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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jones vs Homan XV

An epic battle was waged on Monday Night Scotties that could be a deciding factor in who gets to the 1vs2 game and who has last rock.  Ok, not earth shattering consequences, but it did matter for something.  Jones won in an extra end and quickly comments were populating on CurlingZone that Homan coach Richard Hart made mistakes, that Hart imposed his opinion, that Hart allowed Rachel to decide, Canada didn't deserve to lose, Manitoba played better, Jones was lucky to hang on, etcetera.

Let's have a look at several scenarios that were debated:

5th End: Homan down 2 with hammer

On her final stone, Rachel calls a time out as they discuss whether to attempt  a double for 3 (blue line) or soft hit for two (green line).

Homan is Red 

Coach Richard Hart's demeanor seemed fine to me.  He calmly explained which shot he preferred but left Rachel the decision to chose what she felt comfortable playing.  The risk of the double attempt seems quite high to me at this stage of the game.  Part of their reasoning for the double was because of the difficulty of the shot for two.  This is an interesting situation that often occurs, the "easier" shot is actually more difficult than you'd like, so you chose an even more difficult shot for more points.  So what does the math look like?  I'll summarize:

Win Expectancy (WE) with 4 Ends Remaining (4 ER)  

Tied without hammer = 40%

One up without hammer = 60%

One down without hammer = 23%

Down 3 with hammer = 12%

The shot for two could result in a single or create a steal, but so could the shot for 3.  The shot at 3 could produce a deuce, single or steal.  Based on WE, Rachel does not want to score less than two in this situation as it reduces her WE below 1 in 4 tries.  Ok, prepare for a lot of estimating...

Let's estimate Homan attempts the tap for two and gets a deuce 70%, one 20% and a steal 10%.  WE = 34%

If she attempts the double, and we estiimate she scores two 20% or one 20% of the time, Rachel needs to score 3 greater than 30% of the time for it to be the correct decision.

Plenty of what-ifs and different guesses will produce a different analysis, but in the end I think it was the correct call.  In this case, the reward didn't appear to out-weight the risk associated.

This is a situation where, given a close decision, teams will often choose the option with a lower variance. Given the equal capability of these teams, it makes sense.  In the same situation, a weaker team may benefit by choosing the riskier shot. 

9th End:  Jones is tied with hammer.  

Strangely, on Dawn's second shot, Jennifer asks her to freeze, leaving 3 rocks in the four foot, when she could have instead played a hit and roll to sit two.  Not sure what Jones was thinking. Seemed like a strange call when you benefit from keeping a potential blank in play in this situation and you don't want to create a pack of rocks in the middle of the sheet to get 2 points.  Oh, and then Manitoba plays a freeze on Jill's first rock.  Five rocks in the four foot now.  Not for long. After Joanne's shot, there is now six.  

On her last shot, Jennifer tries a double to take 2 points (maybe she saw a 3?) when all she needed was a draw to the full eight foot.  Supposing both shots were equal odds of being made, I can't argue with her assessment of her chances with the hit, but if they knew they were shot, drawing the full eight foot seems the preferred option.  There didn't appear to be any chance at 3 and at this late stage of the game, there's zero reason to take any additional risk for a trey over a deuce.

10th End: Homan 1 down with hammer.

On Team Canada third Emma Miskew's last rock, Homan calls a time out to discuss whether to double peel the front stones (blue line) or to draw around centre (green line).

Homan is Red

Coach Richard Hart sounds more committed to the draw and appears to be less interested in the peel, something many internet posters claimed "lost Rachel the game".

Firstly, there are still 4 rocks to come and this one decision, though it appears critical, will not decide the fate of Team Canada.  At first, the double peel seems like a good decision, it allows play away from centre, increasing the chance of scoring at least one.  But keep in mind that teams don't try to score one in this sitiuation, they will increase risk in order to score two points, rather than face a likely defeat in an extra end.  This risk is often seen on the last shot but also occurs earlier in an end.  If Miskew peels, and Jennifer makes the corner freeze, Rachel will need to hit and hope the angles are in her favour creating an advantage when the dust settles.  It's anyone's guess on what the end result will look like, but I can see several situations, both good and bad for Rachel, depending on where Jennifer's rock settles and if she taps anything back, changing the set-up.  It's also important to note than Emma was heavy with her draw and the great raise double made by Jennifer would not have been as accessible if she was top eight rather than top four foot.  At this stage, Rachel still has two rocks to get her deuce and several guards and rocks in play.  

Russ Howard's comment "rule number one, control the front", seems so obvious in hindsight, after the shots are complete, but I don't agree.  In this position 1 down with hammer in the final end, scoring two is the priority and teams should adapt to the situation to give themselves the best opportunity.

I'm not completely agreeing with the decision, but I am certain it was not as clear as Russ or some internet skips would suggest.  

Extra End: Jones tied with hammer.

Homan has a rock half in the top four foot but Jones sits second off to the side. Coach Hart clearly leaves the decision to Rachel to decide what shot they want to leave Jennifer on her last, draw to full four foot or a double.  Even with a tap, Jennifer still had an open path to the button and may have chosen to draw, depending on the position of the rocks.  Rachel may have been able to tap her rock into a position where a double might jam on the Jones stone, but very difficult to tap to the perfect spot and even so, to create that possibility, Jen's final shot likely noses for the winning point anyway.  A case can be made for both options.  In the end, Jennifer draws for the win. (At least I think she did, my PVR ran out at a whopping 3 hours 31 minutes.  Another vote for 8 end games).  

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