Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Who is a D2 player?

D'oh! Anybody with a D2 ranking. Next question.
Not so fast. According to the UPC it's anybody who has accumulated more than 984 points but fewer than 1974 points. (Yes, I know, in season moves require different totals. Not important.)

[If you're wondering why I don't mention any of the other ID/ranking systems it's because they aren't worth mentioning as all they do is justify levying another tax on your ignorant player ass.]

A weakness of the system is that it's assigning value to individual players for what a team accomplishes--which is problematic--but at least in recent years changes made have tried to account for an inability to grade a specific player and offered more latitude to the process. Less than perfect perhaps but few things are. Perfect, that is.
What the formula can't do it is assumed teams will do at some point--make precise judgments about a specific player's skill set and either keep him (her) or cut them. Which is not an unreasonable position to take, at least when we're talking about competitive paintball at the higher end of the sport.
The issue I want to address today is not what happens to players and teams along the divisional ladder but what happens to the divisions and the competition within those divisions.
By UPC formula the (approx.) bottom 30% of teams don't score enough points to reach (or maintain) the division they're in. If that's true do they really belong? Meanwhile, the upper (approx.) 35% of teams score enough to move up to the next division and--again by rule and formula--they have to unless they break up their team. So what does it mean? [Edit added: According to Raehl the number is around 20-ish % currently. And in taking more time to crunch the numbers he's basically correct. It hasn't always been. I don't think the difference impacts the argument much but as usual you can decide for yourself.]
Here's the problem. There is no standard. A D2 player is whatever the numbers say he is but the comparison and competition is limited to the group "competing in D2 now." The "best" is a reflection of that specific group of competitors and nobody else. And if a division routinely bumps up the top 25-35% of competing teams the teams remaining in the division are necessarily not as good as the teams promoted. So the next influx of new teams entering a higher division are necessarily competing against an existing group that isn't as good as it was the prior season. The degree of difficulty in challenging for the top spots diminishes and the overall demands of the competition are reduced within that division--and the effect is more pronounced the higher or more elite the division because the competition is supposed to be that much more demanding. At D4 and D3 the pool of competing teams is less refined and there can be (and should be) greater variances in performance from top to bottom. As teams rise the gap should narrow but under the current system it doesn't because all divisions, teams and players are treated the same--by formula--except the pros ('cus they got nowhere else to go.)
From the beginning the system was designed to keep teams churning up the ladder with the middle of the pack being the division marker. At the lower levels it's probably discriminating enough to be acceptable. At the upper levels all it has done is drive teams out of national competition and dumb down the competition in the upper divisions.
The easy fix is be more discriminating in who moves up--a much lower percentage--and more flexible in allowing (or even compelling) teams to move back down. It is not enough to simply populate the various divisions. The failure to nurture and protect divisional distinctions and attempt to maintain a divisional standard of excellence (as opposed to mediocrity) lessens the competition and does all the competing teams a disservice.

37 comments:

Christian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I wonder if with the gun chip stats they'll eventually be able to add some modifiers into the ranking systems? It wouldn't be possible right away I'd assume because they'd need a lot of data to start to see trends and be able to analyze it, which I assume is big difficulty considering the volume of data. But that might provide the ability to add some fine tuning if there are certain trends that higher ability players exhibit.

Anonymous said...

30% moving up and 30% moving down seems like way too much churn in the divisions. If the ranking is saying 60% of the teams don't belong in their current division, that seems to make divisions meaningless.

Look at English soccer for a compairsion. In the league below the Premier League, out of 24 teams, 3 get promoted, 3 get relegated. That's 12.5% up 12.5% down.

I think something closer to 10% up/down (perhaps a little wider at lower divsions) would make more sense.

Even then you're left with the team vs. individual player aspect.

raehl said...

I'm not sure where Baca is getting 30% get promoted. The threshold is three scores averaging 82 (top 20%) after dropping a score, which altogether puts it at 10-15% promotion.

Demotion is (intentionally) higher as the recent rule changes have made it much harder to stay up a division if you're not performing (with the exception of D4, where it's very difficult to get back to D5.)

Reiner Schafer said...

If you only moved 10% up in the lower divisions, those divisions that are supposed to be for relatively new and less skilled players would continually get stronger (players with more experience and better honed skills), making entry into the sport that much more difficult. The percentage moving up should get smaller with each step up in divisions. For almost all people, skills do not improve at a linear rate. At the higher skill levels, more time will be needed to make significantly noticeable skill improvements.

Baca Loco said...

Chris
While I no longer can access past season records at APPA and as a consequence can't contest your claim some simple math is indicative of what could--and has--happened in the past.
Keeping in mind that a score of 100 is always awarded a score of 80 and above indicates the top 30% of assigned scores. (If Chris says the dividing line is 82 that makes it the top 28%.)
Meanwhile in disputing the numbers you haven't disputed the core problem or the impact on maintaining unique divisional excellence.

raehl said...

Reiner,

For exactly the reason you mention, the threshold for promotion to D4 is much lower than in other divisions, and pretty much "all" D5 players get promoted to D4.

Once players are at D4 though getting promoted gets a lot more difficult. The basic philosophy behind the system is:

D5: New players.
D4: Players playing for fun.
D3: Talented/practiced local competition
D2: The best players in an area and/or dedicated national competitors.
D1: Not quite Pro.
Pro: Pro.

I'm not going to say it's perfect, but I think we've gotten pretty good at getting most players into the division they belong in (note: that's not necessarily the same as the division the player thinks they should be in.)

raehl said...

Baca,

100 - 80 = 20, not 30.

Dave Painter said...

Chris,

I think what Baca is saying is that in a division with 10 teams the 1st place team gets 100, the 2nd place team gets 90 and the 3rd place team gets 80 - that's 3 out of 10 teams getting 80 points or higher. 3 out of 10 = 30%.

raehl said...

He could be saying it, but it's still bad math; change his 80 to 81 and that 30% becomes 20%.

The threshold is 82, putting a "ceiling" on promotion of about 20%. But the actual promotion rate is less than that since the top score is dropped, and there are teams who earn high scores but don't play enough events to earn high totals.

If I wasn't waiting for a plane I'd take the time to run the numbers but we're not promoting anywhere near 30% of players out of a division (with the aforementioned exception of D5.)

Anonymous said...

"Once players are at D4 though getting promoted gets a lot more difficult."

If you are in an area where the local D4 teams suck, you'd be beating them up in local competition. So wouldn't that make it easy to move up to D3?

Anonymous said...

This is just a symptom of high cost and poor economy.

Fix the economy, fix paintball. In the meantime - on with the gnashing of teeth.

The reason why many past players are not playing now is because of cost and how much entertainment value they get for their investment. In the past when the average skill was lower overall, the range of acceptable skills that could reasonably compete on the same field was much greater. Result - more people entered tournaments because they didn't judge their chance to win as "impossible".

These huge regional tournaments (I'll use my local favorite - the CFOA) used to attract tons of fresh new teams - why? Because everyone basically had a chance to win the big prize (and the prize was actually big).

Now we are at a moment in the sport where a bit of maturity has set in and skills and tactics have been refined as well as shared with others. Everyone can shoot with both hands, everyone is more mobile because of the size of the equipment. Bunkers got smaller so larger guys (whom one could argue had an advantage carrying the heavier gun/tank/etc.)

The number of physical requirements to compete at the higher levels has been refined as well, exacerbating the underlying problem of cost/fun ratio.

In the past you could get away with a team full of rich fat guys who practiced almost never. Now, you have to have a team full of athletic young men who have some form of financial backing and dedication, with a regular practice regime, organization, etc. Bang, the number of possible teams that would enter a tournament just dropped like a rock.

Result - tons of small local tournament series have died off or are mere ghosts of what they once were.

And players like myself are left bitching about it all. I want to play again, but I play the same pattern over again in my head: $100+ each weekend for practice, $500-$1500 per tournament depending on far away it is. Use up a good chunk of my vacation time to do so. I get depressed running the numbers so I just close the door and let the mold keep growing on the cleats.

Reiner Schafer said...

A little off topic Anon, but good big picture analysis of why there are less people playing competitive paintball today. I'm not sure if I agree with the fix the economy/fix paintball statement, although I'm sure a better economy will help bolster the numbers somewhat, just not sure it will "fix" paintball.

And really paintball isn't broken. It has just changed as you mentioned in your post. What it changed into does not attract the same demographic as it used to. The demographic it now attracts is considerably smaller.

Leagues, that are losing money due to smaller numbers, are going to have to come up with a different business plan, because basically, their customer base has changed because their product has changed. Or...the other option...they can fold.

Anonymous said...

Or, they could limit paint, cutting the chief obstacle to practice/play - paint cost - in half or more.

Nick Brockdorff said...

So, isn't the solution to say a set percentage is promoted or relegated, irrespective of points - and have that percentage change slightly, when a division has below or above "between XX and XX" number of teams in it?

raehl said...

Baca, if there are 100 teams playing D3, the number of teams receiving more than 82 points is 20, which is (not surprisingly) 20% of teams.

Nick, that's the way it works now; the top 20% of teams get scores over 82, regardless of the number of teams (with the obvious limitation that you can't have 20% if you're not dividing by 5.)

Another way to put it is a team that places in the middle of the pack always gets 55 points, and the average of points awarded to teams in any event, regardless of the number of teams, is also 55 points.

The exception is events with less than 10 teams, where all the scores awarded are a bit lower.

John CFP said...

I like the way the APPA ranking system is working currently. I think a lot of suggestions I’ve seen here would create worse problems than there are currently, with one exception.
The age modifier in the current system doesn’t actually modify player’s scores until they are 2 years old. So for instance my dad who is 62 and has an approved handi- cap parking sticker because of his knees still maintains a D3 ranking because he continues to play every season. Each year it becomes harder for him to justify a place on the CFP D4 squad because he is taking the place of a much better player. If the age modifier was fixed to modify all scores not just old ones it would not only take care of his issue but would also fix the ranking problems of the older players we want back in the sport, like some of your friends on Voodoo.

I watch a lot games at PSP’s, divisional and Pro, and I’m also not sold your assertion that “ It remains too easy to advance in the upper divisions and over years the result has been to deteriorate the standard of play in the upper divisions.” Starting from the bottom if you look at CFPS teams and their showings at the past several World Cups they are consistently at the top their divisions. Players that come out of the CFPS into the national Series usually continue to place highly and succeed. Other examples would be CFP D4 who got promoted to D3 and has a 1st and 2nd so far, Prime and Revo who got promoted to D2 with Revo winning an event and Prime seems to be getting knocked out by the first or second place teams in close games. Boom, Distortion, and Static who got promoted out of D2 last year, Static has a 4th and 2nd in D1 and most of Boom is now on Aftershock and Distortion’s best guys from last year are now on Houston Heat.

Using PSP Pro as an example you have teams like Heat, Aftershock, and 187 Crew. While Heat has a bunch of seasoned pro’s on the team the guys from last year’s D2 team Distortion are definitely pulling their weight and they’ve already won an event. Even though Aftershock and 187 aren’t Professional powerhouses yet they’ve put up some excellent games against traditional top Pro teams and should only improve.
Of all the teams I mentioned I believe only Revo in D3 had more than 2 wins out of the 4 PSP events last year. Also the teams that didn’t get promoted don’t seem to be dominating their division now, the newer teams seem to be doing that, which leaves me to believe that teams aren’t getting pushed up to fast. The middle of the pack seem to have hit a skill or money wall and are therefore allowed to stay in their current division.

Baca Loco said...

Chris
Much as it pains me, you are correct. At least about the maths and percentages.

And clearly we disagree--and always have--about the efficacy of moving up X number of teams. :)

And finally, for the last time (for now) because even I get tired of repeating myself; arguing the minutiae of the numbers isn't contesting the basic point. It remains too easy to advance in the upper divisions and over years the result has been to deteriorate the standard of play in the upper divisions.

Anonymous said...

Baca or Raehl -

In the past 3 years, how many D1 players have been forced into a pro rank?

Same time frame, how many D2 players were forced up to D1 rank?

Baca Loco said...

John
Is the ability to get a result in a higher division based on the superiority of the promoted team or the decline in standard of their new division? Can you honestly tell me you know one way or the other?
I realize this hits close to home for a lot of teams and players and it isn't my intention to minimize anyone's accomplishment as all anyone can do is go out and compete againt the teams that are there.
I'm not taking shots at any team, I'm suggesting in the interest of competition and the standard s the PSP has come to represent that by the time teams reach/earn their way into D1 they should all be established winners.

Steve said...

It becomes progressively more difficult to win the higher division you're in. The amount and the quality of the practice required to win gets expensive and hard to come by- unless you have another D1 or Pro team to work out with and the money to pay for it.

Then if you make Pro, you need an owner that can provide an even larger budget. Most of the Pro teams have enough money to allow them to recruit seasoned Pros, practice other Pro teams and compete in other leagues.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Chris:

I would argue 20 % is way too high, in either end of the spectrum.

If you look at other sports where teams are promoted/relegated (which is essentially the whole purpose of the ranking system), the percentages are more like 10-15%

If you replace 40 % of a division every year, you will get wild fluctuations in quality, which will be less true with a lower rate of replacement.

Secondly, I maintain that in a team sport, the ranking has to follow the team, irrespective of who plays on it.

However, I do feel paintball needs rules against sandbagging (as we have chosen to call it), but that could be ascertained by limiting how many teams you can play with per year, and where (leagues - not divisions).... which in my view would be a lot healthier for the sport.

Dave Painter said...

I'm sure Chris can answer better, but I don't believe the current system forces D1 players to Pro. There is still a Semi-Pro ranking and D1 teams can have an unlimited number of Semi-Pro players.

In fact we, 187, could have stayed in D1 had we wanted to. Instead we fought for a PRO slot and bummed ourselves up. As for D2 to D1 moves - I know that the majority of my players were forced to bump to D1 after winning 3 D2 events in 2010, but just by a few ranking points. However, we didn't win the series and, in fact, the Series winning team's players were not forced to bump up (maybe one or two were, I don't remember).

I would be intersted in knowing how many D2 players were bumped to D1 players from 2009 to 2010, 2010 to 2011 and 2011 to 2012. I think you'll be surprised to find out that the number is smaller than you think.

Anonymous said...

Dave, the issue isn't going from D2 to D1. It's D3 to D2 since that forces you to play national events.

Anonymous said...

And Nick makes a good point about the classification following the team. How would you deal with teams that breakup just to reform under a different name and avoid moving up divisions?

Dave Painter said...

I don't believe classifications can follow a team - every year you'd have "New" teams forming just to get re-ranked lower.

As for the jump from D3 to D2 - I'm not really sure about that. I'm sure Chris has data on how many players were "Pushed" out of D3 to D2. I'd be interested to see the actual percentage of players that this affected - I imagine it's lower than the 20% everyone is talking about.

As for there being an issue with bumping out of a division, it seems that the intent is to not allow teams to dominate year after year. Wouldn't allowing the same dominate team(s) to stay in a lower division actually discourage teams to drop out too? Wouldn't you get the same (or even greater) level of attrition?

I can’t believe people would be advocating that teams don’t every get promoted. So, it seems to me the argument is over whether the right threshold for promotion is 20%, as Chris has it today, or maybe a lower figure, say 10%. Maybe the threshold should be different for different divisions based upon the number of available events and the overall level of competition that the multiple events create. There are several local and regional options for a team to play D3 (nationally to). But there are only a limited number of D2 and/or D1 events available (mostly nationally).

I’ve always felt that Local events shouldn’t count as much as Regional events and regional events shouldn’t count as much as national events. Has to do with the overall pool of players “available” for Local vs Regional vs National events. As the pool gets bigger the competition gets stronger (or at least that’s what I want to believe).

However, the fact is if a team is consistently at the top then they need to get promoted to the next division. The system does just that. Now the discussion can be around how many points get awarded based upon what criteria and/or the points threshold for bumping from one division to the next. Tweaking one or both of those could slow, but not eliminate, the promotion out of the lower divisions.

Anonymous said...

What are the real numbers of players being pushed from D3 to D2?

Chris, where are your data so that we can have some real meat to chew on.

How many of those players actually continue playing?

Baca Loco said...

Dave
Re: current system forcing players to play Pro--it can't because the PSP will not let just anybody in to play Pro even if their UPC ranking puts them over the top. The sole current function of a Semi-pro category is to a place to park players over the D1 limit but who have not been on a pro roster.

APPA claims to have data on 80K plus individual players. How many of them do you think are currently active? Where are the rest of them? And that's in a decade or less?
Ask Chris how many D1 ranked players are in the database and how many of them are active. He's never been willing to tell me and I think the number will shock you.

As for my specific concern the issue isn't that nobody should be promoted but that the league ought to take a hard look at the criteria they use and make sure that an unintended consequence of their system isn't a tendency to dumb down the competition over time.

I've been following this for a long time and the system originally and intentionally pushed teams up the ladder in an effort to expand the team populations in D2 & D1 and not only didn't it work--it advanced teams that didn't belong.

Reasonable people can disagree about where that point is but from where I'm sitting almost everybody has been blind to the possibility all along.

Anonymous said...

Baca, are you inferring that Chris is not reasonable?

I really want to see those numbers as well - some truth and honesty could put this to rest (or at least redirect the focus).

How bout it Chris - show us how reasonable you are :)

raehl said...

Baca,

I have not been home more than 14 hours since April 9, but when I am back in the office I'll put some numbers together.

I can say that players promoted out of a division is less than 15%, and may be as low as 8%, and that promoted players don't "leave" the game at a significantly different rate than non-promoted players.

The reality of the situation is that we have an activity primarily played by young people and young people quit activities on a fairly regular basis, chief factors being finishing school, job changes, girlfriends, and running out of money.

Anonymous said...

Damn young people screwing everything up.

Nick Brockdorff said...

I find it interesting people say if rankings follow teams, players will just reform under new team names all the time.

Why is this a problem in paintball only? - You don't really see it in other sports?

Shouldn't we be driving towards the team being the essential entity, instead of the individual - in a team sport?

Dave Painter said...

Nick,

When the team is paying the bills and not the individual - then yes, I'm all for the team holding the spot/ranking. But until that happens I doubt the people paying the bills (individuals) will want to go the team route.

Baca,

So you agree - some players need/should be promoted each year. Even if you say the top 5%, you still end up with the issue you have raised as far as dumbing down the divisions year after year. The only difference is you've maybe slowed it down. I guess the real challenge is promoting the same percentage of players as equal to the average percent gained on the learning curve so that the players remaining in the division improve enough to equally fill the shoes of those promoted and the new players coming into the division fill the shoes of those players moving to the top.

So...what's that percentage? Isn't that the only real debate? I believe you agree that the system work in tracking and promoting players - you just think it might promote to quickly - right?

Baca Loco said...

Dave
If we are working within the given system as the divisions become or should become more exclusive I would tighten up the percentage that moves up by rule and match it with a slightly higher percent forced down. Working both ends of the division would tend to tighten the competition across the whole division.

If you're thinking I'm generally a proponent of the system and rankings and the UPC generally you'd be mistaken. I've confined my comments to the reality we're dealing with but across the term of its brief history I think it's done more harm than good actually.

What I will agree to is that some system ultimately needs to be in place but I frankly don't the like the coercive Big Brother aspect of APPA or the UPC or even the PSP championing them but that's more a philosophical disagreement about how we get paintball as sport from where it is now to someplace better in the future.

Dave Painter said...

Baca,

I’m confused. Are you saying you don’t actually believe in the need for a ranking system? Or that you just don’t believe in this ranking system?

I find it difficult to believe that people would believe we don’t need a ranking system. I find it equally difficult to believe that people wouldn’t want that ranking system to utilize previous results and apply them equally to all participants regardless of who you know.

When 187 played 7-man (D2) and won the overall series we were forced to bump up to D1 the following year (and did poorly in D1). Not by any mathematical formula, but by a group of folks sitting around a table deciding our fate. The truth is we weren’t ready for D1. Yes – we had won the overall series but for two reasons only – 1) We showed up to all 5 events and 2) we were the most consistent team in the division but never the best on any given Sunday. Never once during that season did we play for 1st and 2nd.

I believe we can agree that the current system applies the rules equally, playing no favorites. I also hope we can agree that a system based upon concrete results is far better than any alternative option currently available.

Do I think the current system may move people from D5 to D2 to quickly – yes, I do. As a person who runs a local league in Massachusetts for the lower divisional players I feel the pain of pushing some of my customers along before I’m ready to let them go. I would like to believe that the real discussion is more around possible adjustments to the current system that would help slow down the progression from D5 to D1. Many of those players aren’t ready for the next level when they get pushed up. We’re also not seeing as many new tournament players entering the scene, maybe that’s a localized issue but I doubt it. This is the first year we had more Novice (D3/D4) teams then we did Rookie (D5) teams. In years past the Rookie teams were double the amount of Novice teams – this year the numbers are reversed. We had double the Novice teams compared to Rookie teams in our first event of the season. Not only that, but the actual number of Rookie teams dropped from about 20 teams an event to 8 teams in this first event. That is a far more concerning trend then moving a few players along to fast.

I would like to see a points system where players had to perform for 2 seasons before bumping up instead of the current single season bumping that occurs now. This will give players more time to develop without totally dominating the competition forever. This means instead of using 4 scores (dropping the top score) you would use say 6 or 8 scores and then adjust the divisional bump points accordingly. I think the only time you should be forced to bump up in a single season would be if you finished in the top 2 spots for say 4 events or something such. I haven’t done the math, so I don’t know exactly how this would work out.

This is a tough subject to discuss over a blog. At some point it would be nice to sit down and hash out what we (generic we) feel would work best and why. Then present it to the powers to be as customer feedback, after all we’re customers, and see where it goes from there.

Baca Loco said...

Dave
I thought I was reasonably clear in my last response. :)

Given the system at hand is the only one there is alternative options aren't really an option so one deals with what is.

And the system has been modified a number of times over the years with only VFTD publically making an issue of the process and advocating change and it is considerably more nuanced than it once was so that's progress at least from my point of view. And suggests you could do worse than offer your comments here. ;)

Steve said...

I think a relegation system for D1and Pro would be cool. Top 2 teams move up, bottom 2 move back down to D1.