Monday, January 18, 2016

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