Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The hammer dilemna

About six years ago I was against throwing upside down throws. Since then I've flip flopped on the issue leaning less to a total ban on the throws. This is mainly due to my move up the ranks in quality Ultimate and seeing what some people can do with a hammer or scoober.

Pictured Above: A man I know by the name of Tate making a huge grab at Paganello (Photo courtesy of Tom Styles)

I've been rethinking the throws more and more, and I've come up with a set of observations on the upside down throws that still make me debate back and forth the value of the throws:
  1. The hammer is a viable throw for big breaks.
  2. At the beginner or intermediate level the hammer will be dropped about 50% of the time with no defensive coverage. No statistics here, but we all know how often an open hammer is dropped just by the nature of how the disc needs to be caught.
  3. A jump ball for a hammer results in a D 90% of the time. Again, no stats, but my feeling here is the position of the disc makes it very challenging for the offensive player to rip the disc out of the air.
  4. People who like to throw hammers tend to like to throw them too much. In this case, I'm talking about beginners and intermediates who have strong hammers, and with a little success want to throw the hammer all the time. The same thing happens when these players develop a strong break throw. Those are the cool throws so that's what I want to throw.
  5. We seem to like to break zones with hammers, thinking that over the top is the best choice. I think a fast moving disc with dynamically moving players is a much safer and more efficient option.
  6. For teams that throw lots hammers they don't practice them enough. If your team commits to the hammer then throw them in drills on a regular basis.
It's a team decision on whether the hammer will be part of your team game. With this decision you should also determine when the hammer is a reasonable throw to make (i.e. endzone only, early breaks, against a zone).

I still believe that the flick and the backhand will take a team far, but once in a while you have a thrower who can take a hammer and break open a game. I've only played with two of these guys (you might be able to guess), but without their hammers (among other excellent throws) our team wouldn't have gotten out of a number of tight situations.



BC said...

Hey Pete,

Although I agree with most of your post (specially the 50% drop stat for beginners t0 intermediate), I do believe the hammer (and scoober) plays an important role. But maybe I am one of those guys who throws it too much (Although I agree I throw the scoober too much some times when feeling cocky).

There are certain situations where a hammer and scoober are the best throw to break down a zone. The most obvious is when you are trapped on a sideline with everyone clamped down on you. I big hammer or scoober swing breaks this so quickly. I also find the scoober extremely useful in a zone when you have 2 tall handlers as you can very easily float a scoober over the cup where it is an easy jump ball in the worst scenerio. There are many other good scenerios where the upside down throw is extremely useful (although most are against a zone). As primarily as coed player these days there may be a difference in coed where the open areas in a zone for a hammer is much more clear that you do see in open.

Anyway, they are never going away in my game, but to each his own.


Druski said...

There's an old expression that probably predates Ultimate but I nonetheless like to apply to this exact dilemma: "When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

I think it goes along with your 4th point. Once players learn it they become enamored with it and use it too much. Then eventually they grow out of it (or grow out of overdoing it, I should say). E.g. in my league where we have A through E divisions (highest to lowest), you'd see very few hammers in E, a few more in D, lots of bad ones in C, lots of OK ones in B, and a few well-thrown ones in A, mostly when the situation actually warrants it.

Just one other problem related to this, but not specifically covered - players who learn hammers before fundamental throws can often use it in lieu of a 'proper' break force throw. E.g. rather than developing a strong pivot, good fakes, varying release points etc., they just stand up and try to pop it over the mark. It can work to a degree but there are times it's not at all the best throw choice, and using it is holding them back from developing the break force throws that would be more appropriate in those situations.