Monday, April 05, 2010

Curling Shot Percentages

If you watched curling during the Olympics, then you know that every now and then, the broadcast would flash a percentage on the screen for each player. For example, "John Shuster is curling at 80% in today's game, 73% for the Olympic tournament." I've always wondered...what if they kept those stats during a Triangle Curling Club match? What would our shot percentages be like? They certainly wouldn't be as high as they are in the Olympics, but are we talking 50%? 30%? Lower? During league play last Friday (which I was not participating in), I decided to find out.

First thing's first: how do you tabulate the shot percentages? As was described during the Olympic telecasts, each shot is scored on a scale of a 0 (completely useless shot) to a 4 (a perfectly executed shot). But what kind of shot is deserving of a 4, 3, 2, 1, or 0, exactly? Fortunately, I was able to find a fairly detailed manual that broke it down in detail. For example, here's how take-outs are scored:
- If the opponent rock is removed from play and the shooter stays in play, it's a 4-point shot.
- If the opponent rock is removed from play but the shooter also leaves play, it's a 2-point shot.
- If the opponent rock is not removed from play, it's a 0-point shot.

I took an abbreviated version of the manual with me to the curling rink last Friday night and scored the "Sheet 1" match (so chosen because it's closest to the viewing area) between Team Witcraft and Team Zwiefel.

The manual makes the scoring seem simple and straightforward, but when you start trying to score a game the way it's supposed to be scored, it gets complicated. One of the most important aspects of shot percentage scoring is that you are only scoring the shot as it is called. If the shooter gets a fortunate, unintended bounce, that doesn't count towards the shot percentage. Technically, you're only supposed to score the shot as it's called. If the shot is not executed as it's called, then it's a 0, even if the shot helps your team. I started out scoring the match as strictly as I was supposed to, but I soon realized that this was going to result in some very low shot percentages. As in, less than 10% for almost everyone. Our ice - especially the sheets closer to the walls - does not allow for very precise shot-making, and we're not exactly Olympians, either. Very few shots, if any, happen as they are intended, but that doesn't make them bad shots. For example, if the call is "draw into the house", but you leave it just a little bit short of the house, that's still a good shot - it gives you something you can raise in later. However, according to the scoring system regulations, if the call is "in the house" and the result is "not in the house", it's a 0-point shot. No exceptions. Same goes for guards: if the call is "guard" and the result is "in the house", it's a 0-point shot. Or, if the call is "draw around our guard" but the result is "bumped our guard into the house", that too is a 0-point shot. The shot percentage rules do not account for a "Plan B", even though "Plan B" is a very important part of our curling strategy.

With this in mind, I soon decided that the scoring system as-is was not really applicable to our games. I needed to modify the scoring system so it would be more appropriate to our skill levels and ice conditions, and that basically meant scoring "Plan B" shots - shots that weren't specifically called, but still benefit the team - as if that was the call all along. This helped a lot, especially for Leads and Seconds, where "in the house" or "just in front of the house" are both acceptable outcomes. Basically, my criteria for scoring was this: Did that last shot help your team? If so, it deserves at least one point, even if it was a bit lucky. Only when the shot was of no benefit to the team whatsoever did I call it a 0-pointer.

So...with that, I present to you, the first ever (to my knowledge) Triangle Curling Club shot percentages! Well, sort of. I'll start with the box score of the match...

End.......... 1234567 |TTL
--------------------------
Zwiefel...... 0110000 | 02
Witcraft..... 1001231 | 08

...and then give you the shot percentages for the two skips:

Nick Witcraft: 39% (50% on 11 draws, 0% on 3 take-outs)
Howie Zwiefel: 21% (23% on 13 draws, 0% on 1 take-out)

As for everyone else, for the sake of the players involved (some of whom had never played in a full game before), I'm just going to say that the shot percentages for the remaining six players were between 11% and 18%, and leave it at that. Curling is a team game, not an individual game, after all.

Some thoughts? First off, I think it's interesting that the two skips had the highest percentages. That's why they're playing skip, right? I also like how the skips' percentages correlated pretty well with the score of the match. On the other hand...perhaps I should have tried scoring one of the games on the middle sheets, where the shotmaking was probably a little more precise. "Sheet 1" is notorious for having a huge fall towards the center of the rink, which makes it very difficult to line up take-outs, for example. (The game-wide shot percentage for take-outs was 6%. See why I don't call many take-outs?) Next time I attempt this - whenever that is - I'll try "Sheet 2" or "Sheet 3". All things considered, 39% is actually pretty good. Going in, I wasn't expecting anyone to break 30%.

What about me? What would my shot percentage be in a typical club league game? Well, until someone else in the club takes up this hobby, we'll never know...

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