June 27, 2012

Scorpion Oil Pattern

Pattern Description

The Scorpion oil pattern has a length of 41' and resembles a slicked up house pattern with copious amounts of oil in the front end. Early on the pattern is easier to read and straighter lines are preferable, but after a few frames the heavy oil will be redistributed and pushed even further down the lane. This places importance on a good practice session to find your line and also building a good foundation early in the game. Once the pattern changes, it could take some time to locate or break in a new angle, so starting off well is key. Because of the constantly changing conditions, scores on this pattern are typically low to medium.

My research has shown that there are two big transitions on this pattern. The first happens early in the evening as the heavy front end oil is carried down the lane. Lines will tighten and straighten up a bit as the backend shortens even more. After another game and a half to two games the pattern begins to break down and lines can begin to move a little further inside. Missing outside is not an option on the Scorpion as the shorter backend and heavy oil will not allow for the ball to come back to the pocket.

Plan of Action

The common theme throughout the animal patterns is learning how to read the lanes and adjusting appropriately. I cannot wait until my line is completely gone before adjusting, or else I will get left behind. At the hint of my line breaking down I need to be on the lookout for what adjustment or new line will work best. I may have to sacrifice scoring during the first week so that I can gain knowledge to help me anticipate adjustments in the other two. This pattern leaves you at the mercy of the other bowlers as much as it does your own skill because they could be pushing oil into your line, forcing you to adjust even earlier than expected.

I think that this might be the first time where my lack of a complete arsenal may hinder my performance. With such a long and oily pattern, balls that can generate a big hook will fare better in the shorter backend and allow for more possibilities as the lanes break down. I don't throw a big hook, but I might be able to get a few more revs and slow my ball speed enough to make some difference. Hopefully I can work a direct line to the pocket with enough revs on the ball to carry all ten pins.

June 25, 2012

Week 6/Cheetah Recap

Game 1: 160
Game 2: 190
Game 3: 173
Game 4: 212
Series: 735
Week Avg: 183
Cheetah Avg: 187
Season Avg: 184

I knew this week was going to be rough before throwing a single ball. After taking a look at the score sheet to see who our opponents were going to be for the night I looked up at one of the scoreboards from the next lane. Typically the screen shows advertisements for bowling specials or the alley restaurant, but this time there was a photo of a girl with a caption that said "Congratulations (name) 2012 High School All-American." The name sounded familiar and I looked back down at the score sheet . . . we were bowling against one of the top junior bowlers in the country.

Being the third week on this pattern I felt pretty confident in my line, so practice went by without incident in that regard; however, I had done some heavy lifting at work earlier in the day and after throwing my first ball my right forearm and bicep ached bad. It was difficult to extend my arm like I usually do, but I thought it loosened up quite a bit by the end of practice. I kept my same starting line from the previous two weeks, with my left foot at the 20 1/2 board and throwing at the 8 board (blue line in diagram).

The first game started with a few spares, but I was having a difficult timing getting the pins to carry.  I missed an easy 4-pin in the fourth frame and really didn't do too much better after that. I opened on a 4-7-10 split in the ninth frame and chopped the 1-2-9 in the tenth for a 160 game.

I could not consistently hit my mark, and it showed. I slowed my ball speed at the beginning of the second game in hopes that I could both improve my accuracy and get a little more hook out of the ball. Early in the game it worked well and I did throw a few strikes. I missed the 6-pin in the seventh frame and opened in the ninth frame again by missing the 6-7 split. I managed to barely get over average with a 190.

The third game was frustrating. I was missing my mark left nearly every shot, but leaving single pins for easy spares. That is until the fifth frame when I blew a 5-pin. I tried moving to standing at the 20 board and throwing at the 7 board, but my accuracy was the real issue here. Again. Unfortunately my frustration fogged my ability to think about why I was missing my mark and I convinced myself that I could just concentrate my way through the problem. After leaving the 5-6 split in the ninth frame, opening in that frame for the third straight game, I decided on two things. The first was to move only my mark to the 7 board. The second, and more important decision, was to pay attention to my delivery and release to determine why I was missing my mark. I finished the game with a 173, but finally realized what I was doing wrong.

That sore arm from practice was still lingering, I just didn't realize it. Instead, my body decided to adjust to avoid the pain. At the point of release I was dropping my right shoulder, causing my chest to point toward the 7-pin and making me miss my mark about a board to the left. At the beginning of the last game I made a conscious effort to keep my shoulders parallel to the foul line and follow through on my release. Success! I turkeyed and doubled during the game and finished with a clean 212. I also took my only points of the night from Miss All-American.

I don't mean to sound bitter or mean or anything like that, but I enjoyed beating her. I have bowled with and against some pretty great bowlers and I enjoy the competition. Most are great people who are constantly thinking through their game with an indifferent demeanor. This girl, though, was different. She was quite arrogant. Every time she threw a strike she acted like it was her first ever and that it was the best ever. I bet she's a Peter Weber fan.

As for myself, I need to keep cool and think things through a little better. I am still trying to will myself out of problems rather than diagnosing them. Missing my mark is my #1 issue, so my #1 goal needs to be to learn how to correct it. Its the same problem week in and week out. It makes for frustrated bowling and boring blog reading. Sorry.

I think I fared pretty well on the Cheetah pattern. I reviewed some video online from pro tournaments and my lines were pretty consistent with other strokers. Though it gets a bit harder from here. Next up is the long, oily Scorpion pattern and I am not quite sure that I have the right ball to be successful on those conditions, but we'll find out on Thursday.

June 17, 2012

Happy Bowling Father's Day

I wanted to take this opportunity to wish my Dad, and all the other bowling dads out there, a happy Father's Day.

Dad introduced me to bowling and encouraged me to join a juniors league when I was 11. When he wasn't working on Saturday mornings he was sitting just behind the lanes watching my brother and I bowl, serving as an extra pair of eyes and coach. My brother never really took to being coached, but my Dad and I used bowling as one of our greatest bonding opportunities. Once I got better and more knowledgeable about the game we became peers helping each other out during practice sessions or league play. He subscribed to a bowling magazine when I was growing up and we would read it from cover to cover and discuss what we had learned from each issue. After moving to Pittsburgh, I would sometimes drag my bowling bag the 300 miles across Pennsylvania just so I could go bowling with my Dad during a visit. Unfortunately, it has a been a few years since we have had the chance to bowl together, but if I am in town on a Thursday night he knows that I will be there to watch him bowl in his league.

A few years back Dad had reached a goal he had been striving toward for a long time, a 200 league average. He was at the top of his game. Unfortunately he suffered a pinched nerve in his neck and missed the majority of the following season. Since coming back, he has struggled to get comfortable and is continually adjusting to new bowling balls, but his love of the game is still there. Its one of the many things I have inherited from him, and I am thankful for that.

So thanks for all you have done and taught me over the years, Dad. I'll never forget it.

Happy Father's Day.

June 16, 2012

Week 5/Cheetah Recap

Game 1: 201
Game 2: 191
Game 3: 116
Game 4: 235
Series: 743
Week Avg: 185
Cheetah Avg: 188
Season Avg: 185

After last week's success, I felt fairly confident coming into this week. I started practice shooting the same line I started my first game with last week and it carried over beautifully into my first game this week. I stood with my left foot at the 20 1/2 board and threw at the 8 board at the arrows (black line on diagram).

The first game went pretty well. I was consistently in the pocket and high hits were carrying well. I left mainly single pin spares until the tenth frame when I missed my mark to the left and missed the headpin, leaving the 1-3-6-9. I over compensated and missed the headpin the right on my spare shot for my only open of the game. I finished with a 201.

The second game saw an early open in the second frame when I chopped the 2-4-5. I struck a few times until the seventh frame when I chopped the 6-10 split. Luckily I marked the rest of the way, including a turkey, and finished with a 191.

The third game was the one I had been worrying about. This is the game where the oil pattern breaks down and the line shifts slightly. Unfortunately, this also seems to be the game where my mechanics break down, making it difficult to distinguish which reactions are my doing and which are caused  by changing lanes. I opened in seven of ten frames, including five opens in a row consisting of back to back 4-6 splits, a 5-7 split, a missed 2-pin and a chopped 3-9. I was inconsistent in hitting my mark, but when I did the ball was coming in light. I finished the game with a 116, my worst since March 2011.

For the last game I moved right to the 20 board and shot at the 7 board near the arrows (red line on diagram). That slight adjustment did wonders for my game. I started with a spare and then threw five strikes in a row, made a 10-pin spare, and then threw another two strikes. In the tenth frame I missed left and left the 3-6. I thought it was simple enough, just move to where I was standing during the third game and I would be fine. Instead I missed my mark right and chopped the 6-pin, opening in three out of four tenth frames. I finished the game with a 235, another league high for the night, and salvaged a 743 series to bump my season average up another pin.

Two of my goals for this league were to be more consistent in hitting my marks and to learn how to quickly identify and adjust to changing lane conditions. And so far, these two problems have been holding me down, specifically in the third game. I know what to expect and when to expect it on the Cheetah pattern, so next week I need to be aware of what is happening during the third game and concentrate on executing my shots.

I haven't bowled on a house pattern since I started the PBA Experience league and I wonder if it is improving my game as planned. According to the USBC adjusted average chart, my 185 average is comparable to a 202 house league average. Lets hope my average in this league continues to rise and translates to big changes come the fall.

June 10, 2012

Week 4/Cheetah Recap

Game 1: 187
Game 2: 199
Game 3: 156
Game 4: 224
Series: 766
Week Avg: 191
Cheetah Avg: 191
Season Avg: 184

After doing my research I expected to have to play fairly close to the gutter for most of the evening; however, practice showed that the Cheetah pattern was playing very similar to the NCAA #3 pattern from the last few weeks. By the end of practice I was standing with my left foot at the 20 1/2 board and throwing at the 8 board (solid blue line in diagram).

I was hitting the pocket fairly consistently at the start of the first game, but left single pins for spares. I struck in the fifth frame, but then chopped the 6-10 in the sixth. I stayed clean the rest of the way, even converting the 1-2-10 in the tenth frame to avoid opening in the final frame, a problem that plagued me much of last week. I finished the game with a 187.

I was still having some problems taking out all ten pins on pocket hits, so I decided to try a new line. In the third frame I moved to the 19 board and threw at the 5 board (red line in diagram), but it proved to be a bit too inconsistent and I moved back to my original line by the sixth frame. I opened once during the game and finished with a 199.

The third game was quite difficult in that just about every ball hit high or light in the pocket. I tried increasing ball speed and moving up after hitting high and moving back and moving my mark closer toward the foul line when coming in light, but nothing was able to help me achieve a good pocket hit. I opened a couple of times after missing a 10-pin and missing a split. I finished the game with a 156.

After the third game I remembered what I had said in my Cheetah pattern post earlier in the week, that the line I would play would depend on how much hook my ball can generate on its own. So to start the last game I moved my left foot to the 20 board and threw at the 8 board (teal dotted line in diagram). I also changed my thumb position from the usual 3:30 position to about 2 o'clock at the beginning of my approach, thus taking some revs off of the ball and letting it do most of the work. This seemed to give me a bit more control in the backend and the ball was finding the pocket with ease. I doubled and turkeyed during the game and finished with a clean 224.

I shot the highest game and series of the four teams that were present, so I was pretty happy with my performance. That being said, there seems to always be one game that gets away from me. I have a better idea of what type of lines and adjustments work best on this pattern, so I am looking forward to staying in control for all four games next week. We bowled a team with a vacancy, which I matched up with every game, so I am not sure how many points I took this week.

Speaking with a few guys after we finished, there was some speculation as to whether or not this pattern was  the same Cheetah from the PBA. Some of us agreed that it played differently than expected and others who had taken advantage of the pattern practice session on Monday said that the center claimed the pattern was 37' rather than 35', which does make a difference. The league isn't sanctioned, which means their lanes and oil machines are not inspected and approved by the USBC for sport league patterns. I suspect that the center uses the same PDF documents to calibrate and program their machines that you can find online by Googling the pattern names.  While these may not be the exact patterns, I think they are close enough to serve the purposes I was aiming for when joining the league. But it would be nice to know for sure that I am bowling on the same patterns as the pros for comparison's sake.

June 6, 2012

Cheetah Oil Pattern

Pattern Description

The Cheetah oil pattern has a length of 35', making it the shortest of the PBA animal named patterns. With heavy oil in the front 10' quickly changing to nothing, the ball will skid slightly before breaking early and hard. While similar in layout and only three feet shorter than the NCAA #3 pattern, the heavy front end oil of the Cheetah extends half as far down the lane, providing more room for the ball to grab. Often shots on this pattern need to flirt with the gutter before hooking toward the pocket in order to get the best entry angle to carry all ten pins. If you can play close to the gutter to avoid hooking past the pocket, scores on this pattern are typically high.

Plan of action

I don't often throw close to the gutter, but it seems that the first few patterns of this league are going to force me to become comfortable with that sort of line. One advantage I do have is that I do not typically throw a big hook, so I should be able to play a little further left of the channel than some of the other bowlers and eliminate the threat of dumping the ball in the gutter. At the same time, I cannot be afraid to put the ball out there if needed, placing a premium on my accuracy.  In the end, the line I play is going to be contingent on how much hook the ball generates on its own.

Since there isn't much oil on the lane to begin with there should be little need for adjustments to counter changing lane conditions. Once I find a line that is working well, I may have to play with hand and wrist adjustments to get the right amount of revs on the ball. The lack of oil also means that I will be looking to my plastic ball for spares including the 4-6-7-8-9-10 pins. This pattern seems to put an emphasis on repetition, which has been a weak point for me, so I think it will be great practice.

June 3, 2012

Week 3/NCAA #3 Recap

Game 1: 199
Game 2: 169
Game 3: 193
Game 4: 210
Series: 771
Week Avg: 192
NCAA #3 Avg: 181
Season Avg: 181

Coming into this week, I decided to move my mark right to about the 5 board and then adjust my body right until I found the pocket. My hope was that I could avoid most of the heavy oil and get the ball to hook earlier in the backend. This worked wonderfully and I started the first game by throwing at the 5 board and beginning my approach with my left foot on the 20 board (red line in diagram).

I started with three spares in the first game and then hit light to leave the 1-2-10, which I opened. I moved back a few inches as it seemed like the oil I was running through in the front end was beginning to carry further down the lane.  I started striking, including a turkey late in the game. In the tenth frame I left the 6-pin and missed about a finger's width to the right, blowing a 200 game. I finished the game with a 199 and took my first point on the night.

Early in the second game I missed the 10-pin just barely to the left. The rest of the game was spent picking up spares, mainly corner pins, until the tenth frame.  I hit a bit high and left the 5-10 split and could only pick off the 5-pin.  I finished the game with a 169 and gave up a point to my opponent.

The third game started with the ball continuing to run a bit high. I tried moving up on the approach, and then left a board, but to no avail. Luckily I kept picking up my spares, so I wasn't punished too much. In the fifth frame I decided to abandon the outside line and moved left to the 21 1/2 board and threw at the 9 board (green line in diagram). This new line worked great and I was getting good carry. In the tenth frame I missed my mark and hit Brooklyn and then missed the spare, opening in my third straight tenth frame and blowing my second 200 of the night.  I finished with a 193, tying my opponent for a half point.

For the first half of the fourth game I kept missing my mark, mostly to the left. I got lucky once when I completely missed the headpin, but the pin action was enough to take out the 1-2-4 from behind for a strike.  I remembered reading recently Susie Minshew's blog post on the International Art of Bowling that missing your mark is a symptom, not a problem, so I needed to find what problem was causing me to miss my mark. I noticed that I was not following through on my release earlier in the evening, and so I decided to really concentrate on following through and posting my shots.  Immediately the problem disappeared and I began to hit my mark and strike. I finished with a clean 210 game and another point for defeating my opponent. Matt also beat his opponent and we took the team game for another two.

This week I was eventually able to play further inside after the lanes began to change. By the time I wore through the light oil on my initial outside line, both bowlers on the other team had begun to play around the second arrow. They did all the work of moving the oil out of the way so that I was able to play just right of the second arrow and still get the ball to hook into the pocket.

In the end, I didn't feel that this pattern was overly challenging. While it did force me to play closer to the gutter, which is outside of my usual comfort zone, many of the problems I faced were of my own doing. Next week we begin on the PBA Cheetah pattern and I hope I don't add to the challenge by goofing up.