How The ISL Would’ve Scored Last Season Under 2020 Rule Changes

Courtesy: Adam Barley

Note: a previous version of this article used jackpot times published on the ISL website. The jackpot times have since been updated and the article has been edited to reflect those changes.

The 2020 ISL season will see changes to the scoring system, most significantly with the introduction of jackpot times. Jackpot times reward margin of victory for the event winner over every other swimmer in the heat. Think of the jackpot time like a countdown clock. Once the first swimmer hits the wall the countdown clock starts. Any swimmer who fails to finish by the time the countdown clock runs out doesn’t earn points. His or her points are awarded to the event winner.

What would happen if we applied the jackpot times rule to the results from the 2019 ISL season?

Before we start, let’s acknowledge that swimmer lineups and efforts likely would have been different had the jackpot rule been in place last year. Additionally, since the rule change rewards margin of victory, swimmers who may have eased up or simply done enough for the win are incentivized under the new rules to try and win by as much as possible.

First, let’s look at the percentage of individual event swims that finished within the jackpot time for each meet in the 2019 ISL season:

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th Total scoring swims
Indianapolis 30 / 30 30 / 30 30 / 31 28 / 29 25 / 31 17 / 29 8 / 31 4 / 29 172 / 240
100.0% 100.0% 96.8% 96.6% 80.6% 58.6% 25.8% 13.8% 71.7%
Naples 31 / 31 30 / 30 29 / 29 30 / 30 24 / 30 20 / 31 14 / 30 2 / 28 180 / 239
100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 80.0% 64.5% 46.7% 7.1% 75.3%
Lewisville 30 / 30 30 / 30 30 / 31 27 / 30 26 / 30 20 / 29 12 / 30 3 / 30 178 / 240
100.0% 100.0% 96.8% 90.0% 86.7% 69.0% 40.0% 10.0% 74.2%
Budapest 32 / 32 28 / 28 29 / 30 30 / 32 24 / 28 22 / 30 11 / 31 6 / 29 182 / 240
100.0% 100.0% 96.7% 93.8% 85.7% 73.3% 35.5% 20.7% 75.8%
College Park 32 / 32 29 / 29 30 / 30 26 / 29 25 / 30 23 / 31 13 / 29 6 / 29 184 / 239
100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 89.7% 83.3% 74.2% 44.8% 20.7% 77.0%
London 30 / 30 31 / 31 29 / 29 27 / 30 26 / 30 23 / 30 18 / 30 8 / 30 192 / 240
100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 90.0% 86.7% 76.7% 60.0% 26.7% 80.0%
Las Vegas 30 / 30 30 / 30 31 / 31 29 / 30 26 / 30 23 / 29 18 / 30 9 / 30 196 / 240
100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 96.7% 86.7% 79.3% 60.0% 30.0% 81.7%
Season 215 / 215 208 / 208 208 / 211 197 / 210 176 / 209 148 / 209 94 / 211 38 / 205 1284 / 1678
100.0% 100.0% 98.6% 93.8% 84.2% 70.8% 44.5% 18.5% 76.5%
  • No swims would have earned the full jackpot of 37 points.
  • In every swim during the season the second-place finisher would have finished within the jackpot time.
  • Only three third place swims were outside the jackpot time. In those events, the winner would have earned 24 points, the most points for an individual-event win during the season.
  • In Naples only two out of 28 eighth-place finishes would have earned points. The Las Vegas final had the most scoring eighth-place swims with 30% earning a single point.
  • Across the entire season only 38 swims would have earned the one point for finishing eighth. That’s less than one out of five swims.

So how did this affect the points distribution for individual events?

The chart below shows the average points per placing that would have been earned under the new scoring system. For comparison, under the previous scoring system first-place swims earned 9 points, and 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 point(s) for each respective placing.

Average points per placing
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th
Indianapolis 13.67 7.00 5.77 4.83 3.23 1.76 0.52 0.14
Naples 13.00 6.97 6.00 5.00 3.20 1.90 0.90 0.07
Lewisville 13.23 7.00 5.77 4.47 3.43 2.07 0.80 0.10
Budapest 12.88 7.00 5.80 4.63 3.43 2.20 0.71 0.21
College Park 12.50 6.97 5.97 4.48 3.33 2.19 0.90 0.21
London 12.27 6.97 6.00 4.50 3.47 2.30 1.20 0.27
Las Vegas 11.80 7.00 5.97 4.80 3.43 2.38 1.20 0.30
Season average 12.76 6.99 5.90 4.67 3.36 2.11 0.89 0.19

 

  • A look at the average points values makes it clear that the jackpot points system favors individual event wins — the average event winner in Indianapolis would have earned 50% more points under the new rules than in 2019.
  • Even in the finals in Las Vegas — presumably the most competitive meet — an event winner would have earned on average 30% more points for a win than they would have without jackpot scoring.
  • Second and third place finishers would earn approximately the same number of points under the new rules, but lose even more ground to the winner.

Note: the data set includes several ties. In a tie for second place, each swimmer would earn 6.5 points instead of 7 points. This explains why the average for Naples, College Park and London is less than 7.

The jackpot points rule applies to relays, too. How would the rules affect relay scores?

Let’s let’s look at the percentage of relays that finished within the jackpot times:

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th Total scoring relays
Indianapolis 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 4 / 5 39 / 40
100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 80% 98%
Naples 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 3 / 4 38 / 39
100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 75% 95%
Lewisville 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 4 / 5 1 / 4 35 / 39
100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 80% 25% 88%
Budapest 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 3 / 5 38 / 40
100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 60% 95%
College Park 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 4 / 5 3 / 4 37 / 39
100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 80% 75% 93%
London 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 4 / 5 3 / 4 37 / 39
100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 80% 75% 93%
Las Vegas 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 5 / 5 3 / 4 38 / 39
100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 75% 95%
Season 35 / 35 35 / 35 35 / 35 35 / 35 35 / 35 35 / 35 32 / 35 20 / 30 262 / 275
100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 91% 67% 95%

 

  • 95% of all relay swims would have earned points under the 2020 scoring system as opposed to just 77% of individual swims.
  • The relay jackpot times are comparatively laxer than the individual jackpot times. For example: the women’s 100 freestyle jackpot time is 2.05 seconds, but the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay jackpot time is 10 seconds.

How did the new rules affect the points distribution for relays?

Average points per placing
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th
Indianapolis 18.4 14.0 12.0 10.0 8.0 6.0 4.0 1.6
Naples 18.8 14.0 12.0 10.0 8.0 6.0 4.0 1.5
Lewisville 20.4 14.0 12.0 10.0 8.0 6.0 3.2 0.5
Budapest 18.8 14.0 12.0 10.0 8.0 6.0 4.0 1.2
College Park 19.6 14.0 12.0 10.0 8.0 6.0 3.2 1.5
London 19.6 14.0 12.0 10.0 8.0 6.0 3.2 1.5
Las Vegas 18.8 14.0 12.0 10.0 8.0 6.0 4.0 1.5
Season average 19.2 14.0 12.0 10.0 8.0 6.0 3.7 1.3

 

  • Under the 2020 scoring, the winning relay from 2019 would earn on average only one bonus point.
  • For relays finishing between second and sixth there would have been no change in the number of points scored.
  • In sum, jackpot points would not have had the same impact on relay scoring as individual scoring.

So how would these rules changes have affected the team scores?

Before we look at team scores, let’s discuss the elephant in the room: skins. The 2020 rules changes include a few changes that make applying the new rules to the 2019 results imperfect.

  • In 2020 skins races can be in any stroke. The winning team of both the men’s and women’s 4×100 medley relay will choose the stroke for their respective sex.
  • The points distribution of skins will change. Instead of being scored at the end, swimmers will earn points for each round of the skins, and jackpot points will apply. Additionally, the swimmer that finishes first in the third round will earn a base fourteen points for the win instead of the usual nine. Under the new rules swimmers are incentivized to try and win each round rather than just try and make it through to the next round.

Let’s take a look at the results as two categories: full meet results and meet results without skins.

Indianapolis
full meet no skins
2019 rules 2020 rules 2019 rules 2020 rules
Energy Standard 539 614 Energy Standard 443 495
Cali Condors 457 484.5 Cali Condors 428 455.5
DC Trident 330.5 300.5 DC Trident 311.5 286.5
Aqua Centurions 300.5 251 Aqua Centurions 284.5 243

 

Naples
full meet no skins
2019 rules 2020 rules 2019 rules 2020 rules
Energy Standard 493 522.5 (↓1) Cali Condors 444.5 476.5
Cali Condors 490.5 544.5 ( ↑1) Energy Standard 412 451
DC Trident 322 309 Aqua Centurions 305.5 266.5 (↓1)
Aqua Centurions 321.5 278 DC Trident 305 290 ( ↑1)

 

Lewisville
full meet no skins
2019 rules 2020 rules 2019 rules 2020 rules
London Roar 484.5 564.5 London Roar 437.5 513.5
LA Current 457 442 LA Current 419 414
Team Iron 402 398 Team Iron 344 324
New York Breakers 278.5 241.5 New York Breakers 261.5 224.5

 

Budapest
full meet no skins
2019 rules 2020 rules 2019 rules 2020 rules
London Roar 505.5 569 London Roar 451.5 515
Team Iron 425 443 LA Current 379 379
LA Current 408 408 Team Iron 373 377
New York Breakers 292.5 240 New York Breakers 267.5 219

 

College Park
full meet no skins
2019 rules 2020 rules 2019 rules 2020 rules
LA Current 495 498.5 (↓1) Cali Condors 448.5 506.5
Cali Condors 489.5 568.5 ( ↑1) LA Current 433 444.5
DC Trident 322.5 297 DC Trident 295.5 272
New York Breakers 315 281 New York Breakers 285 252

 

London
full meet no skins
2019 rules 2020 rules 2019 rules 2020 rules
Energy Standard 467.5 490.5 London Roar 428 449
London Roar 458.5 478 Energy Standard 411.5 434.5
Team Iron 369.5 364 Aqua Centurions 318.5 295.5 (↓1)
Aqua Centurions 333.5 295.5 Team Iron 311 297 ( ↑1)

 

Las Vegas
full meet no skins
2019 rules 2020 rules 2019 rules 2020 rules
Energy Standard 453.5 464.5 London Roar 406 405
London Roar 444 439 (↓1) Energy Standard 383.5 394.5 (↓1)
Cali Condors 415.5 446.5 ( ↑1) Cali Condors 381.5 397.5 ( ↑1)
LA Current 318 257.5 LA Current 300 246.5

 

  • Applying rule changes to the full meet results, three of the seven meets would have changed results — and in all three Cali Condors would have moved up. They would have won the Naples meet and the American derby. In the Las Vegas final they would have moved up one place to finish second.

Some final thoughts:

The skins format from 2019 meant that freestyle sprinters were the most valuable swimmers on the roster. This year, having the winning 400 medley team and a standout 50 swimmer of any stroke is as important. Similarly, choosing the stroke for skins becomes a balance between your team’s strengths and your competitor’s weaknesses.

With so many swimmers pulling out or unable to participate, the gap between the stars of ISL —  Dressel, Sjostrom, le Clos, etc. — and the rest of the field may be even larger this year than last year. Meaning jackpots will likely be hit as frequently this year as they would have last year — and those jackpots have the potential to be even larger. Imagine a scenario in which two swimmers from different teams are in a close race and the rest of the field is not within the jackpot time. In this scenario the winner earns 30 points and the second-place swimmer earns 7.  Winning versus finishing second is a 46 point swing in the team scores.

Individual event wins take a much larger percentage of the proportion of individual points than last year. Under the new rules an individual event winner who can dominate his or her event becomes far more important.

Team tactics for individual swims are likely to change but relay lineups may not see the same changes, since jackpoint points are comparatively more difficult to earn in relays.

The rule changes widen the gap between the strongest and the weakest teams. With two additional teams and limited swimmer availability diluting the talent pool, there is the potential for more lopsided scoring this year.

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Pvdh
29 days ago

So they made Dressel even more OP

Adam Barley
Reply to  Pvdh
29 days ago

Yes and no. Takes away some of the skins advantage. I doubt any men’s teams are going to pick fly or free if they’re against Dressel.

Admin
Reply to  Adam Barley
29 days ago

On the other hand, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Condors use Dressel regardless of what skins event it is. With his starts, underwaters, and sprint/durability combo, hard to imagine him not being at least competitive to win a 50 breast or back as well.

Drewbrewsbeer
Reply to  Braden Keith
28 days ago

100%

Jred
Reply to  Braden Keith
27 days ago

Not backstroke. No start.

Maybe Brst in a field without Peaty who I suspect would hold it together well

Ethan Reznicek
29 days ago

I don’t believe any of this

DSswim
29 days ago

Making swimming too complicated for the average viewer…

Irish Ringer
Reply to  DSswim
29 days ago

I have to agree. I was on the fence to begin with as I view this as being similar to World Team Tennis. It’s tough to take an individual sport and try to carve out professional teams.