What Lies Beneath – Success Rates for Various Shot Types

This was originally published over on livegaelic before the season started – I meant to put it up here but have only gotten around to it now.

Introduction
I have been gathering data on Championship games since 2010. Unfortunately I do not have any games from 2011 however for the other three years 86 games have been charted with 6,593 attacking possessions and 4,805 shots recorded.

There have been minor adjustments over the years as to how the data is gathered. Where this is the case any extrapolation will be highlighted. We also have to take into account the fact that all the games are charted manually so there will be errors and inconsistencies however I am confident that they are minimal as (a) I don’t do games live and have the benefit of time to review and check and (b) I do all the games myself so how I interpret actions (a shot, or pressure for example) will be relatively consistent.

Overall

Year Games Possessions Avg possessions Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate
2010 36 3,013 83.7 2,041 68% 1,016 50%
2012 25 1,764 70.6 1,351 77% 698 52%
2013 25 1,816 72.6 1,413 78% 713 50%

There are a few things that jump out from this one table alone. The main one is the contrast between 2010, in terms of average possessions per game and Shot Rates, and 2012 & 2013. They are quite a way apart given how consistent ’12 & ’13 have been.

There were 44% more games in 2010 and given that these would all have been earlier in the Championship I did wonder if there was something in the quality of the games recorded that was producing this result. As such I extracted the same seven games from each year (4 quarter finals, 2 semi finals and the final) and compared them

Year Games Possessions Avg possessions Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate
2010 7 579 82.7 413 71% 209 51%
2012 7 492 70.3 377 77% 204 54%
2013 7 510 72.9 388 76% 205 53%

The Shot Rate gap does shrink but the Avg. possession rate remains stubbornly different. We do know that football is a copy cat game – 2011 saw the emergence of the Donegal wall as well as a tempered Dublin. It could be that following both those teams’ success an emphasis was placed on minding the ball. Recycling the ball and attempting to take more quality shots, rather than a greater quantity of shots, seems to be in vogue.

As an aside it is interesting to note that the higher profile games – quarter finals onwards – where one would expect more evenly matched teams brought about higher Success Rates. Despite, in theory, these games possessing better defences the Shot Rates remained relatively static in ’12 & ’13 but the Success Rates increased. At a very, very generalized level the better forwards outperformed the better defences.

Shot Outcomes
From Play
Before we move on to looking at the various shot types below is the outcome of all shots from play.

2010 2012 2013 Total
Blocked 7% 6% 7% 7%
Goal 4% 4% 4% 4%
Goalkeeper 7% 6% 5% 6%
Point 41% 42% 40% 41%
Saved 2% 3% 4% 3%
Short 6% 5% 7% 6%
Wide 34% 30% 31% 32%
Framework 3% 2% 1%

There is a remarkable consistency to these outcomes. 44-46% of all shots end in a score (goal or point) whilst 33 – 34% of all shots were wide each year (note that in 2010 all shots that hit the framework were considered wide … these were separated in ’12 & ’13). Now we know that the type of shot will have a big bearing on the Success Rates however if you are a member of a club then by simply tallying the outcome of your team’s shots you will know how far off inter county standards your team’s shooting is.

The only real “trend”, and it is a minor one overall, is the fall in the number of shots dropping into a goalkeeper’s hands. It has fallen from 7.4% of all shots in 2010, to 5.8% in ’12 and 5.4% in ’13. I would be surprised if this was due to anything other than teams preaching a mantra that emphasises minimizing turnovers; the belief that it is better to kick the ball wide, and set for the kickout, than let your opponent start a counter attack when the team is not ready. It would be interesting to see how many shots a team gets from possession garnered from balls dropping into the keepers hands versus from kickouts. Another one to add to the ‘to do’ list.

Knowing that 45% of all shots from play end in a score is useful. It can be used as a convenient benchmark. However there are a lot of other factors that feed into whether a particular shot will be successful or not; strength of the wind, where on the pitch the shot was taken from, rain, strength of the opposition, whether a defender was placing the shooter under pressure to name but a few.

A lot of these are subjective (pressure?) whilst others are difficult to gauge watching games on tape (how do you grade various wind strengths). One factor we have been able to consistently capture however is where on the pitch a shot was taken from.

GAA pitch

I have always used the above segmentation and whilst it has its drawbacks it has two major strengths. One it is objective as all pitches are marked the same and two it is readily transferable across grounds and broadcasters. No matter the camera angle, or trajectory of the sun, you will rarely struggle to place a shooter in the above grid using the pitch markings.

Having said that how do Success Rates for shots for points for the various segments line up?

Sector 2010 2012 2013 Total
1 100% 67% 0% 83%
2 31% 56% 22% 38%
3 60% 0% 40% 44%
4 34% 40% 35% 36%
5 49% 52% 50% 50%
6 37% 36% 34% 36%
7 41% 42% 45% 43%
8 67% 75% 71%
9 40% 49% 38% 42%

The returns for 2010 from Sector 8 are blank as there was no distinction between shots for goals and shots for points in that year. Alongside the returns it is instructive to review where the volume of kicks were taken from (see Appendix).

For shots from outside the 45 (Sectors 1-3) there is a lot of volatility; this is purely due to low volumes however. Only 2% of all shots – 77 shots in 86 games – in the three years occurred outside the 45. It is very difficult to extract anything meaningful from this data.

From year to year there have been fluctuations on the returns from the wings (Sectors 4 & 6) however over the three years there is no difference. Whether kicking from the left or the right the Success Rates are 36%. As a grouping Sectors 4 & 6 combined produce the most shots (38% across the three years) but the returns are relatively poor.

It is not a case that as a trainer or coach you tell your players not to shoot from here but you must know your players and who is likely to at least hit the average on these shots. Paul Flynn probably has licence to shoot from here all day – should Jack McCaffrey? Only if you know, from data gathered in games and training, what his Success Rate is like.

Inside the 20m line there is again volatility over the years but when combined there is practically no difference either. Shooting from the right or the left (Sectors 7 & 9) the Success Rates come in at 42%-43%.

Which leaves us with the centre. Just under a quarter of all shots come from Sector5 whilst 50% are converted. A conversion rate of 50% may seem low for shots more or less in front of goal but in the context of a 36% Success Rate from the Sectors either side of it this is quite a fruitful avenue.

Sector 8, straight in front of goals, surprises me somewhat. Remember these are deliberate attempts for points so goal shots are excluded. These should be the simplest shots in the game but yet a sizeable minority, 29%, are missed. This is where our lack of defensive reference points has a bearing. You would imagine that the vast majority of those missed shots came about due to defensive pressure.

From Deadballs
Success Rates for shots from deadballs

2010 2012 2013 Total
Free 70% 71% 70% 70%
45 49% 40% 50% 47%
Sideline 13% 33% 33% 21%
Penalty 100% 100% 67% 88%
All deadballs 66.3% 66.9% 66.6% 66.5%

Again the level of consistency stands out. Over the three years the Success Rate from deadballs has remained static with the only fluctuations coming from those methods of delivery where volumes are low. Free kicks, as a percentage of all deadball shots, were 84.9% over the three years with a very narrow range (84.7% in ’10, 86.0% in ’12 and 84.1% in ’13). The average number of frees in a game across the three years is 12.4 – with a Success Rate of 70% your average free taker, in an average Championship game, will deliver 4.3 points.

I have always wondered at the low return rates for 45s however in the context that there is only, on average, 1.76 45s a game it is easy to see why players and coaches might deem it ancillary.
Frees only

Sector 2010 2012 2013 Total
1 25% 33% 50% 36%
2 47% 59% 42% 48%
3 42% 25% 38% 37%
4 55% 65% 52% 56%
5 86% 82% 83% 84%
6 58% 56% 61% 58%
7 78% 73% 86% 78%
8 93% 94% 88% 92%
9 94% 75% 75% 84%

Much like shooting from play there are distinct groupings of sectors here. From play we saw that there was a large uptick in Success Rates for shots down the centre inside the 45m. This is also evident in the free taking returns and is extended outside the 45 as well where, unlike shots from play, a large portion of frees emanate from (14% over the three years).

Again there is little difference in Success Rates for frees from the wings; 36% & 37% for frees from Sector1 & Sector3 and 56% & 58% for Sector4 & Sector6.

There is some variation in the outcomes for frees inside the 21m line with 78% of frees converted from the right (Sector7) and 84% from the left (Sector9). This may be due to right footed free takers taking some frees from Sector7 that more naturally fits a left footed free taker – but that is just conjecture on my part.

Pressure

One last piece. Previously we mentioned certain variables that could affect the Success Rate of shots. One that was mentioned was pressure. Although I have tracked whether a shot was taken under pressure since I started doing games I have never used it. The main reason for this was that it was a subjective analysis – put 10 GAA fans in a room and they would come up with ten different definitions.

Still the data is there so lets have a look at the outputs

Year Shots Pressure-yes Scores Success Rate Pressure-no Scores Success Rate
2010 1,513 857 348 41% 649 315 49%
2012 1,007 622 263 42% 377 200 53%
2013 1,024 579 244 42% 438 205 47%

The results are, more or less, as expected. Each year there is a clear downshift, as against the mean, for those shots taken under pressure and an uplift for those taken without pressure. There is also quite a bit of consistency year on year which is quite comforting – it would lead you to believe that whilst subjective how pressure is being tracked is accurate. Definitely a subject worthy of its own piece.

APPENDIX
Breakdown of shots for points from play

Sector 2012 2013 Total
1 0% 0% 0%
2 2% 1% 2%
3 0% 1% 0%
4 21% 21% 21%
5 25% 23% 24%
6 18% 17% 17%
7 10% 15% 12%
8 14% 13% 13%
9 8% 10% 9%

Breakdown of where shots from deadballs taken

Sector 2010 2012 2013 Total
1 2% 4% 2% 3%
2 10% 6% 6% 8%
3 4% 3% 2% 3%
4 16% 16% 18% 17%
5 21% 20% 25% 22%
6 18% 19% 17% 18%
7 8% 7% 6% 7%
8 13% 18% 17% 16%
9 7% 7% 5% 6%
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2 Responses to “What Lies Beneath – Success Rates for Various Shot Types”

  1. Kerry v Mayo 2014 Championship | dontfoul Says:

    […] and with conviction, but the outcome was not entirely unexpected. Over three Championship seasons 88% of penalties have been […]

  2. jhartogs Says:

    Reblogged this on Irish history, folklore and all that and commented:
    What Lies Beneath – Success Rates for Various Shot Types

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