The Electric Commentary

Friday, September 17, 2004

For the stats geek.

I often link to the Football Outsiders as their "DVOA" and "runningback batting average" stats are very useful. If you like that, you need to check out William Krasker's Football Commentary:

Green Bay at Carolina (9/13/2004) [Recap]

With 3:33 to go in a scoreless first quarter, the Packers had 4th down and about 3 inches to go at the Carolina 24 yard line. Mike Sherman decided to attempt a FG rather than go for the first down.

The probability of picking up 3 inches must be at least 0.75. Using that figure, and performing Model calculations analogous to those shown earlier , we find that Green Bay's probability of winning the game if they go for the first down is 0.545. If a 41 yard FG were a sure thing, then kicking the FG would actually be slightly better, achieving a probability of winning the game of 0.548. However, NFL kickers make only about 77% of FG attempts from 41 yards. If the FG misses, Carolina takes over at their 41 yard line, and Green Bay's probability of winning the game is just 0.456. It follows that if the Packers attempt the FG, their probability of winning the game is 0.77 × 0.548 + (1 − 0.77) × 0.456 = 0.527. So, it seems that it would have been better for the Packers to go for the first down.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback lambasted the Panthers for their decision to punt with 10:05 remaining in the game, down 24-7, and facing 4th and 2 at their own 33 yard line. While we concur with his conclusion that Carolina's best chance to win the game is to go for the first down, our criticism is tempered by the realization that Carolina was almost certain to lose the game regardless of what they did. If we use TMQ's figure of 56% for the chance of converting on 4th and 2, then according to the Model , the Panthers have a 0.0037 probability of winning the game if they go for it, versus 0.0028 if they punt. We believe in giving your team the best possible chance to win (see our comments above ), but after a certain point, avoiding injuries to key players starts to dominate.

That is some serious analysis. I like anything that improves on "traditional statistics," just because I'm always amazed that they continue to exert a lot of influence on actual decision making. Baseball was especially bad about keeping bad stats until Bill James and Billy Beane (and a few others) came along, and I'm glad that it is spreading to other sports.

I especially think that basketball is due for a major overhaul, but we'll leave that for another time.


  • basketball is an interesting set of problems i think when it comes to statistics, because on one hand, you have individual effort accounting for a large percentage of the effort behind actual points scored, so it's like baseball a little bit in that sense, but the dynamic team interaction (particularly on defense) is something that's very hard to quantify i think.

    this is also true of defense in baseball, though to a lesser degree, and even that analysis is still in its infancy.

    By Blogger ahren, at 4:18 PM  

  • I would agree with that, and basketball certainly has a lot of "judgement elements" as well. And defense is sort of nebulous. Coming up with a perfect stat would be tough, but there must be a better way to tell what offensive players (or teams) are most efficient, and what methods and actions in certain situations will lead to wins. Perhaps a scoring efficiency vs. opponents scoring efficiency.

    Really I have more of an emotional disdain for certain NBA players being labled as stars when they are clearly losers. Vince Carter comes to mind. And guys like Sharif Abdur-Rahim, you know, "bad team stars." I'd like to be able to seperate the bad team stars from the good players in a more objective fashion.

    And I would like to know the effects of certain refs in certain situations.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 4:44 PM  

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