Photo by John King – Ultiphotos.com
We’re still a week out from the MLU Championship so we’ll hold off from looking at the Spinners and the Stags till we get a little bit closer. Since we don’t have anything else going on this week we’ll be a little shorter than usual and skip our regular format.
For this Happy Hour we’re going to take a look at something we’ve explored a few times before, and that is the midfield pull. I was not a fan of adding additional timeouts this season because I felt it lowered the overall value of timeouts. When you’ve got three timeouts per half it isn’t as big of a deal if one gets wasted. I did appreciate the drop to a 20-second timeout for the MFP though. It takes away the traditional timeout you’d get and really turns the MFP into a tool rather than something amended onto the full 90-second timeout. But enough of that, let’s dig in.
The first thing to jump out about the MFP numbers this season is the shear increase in how often it is being used. Yes, teams have more timeouts to use, but they are dominantly used for the 20-second timeout. We are seeing the MFP utilized more often to try and create runs early in the game rather than just as something to end the quarter with. In 2015 we saw 151 MFPs, this season it jumped all the way up to 321.
However, true value of the MFP is how often you are scoring them, not how often you are using them. Let’s take a quick look at the breakdown by team.
|Team||MFPs||Breaks Scored||MFP DSE||Regular DSE|
Remember that DSE is how often a team is scoring when it starts on defense. Since they have to start on defense to use the MFP it is part of your regular DSE as well. Most teams have slight edge when using the MFP. The Whitecaps and Current are the only team with better regular DSEs than when using the MFP. We also see that the Spinners were quite frugal with their use of the MFP, but were very effective when they did use it.
One issue I had with the MFP this season was that teams seemed to view using their timeouts for anything other than a MFP as a waste of a timeout. While we do see a general increase in the conversion rate for the MFP, it isn’t a magic bullet. The only team that might question using their timeouts for anything else is the Rumble, who nearly doubled their DSE when using the MFP. The Current on the other hand showed great resistance to the MFP and wisely so. They converted the fewest MFPs of any team in the league, and perhaps that’s why we see them using it far more infrequently than other teams.
I was pleased towards the end of the season as I saw the Dogfish opt to use more of their timeouts in a more traditional manner, getting a turn and then subbing in their offense. While certainly not as sexy as the MFP, it was more effective. With an OSE of 49.1% they had a much better shot at making a defensive conversion. While I didn’t take note of this in the Current’s games, I imagine this is why we saw such a drop in their usage of the MFP.
The Nighthawks, however, could have used some guidance from the Current. With the second fewest breaks and third most MFPs, they were only converting 26.1% of the time. That is a step up from their league worst 20.6% DSE, but I feel they might have had better uses for their timeouts. Even with their 44.9% OSE they would have been statistically better to put in their offense after getting a turn than relying on getting breaks through the MFP.
The other side of the midfield pull is how often you are scoring when you face it. This season we saw that most teams were far more prepared to receive the MFP than in 2015. Bear with me as these numbers get a little bit weird here.
|Team||MFPs Received||Holds||MFP OSE||Regular OSE|
Like DSE, OSE is a measure of how often a team is scoring when it starts on offense. When I first looked at these numbers I was sure I did the math wrong. Almost every team was actually more effective on offense when facing the MFP. I’ve check my numbers and they add up, so their is something else going on here. For one, when comparing to the list above, remember that this is a completely different distribution. But there is something else going on that I hadn’t thought of before. When the 20 second timeout is called coaches change who is going out on the line. Suddenly they are looking to put out the best offensive line.
Ultimate is a game that favors the offense. We see that in all the stats throughout the year and here in the MFP, the defense is only getting a slight advantage. What is happening this season is that teams have learned what they need to work on to not get pinned by the MFP. Really the only team that surprises me on this list is the Dogfish. They were the absolute worst at converting points when facing the MFP in 2015 and while not the best this season, they are the only non-playoff team to have a better OSE when facing the MFP.
One other issue that still exists is the problem of small numbers. While we saw a double in the number of MFPs these teams are still not facing it often enough to give a true picture of what is happening. Another wrench in the mix is that our only options aren’t just breaks and holds. We can also see no scores. One of the surprising things from this season however is that we only saw 24 MFPs end as a no score. That is the same number as 2015. Since I only have last seasons numbers to compare to that throws off my mental picture of what to happen. No scores accounted for roughly 16% of MFPs in 2015, while on accounting for about 7% in 2016.
The evolution of the MFP is on going and I’m sure we are going to see it implemented a bit differently next season. I’m torn on the issue of the extra timeouts. While I would like to see more frugal use of the MFP, the extra timeouts gave the option of using the MFP earlier in the game and spread them out so we didn’t just see them as something you end the quarter with. I see the MFP as a tactical choice that coaches should have as part of their tool kit, but worry that they might be using it too often. With roughly eight MFPs per game this season we’re seeing it used as a bludgeon rather than skilled instrument.
What ever happens with the MFP, I’m excited to see what next season brings for this wonderful addition to the game.