Monday, September 5, 2016

Why early start ratings were a good thing for USTA League - A look at the problems we'll face in 2017

I've written before about the USTA doing away with early start ratings for 2017 and commented on why I thought it wasn't a good decision.  Well, I've come across a team that shows exactly why that is the case.

I came across a Mixed 8.0 team that is playing in an early start league and like most 8.0 teams is made of up a mix of 3.5s, 4.0s, and 4.5s.  Presently, this team has ways to field as many as four 4.5M/3.5W pairs and three 4.0M/4.0W pairs for a given match.

That's not bad, even if a few players are bumped up and become ineligible to play at their rostered levels, they should be able to still field a good team.  The problem is, this team may have more than just a few players bumped up.  And since this team is playing in a section where ineligible players won't be able to play at Sectionals, this could be an issue.

If my Estimated Dynamic NTRP Ratings are accurate at all, it is entirely possible that three of their 4.5 men could be bumped up making them ineligible to play on the team at all since they'd be 5.0s.  Ok, but they still have 4.0 men right?  Yes, but two of those are likely to be bumped up to 4.5.  Ok, but those could still play with 3.5 women right?  Yes, but four of those are likely to be bumped up to 4.0.

So, this team that has 16 players on the roster, could end up being able to field only two pairs after year-end bumps.  They'd have several 4.5 men but only one 3.5 woman, and then a bunch of 4.0 women but only one 4.0 man.  A few players are borderline bumps so there is a chance they could field a third pair, but just two pairs is entirely possible.

Now, this team is not doing anything illegal.  The USTA has elected to have teams formed using 2016 year-end ratings and all these players were computer rated at year-end.  But it is entirely possible that this team could beat up on teams in local league and still be able to use these players as rostered in local playoffs and win there, but then not be able to field a team for Sectionals.

Sure, if the team can't field a team, the runner up can be offered the spot.  But it still isn't really fair to the teams that had to play the team during the regular season or playoffs.  Some team will miss out on a playoff spot to this team, and then at least two other teams will be precluded from advancing in playoffs having to play this team and make it to the final.  And should there be a wildcard offered to Sectionals for this district, the runner-up would already be going, so who gets the offer to go when the winner can't field a team?  Will the semi-final losers have to play to decide that or will some tie-breaker be used?  It could become a bit of a mess.

But this also isn't really fair to the team that has the bump ups as they've formed their roster per the rules and may be precluded from advancing to Sectionals when players are bumped up.

Like I said before, early start ratings, while not perfect, served a purpose and that was to make it more likely players would be rostered on early start teams at their proper level and greatly reduce the chance of players being out of level and messing up rosters after year-end ratings come out.  Without them, players and teams, and not just the team with players being bumped up, will be significantly affected negatively.  I think we will be wishing we'd had early start ratings back when all is said and done.