Thursday, January 19, 2012

IRT - Who's the best in 5gs?

During the IRT Network's coverage of last weekend's International Racquetball Tour (IRT) Cactus Salon NYC Pro-Am, the topic came up of player records in five game matches. Who's got the best record in matches that go five games? This question can be addressed through a perusal of the IRT Historical Archive kept by Todd Boss.

In questions of IRT excellence, we know the players likely to be on top: Kane Waselenchuk, Cliff Swain, Sudsy Monchik. And those names are up there in the five game (5g) stats, but not exactly as you'd think.

Waselenchuk does have a good record in five game matches, although he hasn't played nearly as many as most of the regular IRT players (as defined by the Historical Archive). Waselenchuk's won 28 of the 36 five game matches he's played for a .778 winning percentage, which is quite good. Better than almost any other IRT regular player.

But not every other IRT player.

Polo Gutierrez has the best record in five game matches. He hasn't played many, only 10 in fact. But he's won 9 of those 10 for a .900 winning percentage!

Now, you might think that as Gutierrez is an infrequent IRT player those 9 wins probably came in qualifying against, well, inferior opposition. And you'd be wrong, because over over half of those wins came against these players: Shane Vanderson, Mike Guidry, Jason Mannino, Jose Rojas, and last weekend, Ben Croft.

Quite impressive, really.

After Gutierrez and Waselenchuk, the next best five game winning percentages are Monchik with .692, Andy Roberts .680 and Marty Hogan with .671.

Gutierrez's 5g record is also impressive from the perspective of being higher than his overall winning percentage, which at .637 is also good. The difference between those two percentages (.263) is the most for any IRT player.

Other players who have better records in 5g matches than they do overall are Mitch Williams (.607, 17-11 in 5g versus .525 overall), Andy Hawthorne (.571, 16-12, vs. .505), Ben Croft (.633, 19-11, vs. .586), and Jason Thoerner (.550, 11-9 vs. .503).

The players with the most wins in 5g matches are going to be those with the longest careers, so it should be no surprise that Cliff Swain has the most wins in 5g matches with 65, followed by Ruben Gonzalez with 54, Marty Hogan 53, Andy Roberts 51, and Jason Mannino 46.

However, Swain also has the most 5g losses with 52, followed by Mike Ray with 48, Mannino 43, Gonzalez 38 and Tim Doyle 37.

The player with lowest winning percentages in 5g matches (playing at least 10 5g matches) is Dave Johnson, who won 7 of the 20 5g matches in his career for a .350 winning percentage. Javier Moreno is second worst at 9 for 25 (.360), followed by Dan Fowler (15 for 40, .375), Alejandro Herrera (7 for 18, .389) and Woody Clouse (16 for 41, .390).

One of the surprising things to those of us in The Racquetball Blog office is Jason Mannino's record in 5g matches. Mannino was a 'give it everything, leave it all on the court' type player, and we think those sort of players should do well in 5g matches. Andy Hawthorne and Ben Croft are that sort of player, and they both have better winning percentages in 5g matches than they do overall.

But while Mannino won more 5g matches than he lost, it was only a few more (46 wins, 43 losses), so he 5g winning percentage was much lower than his overall winning percentage (.517 v. .700).

Of course for most of his career, Mannino was one of the top 5 players, so he generally went deep in the draw, playing against other top 5 players. In fact, Mannino played five 5g matches versus Monchik, losing all five, three against Swain (losing two, winning one), and five against Waselenchuk (winning the first, and losing the next four). Take that 2-11 record out of Mannino's 5g record and you get 44-32 (a .579 winning percentage), which is better than his overall 5g record though still much lower than his overall winning percentage.

Who should win?

When you get to a tie-breaking game in a series, such as the fifth game in an IRT match, the series could go either way. If the opponents are of equal ability, then the odds of winning should be 50/50. But one player is always seeded higher than the other, which is supposed to reflect ability (to some extent), or at least past performances. Thus, the higher seeded player should win. It would be interesting to know the records of higher seeded IRT players in 5g matches.

Of course, as Polo Gutierrez can tell you, the higher seeded player doesn't always win. And that's what makes sport interesting.

Follow the bouncing ball....

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