with them, and was nowhere close to how far I thought I was hitting them. The theory behind the “3 x 4” wedge system is that you use 4 wedges with 3 swing lengths (called 7:30, 9:00, and 10:30, to reflect how far your backswing goes) and know exactly how far each of those goes, so you in effect have up to 12 different clubs that you can pick the one combination to match your exact distance from the pin, without having to rely on feel to dial in the distance. But if I have an 8 yard standard deviation on my 9:00 gap wedge, the system is useless.

Softball: We lost 20-19. Bad day at the plate for me, error-free but a little clunky in the field. Took six pitches, swung three times and put each into play, two of them lazy fly balls and one a medium-hard grounder right to the third baseman. The team did exceptionally badly in the field, with countless errors of all varieties. Our pitchers actually did pretty well despite the 20 runs, considering how many outs they had to get in most of the innings, and our other hitters did well. The real downside is that it was so cold that no one stuck around after the game for beer.

Workout: Ran 16 stadiums (sets of 2 big, 1 small, plus an extra one all-out at the end) on Saturday. I did some light workouts over the winter, plus of course goaltimate and soccer and a full-of-running Fools, but this is the first “normal” one, where both my legs and my lungs were taxed throughout. I ran these ones at about a 2.5 on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being sprinting each one and 5 being walking up. Gone are the days where I could run hard (say, at a 1.8 on this scale) and do a full set of 37 (there are 37 sections at Harvard Stadium, each with about 30 steps about 18” high), with pushups and situps thrown in, like we did back in 1992. Now there was a stadium workout.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

more discussion on traveling

There is a thread on rsd about a clip of the day on ultivillage about whether a throw is a travel.

There is another factor at work here in determining the callability of the travel. I am distinguishing callability from legality here.

What makes a violation likely to be called? Two that spring to mind are:
1. Egregious violation
2. Clear advantage
2a. Breaking the mark
2b. Getting power on a huck

Some will argue about whether 2b is worthy of a travel call or not, and I'm not going to get into that today. But I read the commentary here, then I watched the clip, and came up with another factor:
3. Violator makes no attempt to avoid the infraction.

A defender who appears to try to avoid contact on a layout is less likely to be called for a foul than one who does not, even if the contact is the same. In this case, the hucker doesn't even seem to pay attention to his back foot. He just lets his back foot slide. It didn't drag, and it didn't simply roll over to his toe because he was exerting effort to keep it down and he made a powerful throw. A spectator or player who sees this play might intuitively feel that it's a travel not because he can actually tell that the foot moved before release, but because the thrower did nothing to prevent a travel.

I've made a few petty travel calls in my life, and have been irritated quite a few times by small travels, and I think those were due to factor #3 here. An example is the "handler hop" you'll sometimes see where a handler will catch a swing pass flat-footed and will take a little hop-step to the continue side. Beau's travels might fall under this category, too, as he walks back and forth about the same spot but isn't really setting himself up for anything.

Frank H might be on track with his belief that the soft love policies of ultimate that have allowed these routine, no-need violations to go unpunished have resulted in a less fundamentally sound game. But that, too, is a discussion for another day.