September 20, 2018

Significant Digits, Vol. 2, Issue 1

By Jason Diley

A year ago we introduced this column and after just three issues I ended up shelving things for the season in order to welcome a new addition to my personal team of number crunchers. He's our second child, but as the author of this collection of numerical oddities, one facet of the whole “new baby experience” jumped out at me. Just after drawing breath number one (of an average of roughly 672,768,000) we start measuring. Within minutes, we had enough data to complete the back of his very own rookie card. The whole process is obviously very emotional… but it's also downright sabermetric. I found myself wondering what the algorithm might be for calculating his WAR(b). That's Wins Above an available Replacement Baby for the uninitiated.

What's more, everyone wanted to know his stats—and for the life of me I can't figure out why. Sure, all the poking and prodding has some place in establishing medically relevant means and modes… but why does my great aunt need me to text his birth weight?

“Wow, what a big boy” (Well, no… statistically, he was in the 50th percentile; smack on the median.)

“Oh, he was really long” (This one was true: 20.5 inches… 90th percentile.)

“How many hours was your wife in labor?” (Eeesh. What a sadistic bell curve that is. Misery loves company, I suppose.)

It all points to our obsession with rankings, with comparison and contrast, with objectifying the subjective, with outliers, with the making of top ten lists . . . and with clicking on the top ten lists of others (You'll never believe who #3 is!).

If the universal question is “What does it all mean?”, then perhaps the universal American question is “How do I stack up?”

Well, he got a 9 on his APGAR, thank you very much. My wife says he's perfect, but I'm an empiricist so as he approaches his first birthday… the best I can give him is “high side of normal”!

Enough naval gazing—let's get back to the stats! In Significant Digits we will try to separate the numerical wheat from the chaff, helping find figures that tell the story of the Division III Soccer landscape. Don't worry, we did all the math for you.

$15.00 / game

The Cazenovia College bookstore's least expensive ball cap is currently on sale for $15.00. I'm hopeful that fans of the women's soccer program haven't taken up the hockey tradition of throwing their hats onto the playing surface in celebration of a 3-goal performance… because if they have, they are going to need to adjust their budget for headwear.

Through the first 5 games of 2018, senior forward Michaela Breeze was on a hat trick average. She only managed to net a (pedestrian) brace in the Wildcats' opener, but she made up for that (sub-par) showing with a 4-goal effort two days later. Their next three straight contests saw more of the same: dominant wins for Cazenovia, hat-trick performances from Breeze.

Last Thursday, Breeze set a new Cazenovia women's record for goals in a season, with 13 games still remaining on their regular season schedule.

Both the Wildcats and their prolific striker were held in check to start week three, however, as Morrisville State handed Cazenovia their lone loss on the young season and Michaela failed to stuff the stat sheet.

Still, even after a game where she didn't record a point, Breeze's 15 goals on the year leads all NCAA soccer players of both genders, across all divisions. Her current pace would smash the season records for D-III women in 4 categories: total goals, goals per game, total points, and points per game.

Obviously, it's still September. There are many roadblocks between Breeze and breaking NCAA records, but thus far this season, she has made scoring goals look like, well…. a...

What's the word I'm looking for?

Like a piece of cake? A walk in the park? Like child's play? A cinch, a snap? No. None of those are right… I think I lost it.

Good luck, Michaela.

53 - 22 - 6

I've had the pleasure of seeing Trinity (Tx.) men's soccer up close and personal in San Antonio, so let me start out by saying that in my opinion they unquestionably deserve their reputation as a program that produces attractive, creative, and explosive attacking soccer. But, their effort in a lopsided win over Centenary (La.)—while dominant—was, well… a bit less than clinical.

Trinity currently leads the country in shot attempts per game, largely due to the staggering 53 efforts they pinged in the general direction of the Centenary goal Sunday. Every starting outfield player for Trinity had at least one crack and 17 Trinity players in total registered a shot in the contest. For some perspective, there are 76 men's teams in D-III that have not yet tallied 53 total shots for the season!

It took the Tigers until the 34th minute—and their 30th shot of the contest—to find their first goal, but once the breakthrough came they cruised to a 6-0 final score. While Trinity's average shot volume leads the nation, their efficiency is just a bit less impressive, coming in at 291st in D-III in percentage of shots placed on frame. Their 22 goal-bound shots from 53 attempts on Sunday actually increased their ratio on the season.

However, they seem to be in good company among those with relatively inefficient SOG% figures. Calvin ranks 186th. Messiah is 257th. Chicago sits 268th. So perhaps there is something in the quantity over quality approach, or, as famously sharp-witted Liverpool Manager Bill Shankly once put it:

“If you're not sure what to do with the ball, just pop it in the net
and we'll discuss your options afterwards.”

1,332 Bricks

If you wanted to seal off a full-sized goal mouth, you would need 1,332 bricks, roughly 10 bags of mortar, and about 1.43 cubic yards of sand (assuming you use the running bond pattern and a standard modular brick). But there's a simpler way to achieve a similar result. Alternate construction bids call for 11 Monks, and just over 30 hours of labor.

Let's backtrack a minute, because this story would have been a huge feature had we continued the column through November last year.

Think of a famous Monk. Anybody make it past Martin Luther? No? Me neither. Then again, those who choose a contemplative lifestyle (and often vow poverty and asceticism) are perhaps unlikely candidates for the limelight.

So it was with the Monks of St. Joseph's (Maine) men's soccer program… Not one mention in the D-III NCAA record books. Never nationally ranked in the history of the program. All-time NCAA tournament record of 1-3-0. A competitive side in an under-the-radar “one-bid” conference. Then, last fall, St. Joseph's erected a figurative brick wall and forced their way onto everyone's radar by stringing together the longest streak of consecutive shutouts in college soccer history: 19 straight games. That's 1,840 consecutive minutes of shutout soccer. Simply put, there's no charity among these Monks.

SJC is at it again, and has followed up their incredible record-setting 2017 campaign with another near-perfect start. They opened the season with 6 straight shutouts before conceding a first half goal to Johnson and Wales over the weekend in a game they went on to win 3-1. The 7-0-0 Monks are more prolific at the other end of the pitch than last year's version with their 24 goals scored outpacing their 2017 production through 7 games by 20%.

Senior goalkeeper Blake Mullen has logged the large majority of minutes between the pipes, but the Monks' clean sheet success is not solely on the (broad) shoulders of their 6′7″ goalkeeper. They have scored more goals on the season (24) than they have allowed shots on goal (just 15). That means Mullen and his fellow netminders have been called upon just twice per game on average.

Strength of schedule is an issue, and the New England regional looks to be just as stacked as is typical. Obviously, it's way too early to talk Pool C, but despite an undefeated record and zero goals against last season at the time, SJC was unranked in the first NCAA regional rankings.

With a second round NCAA tournament scoreless draw against Tufts (Tufts advanced on PKs), the Monks proved they can produce similar defensive results against the big boys. Still, their chances for extra November soccer will likely rely on winning the GNAC tournament. Then again, if the Monks can keep the bricks neatly stacked on their goal line, that shouldn't be a problem.

Useless Stat of the Week

This one is far more useful than our standard fare for this section. In honor of St Joseph's .952 season shut out average for 2017, here are the teams who are undefeated, untied, and have yet to concede in the 2018 season:

Men:
No. 20 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (7-0-0, 22 GF, 0 GA)
RV Mount Union (5-0-0, 12 GF, 0 GA)

Women:
No. 21 Tufts (5-0-0, 15 GF, 0 GA)
Randolph-Macon (3-0-0, 9 GF, 0 GA)

Mailbag

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Significant Digits

 

Significant Digits will try to separate the numerical wheat from the chaff, helping find figures that tell the story of the Division III soccer landscape. Don’t worry, we'll do all the math for you, and, with some humor and levity thrown in, we hope you'll find Significant Digits to be both an informative and an entertaining read.

 

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