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.


Anonymous said...

Not related to the subject I would like to ask you if you or any other DOG member are preparing a summary from the latest EEC tournament.

higy said...

any chance of someone putting this tape online?

Dennis said...

1) Yes, Dobbins also said he thought it was the best game in ultimate history. It certainly was extremely significant -- the passing-of-the-torch game from the N.Y. dynasty to the DoG dynasty.

2) Yes, it was very windy. As you look at the screen, the wind is blowing hard from right to left. The fact that it is not easy to tell that it is so windy says something about the skill of the throwers.
The wind (and resulting zone D)greatly depressed the chances for fluid, beautiful plays, give-and-go's, etc. -- forcing more quick, sure, hard passes. But it was very much an upwind/downwind game.

3) Benji's catch to end half was absolutely ridiculous (especially in that wind.)

4)In terms of comparsions between Dog 94 and Dog 05 -- we at the very least know that Jim and Alex (94) were faster, quicker, and could jump higher than Jim and Alex (05).

5) Also, little known fact. There was something akin to the Ultimate "no hitter" that game: one DoG O player got the disc more than 40 times and had no turnovers. Such a "forty-zero game" had never been recorded statistically, at least among Boston squads, up until that game.
There must have been a number of them since then, but that's an interesting point:
Does anyone else know of game stats where a player had 40-plus possessions and 0 turnovers?

Anonymous said...

"There was something akin to the Ultimate "no hitter" that game: one DoG O player got the disc more than 40 times and had no turnovers."

I know, Alex had a fantastic game that day.

Dennis said...

There was something akin to the Ultimate "no hitter" that game: one DoG O player got the disc more than 40 times and had no turnovers."

Anon: I know, Alex had a fantastic game that day.

He did have a very good game. Yes, indeed. But he was not the one with the "forty-zero game."
He had one turn short and was 0 for 2 deep.

parinella said...

A no-hitter in baseball: 27 outs in a row. Assuming a batting average of .270, the chances are (1-.270)^ .27 = .0002 = 1 in 5000.

For ultimate, completing 42 passes in a row:
at a 90% completion rate, .9^42 = .012 = 1 in 83
at a 95% completion rate, .95^42 = .116 = 1 in 8.6

For anyone who can't stand the suspense, here is a link to the stats for that game.

Anonymous said...

Who is Dennis Mccarthy??

Dennis said...

Jim writes:
For ultimate, completing 42 passes in a row:
at a 90% completion rate, .9^42 = .012 = 1 in 83
at a 95% completion rate, .95^42 = .116 = 1 in 8.6

That is so funny. I did exactly the same thing – with those exact same figures, and I must admit I, too, was a little disappointed about the 1 in 8.6 figure. Then I realized that I, like you, was thinking of "completion percentage" as opposed to total turnover percentage – for in order to have this zero turnover game you can't have any drops either. So you have to go 40 for 40 (or 42 for 42) throwing and 40 for 40 catching for the "40-0" game.
Or to put it another way, the percentage has to be total turnover percentage – and 5% as you know is extremely unrealistic for turnover percentage (i.e., 95% non-turnover percentage when thrown to). Few people ever have a throwing percentage on "all-not-long" throws above 95%, and no one almost ever has a total T.O. percentage of 5% or less. No one did in Spring '91 – and no one did Sping '92. And no one did for "lifetime." The average T.O. percentage was 8.0% in Spring '91, and 8.3% in Spring '92. In tough-games (Nationals-bound teams) in Spring '92, average T.O. percentage was 205/2373 or 8.6%. D.M's was 6.4% (for Spring '92 tough), second lowest for all players with more than 60 passes. And to anticipate the rebuttal–both percentage of D.M's for goals and percentage of D.M's passes that were long were greater than A.D.'s, Kid's, and J.P.'s. Exact stats are: D.M. (171 chances, 4 for 7 deep, 14 goals thrown), A.D (292 chances, 3 for 8 deep, 14 goals thrown), Kid (165, 3 for 6, and 10 goals thrown), J.P. (176, 4 for 7 deep, 13 goals thrown).
In the "best game of ultimate ever," DoG had 16 turnovers in 268 chances (or 6% turnover percentage), but that's including the no-hitter "forty-zero" game, which brings up the average. Subtract that out and DoG drops down to 7.1 % -- but again that was an unusually good game. If you take the average T.O percentage of a Nationals Team with a great O, conservatively you get an 8% turnover percentage and closer to 9% against tough teams. This is what teams should actually strive for. So the values used realistically should be 92% to 91 % -- with 93% and 90% as extremes.

.92 ^42 = .030 (or .92 ^40 = .035) or 1/33 (1/29)

But, by far, in the vast, vast majority of games, no one gets the disc 40 times. I'm pretty certain no one on our team got the disc more than 40 times in any other Nationals game that year (this includes the 10-20 additional chances A.D. gets due to picking up the pull and disproportionately picking up the disc on opponent turnovers) – and certainly no one did in the finals. Being conservative, let's say 1 out of every 10 games, a player gets more than 40 passes thrown to him. And let's say there are 20 players on the team.
So the odds that any particular player on a particularly good Nationals team, with a good O, gets the disc 40 times and then has 0 turnovers in any particular game is, conservatively:

1/10 * 1/20 * 1/33 = 1/6600 or slightly harder than a no-hitter. ;-)

(Oh, and you have to be an ultimate player too. So if, say, 1 out of every 1000 people in the U.S. plays on an ultimate team…..)
Seriously though, let's take for granted that the vast majority of the players on the team (like those on the D squad or most deeps) have little chance of catching the disc 40 times in any game. It still must be pointed out that teams will keep track of records involving goals caught or D's per game – and few handlers have a chance to compete in that.
Anyway, if we confine the stat to main handlers and (particularly conspicuous Mids), then I still think the odds that a particular handler or mid will manage to get the disc 40 times in a game is still relatively rare. It usually is going to have to be a particularly brutal game against a very tough D – where the O is on the field a lot. Let's say odds are 1/15 games you get the disc more than 40 as a main handler, then the odds of a forty-zero game for a nationals-bound handler is probably around 1/500. That's not as rare as a no hitter, but it is certainly rarer than pitching a shutout or, in football, throwing for 400 yards, or in hockey, getting a hat trick.
It still can be considered a benchmark – and a rare benchmark at that.

Given the odds, the vast majority of handlers will never have a forty-zero game at Nationals. And it is probably even less likely they will do it in the "greatest ultimate game ever." ;-)


PS. Oh, and Paul D., I know you are Anonymous.

parinella said...

I think historical drop percentage was about 1.5%, so .985^40 = 55% of the time, someone would catch 40 passes in a row. (And hucks were more likely to be dropped, so maybe drop percentage on non-hucks could be as low as 1% (67% chance of not dropping 40 of these). OTOH, it was a windy day with 6 drops.) This means "1 in 8.6" becomes just "1 in 16", not "1 in 8.6^2".

Alex threw 52 passes that game (2 long), and Mooney threw 40 (1 long). Using your 1/15 odds, there is only a 1 in 3375 chance that we'd have three handlers with that many throws. Or maybe something else needs to be considered.

One critical factor that you are omitting is that NY played a lot of zone against us. In the finals, playing against man, we had about half as many throws per goal or per possession while having the same number of completed hucks (2). We played a lot of zone against Double. They had a turnover rate per pass that was less than half of ours (5.8% vs 12%), and they lost by 10.

This is all a long way of saying that teams playing zone offense throw a lot more passes at a much higher completion rate since so many of the passes are dumps or swings to handlers, many of which are simply resets rather than passes that gain yardage or lead to yardage. Now, DoG's zone O, even then, is more efficient than most, but there were still a lot of passes required to gain the yards. I think we took 29 passes on that final upwinder, for instance. Thus, any accurate accounting would discount zone passes. As a first cut, I'd estimate that zone passes are half as likely to be incomplete. My tape of the game has only some of the points, but maybe Alex will watch and count the zone passes.

Now, onto the goal percentage. I must admit to being shocked by the quoted stats, but we are also discussing just this one game, where DM had 2 goals thrown and 0 deep passes.

Anyway, you had a great game and would definitely merit consideration as team MVP for the game, but it's disingenuous to claim that it was a historic performance.

Dennis said...

Jim: "Anyway, you had a great game and would definitely merit consideration as team MVP for the game, but it's disingenuous to claim that it was a historic performance."

Well, thank you, Jim, for the MVP comment. But I don't mean to suggest it was historical, but I honestly don't think it's fair to suggest it's not highly unusual. As you know we took stats off and on from 1990 to Fools '96, at least. And we did it aggressively, game in-game out, in the years 1991-1992. We have easily more than 100 games for which we have kept track – maybe more than 200. And these teams had more than 20 players – and a number of hall of famers. That's thousands of data points – thousands of player-games that have been analyzed – and that was, I believe, the only forty-zero game. And certainly the only 40 – 0 game in any major tournament (Regionals, Easterns, Boulder, Worlds, Nationals, Chicago, Cuervo, etc).
You contend that all you have to do is throw at 95% and have a low drop rate – and then 1 out of every 16 games you play with 40 throws should have 0 turnovers. But as you know, that's a big "if." That's akin to saying, "Well, a batter should be able to get on a 56 game hit streak at some point in his life: All he has to do is bat .420 for 20 years." As I pointed out, no one had such a low turnover rate for such an extended period of time. Perhaps, handlers throw at a higher rate today – but that was Earth and DoG. As I noted my TO rate was 6.4% in Sping '92 tough, which was the second best on the team. Yours as always was very low: 7.0% -- but you did not throw at 95% and you’re "a first ballot hall of famer." (See my past comment on deep throws and goals thrown for statements about aggressiveness.) As I noted, the average turnover percentage for this team (which ended up being the best in the world with a great O) was 8.6%. At other times we were near 8.0%. That's empirically determined. That was the data. At 92% (or 8% turnover rate), you can only expect around 1/30 players in games of 40 possessions to have 0 turnovers. But very few players are ever going to have a chance of having 30 games with 40 possessions – let alone 30 such games in a major tournament.
Also, NY did not, in fact, play a lot of zone. They played zone at 17-17 and we did have 29 passes that goal – but most of the other times it was man on man. We had 19 goals and 16 turnovers (35 possessions.) Subtracting the 29 pass possession, we generated 239 touches over 34 possessions – or about 7 touches per possession. That's not that high. Moreover, we faced zone a great number of times throughout the years – and still no one has a 40-0 game for which we kept stats. And finally, yours is just an effort to explain away a statistical anomaly ("Okay, he got 20 strikeouts but that's a weak team"), if you want to take away credit for the long zone point, you should give perhaps a little extra credit for the fact that it was very windy, semis of Nationals, and against a defense which you have previously argued may have been, at that point, the best defense at Nationals ever [1].


[1] (See statistical analysis in J. Parinella, "How Good Were Cajones?", Labyrinth of Self-Indulgence (1995) p. 3-4 and supp. data)

PS. You note that I only threw 2 goals – but that was the second most on the team, tied with Lenny and Lobel. I'm not trying to be obnoxious here, but J.P. only threw 1 goal, and A.D. threw 0. So given your standard for aggressiveness, again I'm throwing more "aggressively" than J.P. and A.D. (the other handler) – as I did in Spring '92 Tough. And if you ever decided to use break-the-mark throws as part of your standard for aggressiveness, (and of course break-the-mark is far more aggressive than throwing with the force) I would be most aggressive on the team.

PPS. Here's all I'm saying. For those concerned with offensive efficiency, the game you should strive for as a handler is "20-1" – you should be getting the disc somewhere around 20 times (closer to 15 for straight man-on-man, closer to 25 for longer games with some zone) and you should limit yourself to 1 turnover. 1 turnover with 20 touches is a phenomenally low 5% turnover rate – which few people ever achieve for any length of time. If you are going 20-1 through a number of games in a tournament, you are having a spectacularly efficient tournament. This is what I always looked at in trying to improve my play. If everyone else played that efficiently (assuming you are not just dumping every time), your team will easily win the tournament, whether it is Nationals or Worlds.
Now, 20-0 – 20 touches without a turn at all -- is perfection. That's not something you can reasonably expect to occur on a frequent basis – but that's a feel-good game. I believe handlers should always gauge their play by how efficient they are – how efficiently they generate yardage and flow (really, what else is there?). And so I would always check this stat. I really get the feeling, Jim, that you don't think throwing efficiently is that important but I really do think it is. And whenever I got a 20-0 game I would be very happy. In this '94 game, I managed 42-0, which I had never done before and given the countless other games for which we have kept stats, no one else had either.

Alex de Frondeville said...

How about 2 turnovers in 94 passes in the fall regionals final against NY, NY in '92 that Boston won 19-18 in the miserable wind rain and cold. Granted, it isn't no turnovers, but still a pretty good turnover percentage, especially considering the weather. Strangely, Dennis only had 9 throws in that game. Guess he didn't want to hurt his stats...

Marshall said...

I do know of someone who went 49-of-49 in a zoney game at Nationals. (No, it wasn't me; I wasn't there that year.) Impressively, he did it without throwing or catching a goal. It was only in the 15-16 consolation game, but at least it suggests that it happens.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... In the Club Worlds finals 1999 Liquidisc had a milloin touches when playing against DoG clam/zone. I think there was a point with over hundred passes and no turnovers. A handler might have played without turnovers and had way over 40 passes in the game. Then 20 year old Ilkka Rämö had a great game, but I am not sure if he actually managed a clean sheet or not.

I would check the video, but watching it first gets me so pumped when we come back and tie the game at 18 each - and then we lose, which leaves me feeling really hollow for next couple of days. Cannot take that trip too often...

Ville / Liquidisc '99

Dennis said...

1) Only 2 throw aways in 94 is an incredible game -- but not a record.

2)49 for 49, for now seems to be the record. Who was it? And, BTW, did he have any drops?

3) Check the worlds game out and see if there were any turns...

Dennisohdennisohdennis said...

you guys are all missing the point. regardless of what the numbers say, Dennis probably looked much cooler than anyone else at the time. girls on the sideline would cheer when he caught the disc, and children seeing him play would grow up to be tommorrows stars of ultimate.

how you can measure success based on the number of passes in a zone defense when all that is happening around you is beyond me.

Dennis said...

LOL. I almost missed this one...

That is absolutely true.
It is oh, so important to look way cool when you are doing this -- exhibit a sort of masculine grace at all times.
The smile, the hair, it's all apart of it.
I mean, after all, why does anyone really play ultimate. ;-)

stebbins said...

Benji's catch of KD's blade at the end of the first half of this game was indeed incredible. Alex's throw in the semis in Alabama was the most incredible throw I have ever witnessed; Benji's catch was the most incredible catch I ever saw given what was at stake and the difficulty of the catch. Equally incredible was the non-reaction from Benji or Kenny, the throw and catch were carried out as if there was no other expected result, as if it was a routine dump or something.

Adam said...

In (very late) answer to Dennis, he was 59-59 with no drops in a pool-play game.