Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Clutch players

This morning Paul Carcaterra posted a question on Twitter:
Great question. The common response (I have to imagine) would be Notre Dame's Matt Kavanagh given his title as the King of Clutch, but I was curious to see what some of the data says (sourced from 5by5).

First off, how often does a game come down to one goal?

Surprisingly, about 25% of all lacrosse games at the D1 level end with a margin of only one goal. That's close! Per Paul's question, how many of them were determined by goals in the last 15 seconds of the game?

That's still more than I thought -- a little more than 1 in 10 games since 2013 have been determined by 1 goal scored in the last 15 seconds (or overtime -- by definition).

Getting at the core of Paul's question -- which player would I give the ball to --- narrowing down these games to only those with players who will be around in 2016 (e.g. they haven't graduated yet), here are the players with the most game winners in the last 15 seconds over the past 3 seasons (there's a long tail of singles I've excluded here for brevity):

Ha! Well, tough to argue with that -- Kavanagh has done it more than any other player returning to D1 this year -- but Pat Young is only one behind with a long tail of close 3rds.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Graduation impact from 2015 to 2016

Practice for the 2016 season has begun and teams around the country are doing an inventory of who is returning this year, who they lost to graduation, and ultimately what the impact is going to be (actually, I'm sure most of them already did it in the fall -- but nonetheless!).  Where did they lose a lot? Goal scorers? Faceoffs? Their key defensive players?

To help answer these questions across the entire division, I put together this little tool/visualization with data from 5by5. It's interactive, so you can click around on it and see which players have actually left (assuming the data from the NCAA is accurate). (direct link)

Kicking off with momentum

The 2016 lacrosse season is right around the corner and with it comes a new tool I've been building that should give fans deeper insights about their favorite teams and players and make it easier to stay informed all season long. You can read more about it at 5by5lacrosse.com, but one of the things I'm most excited about is being able to quickly visualize momentum in a game.

Visualizing momentum

Lacrosse is a game of swings and streaks -- fast breaks, goals off a faceoff, etc. -- but there isn't really a "momentum metric". The final score of the game tells you who won, but it doesn't tell you about the exciting back-and-forth. One way to capture that action is by plotting the net score over the duration of the game -- how many goals a given team is winning or losing by.

As an example, looking at Denver's win over Notre Dame last year in the semi-finals:

In one quick glance, we can see:
  • The game was really close right up until the 4th quarter when Denver got some distance
  • Despite almost winning, Notre Dame never actually had the lead at any point throughout the game.
  • Notre Dame's rapid comeback at the end of the game came right after a flurry of answered goals between the two -- an exciting final 8 minutes!

What's great is how easily this extends across all games. Here are a few of the other stories out of the playoffs last year:

1. Ohio St. jumping ahead of Denver in the quarterfinals, before 9 goal run by Denver

2. Notre Dame's 3rd quarter scare against Albany 

3. The hard fought back-and-forth between Hopkins and Syracuse in the 1st half