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Tempo Free Lacrosse: It's Actually a Thing

Huh?  Yup.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Huh? Yup. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Over there on the right? That's Dom Starsia. He's the head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers. In his career, he's won over 330 games, holds four national titles, and is in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. And, most importantly, he probably has little use for anything that follows this particular paragraph of prose.

For a few years now, I and a handful of other people have been working on applying the principles of tempo-free analytics to college lacrosse. The idea behind all of this is that tempo-included statistics provide ineffective context to performance; with tempo-free analytics, the statistics better control the white noise that is inherent in tempo-included metrics.

To illustrate this, here's a simple example that I like to use:

Let's start this thing with some hypothetical facts:

  • TEAM A yields five goals per game.
  • TEAM B scores five goals per game.

Your initial responses to each fact is likely the following:

  • "TEAM A" has a hell of a defense. A bunch of mercenaries out there, throttling folks for a bounty.
  • "TEAM B" couldn't score at nickel night.

Each might be true, each might be false. It all depends on context. Let's add to the above facts with two more:

  • TEAM A plays five defensive possessions per game.
  • TEAM B plays five offensive possessions per game.

Well, TEAM A's defense isn't so hot; they're giving up a goal every time the opponent has the bean. That's not good; in fact, it's double-plus ungood. And TEAM B's offense -- that of a seemingly bookish nerd in a sea of wanting women -- is nothing but efficient, crushing it every time an opportunity presents itself. That's the important of context. That's why tempo-free statistics need relevance.

Getting the hang of it? Good, because you're about to get hammered over the head with it.

Thanks to the hard work of some very enterprising folks, Tempo Free Lax is up an running. The idea behind it is to present relevant tempo-free analytics for Division I men's lacrosse without having to do so through wonky Microsoft Excel spreadsheets like we've been forced to do in the past. Admittedly, the site -- and the presented data -- is still a work in progress, but the foundation is there for your perusal. I hope that the site serves your needs, and if you have any suggestions as to what should be included, excluded, and otherwise presented, please let us know.

This level of analytics is gaining ground and I'm proud of all the work that people have been doing to try and push it forward. What started with me just messing around with Excel has turned into Quint Kessenich talking about possession rate on television. That's nuts and it's also exciting that how we think about lacrosse is growing at a similar rate to the actual growth of the game itself.

After the jump, I thank people like a goon.

First, I want to thank Tim Sullivan (who writes the terrific Great Lax State) and his buddy Paul Nelson for handling all the heavy lifting on making Tempo Free Lax work. Their contributions over the summer, fall, and winter have been invaluable.

Next, I want to thank Mike Rogers for his contributions on the metrics end. We all stand on the work of others, each block as important as the last.

Finally, for Justin and Sean: Thanks for allowing a platform for the tempo-free discussion.

As always, if anyone has any questions on this stuff, please reach out to us for answers.