Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Alejandro Landa is the #1 IRT player

Alejandro Landa is the #1 player on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT). Yes, that’s right. Landa is #1. No, we don’t have that wrong. Why should that be a surprise? No one has won more IRT events in 2018 than Landa, although Kane Waselenchuk has won the same number: 2.

But people are all a twitter, if not actually on Twitter, about the latest IRT rankings, and perhaps not so much because Landa is #1 as that Waselenchuk is #6. Many people - those at The Racquetball Blog included - argue Waselenchuk is the best men’s racquetball player ever. He’s undefeated at the US Open since 2003 and has been the dominant player on the IRT for most of the last 15 years, so it seems a safe argument.

But the IRT rankings are based on players’ results from the past 12 months. Very much a “what have you done lately?” type of system. Waselenchuk was hurt for much of the first part of 2018 - and didn’t play the last event in 2017 or the first event of this season - so despite winning five times last season, Waselenchuk finds himself at #6, because four of those wins came in the first part of the season, which is now more than 12 months ago.

Tennis uses a similar system, although they stress performances from the past 52 weeks including the 4 Grand Slam events as well as other high level competitions. Tennis differs from racquetball in having more regularly scheduled events, so there are many opportunities for players to earn ranking points.

Waselenchuk, who’s now healthy, and once again won the US Open in October, hasn’t had the chance to defend his other wins from the fall of 2017, because there haven’t been tournaments at the same time this fall. That’s not his fault, yet it’s cost Waselenchuk in the rankings.

There are two questions. One, does this matter? Two, if this ranking system isn’t going to be used, what will replace it? Whether it matters is debatable, as we’d fully expect Waselenchuk to win the next event he enters. Although he may play Rocky Carson, IRT #2, or Daniel De La Rosa, #3, in the quarterfinals, and those are players Waselenchuk generally doesn’t face until a final, or at least a semi-final. Those would be marquee matches, which the IRT should want to have in a semi or a final, not a quarterfinal. So, in that regard it’s not great.

There are other ranking systems. USA Racquetball and Racquetball Canada uses a system that is based on head to head results, such that you can only move ahead of Player X if you defeat Player X twice consecutively, or defeat two players ranked higher than Player X within a 13 month period.

Perhaps of interest, Waselenchuk is ranked #1 on the USA Racquetball (USAR) rankings. Also, Andree Parrilla is #2 on the USAR rankings but 9th on the IRT rankings, and going the other way, Mario Mercado, 7th on the IRT, is 16th on the USAR. Landa is 5th on the USAR.

While there are good points to this system - players can move up the rankings quickly - it doesn’t reward participation, which a tour should want to do from a business perspective. You want to have your best players playing regularly, if not actually at every big event, because your tournament organizers will want to know that if they host an event, the best players are going to show up. One way to give the players an incentive for showing up is to have rankings reward participation.

That participation component can lead to players getting high rankings without winning big events, which has happened in tennis where players have been ranked #1 without winning a Grand Slam event, and it happened on the IRT last season, when Carson was the #1 player at season’s end despite not winning a Tier 1 event.

But with a varying schedule perhaps the IRT would be better off by counting events rather than time. That is, rather than the strict 12 month period in use now, perhaps rankings should be based on the period covering the last 15, say, events (Tier 1 or Grand Slam) played with players able to drop results from 2 events. So, rankings would be a maximum of 13 Tier 1 or Grand Slam events. They would also want to accommodate results from lower Tier events somehow.

Of course, another system could be used, or the current system could just be maintained with the acknowledgement that no system is perfect. But one purpose of ranking the players is to generate interest and debate, so in that regard: mission accomplished!

The IRT will be in action this weekend in Portland, Oregon for the John Pelham Memorial tournament, which was won by Charlie Pratt last year.

IRT Rankings - November 26, 2018

Rank - Player - Country - Points

1 Alejandro LANDA (Mexico) 2116.30
2 Rocky CARSON (USA) 2112.18
3 Daniel DE LA ROSA (Mexico) 1986.16
4 Sebastian FRANCO (Colombia) 1674.15
5 Samuel MURRAY (Canada) 1628.03

6 Kane WASELENCHUK (Canada) 1500.42
7 Mario MERCADO (Colombia) 1496.02
8 Alvaro BELTRAN (Mexico) 1490.01
9 Andree PARRILLA (Mexico) 1432.15
10 Jansen ALLEN (USA) 1152.02

11 Jose DIAZ (USA) 1146
12 David HORN (USA) 1064.02
13 Charlie PRATT (USA) 972.14
14 Adam MANILLA (USA) 786.01
15 Felipe CAMACHO (Costa Rica) 670.04

16 Jake BREDENBECK (USA) 633.01
17 Thomas CARTER (USA) 620.03
18 Robert COLLINS (USA) 480.05
19 Gerardo FRANCO (Mexico) 467.01
20 Rodrigo MONTOYA (Mexico) 454

Follow the bouncing ball....

1 comment:

Todd Boss said...

Does it matter? nope. not in the least. Who cares what the rankings are in November. Except that it screws up the seeding.

I think what my researched showed was; i'd be ok with a different SEEDING system that tried to guarantee more consistent seeding, but the current ranking system needs to stay as is.