Wednesday, May 18, 2005

RTotD – Ultimate and the Red Queen

There’s a fun theory in evolutionary biology known as the Red Queen Principle. Basically, it states that an evolutionary system must continually change in order to maintain fitness relative to the systems that are evolving along with it. In other words, continual adaptation is necessary just to maintain the status quo.

I think I can already hear Noah whining about how ridiculous this post it, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to view offense and defense in ultimate as two co-evolving evolutionary systems. Both must constantly change just to maintain the status quo. From this perspective, it seems like a mistake to utilize the same offensive and defensive strategies every season. It also makes sense to reexamine previously discarded strategies as they may be more viable in the current environment than they were in previous ones.

Anyway, a little off the wall, but kind of fun.


Noah said...

I think that's actually a pretty interesting concept, not only from a season-by-season perspective but also within games.

If one team sets the tone of the game with a few deep bombs, the other will respond. Thus, although effective in the early game, it then becomes necessary for that team to adjust it's strategy as the other team responds.

Even on the micro level, within a point of zone it is sometimes evident that the defensive team sometimes becomes more aggresive (or perhaps impatient).

Also, as teams run the same strategy year after year, other teams figure out those systems and become better prepared to defeat them. Same with individual players, perhaps...

[insert obligatory whining here]


parinella said...

Sure, there are several good examples. It seems that generally the defense changes first and the offense adapts.

There was no such thing as a stack or a force according to the first Fundamentals of Ultimate. Then came the force middle, and offenses stacked up to free up space.

The junk defenses relied on the stack, and probably contributed to the spread offenses. However, the German offense was invented without any defensive forcing by a German team that didn't have athletic cutters.

And the straight-up mark made a comeback after 20 years in exile, as a way to prevent the huck.

I expect that we'll see more and better defensive plans come about to foil the spread offense, and as a result the spread offense will have to get better to survive.

aj said...

On a somewhat related note, it’s fun to think about a stasis point that puts pressure on the offenses and defensives to evolve. For instance, I would guess that in the Club Men’s game the stasis point is somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-3.5 breaks a game. If your offense is getting broken 4-5 times a game it’s time to look to make a change. If your defense is consistently only getting 2 breaks a game it’s probably time to start thinking about incorporating some new defensive strategies. Compare that to the mid-level college women’s team I coach where breaks are effectively meaningless – you’re just marginally more likely to score on O or D. Any thoughts on what the stasis points for the various levels are? Am I off when I guess 3-3.5 breaks a game in open? Thoughts on women’s club? mixed? college?

Keith said...

I'm no expert, but I think it'd be difficult to put a number on men's college, purely because of the amount of teams there are. When my team played a fairly low level team, breaks become fairly common. However, when we went up against Regionally competitive teams, 2 to 3 breaks could win you a game.

Wouldn't the whole platooning thing come into play here? A specified D team scoring would mean more or less than a standard 2-way subbing system? I just say this because, running 2-way offense, a lot of times your best offensive guys were right there to turn around and score.

Tarr said...

Some semi-solid numbers from college regionals. This is for the men, who were attemptiong an O/D split (our second tournament doing so). There were plenty of people playing points both ways, but people knew they were generally going to play mostly one way.

Game 1 (15-10): 10/12 on O, 5/13 on D.
Game 2 (9-15): 8/14 on O, 1/10 on D.
Game 3 (15-8): 6/9 on O, 9/14 on D.
Game 4 (11-13): 7/13 on O, 4/11 on D.

And while I'm not going to do any standard deviations for you, I can say looking at the subs that the O/D split was much more stringently followed in the first two games. So it's not surprising the split is bigger there.

The last game was a turnover-fest, at least the part I saw. There was a little upwind/downwind, which will make O look a little better.

I think a lot of the benefits of an O/D split are side things - it helps you call people out and into the game, it gets people used to playing with certain other people even if you run a deep rotation, and it lets each side of the disc focus on certain stuff (maybe the O team focusses more on spread, and the D team focusses more on clam).

For comparison, the women, who had virtually no O/D split:

Game 1 (11-6): 7/7 on O, 4/10 on D
Game 2 (10-9): 6/9 on O, 4/10 on D
Game 3 (11-2): 3/3 on O, 8/10 on D
Game 4 (11-7): 4/8 on O, 7/10 on D
Game 5 (11-1): 2/2 on O, 9/10 on D
Game 6 (11-4): 4/5 on O, 7/10 on D
Game 7 (14-7): 6/8 on O, 8/13 on D

I'm surprised by how dramatic the split is. With the exception of the Notre Dame game (what the heck happened there? 50% on O vs 70% on D?) there was at least a 10% boost on D, usually more.

Tarr said...

That's 10% on O, of course.

Why am I back here again? I have no idea.