Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Defensive brilliance - is it a show?

Baseball statistical analysis has made out Jeter to be a great defensive player (under certain systems). Some commentary, including this analysis, makes out that his statistical defensive strength is mainly because he can't get to the ball to make the big plays.

Pictured Above: Jeter gets to this one.

I would argue that the opposite happens in Ultimate. First off, we don't take many statistics, and those that we do are primitive (due to resources among other factors). Instead, I find we make some defenders greater than they are because of the big plays they make; however, some of these big play makers can be weak on general defense, and the big play results from not being able to shut down their man.

I'm not saying that this is the case if a player tends to make big defensive plays, but it's something to watch for on your team. Pay special attention if these plays are off poaches, and then question how many times does your team get burnt on bad poaches versus the number of big defensive plays.

One of the challenges with playing strong team defense is that the big defensive play rewards an individual with glory (one of those motivators I mentioned in an earlier post). For those who are glory hungry, this feedback can result in a hunger for big Ds over good team defense. Meanwhile, the unsung defensive heroes can be displaced from starting lines because they don't have the big reputation.

Finally, don't give up on these players. They can make the big play, which is valuable, but push their development towards strong shutdown defense that picks the right times to go for the big play.



Ballistic said...

actually, most systems suggest that Jeter is very well below average.

one of the problems in ultimate is that too often we focus on "fantasy stats" (goals, assists, Ds), which tell an incomplete and mostly irrelevant story about what's happening on the field (similar to RBIs, ERA...).

more relevant stats to keep would be touches, yardage, types of throws and defensive positioning (to mention just a few), from which you could better measure the jobs of the offense and defense, depending on your goals. obviously, statkeeping at such level is very hard, but it would offer a much better basis for talking objectively about defense.


The Pulse said...

When you get to a certain level, the risky, poachy defense is well worth it if you can produce turnovers. If not, you're making it even easier for the offense, but when breaks are hard to come by, playing "big play" defense and baiting throws is definitely useful.

Tom said...

PJ has played at that level. He was on the GOAT squad that placed third in Sarasota last year.

I like to think that turns are created primarily by preventing guys from getting open. If no one is open, then the thrower is forced to take a risky throw. Assuming the thrower makes a rational decision and throws to the receiver who is most open, the guy who gets the D may have actually been the guy who was playing the worst defense.

paul said...

cant agree with you more pete. theres guys out there who make all sorts of big plays all the while getting roasted the other half of the time (bad poaches/huge incuts given, etc) and they get tons of hype while often guys who play more of a sound shut down D style all game rarely get noticed.

and i agree with tom in that often most turns are generated by applying pressure and preventing easy options, not necessarily by making big heroic D plays.