Fellow blogger and researcher Hai-Binh Ly has done a study on the effectiveness of tipping at the levels he mostly observes. You may recall that I blogged previously about other stuff he’s done here, here, and here. In this post he compares hitting percentages for spikes, roll shots, and tips.
While the figures in the piece are interesting and have value, we need a grain of salt before application.
Consideration #1: Interaction of attack types
First, it is important to understand how the success of tipping/rolling relates to hard swing performance. Generally speaking, the idea of a tip or roll shot is to catch the defense expecting a full swing. That is, of course, not counting the times when it’s just about trying to get the ball in the court.
What happens as you increase the frequency of off-speed shots? Or if your effectiveness when spiking is low? The defense starts to expect the tips and rolls, right? Maybe they move a defender in to a position dedicated to tip coverage. That means tips score less often. It’s a case of diminishing returns, so you need to find the balance point.*
Consideration #2: What happens on non-kills?
We also have to keep in mind that we can’t just consider offensive effectiveness in terms of kills and errors (hitting efficiency). It’s also worth looking at what happens on those non-terminal plays. There’s a big difference between an attack the has the opponent scrambling and one which results in an in-system offensive opportunity.
As a result, a somewhat better metric to use here is rally win% after the off-speed shot. That will better capture what happens when there isn’t a kill or error.
*It’s worth noting that there are a lot of teams out there who commit someone to tip coverage when it really isn’t warranted.