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New College Lacrosse Rules: Impact on Statisticians

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If you're going to be putting in a shot clock and change the function of the game, the box score better reflect that.

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You probably haven't read the official NCAA lacrosse statistician's manual. Don't feel bad about that or anything; it's actually pretty normal to not read it. Generally, most people don't read statistician manuals for fun, unless, of course, you're a sociopath that has nothing left to read in the prison library and you believe that if you cross out all the words that have an "a" in them you'll receive a special code that will unlock the secrets of the universe (or, at a minimum, make a peanut butter sandwich magically appear). Regardless, though, you probably need to know this: An official statistician manual exists, and it's probably going to need some updates going into the 2013 season.

The foundational principle of a statistician's manual is pretty straightforward: Catalogue the components of a game, accurately reflecting what occurred during a game. For the most part, the NCAA's statistician's manual does a decent job of that: You can look at a box score of a game that you didn't see and have a pretty good idea of what happened, what the bigger issues where, and which players did what things. That's cool, babycakes, but there's just one problem -- the shot clock has the potential to drastically change how games are played and the current statistician's manual does nothing to address that.

Let's use a ridiculously simple example: A team shoots 30 percent on the day (30-100).

What can we imply from this? Well, probably a lot of things:

  • The team shot very well on the day in terms of percentage.
  • Looking at the man-up conversion rate contained the box score, we can make some assumptions about the impact of playing in the personnel imbalance impacted the team's ability to can the bean.
  • Looking at the individual statistics, we can see which players drove that shooting percentage and whether there was a hub of the activity.

So on and so forth. You get the idea. And you probably also see, now, the gap: There's no way, under the current system, to see how shot clock situations impacted shooting. None. A stall that leads to a shot clock in no way shows up in the box score, either as a penalty or other infraction. There's no notation for the posture; it exists in a very tangible way and has wide-reaching impact on how the game is played, yet it is not (yet) in the manual as a component part of the game that is to be charted. Man-up and man-down situations are catalogued, presumably because these are special situations that require a highlight due to their unique nature and impact on the game; stall-shot clock situations require the same treatment given the impact on the pace of play.

I can feel, already, that these situations will be likely lumped into "turnovers" or "caused turnovers" (much like delineated crease violations). That's six different kinds of dumb. A stall-shot clock situation (whether it ends up in a violation posture or otherwise) is markedly different from a common violation. It needs separate accounting. The evaluation of the strength of the rule depends on the analytical value ascribed to it; that cannot occur unless these situations are separately tracked by a statistician.

Plus, you know, it'd help me out a lot with writing words about possessions and stuff, and that's really the most important thing in the history of history.