What Would Happen If We Switched the New York Breakers and London Roar?

Thanks to swimming’s best statistician Barry Revzin for running the numbers on this.

When looking at the first 2 matches of the 2020 International Swimming League season, the ultimate outcome so far has not been exactly what we expected.

But one thing was clear coming in: match 1 was a significantly stronger field than match 2, at least on paper. The Condors, Current, and Energy Standard were 3 of the 4 teams from last year’s final, and from what we can tell so far this year, could be 3 of the 4 teams in this year’s final.

The result for the New York Breakers, who were one of two winless teams in the 2019 ISL season (along with Aqua Centurions), was a thorough drubbing in the team scores. They had a swimmer in finals of the men’s skins, Joe Litchfield, but his points were Jacked, adding some insult to the injury.

On the flip side, the London Roar, who were 2nd last season, entered the season on troubled footing after losing a huge portion of their roster when Swimming Australia dissuaded most of their athletes from attending the 2020 ISL season.

But after day 1 of Meet 2, they look better than expected, handily ahead of a tight three-way battle for 2nd place.

We were wondering, though, looking at the scores, just how bad are the New York Breakers, and just how good are the London Roar, if we control for the competition?

Of course nothing happens in a vacuum. If you switch the teams, maybe London swims better or worse, and maybe the Breakers swim better or worse. Maybe they tweak their strategy a little and alter a few races here and there.

But, still, in broad strokes, we wanted to find out if the Breakers were as bad as their score indicates, or if the Roar were as good as their score indicates.

It turns out that, in both cases, it’s not quite true, when the level of competition is controlled for.

If we switched the London Roar day 1 performances with the New York Breaker day 1 performances, the Breakers suddenly look much better, and the Roar suddenly look much worse.

First, here is what the team scoring through day 1 of each meet looks like in the real world, with the meets that were actually swum:

Real Life Team Scores:

Team Scores – In Real Life
294.0: LON London
280.0: CAC Cali
235.0: ENS Energy
214.0: LAC LA
197.0: AQC Aqua
194.0: IRO Iron
181.0: DCT DC
154.0: NYB NY

Real Life MVP Scores:

MVP Scores – In Real Life
38.5: KING Lilly CAC
37.5: SMOLIGA Olivia CAC
35.5: MURPHY Ryan LAC
34.0: MARGALIS Melanie CAC
34.0: DIENER Christian LON
27.0: SJOSTROM Sarah ENS
26.0: WATTEL Marie LON
25.0: SEEBOHM Emily ENS
24.0: KAMENEVA Maria LON
22.0: SZABO Szebasztian AQC
21.5: DUMONT Valentine AQC
20.0: KOCH Marco NYB
19.0: DRESSEL Caeleb CAC
18.5: KAWECKI Radoslaw CAC
18.5: PEATY Adam LON

But, let’s take a hypothetical scenario, with all of the same times, and swap the Breakers and London Roar: In real life, the Breakers have the lowest day 1 score of any team, and London the highest, and for the Breakers, they’re not all that close to the DC Trident.

Swap Team Scores:

Team Scores – Swapping LON and NYB
254.0: CAC Cali
237.5: ENS Energy
225.5: NYB NY
216.5: IRO Iron
216.0: DCT DC
212.0: AQC Aqua
197.5: LON London
190.0: LAC LA

Swap MVP Scores:

MVP Scores – Swapping LON and NYB
38.0: MARGALIS Melanie CAC
34.5: KING Lilly CAC
28.5: SJOSTROM Sarah ENS
28.5: SMOLIGA Olivia CAC
25.0: SZABO Szebasztian AQC
24.0: SURKOVA Arina NYB
23.5: WOOD Abbie NYB
22.5: DIENER Christian LON
22.5: MANAUDOU Florent ENS
20.5: SEEBOHM Emily ENS
20.5: ESCOBEDO Emily NYB
20.5: MACK Linnea DCT
18.5: SAKCI Emre IRO
18.0: DRESSEL Caeleb CAC
18.0: PEBLEY Jacob DCT
18.0: BASSETO Guilherme IRO

Or, Split By Meet:

Hypothetical Meet 1
254.0: CAC Cali
237.5: ENS Energy
197.5: LON London
190.0: LAC LA
Hypothetical Meet 2
225.5: NYB NY
216.5: IRO Iron
216.0: DCT DC
212.0: AQC Aqua

This swap would put the London Roar in last place in Meet 1, and the New York Breakers in first place in Meet 2.

Among the examples of why this would be the case is Abbie Wood. If you move her to Meet 2, Abbie Wood gets the 19 points thanks to jackpot scoring, instead of the 7 she actually scored.

In real life, no Breakers wound up in the top 20 in MVP standings based on day 1 points. In the hypothetical world, they have 2 in the top 9 and 3 in the top 13.

A meet 2 between DC, Breakers, Aqua, and Iron would be very, very close. In this hypothetical world, DC women and Aqua men get to pick skins strokes, which gives them a leg up.

So, the conclusions here are this:

  1. The Cali Condors and Energy Standard, and LA Current, in that order, are clearly the 2 best teams that we’ve seen so far;
  2. The London Roar and LA Current in some order are probably the 3rd and 4th best teams that we’ve seen so far; and
  3. The Breakers, Trident, Iron, and Aqua Centurions are in basically a dead heat.

That point 3 is where this league gets exciting, as it means there’s going to be some real battling for the last spots in the semi-finals, which is what makes this format exciting. We didn’t get that battle for positioning last season – by the Derby meets, we essentially knew who would be in the final.

The bad news for the Breakers: they have to face the Cali Condors, who so far are the league’s best team, 3 times. They have to face Energy Standard, who so far are the league’s 2nd best time, twice. The Breakers got what turns out to be the toughest schedule in the league, be that by design or by choice (we don’t know how the schedule was developed).

That puts the Breakers on the outside looking in for a spot in the semi-final, but it doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily the worst team in the league.

Next week, the two new franchises, the Tokyo Frog Kings and Toronto Titans, will join the fray. The Frog Kings have a ton of momentum from Japanese Nationals and it looks like they’ll be in the top 8, while the Titans are harder to peg, but on paper look closer to that grouping of 4 mentioned above.

So it will probably be 5 teams fighting for 3 spots.

Let the fun begin.

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9 months ago

Result: The NY Breakers still stink

Reply to  Yup
9 months ago

You’re my least favorite kind of commenter. You’ve got like 4 jokes, they’re all negative, and none of them are funny, which you know, but then you try to make them funny not by their content, but by repeating them over and over again.

It’s like Guerra and his Ray Looze rants.

Be funny or don’t, but like, at a minimum be original.

Reply to  swimapologist
9 months ago

Well, they were D.F.L. last year.

Swapped out most if their roster.

And still dead-last.

Giants, Jets, Mets; Breakers.

Maybe it’s a New York thing.

Or maybe the decision-makers behind the Breakers need replacing…

the michael phelps caterpillar
9 months ago

I still think that the whole concept of the ISL is whack. Instead of racing every weekend they should be doing 10k meter workouts in morning and night. The only way to get faster!

Reply to  the michael phelps caterpillar
9 months ago

It is far from perfect, I agree, but do you have another, better, idea how to help professional swimmers financially? Only a handful of top swimmers have meaningful endorsement contracts. I would like to see a ISL draft which would help even out competitive field.

Last edited 9 months ago by Tomek
The Importer AND Exporter
9 months ago

They probably need to institute a draft of some sort to create longer term competitive balance. From the 10,000 foot level it should be relatively easy compared to other pro leagues – there’s no relocation or coaching changes needed to be on a team.

9 months ago

How are the matches determined? NY Breakers get to swim Cali Condors 3 times, whereas London do not swim ES at all in 4 matches ? Hardly seems fair would expect teams to swim each other equally

9 months ago

Should be doing what if you switched DC and Energy – the derby’s would have been better opening rounds and split the finalists up.

tea rex
9 months ago

Michael Andrew’s strategy of Ultra Short Training-Pace Racing came up a little short…

Swim fan
Reply to  tea rex
9 months ago

Wonder what would happen if he mixed in a month or two or of “normal” training in the beginning of each season. Things like short interval/ long distance freestyle and IM sets to build his base

Reply to  Swim fan
9 months ago

Most likely nothing

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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