Blocking – The Unsung Hero

Interactive Dashboard:!/vizhome/Blocking-TheUnsungHero/BlockingAffectsHittingEff

In my opinion, blocking is the most “shrugged off” skills in our sport. Guy gets up, bounces a ball in the middle of the court and blocker turns to the coach who promptly gives him the “thumbs up, move on” type of gesture. While you’re unlikely to fix your team in the middle of a match (despite valiant efforts by all manner of coaches), I think if attacking is the most important skill in volleyball – then it follows that blocking too, must be critical – they are intertwined.

That being said, I also think that some situation call for better blocking than others. In particular, one-on-one blocking (likely against in-system attacks) can have a huge benefit for your team. Imagine trusting your pin blockers enough that you could just read block as your system – that any attack hit with enough pace to score, would be touched by the blocker. That’s what I’m aiming for anyway…

In the dashboard above, there are a few different cuts of the data. Again we use only 2019 NCAA W teams where both team and opponent were in the Top 100 for RPI. We look at how block touches affect your opponent’s hitting efficiency – as well as circling back to Point Win Probability (PWP) where we look at how likely a team is to win the point, given a specific outcome. In our case as blockers, those outcomes range from getting tooled, to stuff blocks, to touches that result in a variety of good/bad outcomes for our teams. Each outcome carries a unique expected efficiency of winning the point – and we aggregate all these block touches (and lack of touches) to create PWPs for every single attack, whether touched or not.

In calculating all these efficiencies, we split our data between attacks where a block touch follows…and where no block touch follows. Even if the blocker got tooled and it’s a block-out for a kill, we count the negatives along with the positives.

The dashboard above looks at High vs. Non-High Balls – the Number of Blockers the attacker was facing – and any combination in between. There is data for both straight up hitting efficiency as well as new-fangled Point Win Probability, so whatever your cup of tea, I hope you find the exploration worthy of your time.

p.s. For an older look at some of this stuff from the volleydork vault: To Touch or Not to Touch