DNN Releases First Power Rankings of 2010
DNN's Power Rankings open the new season with a fair amount of movement near the top, as several close Top 10 bouts at the Wild West Showdown provided plenty of grist for the mill. While current WFTDA Champions the Oly Rollers retain the top spot, we see ample evidence that the top several teams are more competitive than ever -- bad for DNN's attempts to rank them linearly, but good good good for fans of the sport!
In the year since we debuted the Power Rankings feature, we've been well served by our core ranking standard:
If two given teams meet today, which one do we think is more likely to win?
That's not to say we haven't learned some lessons. We'll revisit and revise the Power Rankings FAQ in time, but for the moment here's a quick summary of our current thinking:
1) Rosters matter.
One of the principles we established early on was that we wouldn't pay a great deal of attention to exactly which skaters skated how much, or at all, in a given game. We felt (and still strongly feel) that at the top level of any sport, one single athlete doesn't (or shouldn't) make or break a team.
While this principle is admirable, in practice we found that it just doesn't hold. As we develop more comprehensive stats for the sport, and make them more accessible for analysis, this will become easier to quantify, but even today we've seen more than enough cases where a team's performance can be clearly demonstrated to vary in the presence or absence of one or two specific skaters. While game day rosters will never be a key criterion for a team's Power Rankings, we may consider them in cases where we're otherwise deadlocked -- and the continued increase in competitiveness at the top means that may become more frequent.
2) Rulesets matter.
In the original Power Rankings FAQ, we indicated that we'd consider bouts played on any track geometry, under any strictly and consistently enforced written ruleset. Experience (particularly Cincinnati's recent bitraxual experience in San Diego) has shown that different rulesets -- or more to the point, differential experience with a given ruleset -- really does render those results apples and oranges, no matter how much the rulesets may have in common.
The WFTDA ruleset is currently used in more than 98% of modern roller derby competitions. Going forward, we will only consider WFTDA-rules bouts for Power Rankings. Should another ruleset gain a significant user base (say, season-long use by a dozen or more teams in interleague bouts), we will revisit this stance.
3) For WFTDA teams, calendar month matters.
WFTDA's regional tournament seeding is based on each team's WFTDA Rank in their region at the end of the second quarter (i.e. the ranking that comes out in July). For teams focused on WFTDA tournament success, this creates a structural incentive to play their best current lineup possible during the months of April through June.
Conversely, once the seeds are set, a team has "nothing to lose" by losing games prior to their regional tournament. In more and more cases, teams are using the window between seeding and regionals, to field less experienced skaters in order to developing upcoming talent. The final score from games played this way often does not reflect what a team might have accomplished had tournament advancement been on the line (motivating the team to put in nothing but proven aces). Similarly, teams may use third-quarter bouts to experiment with untested tactics -- whether they work or don't, testing new techniques in a live bout is an essential step toward improving future competitiveness.
To a lesser degree, we see this happening early in the year as well, particularly when a team has carefully scheduled competitive in-region bouts in the second quarter (so they can play those bouts to peak and lock in good seeding).
We're not at all opposed to this approach -- far from it, talent development is critically important for the future health and growth of modern roller derby -- but it does complicate our judgment of a team's potential for future success. This issue is, to some degree, a subset of "rosters matter," and it will weigh similarly in our evaluations.
On the rise
Bringing the focus back to this month's rankings, we have our eyes on three up and coming teams:
- Nashville Rollergirls - After their harrowing (but frequently educational) turn at the Texecutioners' meat grinder in last fall's South Central Regionals, Nashville's off to a solid start this year, defeating Atlanta for the first time. Nashville has several other recently Power Ranked teams in their sights, including Pikes Peak, Arch Rival, and Providence, before a late-summer meeting with steadily advancing Steel City.
- Naptown Roller Girls - Like Nashville, the Tornado Sirens have also set their sights on bigger game, defeating Burning River in December, then very nearly toppling Grand Raggidy after romping over Derby City and Memphis. They're going to need to aim further up the food chain to break into the rankings -- we'll be watching for them to provide their sizeable home audiences something even bigger to cheer about.
- Jet City Rollergirls - Everett's team has long lingered in the shadow of their dominant Seattle neighbor, but they shot onto the radar by taking a new-look Duke City squad all the way to the final jam before losing 149-135. Is there room at the top for a fourth pacific northwest powerhouse? Time will tell.
Without further ado
We present the March 2010 DNN Power Rankings.
As always, we welcome vigorous, thoughtful, and courteous discussion in the comments section on the rankings page.