Photo by Rodney Chen – Ultiphotos.com
This weekend we are getting treated to a match up a lot of people have wanted to see for quite a while. The Whitecaps will be hosting the Stags in the second cross conference game of the season. Last weekend we saw the Rumble surprise the Dogfish in a 22-19 victory. Of course people are looking at the Rumble/Dogfish game to try and help gauge what is going to happen in this weekend’s cross conference, but sports don’t really work that way. If team A beats team B and team B beats team C we still have no idea what going to happen in the game versus A and C. Now if both those first games were blowouts we might have an idea. The Rumble have been in cellar out east, yet in the past two seasons they’ve gotten wins over every other team in the conference. You just never know what’s going to happen.
The NBA playoffs are still on my mind this week despite the Trailblazers having been eliminated. One of the things I love about the NBA playoffs is that they are played out in a series best of seven. You vary rarely see sweeps of top teams and you want to see the best team move on and you can really see that in a series. Another aspect the series helps with is home field advantage. Sure the higher seed has the 4-3 home court advantage but you got to get something for earning the top seed. As the MLU grows I’d love to see it look at the playoff format and move to something that won’t get a team eliminated from having one bad game and not just cause I’m a Stags fan.
This week’s ramblings are being brought to you by Not Your Father’s Root Beer from Small Town Brewery.
Appetizers – Home Field Advantage
I mentioned home field advantage earlier and I’d like to look at what home field advantage looks like in the MLU. Playing at home has a host advantages such as crowd energy, lack of travel and familiar playing conditions. The Stags 2013 victory over the Dogfish was definitely aided by the crowd, it was easily one of the loudest ultimate games I’ve ever been to. Jet lag is nothing to joke about either and studies have confirmed it has a negative effect on athletes. Even a bus trip is going to have an effect on athletic performance – if you’ve got even a 5% decrease in performance that could be a key turnover that sets the tone of the game. Home field advantage is an undeniable thing, but the question is what it translates to in games won and points scored.
The first thing to take a look at are teams overall records.
We see that no team has a better overall away record than home record, although that doesn’t hold up season by season. Right now the Rumble are 2-5 with those two wins coming on the road. The Nighthawks are close with an even home and away record. The Whitecaps shine here with only two losses at home, ever. The Dogfish are the worst team on the road without a road win since 2013.
The next thing I wanted to look at was the home and away goals as well as the goals allowed for home and away games. I’m using the data from 2015 since it is the most recent complete season. I looked at what a combination of 2013-2015 looked like, but it just muddied that data.
Goals Per Game
|G/A at Home||86||67||100||87||106||80||100||74|
Average Goals per Game
|G/A at Home||17.2||16.75||16.66||17.4||21.2||16||20||14.8|
Anyone confused by the Rumble/Whitecaps numbers, it is because those teams traded a home game because of a scheduling conflict in New York, this means the Rumble have 6 away games while the Whitecaps have 6 home games. One more table for the differentials.
Average Goal Differential
So what do these numbers mean? Looking at the Spinners for a quick example we can see they have a positive goal differential of 4.6, which means that we can roughly expect them to be scoring 4.6 more goals while at home. The negative goals against means that we can also expect them to be giving up roughly 3.4 more goals while they are on the road. Now reality isn’t that simple, but we can see some trends that support the idea of home field advantage. The top teams of 2015 are also a fairly good barometer of what is going on here, as we can expect them to perform reasonably well on the road. The looking at our conference finalist we have the Spinners, Whitecaps, Stags and Rainmakers, with everyone except the Rainmakers with their steady play both at home and away – and with a better away record (3-2) than home record (2-3).
Another interesting takeaway from these results is the stadium take away. Weather always plays an important role in games and looking at the Rumble and Dogfish you can really tell that the games at their home stadiums produced lower scoring games, and provided great home field advantage for those teams. They clearly were able to deal with the windy conditions at home better with roughly the same goal scoring while drastically reducing the goals against.
On Tap – Matchups
So while I presented the home field advantage data above for the 2015 season I did also look at the 2016 data. It is certainly incomplete as we have teams who have played vastly different amounts of games and so it is fairly hard to compare two teams, but I thought I’d give a shot at injecting a little of that data into our look at this week’s matchups.
Stags at Whitecaps
This is definitely the game to watch this weekend and possibly a preview of the MLU Championship game. Both teams are defensively minded, the Stags do seem to have a bit of an advantage on offense though. The Stags have been averaging 26 goals a game while away and only giving up an average of 17 goals at those games. Meanwhile, the Whitecaps have given up an average 19 goals at home while scoring 21 per game. What do these numbers mean out of conference? Not much. We’ve got a lot to learn here. Last week we saw the Rumble come out strong against the Dogfish despite the long trip, although jet lag has more of an effect heading east.
Dogfish at Nighthawks
While the Nighthawks have certainly been doing a better job on offense in these last few weeks their defense is still giving up more than 20 points a game. That can work if your offense is delivering, but even with that bump in offense the Nighthawks are still only getting in about 16 points per game. The Dogfish, however, have their own problems on offense. They’ve only managed one game with more than 20 goals and have given up nearly as many per game. The biggest thing to watch for on the Dogfish is there fast break offense after getting a block which they are good at converting in a throw or two.
Rumble at Current
The Rumble looked good in San Francisco. They know who they want to throw to and where they are going to get their blocks. While they were able to steal one win from the Current at home already I don’t see it happening twice. While I feel like the Current have also cleaned up their game the numbers tell me that they scoring and giving up points at roughly the same rate. They are looking better in the fourth quarter, where the struggled earlier in the season.
Dogfish at Rainmakers
Picking up two wins on the road isn’t easy and the Dogfish have been historically bad on the road. The Rainmakers are coming off of their bye week and are going to be ready for the San Francisco crew. There isn’t much to say about this game, the Dogfish are going to be tired and I don’t see the Rainmakers dropping this game. With a win the Rainmakers will take a commanding lead in standings and put the Dogfish in a tough position to grab the second playoff spot in the west.
Last Call – Fantasy
I’m getting pretty tired talking about the Dogfish, but here we are coming into the Dogfish’s double header weekend. We saw a superstar performance from Nick Fiske last weekend with 2 goals 2 assists and 4 blocks, which makes him an interesting prospect. I’m inclined to think it was more of a matter of the matchup since this single game performance is better than his entire 2015 season combined. None the less if you’ve got room for him on your roster he isn’t a bad prospective pick up. Alex Cloud is another name I’m looking at from the Dogfish. He hasn’t put up huge numbers but has netted five goals over the past three games, with the double header this weekend he should get a fair number of chances to up those numbers.
With only the Spinners on bye this weekend we are back to our ample player base to choose from. Rainmaker Peter Ostergaard put up five goals against the Nighthawks last week and has put up at least one goal in every other game. I’m also liking Stag Will Shaw who has put in two assists in both of his last two games. And finally I’m also liking Andrew Ferraro on the Current who meshing in well on the D.C. offense.