Is New York’s Jeff Teat having the greatest rookie season of any forward in NLL history?
Lacrosse stat guru Adam Levi posed the question earlier this week on Twitter. It’s a query radiating with subjectivity. But it’s also totally worth thinking about. What does it mean for a season to be “great”?
Depending on your perspective, greatness can come in an unlimited number of packages. Individual statistics, team success, paradigm-shifting style of play. Each is just one of a countless variety of criteria we can apply when evaluating the “greatness” of an individual’s performance. But in the case of Teat, the numbers alone tell a story that might be enough to make his case for “greatness”.
As we love to do here at LaxMetrics.com, we’re going to use a series of forecasts and projections to first evaluate Teat’s performance to this point. Then we’ll consider how likely Teat is to continue his current rate of production. And lastly, we’ll suggest what can reasonably be expected from the Riptide rookie moving forward. Investigating these three ideas will lead us to the LaxMetrics answer to Levi’s question.
Beginning with Teat’s performance to date, we immediately see a player producing at a remarkable rate. Teat’s total of 50 points in seven games played is reflective of the Cornell alum’s prodigious creativity and penchant for filling the box score. In every environment in which he’s competed—from Junior A to the NCAA, PLL, and now NLL—he’s packed the stat sheet to a degree that few players have ever been able to match.
Teat’s ability to rack up points is uncanny. Perhaps his introduction to the PLL over the summer should have served as a better warning for what was to come in his first NLL season. Teat doesn’t make quiet introductions, that much is certain.
Let’s evaluate Teat’s performance through the season’s first half through the lens of a pair of multi-variable models that consider Teat’s Shots On Goal, Shooting%+, Total First Order Chances Per Game, and Usage Rate. The outputs we get from these models will allow LaxMetrics to project what it thinks Teat’s various scoring totals should look like at this point in the season.
The following numbers are the results we get from the models. Teat’s actual numbers are in parentheses:
Goals: 16.94 (17)
Assists: 35.87 (33)
Points: 52.81 (50)
What we see is that Teat is performing at a rate nearly identical to the LaxMetrics forecasts. His mark of 7.14 points per game is virtually in perfect lock-step with the projection’s figure of 7.54 expected points per game. According to the LaxMetrics projections, only Vancouver’s Mitch Jones, who has played only four games, has a higher expected points per game value than Teat. In fact, only four other players have expected points per game values over 6.00, meaning that is Teat currently in a tier of his own.
The incredible reality that precipitates from Teat’s performance is that—contrary to what the law of averages might suggest—the LaxMetrics projections don’t think Teat is due for a regression to the mean. Instead, the projections suggest that the New York rookie is entirely capable of sustaining his current rate of production. Even at 7.14 points per game, Teat’s production can be described as durable.
Whereas many players around the league are the beneficiaries of cheap points that come from things like fluff assists, Teat is actually earning every bit of his point total. His Total First Order Chances Created Per Game (unrealized assists + first order assists) of 8.29 leads the league, besting Dhane Smith’s mark of 8.00. Furthermore, Teat’s First Order Conversion Rate of 37.9% is almost exactly in line with the league average of 36.9%. What this means is that Teat is producing assists at a rate commensurate with what the law of averages says he should be. Teat’s first half performance isn’t a statistical outlier. This means that the rookie’s point production is more resilient than some of the other point binges we’ve seen from other players around the league.
Furthermore, if we take Teat’s LaxMetrics expected points per game value of 7.54 and multiply it over the Riptide’s remaining nine games, we could expect him to post an additional 67.9 points to his total before season’s end. Should he play in each of those nine contests, the LaxMetrics projections suggest that he should finish the year with somewhere between 115 and 118 points. Even in the event of a second-half regression, Teat is still in line to shatter the league’s rookie points record.
For example, say Teat’s production over the season’s final nine games drops to a full point per game below the LaxMetrics projection. In such an event, we’d expect Teat to still add about 6.5 points per game, totaling an additional 59 from here forward. Producing at this reduced rate would leave Teat with 109 points on the season, which would still obliterate Randy Staats’s rookie point record of 95, that he set in 2016.
If we were to do the same calculations while isolating Teat’s assist total, we’d see a similar phenomenon.
At his current LaxMetrics forecasted rate of 5.12 expected assists per game, Teat would be on pace to record another 49 assists in the season’s final nine games. But say he underperforms the LaxMetrics assist per game rate by the same degree that he did over the first seven games (91% of expectations). In such an event, Teat would still be in line for about 45 more assists. Given his current total of 33, the Riptide star would be in line for a 78-assist season, which would shatter Tom Schreiber’s rookie record of 61 set in 2017. If Teat were to simply meet projected expectations the rest of the way, that total balloons to 82 assists.
The only major rookie record that Teat likely isn’t going to touch is Paul Gait’s goal mark of 47 set in 1991. But even then, it wouldn’t take a huge leap in production for Teat to mount a challenge.
At 2.42 expected goals per game, LaxMetrics projects that Teat could reasonably be expected to score an additional 21.78 goals this season, which would leave him with approximately 39 for the year. While not record-breaking, such a total would still be the third-highest among rookies in league history. Although unlikely, even a slight over-performance of the LaxMetrics forecasts suggests that Teat still could potentially challenge for Gait’s record.
So where does this leave us relative to the question asked by Adam Levi on Twitter?
The only fair answer is that Teat has probably had the best seven-game start to a career in league history. What that means for the rest of the season remains to be seen. But given the fact that Teat has produced across the board at a rate nearly identical to the LaxMetrics projections, he very well may be able to sustain his current pace over the long run. As discussed above, should he be able to do so, Teat will have produced inarguably the most prolific rookie season of any forward in league history. Period. Full stop.
But does that make it the greatest? As far as LaxMetrics is concerned, yes it does.
In fact, LaxMetrics will go a step further in saying that if Teat continues to meet his projections for the rest of the season, he likely should have a place among the league’s MVP finalists. At his projected rate, Teat would be in line to produce one of the five highest point totals in league history. Should he end up somewhere in that 110-120 point range, all while re-writing the rookie record book and potentially dragging New York out of the Eastern Conference cellar, it’s hard to see him being excluded from the MVP debate.
To conclude, while the first seven games of his career have likely been the best in league history, there is still quite a bit separating Teat from claiming the title of “greatest” rookie forward ever. But as the LaxMetrics analysis shows, Teat is perfectly positioned to finish as the most prolific rookie in league history. We’d love to answer the question definitively today, but of course, we have no choice but to sit back and wait patiently as Teat’s bid for history unfolds.