With the recent announcement, the Tewaaraton watch list for the men’s side of D1 has swelled to 66 names. Most are offensive players (47 of 66 are midfielders, FOGO, or attack). 5 goalies made the list, as well as 14 players listed as LSM or defense. It’s a solid group, and certainly encompasses most of the top players in D1.
But as is our wont, I thought it would be interesting to look at the lists from the perspective of “expected goals added”, our metric that attempts to capture all the contributions a player makes. This is not necessarily a critique of the Tewaaraton lists (although Kenny Massa may want to use it as such), just a way to add some context to the lists.
I’ve split out player population two ways. First, is the top players by total expected goals added (EGA). Basically, I summed each player’s game scores to get a cumulative season-to-date number.
The second grouping is similar, but with a tweak. Instead of summing total game scores, I summed just the contributions made on the defensive end (i.e. turnovers forced, GBs, penalties). This should give us a list of the players who have made the largest contributions on the defensive end (and hopefully it should capture the 19 players who aren’t considered “offensive”).
Offensive, in the nicest way
The table here shows the top 50 players, by total EGA. Since 44 offensive personnel were chosen for the watch-list, it stands to reason that you’d expect them to come from this list.
|Gerard Arceri||Penn State||61.43||Yes|
|Asher Nolting||High Point||53.69||Yes|
|Chris Gray||Boston U||53.65||Yes|
|Max Tuttle||Sacred Heart||53.61||Yes|
|Sam Stephan||Mount St Marys||52.17||No|
|Joe Saggese||Sacred Heart||50.02||No|
|Brenden Mccarthy||Mount St Marys||44.38||No|
Of our top 50, 23 were on the watch list. The biggest “snubs” mostly consisted of FOGOs: Bryant’s Kenny Massa at #3, Jacksonville’s Hunter Forbes at #6 and Yale’s Conor Mackie at #12. I get that FOGO is sort of a weird position. They have a huge impact on every game, but the watch list is meant to be a broader survey of the league’s players and not a purely “value”-driven exercise.
Regardless, if I’m Kenny Massa, I might be a bit miffed that Gerard Arceri of Penn State made the list, but I didn’t. Just saying. Big conference elitism?
There are probably some other bones I could pick with the selections. I was surprised that Sean O’Brien was left off despite having a stronger profile than some other more marquee names. Bucknell has gotten their fair share of limelight this year, and you would think that the profile + the extra attention would be sufficient. Maybe voters just chalked it up to the benefits of playing alongside Will Sands.
But at the end of the day, I haven’t watched enough of these players to really have much standing to opine. I’ll just share the data and let you all have the debate.
Don’t get me wrong
I am in no way suggesting that the watch list should match this list. For one thing, it doesn’t take into account injuries; Grant Ament probably belongs on the watch list even though he ranks 1986th in EGA.
For another thing, there are contributions that EGA can’t pick up because they don’t show up in the stat sheet. Lastly, these totals are not reflective of pacing; a player on a team with more possessions is, all things equal, going to have higher numbers.
Shining a light on the “other” end of the field
I actually think that this sort of approach is more suited to looking at the defensive side of the ball because we generally have even less quantifiable information on these guys. Forced turnovers just aren’t as commonly cited as points are on the offensive side of the ball. And in fact, when we look at the players selected and how they compare to the defensive EGA numbers, something seems off.
|Player||Team||Total Defensive EGA||WatchList?|
|Zachary Bryant||Robert Morris||2.40||No|
|John Sexton||Notre Dame||2.26||Yes|
|Jack Mangan||Mount St Marys||2.06||No|
Of the top 20 players by defensive-only EGA, only 4 appear on the Tewaaraton list: Loyola’s Foster Huggins (#1), Notre Dame’s John Sexton, UMass’s Isaac Paparo, and Yale’s Chris Keating. Numbers 2 through 8 on our list didn’t get a call from the committee.
One potential reason for this is that the table above shows the defensive-only EGA contributions. In other words, it doesn’t include the contributions from goals, assists, shots, etc. It only captures the value added on the defensive end. That said, I think is actually the most reasonable way to highlight the top “defensive” players in the country.
But I could see the other side of the argument: a defensive player who is solid on the defensive end, but has enough offensive skill to make an impact on that end as well; perhaps they do belong on this list. Taking that approach makes this very much an offense-only watch list though, which I don’t think is the intent.
(Sure, an offensive player is going to win the thing, but at this point, the watch list is, to me, more about highlighting the best players at each position, not identifying the 66 players most likely to win the award.)
As always, with the little guy in mind
One of the benefits that I see in doing stats for lacrosse in a comprehensive way is that you are able to highlight players and performances that would otherwise fly under the radar. I understand why someone like Kenny Massa isn’t getting a lot of Tewaaraton love this year. But that doesn’t mean that what he’s done for the Bulldogs is any less impressive than the FOGOs that fall below him on our EGA rankings.
That’s not to disparage the big conference guys in any way, but they get enough attention. Hopefully this post will help throw some accolades to the players toiling away just as hard, but in relative obscurity.