Friday, November 30, 2012

December 1&2 Bout Guide

Going to derby this weekend?  Here's what to look for amongst travel team bouts:

1 December:  #35 Central City [B] v #27 Newcastle
     Both teams are looking for a year-ending win here in Birmingham.  Newcastle, the favourite for the bout, have a winning season already, but have been slowly sliding down the rankings table.  Central City [B], almost the same story, but with a 2-4 record over the past 12 months and unable to salvage a draw for the year.  However, a win would be worth much more to their ranking than to NRG's, as it would be a reasonable upset.

     Either team could put a nice uptick on their ranking to finish off the year here, so it should be a good bout to watch.  Also, look for Central City to put to use some of the lessons learned at the Track Queens tournament to work.  I know their B team was watching all those bouts, and they usually share bench staff between A and B teams, so expect some tactical work learned/perfected on the continent.

2 December:   #25 Bristol Roller Derby v #50 Rainy City Roller Girls [B]
     Change of fortune bout for both teams here!  Bristol have been climbing the chart faster than an Adele album.  Ranked #45 at the beginning of September, they've climbed 20 spaces already.  Exact opposite story for RCRG [B], who peaked at #21 back in June.

     My first question is when the bout was scheduled?  Bristol lately have been booking teams ranked higher than them and winning.  Thus, the meteoric rise.  It's a smart strategy by Bristol: train hard, beat the best, be the best.  Could this have been booked as another bout to help them improve their standing?  Perhaps.  It would be the most sensible explanation.

     Unfortunately for Bristol, this bout could become a stumbling block now.  They will need a decisive victory to avoid losing ranking points here, and Rainy City [B] with almost nowt to lose rank-wise will undoubtedly play clever and hard.

2 December:  Unranked Bristol Roller Derby [B] v #53 Wolverhampton Honour Rollers
     Unfortunately, little is known (statistically) about these two teams.  I've personally seen BRD[B] skate, and they play the same fundamentals-based game of their more experienced sisters.  They defeated Wilts fairly systematically, so look to see more clever pack work and well controlled, simple-yet-effective tactical play on the track.  This will be their 2nd bout, thus they'll debut on the table Monday.

     The Honour Rollers (love that name!) have played two already.  Beat Hulls' Angels and lost to Seaside Sirens, two teams who are not at all cellar-dwellers on the table.  Smart move by them to go ahead and take a challenge for your first two bouts.  (They may have played closed bouts before, but those would have been closed, and thus officially do not exist.)

     Good luck to two newer teams there at Filton!

2 December:  #86 Evolution Roller Girls v #83 Manchester Roller Derby [B]
     Two teams with a chance to move out of the 80s.  MRD[B] are 1-2 over the 7 months that they've been bouting, all against regional opponents, look to even their record out against Shrewsbury's own Evolution.  ERG have about the same history, 1-2 record, about 6 months of bouting history, and all against regional opponents.

     This bout is about who gets to climb into the 70s, and who gets to finish 2012 with an even record.  Both teams are evenly matched, so it should be an exciting bout, even with the combined bouting experience being just over 1 year.

2 December:  #46 Crash Test Brummies v #37 Manchester Roller Derby [Men]
     This one should be fun.  A replay of a MERDC bout that ended in a 100-40 rout of the Brummies, who were still unwon.  However, that sitation has changed.  CTB recorded their first win over the Jakey Bites recently with a dominant scoreline, and thus come into this bout with some momentum.  They're only in their first year, but definitely on the hunt for a 2nd 'W' in the record books.

     The New Wheeled Order, as MRD's men's team are known, proved themselves at the tournament, finishing 4th.  However, since the tournament they've struggled, losing 3 straight bouts.  Still considered the favourite this weekend, they'll look to finish the year with a win, and keep up the position they earned in Birmingham.  It will be fun to see if their style of play has changed since they took on the New York Shock Exchange a few weeks ago; that experience will undoubtedly help them against the much newer Brummies.

Whatever bout you go to this weekend, enjoy!  Roll Britannia!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What does "closed" mean to you?

Freddie from Rollin' News wrote about this one a while back in a magazine, and did a great job covering it.

Basically, the issue is that the word "closed" means different things to different people.  Some meanings have to do with scores, others with audience, and a few with both.

Quoth Freddie:

"I propose the following terms and definitions:
  • Open bout, a bout between two leagues where there is an audience and the score is published;
  • Private bout, a bout between two leagues where there is no audience and the score is published;
  • Closed [door] bout, a bout between two leagues where there is no audience and the score is not published;"

Nomenclature system sorted.  I like this one, but any system needs people to adhere to it.

The issue to me is not what these bouts are called, but how they factor into a stats/ranking system.

Put simply, either scores are public or they aren't.  I cannot, in good conscience, rank a team based on a bout with non-public scores.  As far as the derby public is concerned, that bout did not exist.  That's the main reason some teams have these bouts.  No competitive sport can have rankings change based on closed-door, secret events, and thus these are excluded.

(Side note, can you imagine if MI6 had a football team?  "We may or may not have played a match this weekend.  Any scores, which may or may not exist, are protected under the official secrets act.  However, we are now top of the table.  Trust us.)

Sometimes, it seems that teams are not exactly clear with each other on the public status of scores.  One team is convinced that the bout was closed, whilst the other one puts the scores on their own website, facebook page, or even EuroDerby.

Therefore, I recommend to include a clause in the bout contract for ANY bout concerning publicity of scores.  Save yourselves the 'fun' of being surprised by 25 facebook comments on the score you thought was secret.  Go ahead and hash out publicity ahead of time.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Greater UK Derby Chart, 26-November

Right, so we're in the countdown to my Christmas Awards, but I won't be publicly listing the rankings for those until I make the award.  However, here's the standard table.  Note the importance of bouts expiring, not just on bouts occurring.

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.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Stat Man's Christmas Awards

We're coming to the end of 2012.  As Derby has no official off season (something I'd like to see WFTDA, UKRDA, or someone like that correct) it seems to me that the Christmas holidays are the right time to stop skating for a moment and reflect on the derby that's taken place over the past year.  And what a year for derby it's been!

Sur5val, MERDC, and Track Queens provided great tournaments to watch, whilst England-USA became perhaps the most sought-after ticket in the sport.  LRG went to the States and won in the first round of the playoffs, and Helsinki brought the pain to Berlin.

I was lucky enough to see many leagues from all over the UK skate, as well as going as far as Malmö to see a rare triple-header.  Considering a derby trip?  Go see Crime City, no doubt.  Great hosts and great derby, what more you you ask for?

Besides just reflecting on how the year went, this Christmas holiday I want to take the time to honour a set of four leagues for their teams' performance over the year 2012.  Awards like this are not common in derby, but to me that seems silly.  After all, rankings are usually used to know who's better than whom.  Why not honour those best at it?

Thus, I am announcing the creation of Stat Man's Christmas Awards.  There are separate awards for Men's and Women's UK & Ireland teams in the following two categories:

--Freshman Leauge: The highest ranked A team who did not play a public, travel team bout in 2011.

--Most Improved: The team who's ranking most improved between Jan 1 2012 and now.

Both of these will be selected purely quantitatively, nowt but maths being used for the choices.  They will be announced on this blog the evening of Monday, 17th December, so that teams will know well enough before Christmas.

I've got the calculation already set up to run, good luck to everyone!  I can't wait to recognise four leagues on providing the mathematically best derby of 2012!  After all, it's why I'm called Stat Man.  Roll on!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Track Queens

What a great weekend for European derby.  So many teams showed the competence of derby on the other side of the pond.  Although it will be a few years before we see another Euro team in the WFTDA playoffs, this tournament showed that time to be drawing closer bit by bit.

How they did

Well, there's final standings, then there's how they really did.  Let's look first at a chart with final standings and initial seedings:
Seed Finish Team
1 1 London
2 2 Berlin
3 3 Stockholm
5 4 Auld Reekie
9 5 Helsinki
10 6 Gent
7 7 Leeds
8 8 Crime city
6 9 Glasgow
4 10 Central City

Helsinki and Gent really outperformed their expectations, with Glasgow and Central City making way for their ascendency.  All in all, not as good a day for UK derby as one may have hoped.

I was asked, though, to re-rank the teams according to my usual calculus.  A regular reader suggested that, although a knockout tournament is very good at selecting the best, it may not be so good at ranking the rest.  Thus, I plugged the scores from the tournament alone into my formula and arrived at the following:
Finish Calc Team Rank Pts
1 1 London 126.1
5 2 Helsinki 99.7
6 3 Gent 96.4
2 4 Berlin 77.8
7 5 Leeds 68.8
8 6 Crime city 64.5
3 7 Stockholm 48.9
9 8 Glasgow 43.5
4 9 Auld Reekie 32.2
10 10 Central City 29.0

Not only did Gent and Helsinki out-perform expectations, they out-performed most of the field!

Take Helsinki, for example.  They lost 1 but won 3.  Only 2 teams held opponents to double-figures scores: Helsinki and London.  That's great company to keep!

This is the problem with using a knockout tournament like this to rank teams.  The team that won definitely is the best; however, the maximum rank for a 1-loss team is determined by when they lose, not actually who they lose to.  A team losing on the 1st day can get, at best, 5th place.  Losing on the 2nd day means you can get, at worst, 4th.  

Two 1-loss teams can have lost to the same team and yet be sorted based on timing, which boils down to seeding.  Consider Helsinki, for example.  Both Helsinki and Berlin lost to only London.  However, Helsinki outscored non-LRG opponents by almost 53 points per bout, whereas Berlin only outscored their opponents by 16 points per bout.

I, as well as my reader, had the feeling that a knockout tournament wasn't the best way of ranking all 10 teams in the field.  This really shows that Helsinki deserve to be considered in the top 3, and Gent have a claim as well.  Well done, you two!

"Running Up the Score"

I know my attitude about a blow-out bout is not commonly supported by skaters.  Skaters want to play against the best their opponent has to offer, and many are concerned that a winning opponent may "take pity" on them.  Ballistic Whistle himself said that he "would never want any team Brawling plays against to go easy on us at all, regardless of what level" and thus would expect his team to do the same against whomever they're playing.

Let me go on record saying I never advocate taking pity on an opponent in competition.  Ever.

I do feel, however, that a blow out bout in which the winning team does nothing different is a missed opportunity.  Trying new skaters, new tactics, new plays in training is only so good.  Try as you might, your own team can't quite be jedi-mind-tricked into not knowing what's coming and reacting naturally.

However, the other team already is.  Even if they've scouted your previous bouts, they don't know what you've got to try out.  Thus, once the game's already in the bag, it's the perfect time to experiment.

This LRG did.  Against Auld Reekie, they gave the star to more than a few skaters I've never seen jam for them before.  This is a huge show of sportsmanship toward your own skaters.  Giving them time to jam on the tournament track in the uniform of the best team in Europe is a massive vote of confidence in them, and shows that London Brawling are more than their top skaters.

As much as I dislike a blow-out bout, I think LRG actually deserve a round of applause for the way they conducted themselves in a tournament that they knew they were going to win by a very large margin.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The New Rules

If you haven't read 'em...

Let's do the bad news first:  No improvement to the pack definition.  That's right, the sausage play, the standstill, all of that is still 100% legal.  As WFTDA rules are voted on, that means that the sort of derby that elicits booing from skaters and fans alike at major tournaments is totally condoned.  Unfortunate.

Also, WFTDA have made the usual unit of derby "10 feet (3m)"  Please somebody tell them those are not the same distance!  Ok, I'll admit, the difference is three inches.  Just annoys a numbers guy.

Good News

Much more of this.  First off, let's take a look at the pre-jam positioning rules. and are some of the more awkwardly written rules in the book, yet are some of the wisest at the same time.  As I read them, I picture a 30's gangster in his hat with his cigar saying "No funny business, say..."

That's what these two do.  They already outlaw pulling tricks to extend a no-pack start.  I had not even thought of having blockers start laid out on the track to delay the time until they're upright.  Now, that's already banned.  Great move, WFTDA!

Oh, and guess what?  Single whistle starts!  So, why even start in a no-pack anyhow?  The scrum became so standard that WFTDA have decided to release the jammers immediately.  When 90% of the game was single whistle starts, why the hell not?  So, a team wanting a scrum can crowd the jammer line, and a team not wanting one can start up the front.  Well done!


Seems when considering roller derby rules, skaters and refs alike naturally reach for the penalty section first.  When they heard that minors were to be excised, many were concerned that this would undermine the idea of safety.

Safety is protected in rule 6.3.9, for example, baring "habitual contact" that would constitute a no-impact-no-penalty low block.  Thus, that skater who would rack up minors from poor skating form still gets trips to the bin.  But now less paperwork needs to be done to send her there.

As well as protecting safety, they also explicitly enhance fairness to the individual skater.  Rule 6.3.2 states that a skater who "falls small" CANNOT be given a low block penalty for having been blocked to the floor.  She is protected by rule if she does her due diligence in tucking herself in.  This is one that I know a good number of skaters will be glad are cleared up.

Track Cut

No Minors?  Where will the minor track cut go?

Simple!  Cut one opponent?  Box.  Cut two teammates?  Box.

Re-enter the track from the penalty box in front of one in-play skater?  Box.

False start?  Box.

Keeps it easy on refs, skaters, fans, NSOs, announcers.  Hell, even the DJ can keep up with everything that's going on now!

Taking Effect

When do they take effect?  Well, if your league is WFTDA, then the next tournament will be done under these rules and all sanctioned bouts from 1 January.  If you're league isn't, then it's up to you and the leagues you're playing.  When bout contracts are negotiated, one clause covers the set of rules to be used.  Thus, it's up to your bouts organisation committee to decide when they take effect.

I would recommend practising with them right away.  Why not scrimmage in training tonight or tomorrow?  Give them a go, and start putting them into your contracts.  Won't it be nice to be able to reduce the number of NSOs?


WFTDA did well.  These were worth the wait, agonising as it was.  Are they perfect?  No, but they couldn't be.  Somebody would be unhappy about something in them, no matter what was done.  I would score WFTDA an 8/10 on this one.

Bloody good job!  Enjoy the rules!  Roll on!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Greater UK Derby Chart, 19-Nov

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.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A US Scrimmage (or two)

The other day, I NSO'd for two scrimmages here stateside.  One in a nice little practice venue, the other in the bouting venue with a floor big enough to fit 6 tracks with OPR lanes, when the seats were retracted.  Three key things were ran differently to what I've seen in the UK.

  1. Player Rotation

    Basically, the skaters formed a queue where the 'bench' would be. The front 5 decided amongst themselves who would be jammer and who would be pivot. Should penalties dictate that fewer than 5 would skate, those further back in the queue would step out, regardless of skating skill.

    This was amazing! All skaters, regardless of how "good" or not they were got a roughly equal amount of time on the track. As well, those still working on their skills got paired up with (and against) much more talented skaters. What a learning opportunity! Sure it occasionally led to lop-sided jams, but anyone concerned about the score in a scrimmage has his/her priorities seriously, seriously wrong.

  2. Static Recycling

    Recycling the jammer has been explained to death. Everyone knows it, everyone does it. Thing is, these girls did it differently. Basically, when the jammer was hit out, one skater would jet back about 20' to recycle her. The others would immediately form a wall at the back of the pack ready to catch the jammer once she'd come in. No one went back to help the recycler, she sort of expected that the jammer would beat her one-on-one. She'd try, of course, but she'd expect to join the wall as soon as the jammer came back in.

    This meant that the pack was roughly stationary on the track, as the one teams movements were backward when the jammer was out, and only slightly forward when the jammer was in. The team defending the actively scoring jammer was thus limited to a short engagement zone and forced to sacrifice blockers to bridging. It wasn't at all the boring stand-still derby, it was exciting. Loads of contact, skaters jostling for position, and key walling skills. It just didn't orbit the centre.
  3. Jamming on the Margin

    There was one jammer who had this down to a T. She was fast as hell, could juke and jump like a champ. So, needless to say, her first pass was often less than 10 seconds between the double whistle releasing her and lead jam status. Her opposing jammer would usually exit the pack about 40'-50' behind her. Now, conventional logic says to call off the jam just before the non-lead jammer arrives at the pack. Save points, right? I'm a fan of it, and I know others who value saving points almost above all else.

    However, this girl had done her maths. If she gained a 50' advantage on the first pass, she should be able to trust her pack to hold the opposing jammer for just as long on the second. Thus, when she's on her second pass, she should have about 100' of advantage. If she does well to not get held up, and her pack works brilliantly, she may even be able to get a grand slam in on the second or third pass.

    It's a risky play. If she gets held up on her second pass, then she may concede as many points as she scores. But if she goes flying through the pack before her opponent even engages, then she has the time to go around and increase her marginal lead. It was beautiful to watch.
All in all, the quality of derby was comparable to what I've seen in the UK.  There were just these few key things to make it a bit more interesting to watch.  As well, there were no bench staff anywhere to be seen.  I don't know when they practice with their skaters, but it wasn't at these scrimmages.

That's my first report from the States.  Roll on!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Greater UK Derby Chart, 11-November

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.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

UK & Ireland Derby Chart, 7 November

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.