What’s useful in the world of Ultimate Statistics?

by | May 13, 2011, 12:59am 0

Anyone who’s spent enough time around the game knows that the top teams are keeping stats during tournaments. And beyond the top teams, you have organizations like Ultivillage doing fantasy ultimate based on Goals and Assists. But the question remains, what stats are useful? While I had that thought lingering in my head, I came across this quote from ESPN NBA Insider Ric Bucher:

I rely on statistics all the time, mostly when it comes to comparing teams and their relative efficiency. Memphis and SA, for example, play at a very similar tempo and the numbers tell me Memphis was more efficient at both ends of the court during the regular season. I believe that. The numbers led me to look at them in a way maybe I wouldn’t have. But stats to compare players on different teams to say who is better? Without watching them play? And knowing what their jobs are? Meaningless.

So, when we compare Goals, Assists, and Turnovers for players from two different teams, are we comparing meaningful stats? I say no, not until we know what each player is asked to do. Are they asked to use their throws to attack the end-zone liberally? Are they a possession handler? Are they the fast guy who catches goals in the end-zone set without being involved in most of the teams O? Are they the trap-side handler in the zone? What it boils down to is that ultimate is not baseball, and stats won’t do for ultimate what they did for baseball over the past 10 years. Ultimate is a true team sport, so it will be very hard to have meaningful individual metrics. Also, it’s easy to have individual metrics that are meaningless if used to compare players with different jobs.

Given that detailed stat taking is difficult and beyond the capacity of most teams at this point, lets look at simple stats that are very useful. When considering what useful stats might look like in ultimate, it’s good to look at useful stats in other team sports. Bucher points toward pace and efficiency, and luckily efficiency is easy to keep track of at a rudimentary level. UNCW kept interesting stats at nationals last year, and their stats can be found here: http://www.seamenultimate.com/?p=287, http://www.seamenultimate.com/?p=296. Keeping track of Wilmington’s stats like D1 Goals (number of time the your D scores on their first possession) vs points in which you generated a turn (pulled-true D pts) will give you the first possession efficiency of your D-line O. You go further and manipulate UNCW’s stats to find the efficiency of your D-line O on its second possession, or its third and so on. From here you can make decisions about personnel based on what you need to improve, or you can make decisions about what D line O to run, and so forth.

I think the stats that UNCW takes is a good starting point, to make things more useful you could keep track of what D your team ran on each point to see what Ds you generate turns off of, or you can keep track of the O line’s efficiency from the brick vs. from a live pull, or, how does your D team’s O do when starting in the middle of the field compared to the sideline. All of these sorts of stats are easy to keep track of, and can help your team greatly when making adjustments and when deciding what to focus on in order peak.

This is just a preliminary look at what’s useful in terms of taking stats for ultimate. Please comment about what you would like to see more of, or what your team does that you find helpful.

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