Best Lacrosse Goalie Metrics To Judge Our Performance
By Coach Damon on October 12, 2015
Ultimately, lacrosse is a team sport and the only metric that matters is the scoreboard. Did we win or lose?
But it is useful to understand how well our goalie is playing.
And when it comes to judging goalie’s play with metrics, one king reigns supreme: save percentage.
But is this the best lacrosse goalie metric for which to judge our keeper’s play? If one goalie has a save percentage of 60% and another has 50%, is the first goalie always better?
In this post, let’s explore those questions and come up with a metric better suited to judge our play in goal.
Years ago in a game against Chico St. with our team trailing by a single goal and only 30 seconds left in the game, our coach called timeout.
He drew up the defensive play and it involved the ice hockey equivalent of pulling the goalie (me). By rule, 1 goalie must be on the field so I was assigned with face guarding a middie while we double-teamed the ball with two long poles.
The attacker ended up splitting the double team (doh!) and put the ball in the open goal.
We ended up losing the game which stinks but the reason I bring up the story is to talk about an outdated metric.
You see in that case my save percentage went down. I was face guarding my man at the top of the box and my save percentage took a hit.
Goalies that play on poor defensive teams often see a very high number of inside shots that are much more difficult to stop than a contested 15-yard piece of popcorn from outside. Is save percentage a fair metric to use to judge a goalie who defense allows nothing but shots on the doorstep?
Unfortunately, save percentage doesn’t tell the whole story.
Rather than rely on save percentage as the end-all be-all lacrosse goalie metric to judge our performance, I recommend using this system which I learned from Coach Jon Weston.
I call it the Goalie Game Score (GGS) and my version of the GGS works like this:
Award positive points for good plays:
- + 1 for a stuff (a save in close or one that you don’t expect him/her to make)
- + 1 for starting a fast break that results in a uneven number on the other end
- + 1 for a ground ball, pickoff, run-out or save of a wide shot
- +3 for >10 saves in a game
- + 5 for >20 saves in a game
Award minus points for poor plays:
- -1 for missing a shot he should save (typically I count this as any shot that goes in from outside of 8-10 yards).
- -1 for a blown clear (poor outlet pass that results in a turnover)
- -1 for a turnover (goalie loses the ball, or steps back into the crease, etc.)
Add these up for the whole game and you will generally find;
- Any minus score for the whole game and the goalie had a bad day
- Any positive score is an ok day
- + 5 is a good day
- >+5 the goalie was an impact player and probably led the victory.
I’ll track the Goalie Game Score for each game and plot them game by game.
Here I’m looking for trends. Is the goalie getting better?
I think when combined with the other lacrosse goalie metrics I’ll discuss below, GGS will help paint a clearer picture as to how our goalies are performing in the cage.
By no means am I suggesting that we entirely eliminate save percentage. I do feel it is an effective indicator of how the goalie performed.
Calculating save percentage is fairly simple. Take the number of saves / (number of saves + number of goals allowed) and there you have it – lacrosse goalie save percentage.
But it’s an incomplete picture. Like a dating profile pic from a weird angle that starts at the waist. There’s only so much to learn from it and it’s not enough to evaluate the lacrosse goalie as a complete player.
College coaches still heavily focus on save percentage so it’s also an important metric to track. In this way, save percentage is key.
As a rough guide for youth lacrosse, a save percentage below 50% needs to be improved upon and one over 60% is very good.
This will of course differ depending on your level of play. As shooters get stronger and more accurate in the higher levels, a save percentage doesn’t have to be as high to be considered excellent.
The save % leader in the MLL for the 2015 season was Tyler Fiorito at 60.6%. While the NCAA save percentage leader for the 2014 season was Garret Conaway also with 61.4%.
Similar to GGS, I’ll plot save percentage game by game to ensure our goalies are trending upwards.
There are some data points which I like to track to help determine how our lacrosse goalie is performing and where he/she might need improvement.
Goal View Spread Chart
The first chart I’ll create is a view facing the goal.
For every save, we put an X in the location of the save. Every goal that goes in we’ll put an O. If the shot was a bounce I’ll include a small B next to the X or the O.
This cluster chart will give you a good visual representation of where the goalie is strong and where they might need to improve.
If you see a pattern of many O’s in the off-stick low location, you know you’ll need to step up the drills to work on low shots during practice.
Here is an example of this chart:
This chart doesn’t factor in where the shot was taken from on the field. Hence the reason we use our second chart.
Field View Spread Chart
For this chart, we use an above the field view to determine where on the field shots are coming from.
We’ll use the same system as above, with X’s representing saves, O’s representing goals. For this chart, I also like to include W’s anytime a shot goes wide.
Here is an example:
Using this chart we can calculate our save percentage from different ranges to0. Under 5 yards, 5-10 yards, 10-15 yards. As the shots get further away we should see the goalie’s save percentage get higher.
This chart is also one that can be used to help analyze the defense in general. Are we giving up too many shots <5 yards? Are too many shots coming from the middle and not the low-angle sides. Graphing shots on this type of chart will help answer these questions.
If you have a goalie coach, they should be tracking this data during the game. If you don’t have that luxury, then recruit an injured player or a parent to collect stats specifically related to our goalie.
I use the charts above in addition to tracking goalie game score to help gather all the data we need to judge our goalie’s performance and determine what aspects of his game we can work on.
I put together a printable PDF to give the stat tracker to help them keep accurate data. I’ll print out a copy of this before each game.
To download a free copy of this PDF, simply join my email list. I never spam and you can unsubscribe anytime. You’ll also get a copy of my PDF – 41 Defensive Terms that every goalie should use for free.
There is also a version for the female game that you can get for free if you join the email list.
Nowadays, everyone understands how valuable data is when it comes to sports.
As lacrosse goalies and lacrosse goalie coaches, we should be analyzing as much data as possible to help improve our game.
Save percentage as long been the kingpin metric to determining goalie performance and I agree it is valuable, but we need more.
In addition to save percentage, I encourage you to look at other lacrosse goalie metrics like Goalie Game Score, create a goal and field view scatter charts.
Looking at these metrics will give you a better picture of how you’re playing and also what you need to work on in practice.
Until next time! Coach Damon
How do you use metrics to improve your goalie play? Let me know in the comments.