Anyone who’s watched a broadcast of a major curling event has been confronted with shot percentages. And if you’re a nerd like me, you’ve considered better ways to measure a player’s performance. But I’m going to keep it positive here and note that I am thankful for any data that goes beyond points scored. On its own, shot data has its limits. But the thing is that box score data for most sports is not all that useful in its raw form.
Like box score data in other sports, shot data does provide us with a foundation to do some interesting things. For starters, by merely recording every shot that is played in an event we can see all the shots without having to watch every game.
For instance, without this data, I would have never known that Karrick Martin always throws in-turns. I don’t watch all of Team Bottcher’s games. And besides, the first shot of the end is often not shown.
But Karrick Martin almost always throws in-turns, at least when he has the choice. For instance, here’s what he’s thrown when he has the first shot of the end in the events for which I have data:
Event 1st shots In-turns Pct 2017 Brier 49 48 98 2017 RotR 41 41 100 2018 Brier 69 69 100 2018 Canada Cup 36 35 97 2019 Brier 61 60 98 2019 Canada Cup 32 31 97 2020 Brier 57 57 100 2021 Brier 63 63 100 2021 Worlds 68 67 100 2021 Champions Cup 21 21 100 2021 Players Champ. 22 22 100 Total 519 514 99
Martin has thrown 5 out-turns in 519 attempts on the first shot of charted events over the last four years. One of those, from the 2021 worlds is recorded on video.
The announcers were surprised by how much the shot missed (although the call was for a draw), but they should have been incredulous at seeing Martin thrown a turn that happens in fewer than one-in-100 first shots.
His other recorded out-turns were either in un-televised games, or being the first shot of the end, were not shown by the covering network (ahem, TSN), so I could not verify them.
The surprising thing to me is that most leads don’t do this. Among the 84 leads for which I have at least 100 first-shots in my database, just seven have thrown one turn at least 95% of the time. The only other North American is Connor Njegovan, lead for Jason Gunnlaugson. No woman from North America makes the list.
Why not throw your favorite turn every time? You do trade some ice-reading ability by only throwing one turn, I suppose. Martin’s shot against Italy was surely done for ice-reading purposes and in fact, the ice fooled Team Bottcher as the shot was wide by about two feet.
And if you’re getting ice-reading information, you’re probably going to do it on draws. Four of the five out-turns thrown by Martin were on draws. He’s 192 of 193 on throwing in-turns on guards. And it wouldn’t surprise me if that one was an error. For instance, Martin threw the first shot of the first end in Canada’s first game at the worlds and it was recorded as a take-out, which is obviously impossible, so we know mistakes are made.
Last week in curling: Top-ranked Bruce Mouat struggled in the inaugural Euro Super Series, taking losses to Joel Retornaz, Peter de Cruz, and in the quarterfinals to Yannick Schwaller. Team Mouat built up enough goodwill in the ratings from last season’s blistering bubble performance to maintain a hold on the top spot. This weekend, they’re scheduled to put that ranking on the line in the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard where 10 of the world’s top 20 teams are playing, including Matt Dunstone whose team is a sneaky pick to be the best team in the world by the end of the year. The event isn’t slam-level quality but it’s close.
Yannick Schwaller’s team won the Super Series, continuing the intriguing storyline regarding the battle for the right to be Switzerland’s Olympic team. Schwaller’s hot start to the season has closed the gap on Peter de Cruz in the ratings and it appears we won’t see either team in official action until they play a seven-game series for the Olympic berth in two weeks. De Cruz also played well in the Super Series, losing in the semis to Ross Whyte.
The women’s event was won by a Scottish team skipped by Rebecca Morrison. British Curling is mixing and matching players from its two best teams to figure out what to do for the Olympic Qualification Event in December. And while that will wreak havoc on the ability of my ratings’ algorithm to identify teams, I have to admit it’s probably the best approach to putting together the best team if your national organization is laser-focused on performance in a single event every four years.
Ratings talk! The ratings now automatically remove defunct teams when it sees that two members (or the three non-skips) of the team are playing with other active teams. For now, this removes South Korea’s Chang-Min Kim and Manitoba’s Reid Carruthers on the men’s side. South Korea seems to be following the path of Great Britain and consolidating players from its best teams to improve is shot at qualifying for the Olympics. (However, my ability to translate Korean should be met with heavy skepticism.)
Chang-Min Kim’s team has broken up with Kim playing third for Soo-Hyuk Kim at the South Korea nationals earlier in the summer. (Partly as a result, the Korean teams are comically underrated in my ratings. There will be a version 1.2 released soon to fix this.) Carruthers skipped for an improvised Team McEwen in the bubble last year and now that Team McEwen is back with Reid playing third, it makes sense to remove zombie Team Carruthers.
On the women’s side, the only team erased so far is Scotland’s Gina Aitken, who as mentioned above is involved in the British Curling mix-and-match approach to the Olympics. Aitken herself played with Eve Muirhead’s team in the Euro Super Series last week so her old team goes bye-bye, although it could come back depending on the mixing-and-matching in the coming weeks. Confusing? Sure! But I am ready for the coding challenges.
One team that remains is Switzerland’s Elena Stern. Stern along with teammate Lisa Gisler retired in the off-season, at least temporarily, despite the fact they were competing in world juniors as recently as 2015, and before retirement were among the world’s best teams.
Since neither will be seen on other teams, Team Stern won’t be retired from the rankings until the minimum games requirement catches up to them, which should be sometime before the first of December. As a result, I’ve made an update to the ratings list to make it obvious which teams have yet to play this season. As we progress through the next few weeks, it will be clear which teams are inactive.
And if you’ve made it this far, please enjoy this highlight from last week. (NSFW for language, violence, and mature themes.)