Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stats 101: Hanlan, Cowgirls Dissed by Conference

As expected, the Southland Conference teases us with the release of the All-Conference teams right before the tournament which will determine which school represents the SLC in the NCAA Big Dance. To avoid selection bias, I put out my picks two days ago in the post underneath this one. As I stated there, picking All-Stars or All-Conference or All-Tournament teams is an inexact science. People will always see things different ways. However, this is a blog. Not a conference website. I can semi-tactfully criticize while simultaneously praising without all the necessary political correctness.

So, positives before negatives. Overall, I think the conference did a decent job in picking their teams. If you haven't seen them yet, then click here. The conference made the right choice on Player of the Year, Newcomer, Setter and Libero of the Year. Plus, though I would have preferred Chisum for Coach of the Year, its hard to argue with McRoberts from UCA repeating. I mean, they didn't lose a conference game.

With one huge exception, the first team All-SLC selections are very well done. But, there are a few basically indefensible choices on the SLC lists. The second team list released by the conference is a mess and basically, the conference totally blew the choice for Freshman of the Year. Shocked is not the word here. Stupid is.

I'm sure Wendy Krell from Lamar is a fine young lady and she certainly is a good volleyball player and I look forward to watching her Friday. She is not the best freshman in this conference. She is not one of the best three freshman in this league. She is not the best freshman on her own TEAM. Plain and simple: Krell was a terrible choice for this honor.

Let's look at two players, shall we:

Player 1: 182 kills, 1.92 kills per set, .300 attack percentage in 420 attacks, 71 blocks, 0.75 blocks per set.

Player 2: 177 kills, 1.92 kills per set, .262 attack percentage in 390 attacks, 114 blocks, 1.24 blocks per set.

So, pick one. The conference picked Player 1 as the Freshman of the Year and 2nd team All-SLC. OK. Well, then certainly Player 2 will get an honor, right? An Honorable Mention? Nope. Nothing. Zero. Player 1 is Krell. Player 2 is her teammate and Freshman, Jayme Bazile.

How can you defend Player 1 over Player 2? How? Oh, I see...its that .300 attack percentage, right. I mean, that nice round number that starts with a three. Look. THINK. Maybe, actually COMPUTE. You wanna know what the difference is between hitting .300 and .262 in 420 attacks? A difference of kills minus errors that equals 16. Yes, I calculated it. It's not hard. So, for instance, if Krell makes just eight more errors than she did, and Bazile tallies eight more kills than she did in their same number of attacks, then they have the same attack percentage for the entire season. I implore you: Re-read that statement carefully.

You gonna give the highest freshman honor to Krell and ignore Bazile completely over a grand total of 16 attacks across 27 matches? Oh, yeah.. we haven't even looked at the blocks! Geez, Bazile blocked 43 balls more than Krell. Plus, Bazile LED THE CONFERENCE IN BLOCKS PER SET. You think 43 blocks more isn't significant? Consider that the leading blocker for Southeastern La. had 49 blocks for the year! And she gets nothing? Whatever. That's not defensible. Any SID or coach who voted for Krell and not Bazile simply doesn't understand the statistics that are generated in their sport.

Of course, the real snub was our own Madison Hanlan. The conference did the right thing in giving Curl the Libero of the Year and sticking another libero on the first team. Just read my post below for my argument for doing exactly that. Just one problem. They put the wrong libero on the first team.

Hanlan and Kaylee Hawkins each dug balls at a rate of 4.28 per set. So, how do you separate out how to honor each of them? Only, libero of the year Cristin Curl had a higher rate. Certainly, two liberos putting up equal dig rates ought to be close in terms of their recognition. Nope. The conference blows it again by naming Hawkins on the first team and Hanlan as honorable mention. That gap in recognition is not equal to their gap in contributions. I think what happened here is that people look too heavily at conference only stats and weekly conference honors. Hawkins led the SLC in digs per set by quite a large margin in conference-only games and Hawkins won defensive player of the week one more time than Hanlan. But, I think you have to look at the entire picture. Hanlan had more aces than Hawkins and had a slightly better serve receive percentage than Hawkins - and serve receive is an important dimension of a libero. So, all in all, I just don't see the argument that these two liberos should be so far apart in recognition?

But, Greg...isn't that what YOU did? You named Hanlan 1st team and Hawkins third... so aren't you being hypocritical? No, I'm not. Because I actually selected TEAMS. I honored 14 girls between the first and second teams combined. So, me saying Hanlan deserves first team and Hawkins third doesn't separate them much. The conference put 12 girls on the first team alone and just one libero. If there is some rule that only one libero can be named to first team while simultaneously allowing 12 players on the first team, then that rule is goofy. If you are going to put 12 girls on the first team then what would be wrong with two liberos on the first team? They put two setters on the first team, right? My point: At least put two of Hawkins, Hanlan and Curl on the first team, so that the other can be on the second team. Hanlan getting snubbed all the way down to Honorable Mention just isn't right.

Plus, I'm gonna beat this drum one more time. Hanlan, Hawkins, Bazile and McNeese's Priscilla Massengale are all better choices for Freshman of the Year than Wendy Krell. To be honest, I see very little difference between the contributions of Krell and Nicholls State freshman Jennifer Brandt. I mean, Brandt led her team in kills with almost 100 more than Krell and she killed more than half a ball more than Krell per set. She didn't post many blocks and she hit .206 compared to Krell's .300, but please people...get off of that.300 thing. Hitting .300 in just 420 attacks is meaningless. That's just not that many attacks, so .300 isn't that impressive in that few swings. What' impressive is Anna Ferguson hitting .283 in 1069 attacks and Chloe Smith hitting .280 in 1121 attacks. But hitting .300 in just 420 attacks? It just isn't that big of a deal, because the chance Krell could maintain that over 700 more attacks is really low. Voters clearly don't understand rate statistics and therefore they inflate their value. Remember, the difference between .300 and .262 is 16 swings over the season if you are going to attack only 420 times. That's meaningless.

But finally....and this is ridiculous...what do the voters have against McNeese? Chanel Tyler, Nicole Bowden and Sarah Cartie all left off the entire list of honors? You can't be serious? One of them left off? Well, maybe...but all three?

Meengs of Lamar gets first team with 857 assists, 8.74 per set and 216 digs, but Cartie gets nothing with over 1000 assists and 9.42 per set with 270 digs? That makes no sense at all. Oh, wait....Meengs hit .293 in 444 attacks- among the conference leaders. Cartie hit .251 in 263 attacks. Do I need to do the math again to show you how insignificant those differences are?

Bowden blocks 112 balls - third most in the entire conference and she gets nothing? Bowden in every way eclipsed UTA's Emily Shearin. I mean, in every measurable way, Bowden did better and yet Shearin gets 2nd team and Bowden nothing? Again, that decision is just not defensible. Do you realize that two of the top four leading blockers per set in the entire conference didn't even get an honor? Dang. Why call the position middle BLOCKER, if you're not going to honor people for blocking the friggin' ball?

But leaving Chanel Tyler off the entire list? Pure insanity. Here is what is absolutely stupid: Tara Frantz is a first teamer, while Chanel Tyler is left off the list. Frantz, by far was the worst pick on the first team.. she didn't come close to deserving that. She's the only first rounder named by the conference that I look at and think something horribly went wrong.

Frantz: 220 kills in 598 attacks, 2.75 kills per set, .179 attack %, 40 blocks, only 27 digs and actually served the ball nine times all year (zero aces).

Tyler: 340 kills in 1010 attacks, 2.96 kills per set, .185 attack%, 31 blocks, 323 digs and 32 service aces.

I'm just gonna end it right there. How anyone could look at Tara Frantz and see a first team selection and then look at Chanel Tyler and see someone who doesn't deserve an honor just isn't caring about their responsibility of voting on teams like this. Its just that simple.