Thursday, November 20, 2008

How do I rank thee? Let me count the ways.

The new International Racquetball Tour (IRT) rankings that we posted here yesterday are now on their website also. The IRT, like the Women's Professional Racquetball Organization (WPRO) and the professional tennis tours, use players' performances over a one year period to create the rankings, so there are some results from this season and some from last season included to produce players' current ranking.

It's one way of ranking players, but it's not the only way. And it penalizes players for not playing a lot, as they earn points each time they participate in a tournament. That's good if you want to reward participation, but bad if you want to accurately rank players on their performance.

Thus, players who haven't played many tournaments in the past 12 months are lower ranked than perhaps they should be. On the men's side, Kane Waselenchuk and Javier Moreno may be examples of this, while Christie Van Hees and Aimee Ruiz could be examples on the women's side.

If you wanted a snapshot of players' performances in this IRT season (as the PGA does with their money list rankings), you could track players from the start of the season, which is what The Racquetball Blog did, and the result is below. We assigned points for how many players were left in the draw when a player's run ended, so if a player won a tournament, then 1 point was assigned. Losing in the finals was 2 pts, in the semis 4, and so on. The last round of qualifying was 32 points, with the second last qualifying round being 64, etc. Thus, fewer points are better.

We then divided the number of points by the number of events that player has played to create a mean per event. That mean was used to rank the players.

Also, we only used the Tier 1 IRT events. Here's the result.

RankPlayer Points EventsMean
1Kane Waselenchuk441.00
2Jack Huczek2163.50
3Rocky Carson2764.50
4Jason Mannino2454.80
5Alvaro Beltran3065.00
6Ben Croft5268.67
7Mitch Williams5669.33
8Shane Vanderson60610.00
9Jason Thoerner64610.67
10Javier Moreno24212.00
11Chris Crowther88614.67
12Greg Thomas16116.00
13Andreas Herrera32216.00
14Tony Carson32216.00
15Juan Herrera96519.20
16Kris Odegard80420.00
17Hiroshi Shimizu80420.00
18Alejandro Herrera80420.00
19Andy Hawthorne128621.33
20Jose Rojas48224.00
21Agustin Tristan48224.00
22Tim Landeryou48224.00
23Polo Gutierrez80326.67
24Travis Woodbury160626.67

Thus, Kane Waselenchuk is the number 1 player using this method, and Jack Huczek is ahead of Rocky Carson, which isn't the case on the current IRT list. And some other players, like Moreno, Tony Carson, Jose Rojas and Agustin Tristan, are higher here than on the IRT list.

There are caveats with this method also, of course. Greg Thomas is number 12, which probably isn't accurate, as he's only played one event - the Canadian Classic, where he made the main draw due to a default by Chris Crowther in the last round of qualifying. Results from one event - or even two or three - isn't a solid basis for a ranking.

Waselenchuk is #1 on the USA Racquetball rankings. USA Racquetball and Racquetball Canada use a process that tracks players' best wins, and moves players up when they have beaten two players ahead of them. That is, if a player ranked 200 beats players ranked 170 and 150 in a tournament, that player will be moved up to 170 (the 170 ranked player will then be 171). This method is explained on the USA Racquetball web site, and was devised by Usher Barnoff, Racquetball Canada's President.

There can be problems with that process also. For example, in tennis Guillermo Canas defeated Roger Federer in back to back tournaments in early 2007, when Federer was #1, so under this process Canas would have become #1, which probably would not have been accurate. He was #55 when he beat Federer the second time at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.

Nevertheless, the best win method is good for ranking a lot of players, when not all of the players play each other (certainly difficult with any sizable group), and many of them are not playing very often.

Whether one method is more accurate than another is debatable, as it's difficult to make accurate assessments of athletic performance in general, and especially so when there's little data.

But it's fun to do!

Follow the bouncing ball....

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