5 Biggest Questions Heading into Major League Pickleball’s (MLP) Newport Beach Event

📸 @majorleaguepb

Although this weekend will mark the 3rd MLP event to date, this will be the first time that we see how the continuity of the format plays out with all the transactions that followed the Austin event. The competition between the rich people never stops either as the PPA Tour recently announced their Selkirk Labs Showdown round robin thing scheduled on the same weekend as MLP. We will have a live blog all weekend for the MLP event and takeaways on the Monday after. As we head into the weekend, we wanted to answer the biggest questions that we have about MLP with everything going on.

UPDATE: Adam Stone is still out for the Mad Drops so Hayden Patriquin will be replacing him. That will give a men’s team with Julian Arnold where the two of them have had some good, recent success. It’s not ideal that the Mad Drops first male pick still hasn’t been able to play. 

The alternates for the event are Gabriel Tardio, Johnny Goldberg, Austin Gridley, Rachel Rettger and Lacy Schneemann

(1) Will the PPA Selkirk Labs Showdown Take Eyeballs Away from MLP?

Most likely. The streaming numbers were not very high in Austin for MLP and we think that may, at least in part, have been due to MLP’s significantly lower number of Youtube subscribers (surprisingly, the PPA and APP have near identifal subscribers). Naturally, people are going to tune in to watch the PPA event according to stream numbers as that seems to be what happens when most of the well known players are there.

What seems less likely is that anyone really cares about what happens at the Selkirk Labs Showdown. The showdown is a glorified Pickleball Night in America or, now, Tuesday Night Pickleball event, and prefacing it with the word glorified may even be going too far. As we have said when discussing the PNIA events, there’s only so much that people can get invested in when there’s nothing on the line.

The PPA hasn’t announced anything in terms of money but James Ignatowich alluded on a recent podcast it wasn’t very much money being handed out. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine many fans truly caring about the outcome of a weird round robin event featuring PPA top pros and players who didn’t make the MLP cut.

It’s obvious what this event is. It’s an exhibition created by the PPA to take the focus away from what will likely be another very successful MLP event and an opportunity to keep their contracted pros happy. We’ll probably check in on the stream over the course of the weekend but don’t count on anything more than that.

(2) What transaction will have the biggest positive impact in Newport?

We were not kind to the Ranchers for choosing to pick up the beau of Anna Bright, James Ignatowich. Swe didn’t even know they were a couple at the time of our initial analysis! You look at Gabe Tardio getting a bronze at Beer City and it makes the Iggy decision look worse in our eyes. Nevertheless, the Ranchers are still a very strong team after trading for Jackie Kawamoto and that trade could shift the tides for the Ranchers.

Kawamoto and Bright may very well form the strongest female duo at MLP and it could be enough to make up for the shortcomings of the Ignatowich pick up. Ignatowich is getting some good wins in both men’s and mixed at recent pro evemts so as much as we didn’t like the pick up, Ignatowich should hold up fine and this team should be in contention after being gifted Jackie Kawamoto. Let’s see how well they do because the last thing James Ignatowich wants is to prove us nerds right.

(3) What transaction will have the biggest negative impact in Newport?

There were a number of transactions we really didn’t like but the reality is that with 8 teams making moves, there will be at least a couple of teams that will feel justified with their decisions, likely more than that too. The Michelle Esquivel for Maggie Remynse trade was not in the bucket of bad moves for us but it was still a head scratcher from the perspective of the Florida Smash. Keeping in mind recent results, we are worried how this trade is going to impact what the Smash had going their first time out.

Now, the Remynse/Whitwell and Remynse/Rettenmaier partnerships did not have a great deal of success but it’s unclear where the upside is in bringing Esquivel over Remynse. Esquivel’s results since Austin have left much to be desired and we have seen before that Esquivel isn’t always the brightest ray of sunshine when things aren’t going her way. However, she will be motivated being on a more compeitive team.

The Esquivel move could be more net neutral at the end of the day for both teams involved but it does have the potential to have the most negative impact relative to expectations and prior results for the Florida Smash.

(4) Can Team BLQK Win it All Again?

Sure, why not? Would we bet on them repeating though? Probably not.

We were a broken record during the Austin MLP event that the construction of this team stealing a quickly improving Parris Todd so late in the draft allowed them to essentially put two #1 mixed teams out there every match. Where does Parris go if we were re-drafting MLP today? Rafa was also underrated by us as a pick because of his mixed prowess too as a #2 guy.

The fact is that this team is very deep when you consider Parris is a #1 female in all facets, doubles, mixed and singles, despite being a latter #2 pick. The randomness of the MLP format just makes it so hard to repeat results but this team should be very competitive once again.

(5) Will the Dreambreaker Continue to Decide Matches?

For as long as MLP keeps this format up, the Dreambreaker will be alive and well as a thrilling match decider. We don’t deny how crucial the Dreambreaker is and the difference in opinion from some readers (and clearly some owners and players) in our analysis of the Dreambreaker importance seems to lie in the opinion of how random the outcomes are.

Our skepticism comes from building a team that prioritizes the Dreambreaker aspect of the format – Tim Klitch, owner of the Ranchers, took full accountability for his reasoning behind the Ignatowich decision in our comments after our crticism of the Ignatowich move.

There are two reasons for our skepticism of placing too much importance on singles. The first is our view that you want to avoid the randomness of the Dreambreaker at all costs rather than banking on playing them. It may be inevitable to play a Dreambreaker during the event but building a team around that expectation could lead to missing it altogether.

The second reason is the randomness of Dreambreakers. The counter to this argument is that if you have better singles players you are taking a lot of the randomness out. Our counter to that is seeing how these singles results play out does not justify prioritizing singles players.

Sure, JW Johnson steamrolled Simone to propel the Florida Smash to the finals but he also lost points to Koop and David. You can cherry pick examples of less accomplished singles players struggling like Austin Gridley but that is going to happen. The mental aspect of Dreambreakers is particularly tough on the top singles players who often are going out there playing not to lose because they are expected to win 3 or 4 points.

Take a look at the data from this site for MLP in Austin, datapickler.com, and you see notable female Dreambreaker performances against men, which includes David winning 50% and Koop winning 38% of her points against JW. It’s not as straightforward as having the better singles players.

Of course, your best bet is having a team like BLQK that is built for doubles but can bring it in singles if need be. They have the best singles team but did not play a Dreambreaker in Austin. That’s the real dream! Nevertheless, we’ll continue to believe that teams need to prioritize doubles team building rather than potentially subjecting themselves to the mercy of the Dreambreaker.

UPDATE: We have received confirmation that the scoring system used at the Beer City MLP exhibition is being implemented for Newport. This means that when a team gets to 20 and has to score on their serve, the losing team gets frozen to traditional scoring at 18 points rather than being able to make the rally scoring comeback all the way to 20. Furthermore, if the teams are tied 19-19 and one team scores to get to 20, both teams are then frozen at 20 and 19. 

Our speculation is that players complained about how easy the comebacks were with the previous system and MLP choose to go with this fairer scoring system in terms of comeback-ability. While it is generally good MLP isn’t afraid to take feedback and tweak things, the lack of announcement of this change and not letting their previous scoring system play out at more events when fans loved the entertainment value seems problematic. Also, part of the reasoning behind rally scoring is simplicity for newer fans and this is anything but that.  If our speculation is correct, it feels very PPA-like with players driving changes. 

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments below or email us at nmlpickleball@gmail.com. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook too!

10 thoughts on “5 Biggest Questions Heading into Major League Pickleball’s (MLP) Newport Beach Event

  • August 4, 2022 at 9:22 am

    Are we going to see the slight change in scoring format they they trialed at the MLP event after the Beer City Open? If I recall correctly, you still have to score on your serve to win the game, but once the trailing team reaches 18 points, they also have to score on their serve. It might reduce the randomness of results that led to all the (even more random!) Dreambreakers.

    • August 4, 2022 at 12:51 pm

      This is happening. We’ll edit the post to include this. If teams are tied at 19-19 and a team gets to 20, the team at 19 gets frozen as well too. Not confusing at all

  • August 4, 2022 at 12:25 pm

    The rumor at Beer City was player ownership never communicated with MR she was being traded until the day after it happened. Apparently MR found out when everyone else on social media did. The motivations for the trade are definitely a head scratcher.

    There’s upside for both teams, though. JW/ME & TR/LW partnerships could potentially play better with TR/LW playing a preferred side. MR has tournament play with RFG & JF. I think the mixed partnership with JF will be the biggest wild card depending on who they put him with.

    • August 4, 2022 at 7:55 pm

      That’s very interesting. Do you have intel they will put Whitwell with Rettenmaier? I would be surprised if JW doesn’t stay with Whitwell. We are not high on Team Clean overall but Remynse may be a better fit

      • August 4, 2022 at 8:10 pm

        I’m only guessing on the TR/LW partnership. It makes sense with how low level of a mixed partner TR is, though. No point in wasting ME like they did with MR. TR can play singles and make up for his lack of skill. LW has the right side Erne to keep opponents honest.

        • August 4, 2022 at 8:36 pm

          There’s an argument to be made Lee is a better mixed partner than Michelle. I would probably want Lee over Michelle in mixed. Michelle you dunno what you are getting match to match

  • August 4, 2022 at 3:44 pm

    The last MLP event at Beer City seemed to have better streaming numbers than prior MLP events, so maybe the numbers will be better than last time. Though I still think these even improved numbers are dismally low given Pickleball’s popularity. A lot of money is being spent on announcers, cameras, etc…
    Also, do you guys comment on the YouTube chat? I do occasionally. It can be enjoyable.

    • August 4, 2022 at 7:56 pm

      It is a lot of money that goes into all of this relative to number of viewers. We will very occasionally comment. Not much though.

    • August 4, 2022 at 7:56 pm

      Big signing for Franklin. Makes sense after he was playing with that new paddle of theirs most recently


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *