Sunday, September 30, 2012

Women's UK & Ireland derby chart, 30-Sept

The rankings presented here are in accordance with the rules and consider Rollin News as the authoritative source for bout scores concerning UK & Ireland teams.  If a score is not listed as open or public on that source, it will not be included in this ranking.

Disclaimer aside, here you go.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Blokes' rankings

I had ranked women's teams and national teams, so why not the men's teams?  Here we go:

Rank Team Rank Pts Bouts W L
1 Quad Guards 197.3 9 7 2
2 Southern Discomfort 192.1 8 8 0
3 Rolling Thunder 128.3 2 2 0
4 The Expendables 107.7 8 4 4
5 Tyne & Fear Roller Derby 107.6 9 6 3
6 New Wheeled Order 84.7 12 4 8
7 The Inhuman League 71.1 11 3 8
8 Crash Test Brummies 59.4 6 0 6
9 The Jakey Bites 20.3 3 0 3

So, the MERDC contributed the majority of bouts to the ranking, and I added the Quad Guards in just to make sure we could feature a larger number of bouts.  Turns out, the championships were an upset!  Who knew!

There are 34 bouts in the system, 5 are upsets.  That's 15%, and a darn good upset rate.  Otherwise, now I know just how exciting the Lincolnshire Rolling Thunder can be!

Alright, so now we've got three derby charts: UK & Ireland women, nations, and UK & France men.  Keep in mind, the Rank Pts mean different things in each table.  They cannot be compared one-to-one between different tables.

Explanation of calculations here.

Roll on!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Well, as y'all know, I just love going to see some derby.  And, as a sports fan, I like to see close games. If the result's decided before halftime, it's really far less fun.  Sure, it's good for teams to work on their tactics, to give new jammers a run, etc.  But as a sports fan, I want to see it come down to the last jam.

That being said, I've compiled a list of bouts I'd love to see.  Most of 'em are really close:

Roll'd Firm:  Glasgow v Auld Reekie
Glasgow are more highly ranked, but it's a natural rivalry and about a 60-40 win likelihood.  That means it's really anybody's bout.  I have no doubt the atmosphere would be awesome!

Eastbourne Extreme re-match:  Croydon v Big Bucks
In the summer, down by the seaside, these two went to the last jam.  Hell, these two went to the last pass!  It came down to when the fourth whistle went, how many points had been racked up.  Oh, man, these two deserve a re-match!

Roses-Leafs:  England v Canada
Sure, Canada are highly unlikely to do a European tour, like USA did.  However, it'd be wonderful to settle that score.  Who's #2 in the world?  60 minutes to settle the question.  Win percentages?  55-45 in favour of Canada.  (Did I hear you say OT?)

4 Nations:  England v Scotland v Wales v Ireland
Ok, England's gonna win the tournament, at least the first time around.  Thing is, the other bouts will be excellent, it'll be a good time had by all, and planning the event will spur Wales into forming a team.  How great would this be to have as a standard summertime fixture?

Battle of the Blokes:  SDRD v Quad Guard
No explanation necessary.  Needs to be an annual fixture, needs to be at Earl's Court, if not ExCeL.  Or O2.  These guys could turn that thing into "rollerdome" for one night.

If anybody knows when one of these is scheduled, feel free to tell me.  I'd love to be there!
Roll on!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Women's UK derby chart, 23-Sept-12

The rankings presented here are in accordance with the rules and consider Rollin News as the authoritative source for bout scores concerning UK & Ireland teams.  If a score is not listed as open or public on that source, it will not be included in this ranking.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How it works [with as little maths as possible]

Alright, you likely saw the Women's UK & Ireland Derby Chart on the other page.  I hope it makes sense.  If you think your team's rank is in error, or I have used the team's name rather than the league's, send me an email at and I'll sort it for you.  Just check on this page first to make sure any bouts which may have been missed are considerable.  Thanks!

Also, I will publish a second explanation with full maths soon.  Stay tuned if you love linear algebra!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Women's UK derby chart, 17-Sept-2012

In the weekly chart that follows:
  • Only bouts with public scores between rankable teams within the last 12 months are counted for this chart.  As mentioned before, every other sport's ranking scheme has an expiry date for results, and it's time for derby to have the same.
  • Only teams from regular bouting UK and Ireland leagues are eligible for ranking.  Due to the sheer number of leagues, I had to exclude continental Europe from the chart.
  • A team with fewer than 2 rankable bouts is excluded from the chart.  As well, a team that has only played bouts against unrankable teams is excluded from the chart.  Both are due to the need for viable data.
  • Arrows represent change from the previous week's ranking.  ⇏ indicates a previously unrankable team's d├ębut on the chart.  For the sake of this, I ran the rankings for the 10th of September as well.

Monday, September 17, 2012

National Rankings, quantitatively

So, if you haven't figured out by now, I like quantitative analysis.  Therefore, I was quite chuffed to read a paper by Dr. James Keener[link], provided by Mr. Skipsey[link], describing a way of quantitatively analysing the relative ranking of teams.

Now, there are several great systems in this world of ours, but most rely on teams all playing each other.  Derby doesn't do that.  Derby teams play who they want, and rely on subjectivity to guess who's better than whom.  That's where Dr. Keener's paper comes in handy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tactics Tuesday: Power Jam Offense

I want to talk tactics for a moment.

No, wait, I want to talk plays. There is a difference between strategy, plays, and tactics.

This will be the first of a few entries analysing various popular plays in roller derby. Many people, I think, implement plays simply because they see the big leagues, be it specifically LRG or any other WFTDA side, using them. These plays work in the big leagues, so it's reckoned that they'll work at the local level as well.

Thing is, a play is like a multi-variable function in maths. It operates on a set of initial conditions or parameters, such as the skaters, conditions of the bout, and rules, and produces an output (points). One expects, for a given set of parameters, to see an output within the margin of error. Ever see a bench manager go into an absolute fit, but not at the ref? That's because the function gave an unexpectedly low return.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Nature of Rankings

I was doing some research last night, and read a number of academic papers on the ranking of sports teams where there is no balanced schedule.  (Balanced schedule meaning that each team plays each other team, like in the Premiership.)

The thing that the articles made me realize is that there is no such thing as a "perfect" ranking scheme.  What would "perfect" mean?  No upsets, maybe?  Well, there will always be upsets in sport, so that really won't work.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


So this weekend, the kind folks of Central City Rollergirls were kind enough to have me up to their bout to run stats.  What a delightful way to spend a Saturday afternoon!  If you ever get a chance, their venue is excellent--light and airy, and not too warm.

First off, Bristol took on Central City (B).  Bristol stuck to their good, old fashioned fundamental game.  Watching them play is really a lesson in archetypal derby.  They don't do fancy, they don't try to out-fox or out-wit their opponents.  They just plain out-skate, and it's elegant to watch.

One thing they did well was the "nestle crunch" block on jammers, hitting from both sides simultaneously.  Jammer's dropped to the floor, and also hit psychologically--I seriously doubt a jammer so hit won't be more timid approaching that wall a second time.

The headline bout had quite a few things worth noting.  Big Bucks, suffering from several injuries, were never able to really establish themselves on the track.  I do like their style of bench managing, though, with the flags for jammers.

However, the bench of note was Central City's.  They had one bench manager off the track, keeping the jammer up to date on Lead Jam status and when to call it.  As well, their management staff did a great job adjusting tactics and plays to suit the changing nature of the bout.  It's easy to see why they're a top 5 team.

Their pack work was elegantly designed and clearly well drilled.  Each of their blockers had slightly different roles on the track--wallers, bridgers, offensive blockers.  They didn't see the need to play a defensive-focused bout by just having solid 4-walls the entire time.  Their game was very defensively sound, and still showed variance and amazing levels of teamwork.

As well, they didn't really go for big hits, they did beautiful positional work.  They even had this drilled to the point where, as they would approach a turn, one blocker would just lightly throw the jammer off balance with minor contact.  As the turn was approaching, the jammer would be shocked to find herself in a (lucky) fan's lap!

Central City showed themselves to be the powerhouse their numbers suggest, and I can't wait until I can see them challenge LRG or LRR.  It'll be a fun one!

Roll on!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Keys to the Game post-mortem

So, before the bout, Dan asked me what my 2 keys for each team were.  Here they are, to refresh your memory:
  • England
    1. Maximise power jam utilisation
    2. Adapt to what works
  • USA
    1. Manage endurance levels
    2. Stick to fundamentals derby
Basically, the Roses were going to be outclassed in a 1-on-1 basis, so they needed to take advantage of what factors swung in their favour.

According to an article I recently read in the New Yorker, 71% of David-Goliath matchups are won by Goliath.  Of course, that's what one would expect.  After all, were the upsets too common, they wouldn't be exciting; were they impossible, sport would be no fun to watch.

However, if David employs unconventional strategies, his win percentage jumps up to over 60%.  This, and page after page of anecdotal evidence in the article, show that simply being a better team is not required to have a winning season.  Instead, a game-play designed to take that advantage away may do the trick.

In derby, that anecdotal evidence comes from the invention of those tactics and plays that are now standard.  The Philly wall, the scrum start, even the knee start were groundbreaking in their time.  Those were, at first, tricks--almost the guerilla warfare of roller derby.  Now, of course, they're standard.

My keys to the game were what an English David needs to beat an American Goliath, and what that Goliath must do to maintain the expected dominance.

Let's break 'em down point-by-point.

  1. The Roses were given 4 power jams, or 5 if you want to break the double-penalty into two separate statistical events.  I do not.  Of these, they averaged 11 points per power jam.

    However, that average is buoyed up by that final power jam, in all the others, England was only able to manage 2 scoring passes at most.  Why was this?

    Well, USA's power jam defence was stifling.  Plain and simple, they played two physical blockers, and two pack controllers to keep the England jammer going at a damn slow pace.

    What could England do?  Well, they could've used "non-traditional tactics" and broken the pack. USA were quite good at not conceding out-of-play penalties, so this would've likely worked.  However, that would've likely been "not very sporting," and not exactly in England's national character. 

    Thus, England were relegated to losing the power jam battle.

  2. Adaptation.  This one the Roses did much better in the first half.  At the beginning, England earned lead jam status only 1 time in the first 5 jams.

    Then, they switched.  What they were doing wasn't working, so they made the tiniest of adjustments.  Between jams 5 and 10, England only conceded lead jam 1 time!  Their adaptation was highly successful, and they stuck with it.

    Difficulty was, Team USA adapted very quickly themselves.  Their 2-wall was quick to escort the red-shirted jammer to either the inside or outside line, leaving most of the track open for the England wall, pushed by the US jammer, to overtake them.  Where the USA had lost control of the bout trying to control laterally, they switched to controlling vertical zones.

    Never again would England gain that upper hand.  

  3. The American skaters had skated in three bouts already that weekend, and this was their fourth.  They had cycled out only two skaters, most of them were racking up the miles on the clock.  [Fun fact: 33 laps = 1 mile]

    However, the first instance of a skater looking tired was in the second half.  V-Diva approached the pack at something quite less than her usual mad dash, and visibly took her breath before engaging the blockers.

    To her credit, there were only about 10 minutes left in the bout. She had earned her fatigue. As well, Team USA's patient jamming style lent itself to masking any other fatigue. There's no doubt the skaters were worn out and slept like rocks, but they had a style of play that lent itself to that concern over endurance.

    Thus, the US skaters showed just what athletes they are, after a full weekend of derby.

  4. Did the Americans stick to fundamentals? Did they ever!

    The scrum start is now a fundamental of derby.  The tourists executed it masterfully and didn't try to do anything fancy with diagonal knee stars or trying to force England out of position.  A few times I saw a blocker take a "bookend" position on the England line.  Before the jam started, she had shifted to a standard defence, bringing back the fundamentals.
    [Green pivot "bookending" the pink wall]

    As well, during those oh-so-important power jams, the US offence stuck with goating an English blocker.  Goating, that's right, the tactic that has otherwise given way to the conga line on the outside edge of the track, was utilised by the best skaters in the world.  Much as I'm an advocate for teams using the tactics that best suit them rather than the ones used by the biggest teams, I hope this becomes a trend.

    [Skate! Skate! Those things are on your feet for a reason! Tactics be damned, no one wanted to take up the game because they wanted to stand still on a track looking like they need a cigarette. Just because it's legal doesn't make it derby. /rant]

    So, stick to fundamentals?  Yeah, they did.  Like the deaf school's basketball team I used to watch, these girls showed the value of basic skills applied together.
So, on my totally unofficial keys, England get a ½ out of 2, and USA get a full 2.  That being said, there can be no doubt that the Roses' walls and pack skills proved their worth against an amazingly skilled team.

Now, I bet y'all expect me to discuss rankings.  Not this time!  Maybe next time...

This weekend, I hope to make it up to Central City to see the double header there.  If you're going, come say "hey" to me!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

England v USA stats

So, let's take a look at some numbers, shall we?

TeamScore LJsLJ ppj PJsPJ ppj Short PJs Stops1Pass
3England 7075.7 411.0 1714
1USA 296329.2 515.60 314

About the bout: 
USA of course outscoring England and winning the battle for Lead Jam status.  With lead jam, USA doing a little over 50% better than England.  Interesting to note here is that both teams were recording 2-pass derby with lead jam status.  The defence-offence transition was apparently a bit weak for both teams.

Both teams had a handful of power jams, but USA was better able to make use of them.  I, personally, attribute that more to the difference in the pack than that of the jammers.  The USA blockers were quite adept at getting a shoulder or a hip in the way, and then never breaking that contact.

Often the USA power jam defence was based on only one or two blockers engaging the jammer--the others simply made sure those two stayed in play.  The two who were engaging were often grabbing the far sides of each others' bodies, to make sure that wall stayed tight.  The amazing thing was that this was only done on the side opposite the jammer.  When the jammer tried to go through there, all the grabbing ceased, so that a devastating muliplayer block major was avoided!

USA able to keep England from scoring almost every time they had lead, but the Roses (it just felt right to call 'em that at the bout) able to prevent USA from scoring every lead jam.

One deciding factor was that Team USA were able to hold Team England scoreless the first 11 jams of the second half.  The lead was only 71 points coming back from the break, so that  jump provided the proverbial icing on the cake.

And the world? 
Team England showed their world-class power last night.  Canada were beaten by USA in the world cup 336-33, so the Roses out-performed the World Cup silver medallist side.  Canada recorded 9 LJs to USA's 25 in that bout, but that's within the margin of error of England's 7 LJs.

The USA showed their strength against the Scandinavians on Saturday, and defeated Finland on their home soil by a massive margin.  The tourists here did not bring their B-list skaters, they came to roll over the opposition wherever they went.

Nonetheless, little old England, that plucky little island country that has consistently punched above its weight this summer in Stratford, did so again in Newham.  The Roses taught the Americans that derby over on this side of the pond is not to be underestimated.

--[Edit: I am aware that Team GB is not equivalent to Team England.  However, English athletes were part of the team that punched above their weight in the Olympics, so I took a bit of artistic license.  I did have to take a moment in the broadcast to explain the nature of the UK as a union of countries to the US viewers.]--

Therefore, I think England should be considered the world #2 nation for roller derby.

What do you think?  Take a moment to fill out a simple poll and tell me where you think England, USA, Canada, etc. stand in the world of International Roller Derby.

Roll on Roses!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

About last night

Well, England lost to USA, as about anyone would predict.  296-70, final score.  However, in that first half England had just over ⅓ of the lead jams in the bout, and a few quality power jams.

As per my proposed ranking system, England should fall to 4th position, but I do not think that would fairly reflect last night's bout at all!  England still, in my opinion, belong in 3rd, and above Australia.  How should we adjust the ranking system?  Any ideas?

Bout scores:


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rankings as of 2-September-2012

NowPreTeamWCWLLast Bout
8-New Zealand8004-Dec-11

Finland's 6-639 loss was greater than Sweden's 29-419 loss, both to USA. Therefore, by rule 45, the teams swap places.