The Eighth Man

The Value of a Snitch

Performances by Villanova’s Billy Greco (left) at the Champions Series and Northeast Fantasy, where his teams turned his snitch catches into deep tournament runs, have helped start conversations about the value of a snitch in today’s game. Credit: Deanna Edmunds

On paper, quidditch is a team sport. Squads have 21 players. Seven of these athletes are participating at once, barring a penalty. A team cannot and will not win unless it excels in every area, playing with seasoned and skilled players at every position. Lose bludger control, and your team will have trouble on both the offensive and defensive sides of the field. Chasers can’t score a goal? Can’t win a game. In this way, quidditch is without a doubt a team sport.


Yet as the game has developed, one of those positions has become increasingly important. As the player who ends the game and earns his or her team 30 points—three times the worth of a goal—the seeker is the most important player. Years ago, this 30 point value afforded to a snitch catch was perfect. There were few teams who could stay within 30 points of the best in the world, but if they could, they would be rewarded with a chance to win the game.


But the game back then, even more than it is now, was undeveloped. Chaser strategy was fledgling, and the importance of beaters was grasped by very few. Teams and players were still relying on strategies from other sports they had played, instead of coming up with new tactics for this entirely new game.


Over the past two years, however, the sport has grown immeasurably. Larger even than the growth in the community is a tangible growth in the technical aspect of the sport. Defenses have improved, with teams playing complex defensive schemes including man-to-man, zone and combination defenses. Teams create chaser lines, and run plays out of offensive sets, leading to a more sophisticated game. The good have become better, the better have become the best, and the best…well they’ve remained where they are — excluding a few obvious exceptions.


The athleticism and strategy involved in quidditch has grown immensely as well, and, in the process, the teams at the top have gotten closer together. It seems like any time USC plays UCLA, Emerson plays BU, or Texas, Texas A&M, and LSU face off, the games end in snitch catches.


Is this a good thing? Too often, teams play entire games just to have the result come down to their seeker versus the opposing seeker. As a captain for Villanova, I believe in my team going into every single game. There are some opponents, however, that, while I believe we can possibly go up by 40 points or more, I realize that the game will most likely come down to a snitch catch.


Round of 32 Round of 16 Quarterfinals Semifinals Finals Total
Matches 16 8 4 2 1 31
Matches within Range 8 6 2 2 1 19
Percent within range 50 75 50 100 100 73


World Cup V is a great example of the importance of seekers. The chart above shows how many games in each elimination round were within 30 points when the snitch was caught. Not only did both semifinals and the finals come down to a snitch grab, but so did three quarters of the round of 16 and half of the remaining rounds. Over 73% of all games from the round of 16 onwards were won with a snitch catch.


There are some that say this is a good thing, as it gives the underdog a chance and makes games more exciting. The fact remains, however, that nearly three quarters of all games involving the final 16 teams were decided based on which seeker had the better game. 11 of the final 15 games were played by three chasers, two beaters, and one keeper on each team, yet they were all decided by one seeker.


Perhaps even more telling of the inherent issues with the current value of snitch grabs was the finals matchup of Middlebury College and the University of Florida.


In each of Florida’s five elimination games, the score was within 30 points when the snitch was caught. Middlebury, on the other hand, won on a snitch grab in three of their five elimination games. What’s more is that in those three games – the finals, semi-finals, and round of 16 – Middlebury was losing by either 10 or 20 points when they retrieved the snitch to win.


I will not argue that Middlebury wasn’t one of the best teams at World Cup V, or that they aren’t champions of the world until someone dethrones them in four months. I do wonder, however, whether a team deserves to be crowned the best solely because their seeker got hot at the right time. While it took great chaser and beater play to keep the games within range, the only thing separating the best 16 teams, 73% of the time, was whose seeker had a better game.



Potential Solutions


20 point snitch

The simplest of solutions involves just subtracting 10 points from the snitch value. It still ensures that the snitch matters – it remains double the value of a normal goal – but the chaser and beater play throughout the game will matter more, with less games within snitch range. Such a change would have affected three games in the Round of 16, the quarterfinal between LSU and the University of Minnesota and both of the semifinals, all of which were won by 10 points by the team that caught the snitch.


25 points snitch

A slightly more unique solution, this brings about a series of changes within the sport. First of all, the snitch retains its importance, giving whichever team catches it the victory, so long as the game is within 20 points either way. A 30 point lead, however, in this scenario, results in a team being out of snitch range. The difference between a 30 and 40 point lead between two great teams is monumental – as far as one-goal differentials go – and this provides, once again, for added importance outside of the seeker game. This rule change does sacrifice overtime, unfortunately, which could be seen as a major loss of excitement.


30 point snitch, no snitch in overtime

The purpose in changing the snitch value is to ensure that the play of the entire team before the snitch catch remains important. Six out of seven players aren’t seekers, and they deserve to be significant. If the snitch value stays the same, teams will still win if they catch the snitch in a game that is within 20 points, while the game will be forced into overtime if a seeker nabs the snitch while his team is down 30. With this small change, taking the snitch out of overtime, the value of other players in 30 point games increases. Five minutes of quaffle play would determine the winner, and overtime would be put in the hands of six players, instead of just one.


Don’t like our solutions? The Eighth Man wants to hear your ideas as well! Sound off online and in the comments on some possible solutions to this problem, or let us know if you disagree with the snitch currently being worth too much!


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