The trajectory of Michigan’s season seems to be firmly in the upward direction. That’s a good thing (duh), and it’s happening on the backs of several young players. Due to a variety of reasons – among them injuries to upperclassmen – freshmen are making a huge impact on the 2013 Wolverines.
The roles are increasing over the course of the year, too. Several freshmen missing the first game of the year (and a couple more sitting out the High Point game) is part of that, but the simple acclimation to the college game through eight contests so far is allowing them to play big roles for the team, as well. TempoFreeLax.com doesn’t (yet) have an overall player rating or usage metric (one is in the works for both).
However, I’ve put together a simple metric that measures total usage (blue) and net positive usage (yellow) per possession. Let’s take a look at some of U-M’s freshmen who have played the most…
Obviously, Logan has been the most visible of the U-M freshmen. He’s started every game, and has only missed time when he got injured late in the game against Bellarmine. His total usage is, for the most part, a function of the defense in front of him. Saves and ground balls count positively, goals against and turnovers are negatives (don’t worry too much about the “positives” and “negatives,” it’s not really the point of this exercise, especially for the goalie and faceoff specialists). One thing it is crazy to note is that a goalie who’s getting shelled game after game has been positive every contest, except against Hopkins.
A faceoff win counts as a positive, a loss as a negative (with a ground ball or caused turnover serving as an additional positive, a turnover an additional negative), so a true FOGO is one type of player whose overall form will be best captured by the exercise. The yellow line staying above zero is the goal, and obviously the higher the better, but you get a good indication of his performances.
Fortunately, outside of the two games Lott has missed, you can see a pretty clear upward trend in his form on the year.
Jackson has started every game, and is Michigan’s leading scorer. It stands to reason that he’d have very high usage, and a very high net mark. One thing that’s interesting to note with him is a complete lack of negative plays (the closer the lines, the better the performance). Outside of a two-turnover game against Fairfield in Michigan’s slowest game of the year, he’s been a remarkably efficient player.
For the sake of this exercise, shots and shots on goal were positives, so you can see why I’m saying not to put too much stock into the positive/negative divide. Missing the cage a lot is a good thing for this primitive breakdown.
Hernandez is an interesting case, and one for whom the debate about whether taking shots that miss the cage (or those that hit the keeper) should be considered a positive. If they’re negative, his usage remains the same but net drops way down. He’s also one of the most turnover-prone players on Michigan’s team, though that’s partially because of his high usage when he’s been in the lineup – except in the High Point game, when most of them were due to bone-headed decisions.
Since sitting out the first game, Hernandez’s usage has been steadily climbing. He has, as you can see, been one of the players with the biggest gap between total usage and net usage, though some of his performances indicate that can be cleaned up with more experience.
Joseph is an interesting case here. He’s the only redshirt freshman in the bunch, so you’d expect his learning curve and usage, etc. to be a bit more steady than the rest we’re looking at. However, that’s not the case. He’s steadily increasing in role, and his performances have justified that increase.
He’s been playing all year, but the little midfielder/attackman has been not only more used, but more efficient as the season has gone on. The Fairfield and Colgate games may be slightly skewed by taking a ton of shots (and not scoring a whole lot), but he’s one player that is showing growth over the course of the season more than any other.
Kraus is another player who, after sitting out the first game, has seen his role on the team – and his effectiveness in doing it, for the most part – climb. Other than a rough outing against Fairfield (five turnovers), he’s been pretty much all positive.
It’s reasonable to expect that this growth will continue not just through the remainder of this season, but continue into next year. Since all these players are freshmen, that’s where the biggest upside lies.
The defensive players aren’t going to score big overall numbers like the offensive players (and they’re more susceptible to my drawing stupid conclusions based on small sample sizes), but Moore’s chart can tell us a little bit.
Although he’s played in every game, the LSM didn’t notch anything in the first three games. Since then, you could argue that maybe he’s grown a little more comfortable, or maybe just that there’s more opportunity for a significant role due to the injuries that have plagued the U-M D, but he’s stepped up, either way. He won’t be a key player this year, but his growth bodes well for years into the future. Closing the gap between blue and yellow (minimizing turnovers and penalties committed) will be the next big phase for him, though he’s only had two bad games from that perspective.
This graph is misleading as a pure defensive player, since Keady – especially in the first game when Lott was unavailable, and Hopkins when all faceoff specialists were ineffective against Unstoppable Faceoff God Mike Poppleton – has moonlighted as a faceoff specialist. While he’s done an OK job in that role, it’s not his long-term future in Ann Arbor. He’s also not expected to do a whole lot of winning those faceoffs (he’s out there to muck things up, create a 5-/5- GB, and play defense).
Keady has had inconsistent usage throughout the year, and quite a few negatives on the resume. Gaining more experience – and the ability to focus on his defensive duties, rather than a substitute FOGO role – should help him improve going forward.
Like Keady, Brown has seen some of his stats artificially deflated by playing a but on faceoffs. He’s also, however, had his serious share of ups and downs. Part of that is simply the nature of the position (find me an LSM or a D without and turnovers or penalties committed, and again some of it is growing pains.
It’s very encouraging that he’s had two of his best games in the two most recent. As with every other young player, you assume he’s only going to get better.
Kinek, for my money (of which there is none), is the most interesting case on the team. I don’t mean that he’s an exciting player when it comes to watching the games, or that he’s always in the mix of the action.
Rather, defensive midfielders are at a huge premium in the college game – maybe slightly less so with the no-horn rules and quick restarts, but still important – and Michigan’s been looking for some guys who can play that position since game one last year. Kinek seems to be performing well, and learning fast. Quint Kessenich mentioned on the Colgate broadcast that a two-way role is in Kinek’s future, and there’s no reason to doubt that given how quickly he’s coming along.
As noted several times throughout this article, don’t put too much stock in the positive/negative correlations, it’s just an interesting (to me, at least) if facile look at how much guys are contributing and the nature of those contributions.