Hot & Cold Starts in 2023

Who’s on fire and who wishes it was still 2022?

With four DGPT Elite Series events and the first major of the season in the books, it seems like a good time to ask the question: who’s had a good start to 2023? Yes, we know that Calvin Heimburg is playing well, Simon Lizotte can win at any moment, and Kristin Tattar is the best in the world. You do not need me to tell you they are playing well. But what about those players who aren’t winning yet are improving? To give everyone a better change at recognition, I decided to quantify hot (and cold) starts relative to 2022. Who is playing well compared to how they fared last year?

To do this, I calculated the average number of throws gained for a player1 per event in 2023 and compared it to their value from 2022. If they have gained more throws in 2023 (so far) than 2022, they’ve had a hot start. If they’ve gained fewer throws, it’s a cold start.

The chart below plots throws gained by finishing position to help us visualize these starts. It is an animated plot with a player’s point moving between the throws gained vs. finishing position of 2022 and 2023. If a player is moving up and to the left, they are having a hot start. If they are moving down and to the right, they are cold to begin the season.

I labeled points with names of players who had a large change from 2022 to 2023. James Proctor and Zach Melton are having a great start! As for cold starts, well, Paul McBeth is a player of note. He is still playing well with 9.5 throws above average, but it is nowhere near his 16.6 score from last year, which was the best of the bunch! There are several other well-known players who have struggled this year, including Gregg Barsby and Paul Ulibarri.

One larger pattern I want to note, the data points spread out as they move from 2022 to 2023. This is to be expected because there are far fewer events so far in 2023 than 2022, and as a result, the variation in throws gained and finishing place are much larger. This is a great example of the law of large numbers.

On the FPO side, I bet you can guess who the point is in the top left corner. That’s correct: it is Kristin Tattar and her point is moving up, which means she is somehow improving in 2023 — a blowout win at Champions Cup certainly helps. She went from an astounding 20.6 to 23.9 throws over average from 2022 to 2023! We can also see that Jessica Weese is having a nice start, along with Hanna Huynh and Leah Tsinajinnie, while Paige Pierce and Eveliina Salonen are not living up to expectations. Both have dropped over 7.5 throws from last season to this one.

I have also included static plots of the 2022 and 2023 throws gained so you can more closely examine the data without all the movement. What are some interesting patterns you notice? Who would you expect to see on the plot that isn’t there?

1. Throws gained is just how many more or less throws a player had than the average for an event. I only included players who played more than 10 events in 2022 and played at least one event in 2023.  Events from elite, majors, and European tours.  There were a total of 66 MPO and 34 FPO players.

1. Aaron Howard

Aaron Howard is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Franklin & Marshall College. He loves to play disc golf and to think about things he loves quantitatively. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Instagram.

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