Youth Movement

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…

Gerald Logan

Gerald Logan

Logan has seen a lot of action, and performed very well.

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.

Brad Lott

Brad Lott

Apologies for the tooltip in the middle of the chart.

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.

Kyle Jackson

Kyle Jackson

Jackson has dominated Michigan’s offense, and has kept turnovers out of his game. Again with the toooltip.

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.

Mike Hernandez

Mike Hernandez

“High Point” is the opponent, not a description of the graph (sorry).

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.

David Joseph

David Joseph

Up, up, and up.

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.

Peter Kraus

Peter Kraus

Kraus has climbed, though not all of that usage has been positive.

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.

Paxton Moore

Moore is steadily gaining.

Moore is steadily gaining.

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.

Charlie Keady

Charlie Keady

Keady’s numbers against Penn State and Johns Hopkins are pretty much irrelevant.

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.

Chase Brown

Brown has had his share of ups and downs.

Brown has had his share of ups and downs.

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.

Dan Kinek

Invisible against Bellarmine, poor against High Point, but great every other outing.

Invisible against Bellarmine, poor against High Point, but great every other outing.

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.

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10 Responses to Youth Movement

  1. Jason says:

    Very cool analysis. I’ve also done some comparison with tempo free lax to see the differences between last year and this year for Michigan. In general, most key stats are either very close to the same as last year, or improved marginally. One thing that sticks out as weird is that the offensive efficiency has actually gone down since last year. That might be due to the Army game still skewing results. But we are getting more assisted goals, so I think the offense is improved as assisted goals are tougher to defend and makes for a more versatile offense, we just haven’t been converting better than last year just yet.

    • Tim says:

      Just from the eyeball test, the settled offense seems much better this year. Whether that’s a better scheme (which I think is definitely there, if only to a degree) or better talent, or just random growth is certainly up for debate.

      I think a big part of the worse efficiency is threefold: 1. New rules that sort of hurt a team like Michigan (still talent-deficient, they can’t stall to find the perfect look nearly as well as they could last year). 2. More injuries. Though the overall talent is probably slightly improved, Michigan has played without Meter, without Paras, without some of those talented freshmen. That’s harmful in itself (you’re taking talent off the field, obviously), but also because it takes a little longer for the team to build chemistry. 3) Less transition. Though they’re still running 10-man here and there, the ride is significantly scaled back, in order to give up less transition (part of why the D is greatly improved). That means easy goals off the ride are greatly diminished as well.

      There could be other reasons, though I would bet those I mentioned are the big three. One thing I kind of wonder about is whether playing tougher opposition early in the year messes with the SOS adjustments a bit, but I don’t know.

  2. Russ Moyer says:

    This kid Dan Kinek #38, is being totally wasted at D middie. I agree w the assessment that Dmiddie is so important in this day of no horn and ample transition, but Michigan has major issue of wasted scoring opportunities, and numerous turnovers. It is obvious in the limited opportunies that he has been given on the offensive side of the ball, that he has point guard like vision, and is a threat with both hands. He has a nose for the goal and a high IQ. If you coupled him with the Jackson kid, both would flourish. The issue with the Mich offense is they dont have a player who can facilitate and respond quickly enough to slides. #1 is a turnover machine and shoots awful shots. (12 shots for 1 goal in Colgate game that is double digit turnovers off saves that result in transition for the opposing team) If he cant play a complimentary role, he should still be watching from the sidelines and developing that part of his game in practice. With the team at 0-8, there is no reason to not allow Kinek a run at Omiddie or at least let him stay on from the dmiddie role instead of sprinting him off everytime. Now is the time to see what you have, it is a season of growing, and, in my opinion, they are currently limiting his growth and the growth of the other offensive players.

    • Tim says:

      Kinek has already been getting run on offense when transitioning from D-mid (and a lot of it), and his role in the offense has started to increase as well. That was, like, the whole point of this post.

      As for what he brings to the offense… unless you’re intimately familiar with his high school career (in which case, I don’t see a way you can objectively comment), there’s no evidence that he’s any better than the players who are getting plenty of playing time already.

      Basing your opinion of David Joseph on one game is far more unfair to a kid than criticizing the coaching staff (which sees these kids in practice every day, and is fully aware of their capabilities) for not playing another guy enough.

    • Jason says:

      I’m not sure I’d say he’s being wasted. You gotta remember that a goal stopped on D is just as good as a goal scored on O. And if Michigan doesn’t have backups ready on D, the best thing for the team may be if Kinek plays on D instead of O. Having seen 3 games, I don’t think he looked out of place on D. Creating scoring opportunities in transition is also different than 6v6, and transition may also be his strength.

    • AndyD says:

      Agenda post obviously.

      Orr is out right? That leaves Sutton at D mid. A critical position. My guess is that Kinek provides the best option there given the injury situation. Maybe he gets them a couple more scoring opportunities if he’s on O, but if the trade off is a lot more opportunities for the opponent then it’s a no brainer to play him at d mid. Plus he’s obviously really good in transition. D mids get a lot more transition opportunities than o mids (duh). They don’t seem to have another real transition threat so he helps there (despite the really dumb shot against Colgate).

      If the game is moving toward a real shot clock and true two way middies, he’ll be way ahead in his development.

      Joseph definitely needs to learn to shoot and he’s taken a few dumb shots. But I’m not sure where the turnover criticism comes from. He has 5 total in their last 4 games. He’s obviously the team’s most dynamic athlete. He initiates the offense a lot, and he gets separation all the time.

      • Russ Moyer says:

        @ Andy, funny that you feel that my post was an agenda post. Never once did I say Joseph, will never be good, but he needs seasoning, right now hes killing the offense. I argue the point he is the most dynamic athlete, I would say that Jackson, Kinek or the Keeper. Heck even the big middie who can barley handle in traffic is better due to size and speed.At most universities, he would be on the bench behind more developed players. All I’m saying is that Kinek when he has had his very limited opportunities (I have seen 5 games, all loses 4 of which were very bad losses where the team looked out of place) So my opinion is off of those games, I didnt see the other losses, so maybe kinek was playing offense more there.
        It is def not an agenda post, unless the agenda is to comment on a player from Michigan who I feel can invigorate a stagnant offense. I have no agenda, I don’t know the kids, the coach and never played there. I do want to see Michigan do well, to grow the Big 10 and Lacrosse out west. I wish Big Blue the best, but don’t see a win this week either against a very solid Air force team. The future is bright, but for this year I think they should give kids a chance to prove them selves not try to lose by less. a loss is a loss. The years that will matter is 2014 and beyond

  3. Russ Moyer says:

    If Kinek is injured its a moot point, in terms of getting him offensive reps. Obviously, it opens up an opportunity for someone else to prove themself. Maybe someone proves themself worthy of the DMiddie role freeing Kinek up upon return. I know for me, I would e happy getting D1 run as a freshman, any run. The team is so young, can only hope the recruiting class isnt hurt by the lack of wins, and help is on the way. All of these players will develop and the spotlight wont be too big in two years, they will be battletested.
    they should be a force for years to come. It is good for Michigan, and NCAA Lax.

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