Analyzing Chrome’s Decision to Not Play Connor Farrell on Saturday
By Nick Zoroya | Jul 29, 2023
Sitting at the bottom of the league headed into Dallas, Chrome LC head coach Tim Soudan is continuing to try new things to get the team back on track. That includes trying out the faceoff strategy used previously by the Waterdogs and Cannons of not dressing a true faceoff specialist.
“We’re making a few changes this week to give our offense more speed and optimize for this week’s matchup at the face-off…That includes sitting Connor, who’s done well for us this year and is a big part of our culture.” said Soudan per a statement.
There are three driving factors in this decision: Trevor Baptiste’s head-to-head dominance against Farrell, Farrell’s turnover rate, shot clock use.
Matchup at the Stripe
Trevor Baptiste has a career faceoff win percentage of 60.7% against Farrell. In the past this percentage wouldn’t have deterred a team from dressing their top faceoff specialist, but given the 32-second shot clock, we’ve seen the Atlas keep Baptiste on the field as a part of their offense. Baptiste is far more comfortable on offense than Farrell is on defense. So when the Atlas win a faceoff they not only get possession, they have an immediate matchup advantage on offense.
24.5% of Farrell’s touches have resulted in a turnover (most among players with 10+ touches). This turnover rate effectively nullifies any advantage gained by his 71% faceoff win percentage. Simply put, Farrell gives away one out of every four wins and when your offense is dead last in offensive production you can’t afford to give the ball away.
Shot Clock Use
The Chrome faceoff strategy needs to be adjusted. Farrell’s affinity to win draws backward eats up the 32-second shot clock putting further stress on the offense to produce on a short clock. The Waterdogs and Cannons have moved to not dressing a faceoff specialist and employing a different strategy all together. These teams concede the clamp and instead try to make faceoffs into a contested groundball. If the opponent wins the groundball, then these teams are ready to play defense but have chewed up valuable clock by the time the faceoff specialist subs off.
If Not Farrell Then Who?
Last week I suggested we see more Mike Messenger on the draw but with his recent injury that’s no longer an option. The natural selection then would be using the long stick midfielders (Eli Salama and Nick Grill) and occasionally SSDM Ryan Terefenko. Baptiste is winning 95% of faceoffs against long poles this season but also has a turnover rate of 13% (11 turnovers on 90 touches). If the Chrome can cause Baptiste to turn the ball over after a win, they will get the ball and a full 52-second shot clock. Another option to consider is using Jordan MacIntosh. He took over 200 faceoffs in college, and won more than half.
“We’ve also added Colin Heacock, Troy Hettinger, and Jordan MacIntosh back to our line up. We believe this is the best roster to win this week.”
This week the 1-4 Chrome take on the 1-4 Atlas in a game with massive playoff implications. The Chrome currently have a 39.96% chance of making the postseason per PLL Stats' predictor. With a loss, that drops to 17.46%. With a win, it jumps to 65.02%. They can control their destiny if they beat Atlas, but not if they lose.
Tune in Saturday at 6pm on ESPN+ to see Coach Soudan’s strategies play out.