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.