Friday, September 23, 2005

In Defense of the (ok, maybe somewhat mindless) Huck

In my recent travels through the blogosphere, I’ve noticed a trend to argue for possession based offenses and the threat they pose to top teams. In a sense, I definitely agree and I think you can perhaps point to Jam’s recent loss to Kaos and the Condors’ Labor Day loss to Rhino as possible examples of this. However, I think that newer players reading our blogs could be getting a bad impression of the huck. I also think we do a disservice to both our opponents and ourselves when we assume that the west coast teams are beating up on us simply because they have more Big Dumb Athletes (BDA) than we do.

When a team chooses the path of the huck they’ve chosen to be the aggressor. They’re taking it to the opponent saying, “we’re crazy and you better keep an eye on your end zone because the disc could be going there at any moment.”

It should be noted that the preachers of possession are not opposed to the huck. They have argued many times that the best pass is not necessarily the one with the least risk, but rather the pass that gives your team the highest percentage chance of scoring (I thought that might be too difficult of a calculation for most players to make - here). I think Parinella wrote that a huck with 60% completion rate is good enough in most scenarios (although I can’t seem to find it at the moment, so perhaps I’m making that up). I assume this number was based purely on “the numbers.” In other words, type .90 * .90 into your calculator and start hitting = it doesn’t take long for that number to be lower than .60. I’m arguing that the advantageous implications of the huck extend beyond the calculation of giving your team the highest percentage chance of scoring (this goal).

When a team completes a huck it has a psychological effect on the opponent. I try to make it a point to catch a huck in the first few points of the game because it really puts The Fear into a defender. No one likes to be scored on and there is something especially intimidating about getting taken to the rack. A confident defender won’t let it affect the way he plays defense, but often times a defender becomes so afraid of the deep game that he concedes the underneath. It also the case, that an incomplete huck is sometimes just as effective as opening up the underneath as a completed one. “this team is crazy – they’ll throw ANYTHING deep, I was beat on that last one, good thing the throw sucked. I’m not gonna give him a chance to beat me again.” In a sense, this is similar to Mooney’s discussion of using the 1-3-3, the defense that never works. The early no conscience huck trades short term efficiency for greater long term efficiency. In other words, this goal may be more difficult to score, but later goals will be easier to score if the opponent is afraid of the deep shot.

None of this even takes into account the “oops, we scored” factor of the huck. The fact is that terrible throws often times work out on the big away cut. The most compelling reason I’ve heard for this is Parinella’s discussion of temporal vs. spatial margins. A huck thrown at the correct moment has a huge spatial margin for error. When your BDA says, “just throw me ANYTHING in bounds,” he’s actually stumbled onto something.

Most games favor the side that is willing to be aggressive and ultimate is not really much different.


That’s about all I got on that, but here’s a digression into an alternate theory as to why the top aggressive teams may be susceptible to the possession based strategy. I actually think it’s the defensive strategy of the aggressive teams that is more vulnerable than the offensive strategy. I think you can fairly classify 6 of 8 of last year’s quarterfinalists as aggressive (no conscience hucking) teams. It’s not too surprising then that the defenses on these teams have evolved to stop the huck. The strategies that are most effective at stopping the huck (flat marking, backing downfield cutters) also happen to be particularly ineffective against a traditional dump-swing straight stack approach. If the aggressive teams do not make the necessary defensive adjustments, I think they are vulnerable to an efficient possession based team.

12 comments:

parinella said...

60% was empirically determined. When we took stats, we scored on about 50% of the possessions, and completed (or had dropped, which we counted as a completion for the thrower) about 60% of our hucks, and I had no reason to believe that the "market" was inefficient.

This also makes me think that "completed" hucks lead to scores about 5/6 of the time. Sometimes the throw is from the goal line and there is still 20 yards to go.

But if you want, you can assume that a completed huck always leads to a goal, estimate the odds of scoring from that point on the field if you don't huck, and what you have is the acceptable huck percentage. (You should also consider that hucks are turned over 70 yards away from your own end zone, making it more difficult for the other team to score. So that would tweak the break-even point. And that's before you consider the game theory, as AJ says.)

deepdiscthoughts said...

I think this post touches on some key subjects.

First, I would argue that the effectiveness of hucks is somewhat determined by the strategy of a team. If your cutters know that when they're going deep, the disc might come up whether they are covered or not, they will cut differently than if they are anticipating the disc not coming up.

Similarly, the defender is conditioned to react a certain way. If they play against possession offense in practice every week, they will be unprepared when the disc comes up on what seems like a 50/50 huck. Also, if a team is wide-open in practice, it will develop the sckills to come down with the sorts of throws that that offense engenders.

I think a good way to convey part of this is the notion of "the point of no return" on a cut. This point is the point at which the huck must be thrown. It can be thrown prior to this, but it cannot be thrown after this. A difference in notions of where this is between the defense and the offense can cause hucking opportunities.

If the thrower can huck it a half second later than the defender is expecting it (and the cutter is on the same page) the huck is a strong option to put "The Fear" into the defense.

When talking about the 8 quarters teams from last year, I would group them into the following categories:

Wide-Open: Jam, Bravo, Ring.
Adaptable: Sockeye, Furious, Condors.
Mostly Conservative: Pike, DoG.

That is, I did not see a game last year where Ring, Jam or Bravo wasn't gripping and ripping. Sockeye, Furious and Condors seemed to adapt to the other team, playing possession as necessary, but I would say that Furious was a little on the huckier side, so to speak. And DoG and Pike were usually conservative in their offenses, but I saw them both get huck-happy from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the meta-strategy of making hucks with a possibly lower scoring percentage to increase your average scoring percentage for the game:

In the early 90s, Ring's default strategy was to huck the first three points off a pull play no matter how covered the deep cutter was. Their strategy was two fold; 1) if they complete the hucks, they can keep hucking and have a quick, easy win to conserve energy, 2) it will stretch out the defense, allowing an easier short game.

They had (inappropriate?) confidence in their defense and believed that a 3-0 deficit was relatively easy to make up. Though, this was also during a time of games to 17,19,21 and elite teams averaging a greater number of turnovers/game than now.

Idris said...

I think you can perhaps point to Jam’s recent loss to Kaos... as possible examples of this.

You could also point to half of Jam drinking until 3am and having practice before the finals. [bad boy ron, bad boy].

you can't point to kaos' possesion O... cuz they ain't got one. you might point to the addition of several former condor and jam players to kaos.

I think you can perhaps point to... the Condors’ Labor Day loss to Rhino as possible examples of this.

Rhino has no possesion O.

Rhino plays Condors tougher than most... they have for the last 4-5 years.. a rhino player told me they were close .500 vs the 'dors in the last several years. For a "2nd tier" team, they have more 15-8, 15-9 wins against them than most teams in the country. The labor day loss was nothing new, some wierd match-up thing I guess. Rhino just can't seem to click vs Jam, Furious or Sockeye, losing to them basically every time. And condors can't seem to click against Rhino.

... I would group them into the following categories:

Wide-Open: Jam, Bravo, Ring.
Adaptable: Sockeye, Furious, Condors.
Mostly Conservative: Pike, DoG.

This hasty generalization does not help this or any arguement.

Edelman said...

This hasty generalization does not help this or any arguement.

Careful...don't get AJ mad or he will sky you :)

aj said...

Idris:

Obviously, I haven't seen Rhino or Kaos nearly as often as you have.
The few times I've seen them though, they were both stingy with the disc and seemed reluctant to jack it with no conscience. If that's not how they normally play -sorry, bad example.

aj

deepdiscthoughts said...

RE: Classification of the styles of play from the quarterfinalists last year.

My point was that I do not agree with the broader generalization that 6/8 of the teams were "no conscience hucking" teams. I was/am also curious which teams AJ and others felt fell into these categories. Are our perceptions of these teams similar? Are they accurate when compared to reality? Does this affect the way that we play against them, leading to success/failure or the reinforcement of that particular style of play?

The generalization itself may not be useful, but the point it represents is relevant.

luke said...

I also think we do a disservice to both our opponents and ourselves when we assume that the west coast teams are beating up on us simply because they have more Big Dumb Athletes (BDA) than we do.


i was terrified that someone would have beaten me to the punch...

AJ, no one's got more BDA's than Chain Lightning. Never Have, never will.

Go Chain Lighting (sic)
Luke Smith, 93,94,96

aj said...

I feel like I've obscured the point of this post with my poor examples. How you classify the strategies of specific teams is not really important for what I was after. Sorry about that.

Basically this is what I was interested in:

The advantageous implications of the huck extend beyond the calculation of giving your team the highest percentage chance of scoring (this goal).

Not that big or athletic but certainly dumb,

aj

parinella said...

On the other hand, defenses can go into games saying, "We don't care if you score, but we're not going to let you beat us with the huck on the first three points," opening up the short game. Or they'll deliberately play a variety of defenses, not really expecting them to work, to keep the other offense guessing.

Of course, that used to piss me off when we did that back in the day, as we might go four or five points at the start of the game without forcing a turnover, in order to "set up" the other team. I just don't think that for many of these strategies that you can gain enough back to make up for what you're giving away up front. If a decent offense only gets broken four or five times in a game, giving away even one break at the beginning is a big disadvantage.

So, I question the strategy of forcing the deep game early. I think you need to complete a deep pass or two in order to make the other team respect those cuts.

mick said...

I agree with parinella, forcing a deep game early is dangerous. You can find yourself 5 points down and against a team full of confidence cause they just completed 5 hucks.

I used to be in a team that did this. We actually played a lot of 1-3-3, and we were good at it... Against teams that weren't real happy with the huck it worked great. Sometimes it even worked well against teams that were all about the huck, mainly when they weren't feeling confident or when they were tired.

Anyway, I think the huck is under-rated. I just played a tourny here in Europe where the two best teams won their games because they had the huck working well.

Interestingly, I was talking to one of the senior players in one of these teams and they threw out something like parinella's 60% figure... Actually, they said "if they complete more than 50%" the huck works well for them.

heacox said...

Mick, Hale Brown from Atlanta used to say this same thing. And he's now in Europe. Hmmm . . .