Photo by Rodney Chen –

It’s Friday evening and it’s time for Happy Hour on the West Coast, and MLU Insider Will Curb is here to give you his insights into everything going on in the this weekend in the MLU.

On MLU-eve it is all hands on deck for every team. I spent two years working as the Stags Operations Manager and still feel tingly thinking about the night before game day. The countless hours already put together by every teams staff is about to come together and it is going to be over before anyone realizes it. Game day is magical in that when you are working a game the results almost don’t matter, your just there for the show. Having transitioned into a non-essential gameday position game has definitely changed for me. For one, I actually get to watch them and just experience the joy of pro-ultimate.

Before we go forward with next season, let’s start with something from last season.

Appetizers – The Mid-Field Pull (MFP)

The introduction of the MFP last season fundamentally changed how coaches could interact with the game. When and where you used timeouts has a real effect on the game. The flaw with this came that if teams had a timeout to burn and less than a minute on the clock there was no reason not to use the MFP. It gave an undeniable advantage, at least with the eye test.

This offseason I looked at every pull throughout the 2015 season, with an emphasis on the MFP. Of the 1637 points played last season, 151 of them started off with a MFP, which is about 9 percent of the pulls. That is a huge impact on the game regardless of which team is scoring. Of these 151 pulls, 87 came from the Eastern Division and 65 came from the Western Division. Rumble lead the league with 24 MFPs and the Nighthawks had the fewest with 13. While watching the games it became apparent that the MFP also had a useful secondary objective, preventing the score. Since the MFP was most often used at the end of quarters (particularly the 2nd and 4th) coaches would call it with the hope of at best getting a callahan (there were three last season) or at least preventing a score. So in determining the success rate of a MFP I included no scores to provide more context of what really was happening.

Here we have the total success rate (breaks + no scores), the MFP DSE (how often the defense scores during a MFP) and then the standard DSE, that is how often the defense scores on any given point.

Western Conference
TeamMFPsSuccess RateMFP DSEStandard DSE
Eastern Conference
TeamMFPsSuccess RateMFP DSEStandard DSE

Overall teams had a success rate of 51% while only breaking 35% of the time. Looking at every teams DSEs we see that the only teams that have better DSE without the MFP are the Stags and the Dogfish. Clearly the MFP does give an advantage.

It’s pretty clear that the strong teams were better at the MFP and the weaker teams had more issues with it. Not surprising, when the Whitecaps have a pull specialist like Christian Foster they are going to be better prepared to trap teams with a well-placed roller. But there are interesting outliers. The Nighthawks with a 46% break rate lead the league, while one of the most defensively minded teams, the Stags, only converted a fourth of their MFP. 

The next thing I looked at was how each team fared against the MFP, simply meaning how often did teams still score when the other team used a MFP.  Here we are going to look at the number of times each team faced a MFP, their offensive scoring efficiency while facings the MFP and their standard offensive scoring efficiency.

Western Conference
Eastern Conference

Resoundingly we see that the MFP slows offenses down. Even the highest caliber offenses from the Whitecaps saw a drop in OSE by 9%. Interestingly enough however, we see the Rumble as a team that thrived under the pressure of the MFP, increasing their OSE by 6%. The Dogfish on the other hand crumpled under the pressure and only converted just over a quarter of their points when facing MFPs. Further research implores me to look into how stadium conditions affect the MFP as the Dogfish play in one of the windiest stadiums, so their low conversion rate could be more of a result of their environment than shoddy play. There is always more to look at.

In 2016 we can expect to see the MFP on full display as coaches now have an additional timeout per half to play with and if last season is any indication we are going to see them pulled out at the end of every half. As the game develops I’m sure the rules to the MFP are going to be tweaked further (removing them from double overtime sudden death this season was a good move), but regardless of what happens to the MFP we are going to see how teams view pulling change. The pull is one of the only aspects of a point you can control, it is more than the start of the point. It is definition of how your defense is going to come out. We’ve already seen Boston begin to apply these tactics with their out-of-bounds roller pulls and their short goal-line pulls. We’ve seen the consistent pulls from the Stags Steven Rice consistently put them in good defensive position every game. As the game evolves so too shall the pulls.

On Tap – Match-ups

The first week of the season is bringing us some exciting matchups and hopefully a hint of how the season might play out. With two doubleheaders in the Eastern Division we have the potential for some early season upsets and a new MLU record (two wins in a weekend). While one week of play won’t tell us how the season will play out, both teams in the 2015 MLU Championship started the season 0-2, it’ll give us an idea of what we can expect for each team.

Spinners at Rumble

With all the new pieces coming together on the Rumble it seems unlikely that they are going to be ready for the more experienced Spinners. While home field advantage and the fact that Spinners will likely be saving legs for their game against the Whitecaps on Sunday the Rumble will still have a lot to overcome. I’m excited to the see what the youth on the Rumble is bringing to the table, they have always been one of my favorite teams to watch.

22-17 Spinners

Nighthawks at Dogfish

I could really see this game going either way, but with home field advantage the Dogfish have the edge. San Francisco winds have always plagued away teams and I expect it to be especially tough on a young Nighthawks team. While the Dogfish have also had a lot of turnover on roster as well, they look like they have brought in some good experienced players. I’m hoping for some surprises from the Nighthawks, but I don’t think we’ll see them this game.

16-13 Dogfish

Rainmakers at Stags

In 2015 this game was a blowout. The Stags made the Rainmaker look silly. It was a fun game for me, but definitely not one of the best games of the season. The Rainmakers knew that they were unprepared for the season last year and aren’t going to make that mistake again. They’ve brought on talent and are going to make the Stags work this time around. That said I have no doubts that the Stags will walk away with a W. Home field advantage has played a crucial role in the MLU and to top it is a revenge game that should see some fiery Stags.

24-19 Stags

Whitecaps at Current

Last year the Caps started the season with a double header against the Spinners and Current, they played both games close and took the Current into overtime before ending the weekend 0-2. The Spinners have been on the up-and-up, but the Current remain the team that always gives the Whitecaps the most trouble and nearly every matchup feels like a classic. This will definitely be a game to watch this weekend. Both teams are going to come out hard, but I’m seeing the Whitecaps come out on top in their first matchup of the weekend.

22-20 Whitecaps

Whitecaps at Spinners

We’ve yet to see a team win both games in a doubleheader but I think the Spinners have a chance to change that. While both teams are coming off of Saturday games, this weekend is far more favorable to the Spinners. With the (arguably) easier Saturday matchup and then returning for home field on the Sunday we’ll see that advantage. If the Spinners can save enough legs in their game against the Rumble they’ll have a great shot taking on a Whitecaps team that just put everything on the field against the Current.

23-20 Spinners

Last Call – Fantasy

Start your Stars

This weekend is all about Boston and Philadelphia. Both teams are on a double header this weekend and that means double the points. Last season the Spinners spread the wealth around with no player pull down every goal or throwing every assist like Jeff Graham or Timmy Perston. I’m not sure that 2016 is going to look any different, which is great for the double header. Feel free to play some of the depth Spinners this weekend, we should see a lot of guys getting touches and a lot of guys putting up points. The Whitecaps feel like a bit of a different story. The Whitecap’s roster is huge and they like to take advantage of that, none the less we tend to see their star players pulling most of the points. While you can look into wading into Boston depth I’d suggest sticking to their top guys until we see how their season is shaking out.

Regression to the Mean

Don’t freak out when your players have an off game. If the coach isn’t benching them you have nothing to worry about. On the same hand don’t go all in once a player has their “breakout” game as well. You’ve got to look at trends and watch the games (or listen to people who do). Last season Timmy Perston lead the league with 37 goals, with a high of six goals in three games and low of zero goals in one game. If that one game happened in week three I’m sure you’d be having second thoughts on Perston being your number one overall pick. That’s a tough blow, but to do well in fantasy you have to weather the storm and trust that Person will bounce back. On that same page, let’s look at Tyler Chan. As an exciting rookie for the Whitecaps last season he did well, but in week eight he exploded with five goals and eight assists, more than double what he got any other week. In week nine he had one goal and two assists. If you had seen what Chan did in week eight and decided to slot him in as your superstar in week 9 you’d have been sorely disappointed. The point is he came back down to earth after an amazing game. Look for trends not for data points.

Defense Wins Championships

There are very few players who average a block a game. Drafting for defense is hard, but it is the most rewarding stat in fantasy (save getting a callahan). Because defense is so valuable draft defense early. I’m not going to advocate your first overall pick being a defender (that pick should go to your superstar position), but realize that cutter depth and handler depth go a lot deeper than defender depth does. That ten point swing when your guys gets a block is a killer in fantasy, so make sure you are taking advantage.

If you want to find me this weekend I’ll be down in Portland watching the Rainmakers take on the Stags. 

Watch all MLU action this weekend, streamed live via MLU Live.