December 20, 2012

Week 16 Recap

Game 1: 183
Game 2: 185
Game 3: 209
Series: 577
Week Avg: 192
Season Avg: 194

As I write this, it occurs to me that this is a pretty important day for me. Firstly, its my 4th wedding anniversary. But more appropriate for my readers, this is my 100th post of Bowling in the Burgh. I basically started this blog as a way of forcing myself to review my weekly league night performance so that I could determine the flaws in my game, as well as providing a forum for tips and advice for the average league bowler. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine something as complex as the Sandbagger Prevention League or receiving nearly 7,000 page views from 10 different countries in about a year and a half.  Thank you to everyone who reads the blog.

This week we bowled on my least favorite pair of lanes. Not only do I average 14 pins under average on this pair, but it also happens to be the set right next to the open bowlers. I had to play a little further right than usual this week, but overall I felt pretty confident in my line. The left lane seemed to be a little drier than the right, so any adjustments on one lane would not carry over to the other.

I had three opens all night, one in each game. I left a 4-6 split on a pocket hit late in the first game and missed an easy 10-pin early in the second. During the third game I had left the 1-2-4-10 in the fourth frame and managed to convert, but when the ball hung out again on the first ball of the tenth frame leaving the 1-2-10 I couldn't convert.  If I make one of these opens I hit my average for the night. At least I didn't see the 8-10 this week, so that's a plus.

The past two weeks have felt like a struggle, but I'm really not throwing a bad ball and my scores really haven't suffered. I left a lot of 4-pins this week from high pocket hits, so it is really just a matter of an inch or two for that pin to fall for a strike. Once again I think I should have started out with the C-System until I could break in my preferred line. If practice shows this same oil pattern in Week 16 I think I will give it a shot.

Since our league night falls on Christmas and New Year's Eves we are off until January 7th, which feels like an eternity. I will be out of town until after New Year's, so unfortunately I can't take advantage of the extended break to get in some practice.

If you miss me during the holidays, check out the SPL page, which I have updated to include scores for weeks 11-14.

Thanks for reading and happy holidays.

December 14, 2012

Week 15 Recap

Game 1: 177
Game 2: 214
Game 3: 182
Series: 573
Week Avg: 191
Season Avg: 194

This week was a little less dramatic than the last. My knee still has a bruised lump, but I'll live.

There really isn't too much to report from this week.  I had five opens all night, four splits and one whiffed 4-pin. I was in the pocket a lot the first game, but my entry angle was too shallow to carry.  There was more oil than usual and it took me some time to adjust. I moved right a board toward the end of the first game and had a pretty good line working for a while. In the third game I moved my body and mark right a couple boards to try to get some of the carry back, but really didn't strike with any consistency after the second game.

During the first game I wanted to switch balls to something a bit stronger, but my team was always within striking distance of taking the lead and I didn't want to risk opening a few frames until I found a new line. It was a strategic move, or non-move as it were, and one that I shouldn't have to worry about once I become more familiar with the C-System.  I really need to get in some practice time with the new ball so that I can better understand its reaction in comparison to the Python, but I don't foresee any substantial practice until this summer.

After four weeks of good bowling, I just felt a little off this week.  My release was never quite right, though maybe it was just an illusion because the ball didn't react the same on the heavier oil. I was also frequently off balance at the point of release, missing my mark more often and either hunching over or pointing toward the 7-pin at the foul line. The entire night felt like one big struggle, but when it was all over I was only 10 pins under average.

We've got one more night of bowling this coming Monday before taking a two week hiatus for the holidays. I'm looking forward to one more big series, but I think I am looking forward to the break even more. Not counting my surgery recovery time, this will be the longest I have been away from the bowling alley since the end of April. A little time off every now and then can be good for you, especially for your mental game.

Let's just hope I don't go mental during those two bowlingless weeks.

December 7, 2012

Week 14 Recap/Rant

Game 1: 178
Game 2: 213
Game 3: 216
Series: 607
Week Avg: 202
Season Avg: 194

I'm going to forego my usual in depth recap because I have a bone to pick with the bowling center that hosts my league. I had another decent night with no glaring problems. I struck the first five in a row the last game, but then started coming in high and lost the ability to strike. Over the last four weeks I've averaged 207 in league play, so I'm pretty happy with my performance.

So on to the rant . . .

I have previously discussed some issues I had with our bowling center, Paradise Island Bowl. During week 6 they placed a group with three small children on the lane right next to our's. On previous occasions they have turned away league bowlers from pre-bowling, even though the entire 32 lane center was empty, because they were expecting birthday parties and open bowling an hour later.

This week we were bowling on lanes 1 and 2, which are the closest to the doors, bar, and the first to be oiled. Lane 1 is also right against the wall, making it difficult for left handed bowlers and righties shooting at the 10-pin. This pair of lanes is notorious for having a sticky approach and every week during practice someone has to get an employee to come down and clean it.

Monday night was no exception. My first practice ball is always off-speed, basically just one big stretching exercise, but I was even more cautious being the first person to throw on lane 2. On my fourth step I expected to slide at least a little bit, but my left foot stuck fast to the approach and I went down hard on my right knee. It was pretty similar to the fall I had three years ago, which resulted in a bruised knee and a bulging disc in my back that took 6 months and physical therapy to heal.

Well by the end of the night I had a lump on my knee the diameter of the thumb hole on my bowling ball and it has since bruised up quite nicely. Since Thursday I started having sciatic nerve pain in my right leg and some stiffness in my lower back. I've started doing my physical therapy stretches and hopefully the pain will subside quickly. I can live with the knee bruise.

So why is my fall the center's problem? Firstly, they have failed to address a chronic problem that affects league bowlers on a certain pair of lanes. If you have to clean the approach every week, interrupting practice to do so (and not providing additional practice time to make up for it, might I add), then a light bulb should go off that says "Hey, maybe we are doing something wrong here!" I don't whether they are making a mess when preparing the oil machine or what, but they need to reevaluate their procedures.

I understand that everyone in the league has to bowl on this pair at some point so it evens out in the end, but the point is we shouldn't have to deal with it. I am probably the youngest person in the league at 27, so imagine what could happen if one of the older bowlers, some of which are in their 70s, fell down instead of me.

Also, since the center clearly has no problem with putting open bowling directly next to league bowlers, why not bump our league down one pair to the right so that A) we don't have to deal with a wall right next to one of the lanes and B) we don't have to deal with the sticky approach. Let the open bowlers, many of whom probably don't slide when bowling anyway, cope with the glue trap they call an approach.

Their lack of response is just further proof that leagues do not matter to many bowling centers. Leagues are just a way for centers to make money during their slow time during the week, i.e. weekdays and weeknights.  Once the weekend rolls around its all about parties and groups open bowling. Even during league play they shoehorn open bowling onto every last lane in the center. Bowling centers have embraced their roll as a place where people go to enjoy an activity and shunned their intended use as a place where people who are serious about their sport come together to improve their skills.  I guess I can't blame them, they have a business to run, but they aren't doing the sport of bowling any favors.

Maybe its just where I bowl. I go to this center out of convenience, not because I particularly enjoy it there. All of the best bowlers in the area throw at two other centers, which are twice as far from my house, so this is the best option for me, particularly in the winter.

Does anybody else have this problem? Am I too pessimistic?

End rant.

December 4, 2012

SPL: The First 10 Weeks

The league season is a quarter of the way over already, so its time to check on the status of the great experiment we call the Sandbagger Prevention League. Thanks to the contributions of some dedicated readers I have tabulated the first 10 weeks' results and can offer the following observations for each league format.

Scratch & Divisions

So far the standings are about as expected, with the best bowlers earning the most points. There really isn't much to report here, and since the Scratch format is serving as our control group or baseline, no news is good news. Matt 1 and his 213 average leads the way as expected and Lauren has yet to earn a point with a 110 average. While the scratch format best reflects bowling ability, it is not welcoming to new participants.

Since the two division formats depend on scratch scores, their standings also reflect the bowlers' performance. Because the difference between the lowest Division A average and the highest Division B average is 15 pins it seems that the divisions will stay the same throughout the entire season even though they are reset at the beginning of each quarter. Matt 1 leads Division A and EBH leads Division B with Sam Sandbagger closing in. So far the standings do not reflect the kind of close competition I had hoped, but we still have over 20 weeks to go.

100% Handicap

This is the format used to determine the scores for Sam Sandbagger each week. His scores are higher when he bowls better bowlers and lower when he bowls against lower average opponents. Sam took a beating the first few weeks because he had to establish a low average and, consequently, a higher handicap.  After three weeks Sam began to bowl scores closer to his opponent's average, thus giving him a better chance to earn points.

Sam's sandbagging technique has put him at the top of the standings in head to head match-ups. Sam also leads the standings in a 100% handicap format in which bowlers are given 1-8 points depending on how their handicap series ranks within the entire league, despite the fact that he doesn't necessarily throw high scores each week to defeat his opponent.

As expected, this format shows how easy it is for an experienced bowler to manipulate his scores and take advantage of a high handicap to defeat opponents of all skill levels.

80% Handicap

This is the wildcard format, I wasn't really sure what to expect. It still uses a handicap system to even the odds, but the benefit is limited. So far Matt 1 is leading the way in the standings, but Sam is not too far behind him. After 10 weeks this seems to be the more competitive league, but only time will tell. Lower average bowlers are still in the running for a high finish, but the top spot isn't just given to them.


I expect the standings to really take shape in the middle third of the season and more closely resemble what the final standings will be. Sam will need to finesse his scores efficiently so that his average doesn't climb too high and ruin his handicap. It has been a challenge to get into the mind of a sandbagger so I'll need to keep on my toes, I guess I'm just too honest.

Hopefully this whole venture isn't for nothing, but we'll see what the standings show in the spring.

November 30, 2012

Week 13 Recap

Game 1: 206
Game 2: 161
Game 3: 248
Series: 615
Week Avg: 205
Season Avg: 194

First off, I finally got around to updating the SPL page with three weeks worth of results. I plan on analyzing the data thus far and writing a post sometime in the near future.

I felt pretty good heading into league this week, perhaps it could be attributed to taking Monday off to recover from the holiday house guests. Since I had the realization a few weeks ago that I needed to make an effort to stay upright at the point of release I have been throwing more consistently and accurately. My hope is that after a few weeks of making a conscious effort to stay upright eventually muscle memory will be retrained and I will continue to do so automatically.

The first game was a fairly uneventful, I believe clean, affair. I was in the pocket every shot and my leaves were mainly corner pins as I fine tuned my line. I really like how the Python has been reacting lately and it has resulted in more strikes. Even though I was striking this game, I didn't group them together enough for a big score and I finished with a 206.

In the second game I threw all strikes on the right lane, but the left lane started to give me problems. I rushed an early shot and left a 3-6-10, which I chopped for an open.  Two frames later another bad ball left the 2-4-5 that I also chopped. When I threw well on the left lane I came in high so I adjusted by moving a few inches up on the approach.  I left a 10-pin late in the eighth frame and during the spare attempt my ball hit some dead wood in the gutter. Even though I'm pretty sure the ball was going to hang on and convert the spare anyway, because I hit the pin in the gutter the spare was negated.  I will not make the mistake of leaving dead wood ever again. I spared in the tenth frame on the left lane, but was still coming in high.  I decided that to start the last game I would move a half board left and swing the ball out a bit into the pocket. I finished the second game with a 161.

The third game started with a pocket 5-7 split. I'm still not really sure how either pin was left standing, as both were wobbling pretty bad when the rack came down. I converted a 10-pin in the second frame and then threw four strikes in a row. The next frame was a lighter pocket hit and I left another 10-pin to break up the streak, but was able to strike the last five in a row to finish with a 248 game and third straight 600 series (fourth if you count the charity tournament).

As a team we only took 2 of 7 points from a team that was well below us in the standings. Three of us were well below average the second game and we lost by nearly 100 pins. Hopefully the three teams above us had an off night so we won't lose any momentum.

While it seems that many of the problems that plagued my game have been corrected, the one that is still haunting me is the ability to transition with the lanes. I average nearly 30 pins more in my third game than I do the second, which is unacceptable. This week was particularly rough because I anticipated the change, but made the wrong adjustment for about three frames before realizing my mistake. I second guessed myself initially, with my instinct telling me to move left first but then opting to move up instead. It all goes back to trusting myself. I know how to play the game, I just need to do it.

On the plus side, the past few weeks have shown me that I am getting more comfortable in stringing strikes together.  Last week could have just as easily seen me throw 11 in a row if it weren't for the 8-10 split. This week's slightly light pocket 10-pin could have been 10 in a row. The weak knees and butterflies in my stomach don't appear as quickly as they once did. My confidence is beginning to build and if I can start a game off strong who knows what can happen.

What I do know is that lately Monday nights can't get here fast enough.

November 20, 2012

Week 12 Recap

Game 1: 166
Game 2: 214
Game 3: 256
Series: 636
Week Avg: 212
Season Avg: 193

First, I wanted to apologize for not updating the SPL page in a while.  We'll be hosting Thanksgiving at my house and so I've been trying to get some cleaning and things done before our families come over Wednesday night. Hopefully I will have a few weeks' worth of updates on the page after this weekend followed by a recap of the first quarter of the SPL.

Secondly, the charity bowling tournament went really well on Sunday.  There were at least 40 bowlers, in addition to a 50/50 and Chinese auction, which all raised money for my teammate's co-worker who is currently battling cancer. I bowled pretty well, scoring a 213, 183, and 215 for the day. During the first game I played a little further left than usual, creating a bigger arch into the pocket. After the first game I lost that line and went to my typical line of standing at the 25 board and throwing at the 8. My teammate, his aunt and I were the only league bowlers there and we swept the awards with ease. I took home top series honors by about 150 pins.

Now, onto my league recap. I decided to start the night with the Python rather than the C-System since it has been performing really well lately. One of our bowlers had pre-bowled and another was a no show so we knew it would be a quick night.  After practice we found out that four of the opposing team's members had also rolled off and their fifth bowler never showed, so there were only three of us on our pair.  As my wife remarked, it felt like we were the ones doing the pre-bowling. That worked for me, I usually do better in that situation any way.

Everything looked great in practice, but the first few frames of the first game were disastrous. I had a couple of spares and a couple of opens to start the evening. I kept missing my mark and realized about halfway through the game that I was dropping my right shoulder. Once I made a conscious effort to stay upright at the foul line everything came together. I finished the game with a 166 and barely squeaked out a win for the team.

The second game started much better than the first. I was striking regularly, but a few mistakes caused me to leave a 3-10 split and I opened on a 3-6-10. I was not making very good decisions on how to play multi-pin leaves. I threw four in a row late in the game and finished out with a spare and a strike in the tenth for a 214 and another big win for the team.

The last game was glorious, but also a case of "what might have been." My first ball fell off my hand early and left the 1-2-4-7, which I converted. I doubled and then left my buddy the 8-10 split on a solid pocket shot for an open.  I adjusted a few inches up on the approach for that lane only and made no adjustments on the other lane, remembering my misstep from last week. The last eight balls were strikes. No iffy strikes either, these were beautiful. It was a ten strike 256 game, probably the most strikes I've ever thrown in one game and a tie for my personal record for the most strikes in a row in one game. The team swept the night and continues its way up the standings.

I wish I could have kept going to see if I could have thrown four more strikes. This was the best I have ever felt bowling. Everything felt easy. The ball came off my hand perfectly, generating a little more revs than usual for me. My form was above average for me, as I held my position at the foul line after releasing the ball more often than not. I don't know how I looked up there, but I felt like a pro that last game. And it felt good.

As I mentioned, my spare shooting was less than stellar.  In addition to the 8-10, 3-10 and 2-7 splits I left, I chopped a 3-6-10, 2-4-5 and 6-9 and outright missed an 8-pin. I've been perfect on 10-pins lately though, which has been a huge help.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, everyone. May your turkeys be plentiful, both on the table and on the lanes.

November 14, 2012

Week 11 Recap

Game 1: 170
Game 2: 217
Game 3: 245
Series: 632
Week Avg: 210
Season Avg: 191

I started with the C-System again this week but the heavy center oil is still preventing me from playing the line I wanted to try. I started the first game with spares and a couple strikes, but the ball just wasn't taking out the corner pins like I had hoped.  I missed a 10-pin in the eighth frame and decided I needed a bit of a change and went to the Python. It took the rest of the first game to find the right line after the ball switch and I chopped a 3-6-10 to open in the tenth frame, but I felt like I had a pretty good idea where to throw for the rest of the night. I finished with a what-might-have-been 170 game and the team lost by 30 pins.

I came out the gates a little better in the second game.  I was throwing well and the Python just seemed to hit with a bit more power than the C-System.  I struck a few times, including a 4-bagger up to the ninth frame.  Unfortunately the ball hung out a little on my first ball in the tenth frame and I left a 5-8-10 split. I hate opening in the tenth frame and so far I was 2 for 2 on the night. I had a 217 that game, which was disappointing considering a mark or two would have easily put me in the 220s.  Our team picked back up with our winning ways and we took the game by nearly 100 pins.

I started off the third game with a double. Hitting my mark had become easy and every pocket shot seemed like it was going to strike. Until the third frame when my nemesis the 8-10 split decided to make an appearance. After opening on the split I decided to move up a few inches for my next ball, which was a mistake and I hit light leaving the 2-4-5 for a spare. I realized I needed to move up on the right lane only and stay at my usual spot on the left lane, which turned out to be a great revelation since I struck the next six in a row. I spared to finish the game with a 245, a personal season high and third highest scratch game league-wide so far.

The C-System seems to have lost some of its mojo since I had it refitted. I think I need to give it a once over with a Scotch Brite pad to dull the surface a bit and clean it off with some alcohol so I can give myself a good baseline reaction on a fresh house pattern with a clean ball. Also, perhaps I haven't moved far enough outside to get the line I want. I had been throwing at about the 8-board, but maybe I should go to 5 and see what I can do there. Bowl and learn, that's all I can do.

Meanwhile the Python looked great last night and I got some really good movement in the back end. Perhaps this needs to remain my go-to ball for now and the C-System can be my back up when things aren't going so well.

This Sunday I'm bowling in a charity tournament to benefit a teammate's co-worker who is suffering from cancer.  Its in an unfamiliar house, but it might be a nice chance to try some new things. Practice is practice, and since this event is more about the cause than winning I have no qualms about donating my entry fee for the chance to throw a few games.  And there will be pizza too . . .

November 9, 2012

Week 10 Recap

Game 1: 196
Game 2: 161
Game 3: 171
Series: 528
Week Avg: 176
Season Avg: 189

With my newly drilled C-System officially assigned to active duty, I decided to use it to start the evening. I started practice trying to throw a wider shot, but the heavier than normal oil forced me to come back to center and play a similar line to the down and in shot that had failed me in past weeks.  I was standing with my left foot at the 25 board and throwing over the 8 board.

I threw well during the first game. Every shot was in the pocket, resulting in a strike or a nine count, mainly 9- or 10-pins. Late in the first game the leaves started coming on the left side. In the tenth frame I left a 4-pin, but after methodically picking up all of my other leaves I missed my mark a few boards left and the ball hooked past the pin for an open and a blown 200 game. I finished with a 196, luckily not costing the team a victory despite a close contest.

I moved up on the approach a bit to start the second game and remained pretty steady int he pocket for a few frames until the high shots started to really do some damage.  I left two wide splits in the middle of the game for opens and to make matters worse I also missed a 7-pin. I tried moving left and throwing through the oil, but the ball didn't recover quickly enough to break back to the pocket so I moved back and tried to make smaller adjustments on my established line. I managed to turkey into the tenth frame to salvage a little dignity, but I still only threw a 161. Our lead-off man had pre-bowled on the night and had a big enough game to cover my poor performance.

The third game started with two splits for opens. I tried to reign in the ball the best I could, but after a few more frames I decided to put it away and pull out my Python (thanks Brunswick for naming a ball Python and allowing me to use that delightful phrase).  By now the oil had broken down to the point where I was playing the line that was so successful last week. I began striking and making easy spares to save a hard fought 171 game.  The team took all seven points and we are slowly working our way up the standings thanks to some great games from my teammates.

After making the decision to start the night with the C-System, I knew there was going to be a learning curve. The heavier oil helped ease me into using a stronger ball by allowing me to play close to a familiar line. The most important thing now is for me to understand the limits of the ball and develop a strategy of play. The dull surface redistributed a lot of oil quickly, which leads me to think that this will be a great set up ball. I can use the C-System at the beginning of the night to wear in a preferred line and then switch to the Python to finish out the evening to maintain success. Over the next few weeks it is imperative that I recognize the difference between when I can make an adjustment to keep using the same ball and when I should keep the same line and switch balls.

I have been consistently bowling under average so far this season, so something has got to change. I hope the new ball will give me the extra power I need to make those nine counts turn into strikes. The pieces are in place, I just need to learn how to play them. (I need to sound optimistic, its the only thing helping me keep it together out there)

October 31, 2012

Week 9 Recap

Game 1: 190
Game 2: 201
Game 3: 193
Series: 584
Week Avg: 194
Season Avg: 190

I thought it would be a good idea to give my ball a quick cleaning before starting league, especially since we played on a bit more oil last week.  It turned out to be a great idea because the ball moved masterfully throughout the night.  There were only six of us on our pair of lanes and I was the only one playing my line, so I didn't have to make a single adjustment all night.  That being said, the old Zach decided to show up and inconsistency ruined an opportunity for a big night.

I was throwing well in the first game at first, with strikes and single pin spares being the norm. I missed a 7-pin late in the game by missing my mark a few boards to the left.  Then in the tenth frame I missed my mark a board left on my first ball, hit high in the pocket, and left split. This was my first blown opportunity at a 200 game, finishing with a 190.

The second game started with a double and a few spares. I missed a 10-pin and a 2-4-10 split this game, but luckily was able to string five in a row at the end of the game to save a 201.

The third game was much like the first. I missed another 10-pin (I really need to work on that) and left another split in the tenth frame. I ruined my second 200 of the evening to finish with a 193.

When I hit my mark the pins didn't stand a chance. I was able to play one board closer to the gutter than I had the past few weeks, giving me a better line into the pocket.  I didn't leave nearly as many corner pins as I had in previous weeks; however, I didn't capitalize on the ones I did leave. I missed one 7-pin out of two leaves and missed both 10-pins. For some reason I have a difficult time throwing over my target when shooting at the 10-pin, playing conservatively by missing a board or two to the left.

With so few bowlers we were bowling at a pretty quick pace. This made it difficult for me to keep my preferred pace and I often found myself rushing my shots. When I rush my shots I miss my mark, which can lead to splits. And I had a nasty case of the splits this week. It took me a frame or two, and usually a multi-pin leave, before I realized I had to settle down and not fall victim to the up tempo speed. Overall though it was a productive, over average outing.

We bowled against the top team this week and came out on the other side taking five of seven possible points. Their anchor bowled 49 pins over average the first game in addition to the 90 pins handicap we gave them each game, so we lost an uphill battle that time.  But we pulled it together and bowled well as a team the last two games and were able to win both and take total pinfall.

The C-System is getting plugged as we speak (or rather as I type/as you read) and I will be getting it drilled on Saturday. After calling just about every pro shop in the Pittsburgh area on Monday I ended up taking it to the same place I took the Python to get drilled. I like the place, but its just inconvenient to get there. I guess when it comes to your equipment, though, its more important to get it done right than to make decisions based on convenience.  Live and learn, then bowl.

October 23, 2012

Week 8 Recap

Game 1: 186
Game 2: 171
Game 3: 200
Series: 557
Week Avg: 185
Season Avg: 190

On Sunday I decided to go out and take the C-System for a spin. Although I've had it since August, I had yet to throw a full game with it.  If you recall, I purchased the ball from a fellow bowler over the summer and had the fingertip inserts changed out to my size, but just changed the slug in the thumb hole rather than paying to have the hole plugged and redrilled to compensate for the minute difference in my span from how the ball was already drilled. I loved the way the ball reacted, but I wasn't able to consistently hit my mark because the ball would fall off my hand early. When I did hit my marks the pins didn't stand a chance. I'm taking a vacation day on Monday and at least part of my time off will consist of me going to a better pro shop to have the thumb hole plugged and the span corrected. I look forward to having this ball as a fully functioning member of my arsenal, particularly on nights like yesterday . . .

I planned to move my marks further outside this week to get better carry and hopefully throw more strikes; however, how far I had to move outside to find the pocket was completely unexpected. For the first time this season the lane conditions differed, with heavy oil in the front end causing the ball to break later down the lane. I ended up standing with my left foot on the 22 board and throwing at the 7 board at the arrows, the same shot I played on the Viper pattern over the summer. I struck on occasion, but still had difficulty stringing them together. I missed a 3-10 split in the seventh frame and then missed an easy 4-7 in the tenth frame to finish with a 186.

The second game saw me throw three splits and miss an easy 6-pin. I spent much of the game trying to fine tune my line. It seemed that for the majority of the game I was either just high enough to leave a split or just light enough to leave a 2- or 4-pin.  But when I was in the pocket, it was a thing of beauty.  I spared in the tenth frame for a 171.

The third game was just as frustrating as the first two after doubling early. I left one split this game, but stayed clean the rest of the way. After a series of spares I realized that I was over-rotating my wrist and trying to force the ball across the lane.  After easing up a little bit on my release I threw a turkey beginning in the ninth frame to round out the evening with a 200 on the nose.

I'm officially in a downward spiral with my average plummeting 4 pins in the last few weeks.  I'm still not throwing a bad ball, I just need to find that line to the sweet spot. I've been lucky enough to make the majority of my spares, without that this small slump would be a whole lot worse.  These games drag on and I feel like I am bowling terribly, but then I look at the score and I'm really not that far off pace. A few more pins bounce my way and I'm stringing six or more strikes together. It'll come, I just need to be patient and make small, smart adjustments.

Our lead off man had a great night last night and kept us in all three games, picking up the slack for however many pins I was under average. On a night when I personally could have used a bit of pressure to keep me on top of my game, we had clinched all but the first game before I stepped on the approach in the tenth.  This was also the first week the team took all available points so I'll take it, but hopefully I can contribute a bit more next week.

October 16, 2012

Week 7 Recap

Game 1: 178
Game 2: 196
Game 3: 189
Series: 563
Week Avg: 187
Season Avg: 191

The lanes were pretty consistent to the rest of the season thus far. I have been playing a line standing with my left foot at the 24 1/2 board and throwing over the 9 board at the arrows.  The consistency has been nice given the limited amount of practice, two to three frames, before the games start.

The first game started with a strike, but quickly dove back into the usual routine of single pin leaves for spares. My only miss in this game was a well deserved 4-6 split resulting from a head-on shot. As a team we were playing well enough to make up for the 60 ppg handicap, but some late game problems created an insurmountable lead by the time it was my turn to throw in the tenth. I struck and spared, but the lack of doubles held me to a 178.

I set myself up fairly well on the right lane for much of the rest of the night. I missed the first 10-pin I saw last night, but picked up two others later in the evening. I finally managed to double and was on pace for a 200 until late in the game. In the tenth frame I struck and then left the 1-2-4 after missing my mark right and the ball caught some displaced oil. On the spare attempt I missed right again and left the 2-pin standing for another open.

I needed a 200 or better in the last game to break even this week. The third game started with a double and I struck all but one frame on the right lane. I was in the pocket on the left lane, but just couldn't get the carry I needed. I missed a 4-pin in the middle of the game after debating on how to shoot the spare (I clearly chose poorly), but otherwise stayed clean for the remainder including the conversion of a 5-10 split. After being beaten by nearly 100 pins the second game the team pulled it together for a win in the third, clinching before I threw in the tenth. Coming off a spare in the ninth I needed to strike out to hit my average for the night.  Instead I spared again and earned a nine on my last ball for a 189.

On the drive home I commented to my wife that so far my summer PBA Experience League seems to have been a waste of time and money. My average hasn't budged and I am currently where I finished up last year. But then I got to thinking this morning, and that isn't an entirely fair assessment. I am much more consistent in hitting my marks and replicating shots than I was at the end of last season. I can evaluate a bad shot more quickly than in the past, identify the problem, and usually correct it in a frame or two. My spare shooting has improved, for the most part, since I began implementing a modified 3-6-9 system, including the conversion of several splits so far this season. To sum it up, I no longer feel lost when it comes to certain aspects of my game.

I have been hammering the pocket lately, I just can't seem to turn those good pocket hits into strikes. I've always relied on spare shooting to improve my game, but I have reached a point where spares aren't enough. If you follow the blog, you'll recall that early in the PBA Experience League I had to overcome a subconscious tether of my mark to the second arrow, or 10 board. Once I relieved myself of that restriction I was able to find more success on the various oil patterns. For some reason that tether reattached at the start of the season and, even though I am in the pocket, I believe that it is still a hindrance to my game.

For next week I am going to try moving everything farther to the right in the hope that a different entry angle will provide the pin action required to strike with some frequency.  I also need to go out and practice with the C-System I purchased at the end of the summer and really see what that can do. I know some of my limitations are holding my game back, but perhaps a change in equipment is also in order.

October 9, 2012

Week 6 Recap

Game 1: 171
Game 2: 182
Game 3: 182
Series: 535
Week Avg: 178
Season Avg: 191

With the unexpected and permanent departure of our opponent's anchor due to some medical reason, we saw the amount of handicap given to them increase from 49 to 113, so we had a bit of ground to make up each game.

The first game started out with a spare and a strike. I was in the pocket most shots, but the ball just didn't seem to want to carry this week. I threw another strike surrounded by all the spares through the middle of the game. I opened on a 4-pin late in the game, but was able to stay clean the rest of the way. My teammates put me in a great position as the anchor, so I only needed to mark to win the game in the tenth. I picked up a solid 5-pin leave for the win and a 171 game.

The second game was a tale of two halves. The first half saw me miss a 10-pin, strike, and then throw three splits in a row. In the second half I threw a spare and a turkey. In the tenth frame I needed two marks to win the game. I left another 4-pin on my first shot, but luckily I was more accurate this time and picked up the spare. I adjusted slightly closer to the foul line on my final shot and struck to win the game for the team and salvage a 182 for myself.

The third game was pretty unremarkable. I had a difficult time striking, but was better at picking up my spares. Even though we were behind going into the tenth, our opponent's last bowler didn't make an effort to throw first, so I wasn't sure how far behind we'd be in the end. I always try to strike, so it didn't really matter to me. My first ball in the tenth was buried in the pocket, but then something happened that I've never seen before.  The 6-pin was tapped by another pin and slid, while standing straight up, to a position just left of where the 5-pin usually is. It never wobbled and never leaned. I picked up the spare and struck my last ball, but that odd leave cost us the game and left me with another 182.

I wasn't as consistent this week. I caught myself a few times just not giving my full concentration to hitting my marks. Getting too comfortable in your abilities can be a curse, and I fell victim last night. To make matters worse, the line was a bit tighter than it had been my last few outings and so a miss a board or two from my mark was not as nearly forgiving.

It was a weird night at the bowling alley to be sure. I was stunned at the awful pin action for most of the bowlers on our pair this week. My incident in the third game was not the only one involving sliding, teetering, and rolling pins.  I can think of about ten cases where a pin walked or slid out of position instead of falling. More than I can ever remember happening during one night. To top it off, at the end of the first game as our lead off bowler was shooting for a spare a pair of legs dropped down onto the lanes in front of the pins just after his ball hit them. It was scary because if that ball had hit him his leg would have been broken, but those pins were also still in play and he could have affected the outcome.

Unfortunately this wasn't the only inconsiderate thing the bowling center did last night. Just as we were preparing to start the second game two women and three kids, I'd say about 2, 3 and 11 years of age, were placed on the pair of lanes next to our's. Yes, there was an empty lane between us; however, these ladies could not control the kids and they were running around all over the approach. Finally, after finishing about seven frames, one woman and the two year old fell about a quarter of the way down the lane and they decided to call it a night.

This is a pretty sad commentary on who the bowling centers think are more important. It isn't league bowlers, that's for sure.  These were the only pair of lanes open last night and who knows what the center would have done if a league pair broke down. Most adults don't have bowling etiquette, so I don't know why they thought a couple of toddlers would. These people were given a lane on a full house league night, yet I have been denied a lane several times because the center was hosting a couple of birthday and Steeler game watch parties. If you want to know why the sport of bowling is declining, look to the centers, the "activity" of bowling, and the bigger profits they bring.

October 5, 2012

Week 5 Recap

Game 1: 181
Game 2: 178
Game 2: 226
Series: 585
Week Avg: 195
Season Avg: 194

After a two week break while recovering from gall bladder surgery I was finally cleared to get back to action. I had been looking forward to this for days, but I was also a little worried on how I was going to hold up. The area around all four incisions was still a bit tender and there was some lingering back pain, so I wasn't sure how this would affect my release and follow through at the foul line. Needless to say I wanted to take as much practice as possible to feel things out; however, I was only able to throw two frames during our 10 minute session.  Luckily lane conditions have been pretty consistent, so I was more concerned about my mechanics than finding a line.

The first game started well enough with a few spares.  There didn't seem to be any lingering effects and I was throwing the ball really well. I was leaving 6- and 10-pins so I moved back a few inches, but then I was coming in high and leaving the 4- and 7- pins.  I moved left a board to try to correct that problem and hit light again, so I moved back one board to the right. It was a matter of about an inch or two on the approach and in the pocket, but I just couldn't seem to hit the sweet spot. I did double once, but I also missed a 10-pin late in the game. I finished with a 181.

The second game was pretty similar to the first.  I was in the pocket every shot, but couldn't get the pins to fall. I chopped a 6-10 and left an 8-10 split during this game, but they would be the last opens I'd see for the night. Late in the game I started running high so I moved up a few inches, but realized that I would have to go left a board to start the third.  I had a 178 this game, but felt pretty optimistic about the last game.

I started by alternating strikes and spares the first four frames and then threw a turkey. The more direct line I was forced to play the first two games gave way to a more arching line that gave me the carry I needed to take down all ten pins. I spared the next three frames and then struck out in the tenth frame to finish with a clean 226, a new season high.

This was actually the most consistent I have ever bowled.  All but one ball was in the pocket and the one that missed fell off my hand a little early.  I didn't miss my mark by more than a board all night.  I think that one reason behind this success was that I was being particularly careful easing myself back into bowling shape. I took my time and made sure that I was keeping good form and finishing every shot. I knew that as long as my body did what it should be doing I wouldn't hurt myself and I escaped the night with only slight discomfort in the area around where my gall bladder used to live.  As I get back to 100%, I need to be sure to continue keeping my own pace and not rushing my shots.

As I drove home I was mentally scolding myself for the first two games.  I was not hitting the pocket effectively making only adjustments to my body position on the approach, but I tried to force it to work. Throughout the night I considered changing hand position to either take some revs off to correct high hits or add some revs to correct light hits, but in the end I didn't make the adjustment until the third game.  Once I moved to the left a board and laid the ball flatter in my hand at the start of my delivery I was right where I wanted to be. By the end of the game the oil broke down enough and I went back to my normal hand position.  I need to make sure that second guessing doesn't cost me as many games as has in the past.  Its time to trust my instincts and then react to what I see.

With Labor Day and my surgery I have yet to get into a good rhythm this season. October up to Christmas provides a nice stretch of consecutive bowling weeks and I hope to develop a nice routine and get back to some normalcy. I'm a creature of habit, so I think that should benefit me in the end.

September 25, 2012

Week 4 Pre-Bowl Recap

Game 1: 204
Game 2: 216
Game 3: 224
Series: 644
Week Avg: 214
Season Avg: 194

On September 6th I went to pre-bowl in preparation for my second week of recovery following my surgery. Luckily I had a short work day already scheduled and was able to get to the alley around 1PM.  There were only a handful of people there and I was able to throw on a pair of lanes that we would typically bowl on during league.  The lanes were freshly oiled and I felt pretty good heading into my games.

The first game started with a strike and four consecutive spares. I made a conscious effort to pace myself and it worked well throughout all three games.  I struck in the sixth frame and stayed clean throughout the rest of the game, including a turkey in the tenth frame, to finish with a 204.

I started the second game with four more marks before finally missing a 10-pin in the fifth frame. I spared in the sixth and then fired four strikes in a row and a spare to finish the game. I had a 216 in what is typically my lowest game of an outing.

The third game started with another four bagger before a high hit left three pins, which I picked up for a spare. I doubled after that before opening on my only split of the day. I struck again in the ninth and the first ball in the tenth, finishing the frame with a spare and a 224 game.

I felt great throughout the entirety of this series and it was bittersweet knowing that I had to walk away from bowling for at least two weeks after such a good performance.  One big factor this day was that I was able to quickly identify problems in my delivery and correct them in the matter of a frame or two. I also had a lot of pocket nine counts which could have just as easily been strikes. A good release and follow through led to a fantastic day.

I went to the doctor on Monday and got the all clear to start getting back to normal activity this weekend. I'm still a little sore when I move certain ways, but otherwise I feel pretty good. I'll be out of town this weekend so I won't have a chance to warm up before next league night. But normal activity means bowling, and I plan to be ready to go.

Time to pick up where I left off . . .

September 18, 2012

Some Updates

Well I had my surgery on Friday morning and things went a little differently than expected. The plan was to make one small incision in my belly button to remove my gall bladder using a robot for most of the work. Apparently my gall bladder was a bit inflamed and they couldn't even get to it using the robot and one incision. They made two additional cuts, one about 6 inches above my belly button and another about three inches right of that, as well as a small hole about 8 inches to the right of my belly button to drain additional fluid from the surgery. Needless to say I am more sore than I expected to be and have some concern about how quickly I will be able to get back to bowling shape. I see the doctor for a follow up next Monday and we'll take it from there, but my plan is still to be back in action on October 1st.  It sounds like I did get lucky though, the doctor said they were a few minutes away from opening my entire abdomen to get to the gall bladder. I imagine recovery would have been considerably longer then.

In happier news, the Sandbagger Prevention League is getting some positive reviews just one week in. Jef who runs the Bowling Blog gave it a mention in a recent post. I knew this would be a different and challenging experiment, but the pressure is on for me to do this right and present accurate results for any interested parties. If we can reach significant findings and conclusions, I will send along a report and a copy of our results to the USBC with a recommendation on how to clean up league bowling while still making it appealing to the masses.

Thanks to all for your support in both of the above mentioned topics and good luck on the lanes.

Week 3 Pre-Bowl Recap

Game 1: 196
Game 2: 179
Game 3: 197
Series: 572
Week Avg: 190
Season Avg: 187

In anticipation of my surgery on Friday, September 14th, I took to the lanes on September 4th to pre-bowl for week 3 along with my wife who had the unenviable duty of taking care of me during my recovery.

We were set up on the opposite side of the center that our league bowls on and were on the pair next to the wall and ball lockers, so it wasn't the most comfortable of lanes to bowl on.  To make matters worse, practice showed that the lanes had not been oiled that morning which forced me to throw a more sharply hooking angle into the pocket than usual. As we began the first game we noticed that the right lane wasn't registering our scores. Upon complaining to the worker they moved us one set of lanes over. I'm usually not a fan of moving mid-game, but this turned out to be a great move.

The new pair of lanes were freshly oiled and played similarly to the lane conditions we see on league nights.  I was able to capitalize on the two spares and strike I threw on the original pair and stayed clean through the first game for a 196.

I started with a strike in the second game before missing a 7-pin in the second frame. I rebounded with a double, but then followed that up with a light pocket hit split and then a chopped eight count open. I made a 6-7 split to get back on my game, but opened on another 7-pin for my last ball in the tenth frame to finish with a 179.

The third game started just as the second finished, with another missed 7-pin. I finally made the decision to pull my plastic out for any further attempts at the 7-pin and convert my final three attempts at that spare for the day. I stayed clean after the first frame, but was unable to string more than two strikes together the entire day. I finished the last game with a 197 and a 572 series.

I was throwing the ball pretty well, but recognizing two small changes a little later than I should have kept me from a couple 200 games and probably a 600 series. In the second game I was dropping my shoulder a little bit and missing my mark left, which resulted in a few ugly leaves. The other adjustment was to use my plastic when shooting at the 4- and 7-pins. My strike ball was grabbing early on the left side of the lane and it was easier to throw straight at the pins than try to find a line specific for those pins.

I've got one more week of scores banked during my recovery and then I hope to be back in action. Stay tuned.

September 12, 2012

Week 2 Recap

Game 1: 179
Game 2: 210
Game 3: 211
Series: 600
Week Avg: 200
Season Avg: 186

The first game started as a continuation of Week 1, with four of the first five frames as opens. While I was right in the pocket during practice, the first few frames saw me hit light several times to leave a 1-2-10, 5-7 and a few clusters that I chopped. I moved right a half board and quickly found the pocket again, striking enough to pull off a respectable 171 considering the poor start.

I stayed clean the second game, but had difficulty stringing more than two strikes together. I didn't have anything less than an eight-count on the balls that didn't strike, though, and was in the pocket nearly every shot for a 210.

I started the third game with two missed 10-pins, which really upset me because I used to take pride in making that spare. I quickly cleaned up my act and followed the two opens with a turkey and didn't open the rest of the night. I moved a few inches back about halfway through the game to compensate for a light pocket hit and really never looked back.  I finished with a 211 game and a 600 on the nose.

One problem I did have this week was that the ball came off my hand early about five times.  It had been cooler here the last few days and I think that the quick change in temperature shrunk my fingers just enough that I had to be very careful to get them into the ball as I set up on the approach. When the ball falls off early I lose revs and miss my mark about a board to the right, which resulted in some light hits.

I pre-bowled for weeks 3 and 4 earlier in the week and in the past nine games I have been throwing the ball really well.  I am hitting my mark more consistently and holding my release. I don't know how to explain it, but the ball just feels great coming off my hand and I feel that every shot has the potential to be a strike. I hope I can keep this momentum going when I come back from my surgery in a few weeks.

I'll post recaps of my pre-bowls for weeks 3 and 4 a little closer to those dates.

August 30, 2012

An Addition To The Family

Earlier this month I finally pulled the trigger and purchased a ball for heavy oil conditions. I had done a lot of research on RG, differential, coverstocks, etc. and was prepared to buy a new ball when another bowler in my summer league mentioned that he was selling a few of his. I mentioned what I was looking for and he pointed me toward his Brunswick C-(System) alpha-max.

Isn't it cute?
I had it refitted this afternoon and threw a few frames with it on an old wooden lane, but I can already tell that this is going to fill the gap in my arsenal. I'll test it out some more on Tuesday when I go to pre-bowl and hopefully get a better handle on how the ball reacts on a THP on synthetic lanes.

On a side note: it was really difficult to find a pro shop in Pittsburgh's North Hills. I ended up at an 8-lane alley above a diner. The lanes and approaches were all old wood and they showed their age. The ball returns looked like they were from the late 1950s and the ball rolled back between the gutters at lane level. Almost unbelievably the alley did have automatic scoring. The pro shop was essentially a closet with a shop vac, sander, small cardboard boxes filled with inserts and some measuring equipment. The drills were in some mysterious back room which probably also doubled as the diner's kitchen.  But as long as everything fits alright I'd probably go back.

So no more excuses now. The equipment is there, now I just have to use it.

August 29, 2012

Week 1 Recap

Game 1: 171
Game 2: 136
Game 3: 209
Series: 516
Week Avg: 172
Season Avg: 172

The first game started off pretty well.  While I didn't throw many strikes, I was in the pocket just about every shot. I missed a 10-pin by hair inside and opened on a late split, but other than that it was pretty uneventful. I threw a 171.

The second game was a reminder as to why I am not a great bowler.  I left four splits this game, in addition to a missed 6-pin. I was consistent, but unfortunately I was consistent in not hitting my mark. Every ball hit either light or high and the shots I did have in the pocket just didn't carry.  I didn't feel very comfortable, which was odd since I spent the entire summer on difficult oil patterns. This was supposed to be easy. My 136 begs to differ. I'll never make the transition from a good bowler to a great bowler without the ability to recognize and troubleshoot the errors in my game.

To start the third game I decided to concentrate on a few things. 1) Don't rush. Bowl at a comfortable speed for me. 2) Keep my shoulders parallel to the foul line and don't dip my right shoulder at release. And 3) Hold my finish. All of a sudden I was hitting my mark and carrying with more frequency. The leaves I did have were typically corner pins. I finished with a clean 209, but an underwhelming series.

All of my research into the strategies of a sandbagger must have slipped into my subconscious. This outing was well under average and rather disappointing. Luckily we were bowling against a team we knew, so I didn't feel too bad.

We are off next week for Labor Day, but I plan to pre-bowl on Tuesday and Thursday for the two weeks I will miss while recovering from my gall bladder surgery on September 14th.

Its gotta get better from here.

August 22, 2012

Starting the Sandbagger Prevention League

The beginning of the fall league season is upon us, and with the start of our real leagues comes the start of the experimental, quasi-fictional, Sandbagger Prevention League.

I outlined the concept for the league in a previous post, so I won't repeat myself here.  In addition, I have created an entire page dedicated to tracking the progress of the league throughout the season (see the SPL link at the top?) and explaining the various formats being tested.

Joining me and my fictional, unethical bowler Sam Sandbagger, are: Lauren (my wife), Doc, EBH of Thumbhole Chronicles, and, of coarse, my buddy Matt at Bowling Rollercoaster, who is contributing scores from all three of his leagues for this project.I couldn't do this without you guys and I hope we get some real results when the league wraps up.

The league will run for 32 weeks and if any of the participants are in leagues shorter than that I know they practice enough to cover the extra weeks. They will submit their scores in the comments section of the SPL page by listing the week number and their three games.  In Matt's case, he'll need to specify to which Matt the scores belong (Matt 1, 2, or 3).  If they maintain a public score sheet, like Bowling Tracker, I can use that instead.

The most difficult part of creating this league was trying to get inside the head of a sandbagger. I've grappled for a few weeks on how to develop a sandbagger's strategy. What should the scores be early in the season?When should Sam start bowling well? How blatant is a sandbagger when throwing under their real average? How bad is too bad for a sandbagger?

Sam is going to be a conscientious sandbagger, never totally tanking a game but only bowling to his full potential when he has to. Sam is a 200 average bowler; however, at the start of the season he is going to throw around 150. He'll bowl better when facing opponents with higher averages to take advantage of his higher handicap and he'll bowl closer to his lower average against opponents with lower averages. I will create Sam's scores based on his opponent's average before they submit their scores, so I will have no influence on Sam's performance.

If any one has any questions about the league please let me know in the comments.  Otherwise, the first set of scores will be rolled this Friday and the league will be underway.

Thanks again for all of your help

August 20, 2012

Back to the THP

This past weekend was my first foray onto a typical house pattern since I started the PBA Experience League. I wanted to see how the league has affected my performance before the start of the fall league and, overall, I was happy with what I saw.

I threw a 224 my first game with my only open occurring in the first frame. The pattern at this particular bowling center was a few feet shorter than my usual house, so the ball hooked earlier than what I will see this fall. Prior to the sport league, my first move would have been to shift my body left a few boards. But instead, recalling my experience on the shorter PBA patterns, I moved my body and mark further right and it worked great. If I missed my mark a couple boards right the ball would still come back to the pocket; however, if I missed left the ball would catch the heavier oil in the middle of the lane and hit the headpin head-on. This became a problem late in my second game into the third game before I finally made an adjustment to the left. I threw a 189 in both games.

I was happy with how I reacted to the lanes. I felt that I made better adjustments, but I am still just a bit too slow in implementing them. I still think that can be attributed to my inconsistently. If I throw a few bad balls in a row, by the time I am back on target the pattern has changed and I need to waste a few more frames relocating.

One feature of this bowling center that I did enjoy was that they listed the ball speed on the screen. I found out that my regular first ball speed is typically 15.6 mph and I can maintain that speed throughout the course of three games. I did notice that when I shoot corner pins, particularly the 10-pin, my speed jumps up to over 18 mph. This makes sense because I am usually trying to make sure the ball doesn't hook too much, so in addition to not rotating my wrist at release I will throw the ball a little faster. In retrospect, though, I wonder if this increased ball speed affects my accuracy so much that it causes me to occasionally miss my marks on spare shots.

Fall league starts one week from tonight and I'm excited to get started. New league. New competition. New skills. New knowledge. Same friends. Two of the guys from last year's team are sticking with me, my wife is coming back, and Joe, who bowled with my wife and I in a rec league a few years ago, is going to join us. Its going to be fun.

Here we go . . .

August 18, 2012

PBA Experience League Recap

Pattern Final Averages

Cheetah: 187 (12 games)
NCAA#3: 183 (8 games)
Viper: 172 (12 games)
Scorpion: 170 (12 games)
Shark: 167 (8 games)

League Summary

Looking back, I think that my performance on the PBA patterns was slightly better than expected. While it was frustrating at the time, I knew coming in that these patterns would test the skills I had and expose the ones I lacked, and once I came to the realization that the league wasn't about scoring, but rather about learning, I started to bowl better.

I finished the league with a 176 average, which up until the beginning of August 2012 translated to a 193 average on a typical house pattern. I make the distinction because since the beginning of August, a 176 Sport League average now translates to a 198 THP average. The reason for such a dramatic jump in the adjusted average is that the USBC collected the data to create the adjusted average chart in two completely different ways. I won't go into the details here, but Jeff Richgels breaks it all down on his blog. In either case, my adjusted average is higher than what my final average has ever been; however, there are a few factors that come into play. The biggest factor is that I bowled about half the number of games in this league than I do in my usual league. With a smaller sample size, it is easier to distort the average of an overall performance.

I threw eleven 200 games during the league, which equates to 21% of the total games bowled. I also threw at least two 200 games on each pattern with the exception of the Shark, on which I threw none. My high game was a 235 on the Cheetah and my high series was a 771 on NCAA#3.

Self Evaluation

Not surprisingly, I fared much better on the shorter patterns. Since I typically throw down and in, I wasn’t trying to force a big hook into the pocket like some other bowlers. I did my best on the shorter patterns with heavier oil in the front end because my line was pretty direct toward the pocket, with a sharp hook at the end to drive through the rack. I wish I could have my missed week on the NCAA#3 back because I think my pattern and season average could have been a bit higher with an extra four games.

Again, not surprisingly, my worst pattern average was on the Shark.  This is the pattern that took me the farthest from my comfort zone, essentially narrowing the lane by 10 boards on either side forcing me to play deeper inside. The Scorpion was the other longer, heavier oil pattern and I struggled there as well. These patterns further exposed my need for a more reactive heavy oil ball and I am in the process of filling out my arsenal as a result.

Another glaring statistic is that my third game average, 166.77, is nearly ten pins under my season ending average and exactly ten pins under my next lowest game average, which belongs to the first game of the night. This tells me that I still need to work on quickly recognizing changes on the lane so that I can adjust my body position and mark before it impacts my scores. That being said, my final game average is 180.15 which tells me that even though it takes some time for me to recognize changing lane conditions, I do eventually make the correct adjustments.

Problems with the League

I developed a laundry list of grievances throughout the course of this league and after speaking with a few folks it sounds like these are all recurring issues from previous seasons. Many, if not all, of these problems could be solved by not having the bowling center manager and, might I add, the father of the high school All-American serving as league president.

The first problem is that the league didn't stick to the rules and oil pattern schedule distributed on Week 1. I unfortunately missed a week of bowling due to hospitalization and my teammate missed a week due to a vacation. While the rules stated that absent bowlers are given their average as their score for that week, we were not awarded any points if the opposing bowler did not beat our score. This most likely would not have provided enough points to move up in the standings, but why have rules if you are just going to make up new ones? 

Also, while we did receive a week's notice that the NCAA#4 pattern would be replaced by the Shark pattern; we received no notice that the last week on the Shark was being replaced by an extra week of the Viper. If you go back and read my description of each of these patterns, you will notice that they are polar opposites of each other. This change in pattern also happened to coincide with the All-American's second place team facing off against the first place team. Basically the All-American was able to utilize the league's two practice sessions to prepare for the Viper while her opponents walked in with equipment for a long heavy oil pattern instead of a short light oil pattern. It cost them the lead that night and they were not able to recover.

In the end, the league basically served as a way for the All-American to earn more scholarship money from all of us thanks to the manipulation of the rules and oil patterns by her father. There is a reason that not many people bowl in this league more than once and I will be joining them in that decision. If I choose to bowl in a PBA Experience League again I will be sure that it is sanctioned and has some means of accountability.

If I Had My Own PBA Experience League

Now don't get me wrong, the actual bowling was a great experience despite all the league BS that went along with it. But I think more could have been done to make this league more educational and fun for the entire group.

Given the 14 week format we used this year, I would advocate two weeks per PBA animal pattern and the US Open pattern for the first twelve weeks. At the beginning of the first week of each new pattern there would be a short tutorial session where the oil layout is discussed. The PBA produced videos about each animal pattern on YouTube could also be utilized. This allows everyone to be on the same playing field and have an understanding of what the preferred lines are for each pattern. This was how I prepared for the animal patterns and these videos provide a great introduction and idea of what to expect on the lanes.

The results of the first twelve weeks would serve as the basis for seeding a tournament in the remaining two weeks of the league. The tournament patterns would be voted on by the league and announced at the end of week 12 to ensure that teams bring the correct equipment for the lane conditions. The results of the tournament would serve as the final league standings, providing every team a chance to compete for the league championship and maintaining the feel of competition throughout the entire season.

Sport Leagues as a Solution to Sandbagging?

In the Richgels' blog post I mentioned above, he also made an interesting connection between Sport Leagues and the recent discussions of sandbagging and handicap leagues. He noted that one way to eliminate sandbagging is to make Sport Leagues the norm, encouraging competitive bowling over the recreational bowling that has recently gained the most support and is seen by many as the downfall of our sport. This way tournament averages, even on a THP, would use Sport League averages instead of general league averages, thus giving an advantage to those who take the time to get better. This is probably the most favorable solution I have heard concerning the issue of sandbagging because it is the first one to actually encourage the improvement of ability. If you want to succeed in Sport Leagues you have to be good, there's no faking it, and I imagine it would be much harder for a sandbagger to turn it on all of sudden like they tend to do on a THP.

Final Note

I suppose I won't really be able to evaluate the success of this league until I am able to reflect on my performance this fall. A jump in my average, increase in accuracy or ability to adjust more quickly to changing conditions would all be indicators that the PBA Experience was a worthwhile experience for me.

August 17, 2012

Week 14/Viper Recap

Game 1: 176
Game 2: 211
Game 3: 192
Game 4: 169
Series: 748
Week Avg: 187
Viper Avg: 172
Season Avg: 176

I started out the evening with a great practice session. I was throwing strikes with ease and had plenty of time to shoot corner pins before the start of the first game. At the completion of practice I was standing with my left foot on the 22 board and throwing at the 7 board at the arrows (blue line on diagram).

Unfortunately the good shots didn't follow me into the first game as I left the 1-2-4-7 in the first frame and hooked the ball just past the headpin on my spare shot for an open. I threw a few good balls, but overall I had a difficult time hitting my marks, both at the arrows and at the break point. When I did hit my marks, though, the ball was coming in a bit light. Luckily my only other open in the game was a barely missed 3-10 split. I finished the game with a 176.

To start the second game I moved my body one board right (black line on diagram) and started hitting great. I was in the pocket just about every shot and the spares I did leave were typically single pins. I shot my first clean game in weeks for a 211.

An errant ball to start the third game left the 1-2-4 which I managed to chop for an early open, but overall I was still throwing really well.  The few times I did miss my mark were easily diagnosed and corrected. I opened once more by chopping the 3-6 in the eighth frame and finished with a 192.

The last game gave me some problems. I started by opening my third first frame of the night by just missing the 4-pin. I followed that up by hooking the ball past the headpin for the 1-3-8-9 in the second frame and the 1-2-4-10 in the seventh.  Much of the rest of the game consisted of spares from light pocket hits. I tried moving back on the approach, but in retrospect I should have moved right to standing at the 20 board and shooting at the 6. I struck in the tenth frame, but followed it up by opening a 1-2-4 on my last ball for a 169.

Overall, not a bad finish to the league. My biggest enemy this week was keeping my own pace and not rushing through the games. Once I gathered myself and controlled my pace I was in pretty good shape. I enjoyed the Viper, despite the debacle my first week on the pattern, and I thought that it was slightly more forgiving than the other animal patterns we faced.

I now have a ten day break before my fall league starts on the 27th. Between now and then I am planning to go out for one practice session so my wife can shake off the rust after taking a year off and so I can evaluate my performance on a typical house pattern after a summer on PBA patterns. I will have a PBA Experience League recap, practice session recap, and Sandbagger Prevention League introduction before the 27th.

August 13, 2012

Week 13/Viper Recap

Game 1: 202
Game 2: 162
Game 3: 203
Game 4: 171
Series: 738
Week Avg: 184
Viper Avg: 165
Season Avg: 175

What a difference a little preparation can make. After reviewing my earlier post on the Viper pattern, I came into the week with a plan. Play as far outside as I can and move my line inside as the pattern breaks down throughout the night to find more oil. Practice went smoothly and I started the first game with my left foot on the 21 board and throwing at the 6 board just left of the first arrow (blue line on diagram).

The first game started a little rough as I missed an easy 6-pin to open in the first frame. Luckily I was able to shake it off and throw a good mix of strikes and spares the rest of the game for a 202. I felt like I had more control over how the ball was moving and the majority of my hits were in the pocket. It was a great first game to help me forget about last week.

The second game started off with a few spares before the bottom dropped out. Starting in the fifth frame I left the 5-6 split, chopped a 6-10, and left the 2-4-10. I wasn't coming through the ball very well so I made an effort to concentrate on my release and the problem resolved itself. I stayed clean the rest of the way and finished with a 162.

One of our opponents was playing a similar shot to mine, so I moved my body and mark a board left to the 22 and 7 boards, respectively, to start the third game (black line in diagram). I was back in the pocket and striking pretty well. My only blemish was a missed 4-pin in the sixth frame when the ball hooked a little more than expected. I finished with a 203.

The last game saw another missed 4-pin, this time in the seventh frame, but overall I was in good shape for another over average game. Unfortunately I also missed a 10-pin in the tenth frame to keep me under average with a 171.

I felt pretty good this week for a few reasons. One was that, like I mentioned earlier, I felt more in control of the ball. I knew where the break point was and was able to get the ball there with consistency. I anticipated the pattern breaking down and was able to successfully adjust. I was also able to control my body. I consistently hit my marks and, when I did miss, was able to quickly diagnose and correct the issue. Mainly it was that I was dropping my shoulder at the foul line, so by keeping my upper body straight at release I was able to follow through more effectively. My realization a few weeks ago that this is a learning experience, especially since we clinched last place about half way into the season, also helped a bit.

Another big reason was that I was having fun. I really like the guys we were bowling against this week, too bad it was only our second time going head to head. They were both good bowlers and had no intention of rushing through the games. We kept a steady pace and finished in under two hours, but we were the last pair to finish by an entire game. Our two teams also shared the same views on certain people and aspects of the league, but I'll air our grievances in my league recap.

So this coming Thursday is our last week for the league and the Viper pattern. I hope I can keep the momentum going for Thursday and take it into the fall league.

August 8, 2012

The Sandbagger Prevention League

There has been a lot of talk in the bowling blogosphere (yes, one actually exists) recently about whether handicap leagues are ruining the sport, specifically by serving as an invitation for better bowlers to partake in sandbagging. Sandbagging is when a bowler purposefully bowls below their ability early in the season to establish a lower average, and thus higher handicap, in that league. At a certain point in the season or against particularly good opponents, that bowler will then begin to bowl to the best of their ability to create extraordinarily high games, when combined with their handicap, and collect wins; however, since their average had initially been so low, it will take longer for the sandbagger’s average to reach anywhere close to their actual ability.

So how can bowling as a sport discourage sandbagging? Do away with handicap leagues and force all bowlers to get better? Banish those caught sandbagging from sanctioned leagues? Place a limit on the amount of pins one bowler is permitted in handicap? I am interested in hearing any and all ideas, and here’s why:

I'd like to conduct an experiment. I want to create a league in which we can test the various proposals to discourage sandbagging, but I’ll need your help. I am looking for bowlers willing to submit scores from one of their leagues each week as a contribution to the Sandbagger Prevention League (SPL). The SPL will be comprised of all readers that wish to volunteer, ideally an odd number of at least 7 real bowlers, as well as a fake bowler, Sam Sandbagger. Each week you would be matched up head to head with a different bowler in the league. If I cannot find enough people and someone bowls in multiple leagues I can use your scores from each league, but you will have to bowl against yourself some weeks (did I just blow your mind?). Most often you are bowling against a real person, but occasionally you will be matched up against Sam Sandbagger. Sam will start the season off bowling below his usual average (I will choose this average once I have a list of averages for all participants), but as the league goes on Sam will bowl better. Sam will also bowl over average when he is competing against members with higher averages. I will determine Sam’s scores for the week based on his opponent’s average before receiving the scores of his opponent, so you will have the same chance of defeating Sam as you would if he were actually bowling with you. Bowlers will receive one point for each game they win against that week’s opponent and earn two points by having the higher series.

The SPL will simultaneously run in varying formats. Each week I will calculate the standings as a scratch league, 100% handicap league, 80% handicap league and any possible solutions to solving the sandbagger phenomenon that we can think of, such as dividing the league into two divisions based on average and resetting the divisions at the halfway point. That means that a different bowler could win the league in each format tested. Once the league is over, I will analyze each format to see what type of impact they had on Sam Sandbagger, how competitive they were, and whether or not actual bowling ability is reflected in the final standings. The end goal is to identify a league format that is competitive and rewards good bowling without discouraging newcomers to the game.

So all I need now are a few volunteers and ideas on how we can eliminate the sandbagger from league bowling. Who wants to join the revolution?

August 6, 2012

Week 12/Viper Recap

Game 1: 134
Game 2: 139
Game 3: 168
Game 4: 143
Series: 584
Week Avg: 146
Viper Avg: 146
Season Avg: 174

I was excited to come to bowling this week because I wanted more more crack at the Shark pattern. However, as you can see by the title of this post and the oil pattern diagram to the left, we did not bowl on the Shark as scheduled. Instead, we were informed just before practice started that we were going to start bowling on the Viper pattern a week early. I'll save my grievances with this league for my season recap, but needless to say I am now just adding to the list of reasons why I will not be bowling in this league next summer.

I like research. I feel most comfortable when I have some knowledge of the pattern I am facing and can visualize the pattern to understand why my ball reacts a certain way. During the week leading up to a new pattern, I spend some time reviewing instructional video and read all I can on how bowlers throw successfully on the new pattern. I had done all of this research back in May for the Viper on some bad information from the league president/bowling center manager (you can view that post here). My plan was to review that post before the first week on the Viper, but instead I came into this week blind.

The Viper is basically the exact opposite of the Shark. While the Shark is a long pattern with heavy oil on the outside forcing bowlers to throw deep inside with little hook, the Viper is a short pattern with light oil causing the ball to hook early. I remembered that the pattern was short, but I couldn't remember the preferred line to play. During practice I found a line that was working standing with my left foot at the 22 board and throwing at the 10 board, similar to a dry house pattern (black line on diagram).

I immediately began to fail in the first game by leaving the 4-9 and 6-7-10 splits in the second and third frames, respectively. I followed those up with a chopped 1-2-8 in the fourth. The highlight of the night came in the sixth frame when I converted the 4-7-10 split, but no one saw this great shot because they were watching Olympic women's judo. I missed a 2-4-5-8 in the seventh and 3-9 in the ninth frame to clinch a truly awful 134. The worst part about the splits during this game was that they were the result of slightly high pocket hits. Those shots didn't look like they should have been as catastrophic as they turned out to be.

The second game was more of the same, though I decided to move right a bit to standing at the 21 board and throwing at the 7 (red line on diagram). I'm not going to bore you with the details, but it didn't go well. My ball is drilled to hook a little earlier on the lane, an attribute that usually works to my advantage, but not this night. Luckily I had my old Columbia Boss Titanium with me and I decided to switch to that starting at the sixth frame. Now this ball doesn't hook as early as the Python and is a little less reactive in general, so my thought was to get this ball to hook further down the lane or at least ease the entry angle into the pocket to avoid the splits. My only miss after switching balls in the second game was an easy 8-pin and I finished with a 139.

To start the third game I moved left to try to find a little more oil in the frontend of the lane, standing at 22 1/2 and throwing at the 8 board (blue line on diagram). I hit high to leave the 4-6-7 in the second frame and missed a 5-pin in the seventh. I am missing entirely too many 5-pins lately. My only other open this game was a 1-2-9 in the ninth, but a lack of strikes kept this game to a 168.

In the fourth game I reverted back to either light pocket hits or Brooklyn shots, leaving multiple pins for many shots. I opened in four frames, including the ninth and tenth, all with seven counts on the first ball. I finished with a 143 game and a series I would have been ashamed of if I had only bowled three games, let alone the four I bowled this outing.

Now I don't mean for my lack of preparation for the Viper to sound like an excuse (though its very difficult for me to believe that, so I don't know why I expect you to). For the most part my adjustments were correct, with the exception that I never moved far enough outside, but how I started the night sabotaged the entire evening. I started by playing further inside, then moved outside, and then came back inside again.  This caused me to push through the oil too early in the night, leaving me nothing to adjust into when the lanes started grabbing really early later on. Next week I will start the evening playing closer to the gutter and as the night progresses I can move left into the oil.

Everyone was struggling, so I don't feel too bad, but I have two more weeks left in this experiment they call the PBA Experience League, and I plan to make the most of it.

July 30, 2012

Week 11/Shark Recap

Game 1: 198
Game 2: 170
Game 3: 149
Game 4: 198
Series: 715
Week Avg: 178
Shark Avg: 167
Season Avg: 177

My plan coming into the week was to try to play a line a little further right of center than I did in week 10. During practice I found a pretty good line standing with my left foot at the 24 board and throwing at the 12 board at the arrows. This allowed me a little more room for error, but missing half a board to the right still resulted in completely missing the headpin. For some extra motivation this week I bowled against the high school All-American.

The first game was pretty successful all things considered. I was in the pocket just about every frame, but left a lot of corner pins. Luckily I was on my spare game to start the night and stayed clean for the first fifteen frames of the night. I started running a little high so at the sixth frame I moved left a half board on the approach and threw three strikes in the second half of the game. In the tenth frame a high hit left the 3-9-10 split, but luckily I was able to convert to finish with a 198.

I threw a strike and a few more spares to start the second game before chopping the 6-10 in the sixth frame. I shook it off and marked my way to the tenth frame, where I opened by missing a 5-pin. I came in high the last few frames, but still made a slight adjustment for the spare and just barely missed. I finished with a 170.

The third game was another painful one. I missed a 1-2-4-10 in the second frame and opened on a 6-7 split in the fourth. I followed that up with a chopped 1-2-4 in the fifth frame, but I tried to not let it get me down. I kept telling myself this is a learning experience, figure out what is wrong and fix it. And I did. I threw great first balls the rest of the night. Unfortunately, in the eighth and tenth frames, those solid pocket hits left the 8-10 split. I adjusted in the tenth after leaving the split in the eighth by moving up a few inches, and I did hit better, but the messenger just barely missed the 8-pin before it fell into the pit. I was lucky to finish the game with a 149.

The fourth game was a lot like the first. I threw some great balls, but many were only nine counts. Along the way I did convert a 2-8-9 split, kicking the 2-pin off the left sideboard to take out the 9-pin. The only bad ball this game came in the ninth frame when I hit a little light and left the 4-6 split. I struck out in the tenth frame to score another 198.

After the last month and a half, this week was incredible. It felt great to throw two games in the 190s and my new line worked perfectly. The hardest part is being able to throw the exact same shot all night long, because  missing my mark by as little as a half inch or speeding up a little bit will result in missing the pocket. I also split the head-to-head with the cocky All-American and was competitive in every game. For the most part I had fun, though, and that was exactly what I needed.

We have one more week for me to throw a 200 game on the Shark pattern and I have thrown at least two 200s on each pattern so far. I'm also on a ten game drought without throwing over 200, so I have some more motivation for this Thursday. But I think things are starting to look up . . .