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Explaining the Task Manager
And how it answered my questions from last week's slam
A few weeks ago I introduced a new tool in the Other Stuff menu called Task Manager. As with most of my projects, it’s kind of buggy and I didn’t really explain how to use it (nor even publicize it). That’s still the case, but I thought I’d walk through a couple of use cases for it based on events in last week’s Tour Challenge.
The Task Manager is designed to be a tool to query my shot log library and get a handle for how often certain events happen. Let’s start with Team Homan, who saw a 19-game winning streak1 end at the hands of Team Constantini in their third game of pool play.
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This game was notable for another reason besides the winning streak ending. After giving up a steal in the sixth, Constantini led 7-2. A surprising score that led to a surprising reaction: Homan elected to play the 7th end. We can check the historic probability of overcoming such a deficit with the settings shown below.
In 222 cases in the shot log database, a team has never lost when up 5 without last rock2. This includes a wide variety of competition, too. Everything from the last 2 years of the slams to some Canadian university competitions. You can also see that in just 14 of those cases (6.3%) did the trailing team even score as many as three.
The 14th case was Team Homan, as not only did they elect to play the 7th end, which only 34% of slam teams have done in that spot in the past two seasons, but they would score 5. You can click on that 14 to see all of the past cases.
Not only was Homan the first to score 5 in this situation, but only one other team had even scored 4. In fact, if you look at the 1,992 previous cases where a team trailed by exactly five in any end of any event, they scored at least 5 just twice, and those were both in college events. Constantini would take care of business in the 8th, but there was relatively little attention placed on this incredibly rare result.
On the men’s side, Team Retornaz won the men’s final against previous #1 Team Bottcher. Bottcher ceded the top spot back to Team Gushue as a result, marking the 3rd consecutive time Bottcher has risen to #1 on this site and then lost the top ranking the very next week.
In the 8th end of the game with Retornaz leading 3-1, Retornaz’s second, Sebastiano Arman, was asked to throw a guard on his second shot as opposed to a peel. This was met with some derision by the broadcast crew. But with Task Manager, we can check how often guards are thrown in this spot by a men’s team in slams.
This was the 9th time in the last two-plus seasons of slams that a guard was thrown in that situation and the throwing team won 7 of those games (78%). On all other shot choices, teams are 50-11 in that spot (82%), so slightly better. Although (1) the sample size for guards is obviously small, and (2) the sample for non-guards is going to include cases where the path to victory is nearly trivial and a guard isn’t even a consideration.
You can’t really draw any firm conclusions from this since every situation is unique and we don’t know what choices a team had. But it is useful to know that a guard in this spot is not that unusual and the results have been pretty good on balance.
That said, Joel Retornaz had to make a couple of precise shots to prevent Bottcher from taking 3 in the 8th, and then had to make a non-trivial double to win in the extra end. So there was still room for second-guessing. But I think it’s useful to know that a guard isn’t an unusual tactic in that spot, and in general, it hasn’t been a losing approach, either.
Dating back to last year and spanning three different skips
Keep in mind, this is 222 cases where a shot was thrown in the second-to-last end and does not include concessions. Teams have conceded 296 times in this situation for a 57% concession rate.