Who’s the tick GOAT?


There hasn’t been a lot of written content here, recently. That’s partly because the curling season is falling apart again. The Canadian Mixed Doubles Olympic Trials have been cancelled and USA Curling cancelled nationals. The BC Championships were reportedly cancelled but now it seems like they might be back on. But it looks likely a few provincial championships will get cancelled in the coming weeks. And I’d take even money on at least one team at the Olympics having to give it a go with three players at some point.

The other reason I haven’t posted much is that I’ve been working on organizing my collection of shot data. I now have the games linked to the appropriate games on the player pages. Here’s Team Gunnlaugson, who’s been in a couple dozen charted games this season alone. You can step through ends by using the arrow keys, typing the number on your keyboard, or clicking the end on the linescore. This isn’t super-useful as is, but it’s progress towards a box score-like page that can give you a recap of a game.

Being an Olympic year, there’s a boon of events with shot data this season. There’s the usual: the slams, the European championships, and eventually the Scotties, Brier, and Worlds. But also there’s the Canadian Olympic pre-trials and trials, the Olympic Qualification Event, and of course (fingers-crossed!) the Olympics themselves.

With all of this data, it should be possible to produce shot profiles for players. For instance in my entire database the best fourth on draws (minimum 100 shots) has been Brad Gushue with an average score of 3.52 over 726 shots. That’s 88% in traditional terms. (You’ll notice I prefer scoring average to percentage. To me, a percentage is more appropriate for a binary outcome and shot percentage is based on a 0-4 score. Sorry, traditionalists.)

There’s context for all of those draws, of course. It’s possible Gushue gets easier draws than anyone else because his first three players are awesome. And we can’t just say it’s Gushue anyway, because his sweepers have an important role. (Ahem.) At some point I’ll be able to split these shots into easy, medium, and difficult using the expected score concept. That’ll be pretty cool.

One shot that has far less context is the tick shot. Some low hanging fruit would be to check who has been the best at the tick over recent history. I will focus on the women because it’s a bit more interesting. Here are the top active leads at the tick:

1. Dawn McEwen      2.89 (64 shots)
2. Melanie Barbezat 2.88 (41)
3. Lisa Weagle      2.87 (213)

(This actually isn’t the complete picture. Both Becca Hamilton and Vicky Wright have better averages than McEwen, but neither currently plays lead.)

These three lap the field (minimum 30 shots). It’s interesting that Lisa Weagle gets credit for mastering the tick, but at least in international/national events/slams, there have been two better than her – though Weagle should get extra credit for sheer volume. And now Weagle and Dawn McEwen share lead duties for Jennifer Jones’ team. So whomever Jones calls on in Beijing will be one of the best in the world at the tick.

One quirk here is that Curling Canada stubbornly refuses to record tick shots. The WCF has shot designations for “Clearing” shots – peels, basically – and “Wick” shots or soft peels. It’s an easy and quite helpful distinction to make while scoring. But Curling Canada files both shots under “Clearing”.

You can infer tick shots from the shot data on occasion and I am have been doing that for recent events where appropriate. But for this analysis I am including all shots labeled wick or clearing. The bottom line is that it’s pretty lame that there isn’t a standard scoring system between Curling Canada and the WCF.

If you’re curious about the men, the GOAT is Jacobs lead Ryan Harnden, with an average of 3.25 on 139 shots. I won’t miss the tick after it surely gets restricted in the next rules update. But after looking at the data, I have a greater appreciation for the distribution in skill among elite teams. Some surprisingly poor performers are Edin lead Christoffer Sundgren (2.49 on 171 shots) and Gushue lead Geoff Walker on (2.46 on 136 shots).

Given that those will be two of the top three favorites to win gold in Beijing, it will be interesting to see if missed ticked shots will create some late game drama in what figures to be the tick’s last hurrah.