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On Lacrosse

With all due respect to Bill James, quantifying the statistical aspects of baseball is easy.

Well, as easy as baking bread on a New York City sidewalk in mid-August.

Baseball can be reasonably divided between offense and defense, with individual performance in each aspect of the game readily calculable.

Lacrosse, however, is a totally different animal. It's the 800 pound gorilla in the corner.

And I'm hoping to tame it. With a calculator, guile, and slow wit.

Unlike baseball, lacrosse cannot be broken down into discrete, easily identifiable bits of action that can be well summarized to form legitimate and informative statistical tools. The nature of lacrosse emphasizes fluidity, thereby disrupting the independance of offense and defense. Thefore, to quantify particular aspects of lacrosse, an analysis must be designed to answer the right questions.

Those questions, briefly, are the following:

1) Since the purpose of a lacrosse game is to win, what aspects of the game directly or indirectly influence a team's ability to succeed?
2) If scoring, both offensively and defensively, is a necessary prerequisite to victory, what are the best ways to determine efficient team production and indiviudal player contribution?
3) Is the tool of measurement sound?

Very little statistical research has been completed on the game of lacrosse. This is probably due to one reason - the game is still in its audience infancy. Some intrepid infomaniacs have developed strength of schedule and BCS-like statistical models for the college game, but little has gone into the actual analysis of the game itself. While a start, it's just not cutting the mustard.

What has been written is mostly concerned with the box game, where starved hockeymetricians have found a new outlet to further their statistical cravings. The operative question is whether those theories applied to hockey and box lacrosse can be grafted onto the field lacrosse game. I believe the answer is a wavered "yes."

Tools analyzing team aspects of the game are readily adaptable. Issues arise as to individual performance concerning tools like point allocation simply because the information necessary to form the analysis and calculation are not available because they are not tracked. So it's a mixed bag, but at least there is a bag to carry.

What does this all mean? Well, that's a complicated question.

From time to time, I'm going to take a look at some of the big picture questions facing Syracuse lacrosse such as whether a team's playoff experience matters and if defense actually does win championships. Until I can iron out the problems facing the quantifying of individual player performance, it's going to be a lot of team analysis from this point forward.

So you got that going for 'ya, which is nice.

And, if none of the above made sense, wait until basketball season.

1 Responses to “On Lacrosse”

  1. # Blogger jon

    After we paid for our kids summer camp michigan we found it tough to recover! I totally agree with you!  

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