Frees from the Ground or the Hand; (’12 – ’15)

An article by Martin Breheny during the week had a pop at Mickey Newman for not taking a 35m free from the ground (it’s the O’Byrne cup. In January!).

Kevin Egan (@lonesharkoy on twitter and a great read in his betting columns for betswot) bemoaned the fact that the article was based on a sample size of one. One! And that maybe, just maybe, Newman might know what’s best for him when taking a free.

This is old ground. Conversion rates for frees from the hand and the ground were covered in two early pieces (see here and here). Just like now the catalyst for the original piece was commentators bemoaning the lack of a particular skill. The Breheny article, and discussion on Twitter in its aftermath, got me curious as to whether the results of the initial study had changed at all now that we had so much more data.

The short answer is it hasn’t. Overall players convert frees from the hand at a 20% rate better than from the ground.

 

Attempts Scores Success Rate
From the Hand 789 623 79%
From the Ground 405 239 59%

 

That 20% gap is a bit sensationalist. Where frees are taken from does have an impact on overall conversion rates. The majority of frees (78%) taken from outside the 45 are taken from the ground. Frees from outside the 45 are converted at a relatively paltry 38% so including these will automatically dampen the results for frees from the ground. If we exclude theme does it change anything?

 

Attempts Scores Success Rate
From the Hand 753 608 81%
From the Ground 281 193 69%

 

The answer is yes and no. Yes the difference between the two is narrowed significantly but the central tenet holds true – players are better at converting from the hand than they are from the ground. Indeed the gap has grown slightly from three years ago when similar splits saw results of 79% from the hand and 68% from the ground.

Shot attempts are further segmented by sector (see sector breakdown here) so we are able to take a more granular look.

 

Sector From Ground From Hand
4 58% 63%
5 81% 84%
6 51% 70%
7 72% 79%
8 96% 98%
9 78% 80%

 

Frees from the hand not only outperform those from the ground but do so in all sectors. Including, perhaps a touch surprisingly, the very central ones. I say surprisingly because with frees out wide I can understand how players taking them from the hands make it easier on themselves by stealing a few yards. That doesn’t really enter the equation with the more central ones.

As stated in 2013 I have no problem with people lamenting the loss of a skill but surely Mickey Newman, or any free taker, knows the best way to approach any particular free? The fact that the numbers back up using your hands is just a nice happenstance.

What’s the betting we will be revisiting this in 2017?

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