An Efficiency Analysis of Michigan Lacrosse

Submitted by MaizeAndBlueWahoo on March 15th, 2012 at 11:32 PM

Believe it or not, Michigan lacrosse is halfway through Season One.  Seven games in the books, seven games in front.  That makes it a good time to do math-things with the sport.

I've developed - well, developed is a strong word as it's not totally finished - I'm developing a KenPomish O-rating system for lacrosse.  It's not totally finished because it doesn't yet account for strength of opponent, but I'm working on that.  If you want a full rundown of how it works, you can click here. [/semi-shameless hit whoring]

The basic gist is that the eventual O-rating number represents a team's scoring in a 100-possession game of lacrosse, and that the D-rating is the defensive mirror image.  It's based on three efficiency stats:

-- faceoff win percentage

-- clearing percentage (how good you are at getting the ball from the defensive end to the offensive end)

-- scoring efficiency (how good you are at converting offensive possessions into goals)

Michigan's offensive efficiency numbers so far this season, and the D-I averages, are as follows:

Statistic Michigan Division I
Faceoff % 43.6% 50%
Clearing % 71.7% 82.9%
Conversion % 28.8% 32.2%
O-rating 11.46 14.48

 And the same for the defense:

Statistic Michigan Division I
Opp. Faceoff % 56.4% 50%
Opp. clearing % 74.6% 82.9%
Opp. conversion % 39.2% 32.2%
D-rating 17.62 14.48

 There are 61 D-I teams; Michigan is 52nd on offense and 53rd on defense.  They're roughly a standard deviation below average on offense and slightly more than one below (above?) average on defense.

None of this comes as much surprise.  The bright spot?  Michigan's ride.  They're allowing opponents to successfully clear the ball less than three-quarters of the the time.  The ride is ranked 4th in the country, behind only Hopkins, Denver, and Army.

The worst two stats I see: probably clearing, and defensive conversion rate.  The latter has slightly improved of late, I would say partly due to a change in net from Westerhold to Emil Weiss, and partly due to the competition (Mercer.)  Clearing remains a big problem.  Michigan simply has trouble with this.  Only Mount St. Mary's and Wagner are worse.  This is an issue regardless of opponent; Michigan only cleared 2/3 of chances against Mercer.  It's likely the most obvious manifestation of club athletes vs. D-I athletes, since clearing is lacrosse's "open-field" game.

For reference and posterity, here are the O and D ratings of the teams on Michigan's schedule.  I've bolded those numbers which are above (or below, on D) the D-I average of 14.48.

Team O-rating D-rating
Detroit 12.37 15.18
Penn State 11.66 12.91
Denver 24.51 11.69
Air Force 18.37 12.61
Jacksonville 16.27 16.01
Mercer 8.84 18.89
Loyola 17.94 11.18
Bellarmine 15.23 13.26
Mount St. Mary's 14.93 15.12
Harvard 15.34 13.07
Delaware 15.56 13.38
Ohio State 11.68 12.37
Rutgers 15.40 16.80
North Carolina 16.46 12.64

Keep in mind that since these numbers are unadjusted for strength of schedule, they're not 100% reliable as to who's actually the toughest opponent.  But they do reflect reality regarding who's played the best.

The most beatable remaining opponent?  Rutgers.  They have a similar profile to Jacksonville - slightly worse, in fact - and the Dolphins were thisclose to being Michigan's first victim this season.  Mount St. Mary's is also a possibility, and then - surprisingly - Ohio, who's been disappointing this year.  A loss to Robert Morris is the Buckeyes' low point so far.  They knocked off Denver, but have been in a major offensive slump since.  Still, it's unlikely (as we knew) that we'll end up with more than two wins.

I'll update this as the season goes on, and I expect by the end of the year I'll have figured out a decent way to adjust this for strength of schedule.  Also on the project list: finding the best exponent for a Pythagorean calculation.


L'Carpetron Do…

March 16th, 2012 at 12:30 AM ^

Excellent stuff.  The D is holding it together despite a number of challenges and disadvantages. 

 I wonder what's up with the clears.  I think the D isn't as strong as it has been in the past.  They are giving up a ton of shots so its doubtful that they are even creating many turnovers.  Seems like when they do get a save or a takeaway they can't handle the ride of Div. 1 attack and mids, probably because of  the athlete gap.  This is one huge difference from club life.  D-1 atttackmen are faster and stronger and much more aggressive on the ride than club teams.  Plus - Michigan's D-middies are probably not the swiftest dudes either.  That position probably has the toughest transition from club to varsity, considering its not a glamor position and no one recruits for it - particularly a club team. 

However, on the set clears, which are typically slow, methodical and organized, Michigan should almost always clear the ball.  Set clears should always have an  80%-90% success rate.  

They've had more than a week to rest and prepare so hopefully they can fix whats wrong and then take care of business  vs Bellarmine.  And I got a feeling they're going to beat Ohio in the Big House...just a feeling...


March 16th, 2012 at 9:07 AM ^


How much does style of play and tactics fit into your system?  I know you can't mathematically calculate for playing a slower or faster pace or a pressure defense or a 10-man ride.  I guess I'm asking if you think the way Michigan is playing is also having a major effect on the numbers.

Michigan has cleared very well in a couple of games this year.  Many D1 teams barely ride at all, so I have to imagine that's a factor.  When the opponent rides, they struggle.  When they don't, they clear it well.

Very interesting that they are 4th in the country in riding.  The competition is definitely a factor (hello Mercer), but I've seen a lot of comments that a 10-man wouldn't work at this level, and it seems to be, even using inferior athletes.  It's definitely not working like it did as a club team, when they held even the best opponents to around 50%, which is unheard of, but being in the top 5 of any positive category right now is unexpected.  The question is, have opponents broken the ride and scored easily on it very many times this year?  It's going to happen at least a handful of times, but has it happened regularly?  Having only seen the two streamed games, I don't know.


March 16th, 2012 at 9:56 AM ^

I wish I could answer your question, but I can't.  I've only seen the one streamed game, the Detroit one.  The other opportunity for a live streamed game, I was in Peru.

I do know that during the Detroit game, I didn't see the 10-man ride much, if at all.  In fact I really don't remember seeing it once.  But in looking at the numbers of the teams we've played, most of them are below-average on the clear.  Five of seven opponents are worse than the 82% average.  This could help explain why we are doing well on the ride.  The second half of the schedule is better at clearing, so we'll see if we can sustain that success. 

But are we consistently using a 10-man ride?  I have no idea.  I only know I didn't see it with my own eyes.

As for our own clear, the teams we've played mostly hover around average on the ride.  Some a little better, some a little worse.  The only conclusion I can draw from the math is that we're just bad at it.


March 16th, 2012 at 11:24 AM ^

We have used it.  Specifically it cost us a big goal against Jacksonville, but I also believe it got us a goal on a poor clear by UDM.  We did well against Mercer with it, a number of times their defenders conceded to just shooting the ball from just past midfield.  I bet we dialed it back against Denver and PSU but I didn't see those games live. 


March 16th, 2012 at 9:14 AM ^

The defense this year is pretty patchwork - even a couple of position switches. I'm guessing that the stick skills are just not quite there yet. I think also the Weiss will be an upgrade in the clearing department.

L'Carpetron Do…

March 17th, 2012 at 1:49 AM ^

Weiss' impact has been huge.  Too bad they didn't have him from the get-go.  

The D was Michigan's strength for years. I bet they wish they still had Harry Freid right about now.  He has a year of eligibility left but is using it at St. John's.  

But they'll get it together soon enough.  I think they'll finish with more than one win this season.



March 16th, 2012 at 11:10 AM ^

Great work Wahoo!  Still havn't been able to make it to a home game - gotta take my kid to Mythbusters live tomorrow afternoon. (gotta DVR Hop-Cuse as well)

Looking forward to (hopefully) 1 vs 2 next week!.


March 16th, 2012 at 12:15 PM ^

Looking forward to (hopefully) 1 vs 2 next week!

Troof.  I do a weekly lax bracketology on my blog in the spring, and while the first installment of this season won't be out til Sunday, I'm already expecting that the UVA/Hop game will be for the tourney's #1 seed.


March 18th, 2012 at 6:37 PM ^

Saw your analysis on laxpower.  Of course, NCAA lax bracketology is much more of a crap shoot than hockey or bball.  But I do think you are right.  You guys should be favored at home, but this should be a great game.  My guess is UVa plays a lot of zone against Ranagan's line, esp since we lost our zone-buster (wharton) to graduation.  The matchup of the game shouldbe Durkin on Stanwick, and of course you have the Stanwick brothers storyline as well.  I don't have a good read on this game.


March 18th, 2012 at 9:04 PM ^

My thinking is this is the toughest defensive team UVA will play all year.  Hopkins isn't any great shakes on offense according to my O-ratings (14.42 raw, 14.95 adjusted - yes I did figure out a way that I like to adjust for SOS) but they're stellar on defense (8.68 raw, 9.35 adjusted, which is second in the country behind Notre Dame.)  Nasty.

P.S. I actually think lax bracketology is pretty easy.  Not as easy as hockey where the pairwise tells you just about everything, but it's got to be easier than basketball considering the sizes of the brackets.  Not to brag, but yes to brag, my final projection last year was more accurate than Inside Lacrosse's, and if I'd switched Siena and Hartford I'd have been more accurate than LaxPower too.  So it can't be all that hard.