Thursday, July 11, 2013

Baca's Mailbag: Working Your Roster, part 2

A comment in the recent post (Why Superstar Teams Don't Automatically Win) noted that last year Heat, using a tightly controlled rotation was successful while this season Dynasty, using something closer to two separate lines, has also been successful and was curious as to what I thought--and if I had any preferences when it came to how to work your roster in competition.

In part 1 a close review of PBA stats for PSP events in 2012 and the first two events of 2013 showed that no pro team actually ran two separate lines though in 2012 the Russian Legion came closest and in 2013 Dynasty uses its roster, top to bottom, more comprehensively than any other team. Every other team tends to favor a dominant 5 to 7 or 8 player rotation. 
Given the tendencies we have quantified across the pro teams the first conclusion to be made is that there isn't one system that is inherently superior to any other. And given the history of Xball (Lite & Race To) multiple lines were far more commonly used when the matches were longer. Not necessarily two separate lines but a much deeper reach into the bench. (Of course there was also a time when Xball teams could roster 15-18 players.) However it appears that a clear trend is to focus on a tighter rotation even if the roster is full.
So what besides match duration does, or should, influence a team's use of its roster?
To demonstrate that it's not anything like cut and dry here's a short list of potential influences when it comes to working your roster.
Practice performance. The youth of the team and its players.
Stage of team development.
Expectations. (System) (Culture)
Most coaches and/or teams (owners, management) will have a philosophy of how best to run a team. That philosophy will run the gamut from how to practice, how to treat the players, interpersonal relationships, style of leadership and, somewhere down the list, how best to utilize your roster.
[If the situation merits it I personally prefer as much of my roster as possible. In a pro sport that isn't truly professional and just barely a sport I believe strongly in team cohesion and chemistry to keep players committed and working hard and it isn't something that can be sustained if there is a clear dichotomy between the haves and the have nots.]
Practice performance is more about knowing your players and how closely practice reflects competition. There are alot more practice superstars than the real deal.
Is a young team? A team still coming together? A team that has a lot of inexperience but a core leadership believes in? If so it may be necessary to accept inconsistent results now to build for the future.
Is it a team on the rise but untested at the latest level? Like the inexperienced player the team that hasn't yet experienced that ultimate success may not come together the way you expect and since there isn't any guaranteed formula sometimes the process is hit and miss.
Team chemistry is always a consideration and some pieces may be excellent pieces but still not fit a given situation. Winning makes everything okay but failure to meet expectations can tear a team apart f-a-s-t.
A changing environment can also wreck havoc with a team and new coaches and/or management tend to want to do things their way right away. In a truly professional situation that's fine--but still causes plenty of upheaval but in our sport wholesale change is either desired by everybody or resisted, not necessarily on the merits, but simply because it's change. In the context of a roster a judgment has to be made how and how quickly any changes will occur and that implementation could be the difference between success and failure.

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