The View From Wisconsin

Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Another thing for those who don't know me by now: I am what you would call a stat-head.

I am vaunted for my numerous spreadsheets, especially when it comes to my beloved Nashville Predators. I have a record of every single game they played, from October 1998 to April 2004. I even have a record of every single goal scored by the team during that time - who scored it, who assisted, what was the time of the goal, who the opposing goalie was, what the score was, whether it was even strength, on the power play or short handed, and even if it was an empty-net goal.

My hard drive is full of copies of Sean Lahman's Baseball Database; I've personalized his database to fit the Milwaukee Brewers and (grudgingly) the Chicago Cubs. The latter was for my father's benefit. In addition, I have NASCAR spreadsheets, NBA spreadsheets, even a few football spreadsheets (though that's more due to my obsession with Fantasy Football than anything else).

It shouldn't surprise you, therefore, that I have one or two ideas about how to measure success in each of the major pro sports in the USA.

In baseball, regardless of how much people try to convince me that Linear Weights is the way to go, I still belive that Runs Created - in its earlier, 1990's configuration - is one of the best ways to gauge a player's ability at the bat. For pitchers, I've actually developed a formula that gives a relatively accurate view of performance and ability, something I call Cy Young Points. It's a bit complicated to describe in one post - watch for a complete description later - but suffice to say that it expresses pitching ability in a format that can be understood by the typical baseball fan.

In hockey, I consider myself a pioneer of sorts whence it comes to statistical analysis. I developed a formula, called Goals Created, which accounts for a player's complete goal production/contribution by addint points, plus/minus and a factor of goals scored against his team while he's in the penalty box. I actually added to this to create a formula that determines Hart Trophy-worthiness as well. I came up with a group of similar formulae for goalies: Goaltender Efficiency Ratio/Rating, and Vezina Points.

NASCAR has been an on-and-off thing for me, but I've always relied on my Extended Win Points formula to determine which driver really had the best year. Win Points, for those of you unfamiliar with Formula One racing, awards points only to the top 6 drivers in a given race (which is the reason why fields for a typical Formula One Grand Prix is so small). I've played around with that basic idea to come up with a points total that would actually work well in NASCAR (or any touring series, for that matter). I haven't done the totals for 2005 yet, but when I do, I'll slap them together here as well.

Something I've revisited as of late was my NBA stats. I'm not original when it comes to NBA stats, though I do have to credit this old, old Macintosh basketball simulation, called Slam Dunk! basketball for my one hoops stat: Most Effective Player. It's actually a very simple concept: add up all the "positives" a player does on the floor (points, rebounds, blocks, assists, steals), subtract the "negatives" (turnovers, fouls, missed field goals, missed free throws), multiply by 100 and divide by minutes played to get an "efficiency rating". I've further coaxed an MVP rating out of this by taking MEP, multiplying it by games played, and dividing by 82. Kevin Garnett has been a "slam dunk" in this rating since 2000 - no surprise there.

Finally, there's football. American football, not the sport they play elsewhere with the round ball and goals once every three hours (or so it seems). I'm a big fan of the Yahoo Fantasy Sports method of determining per-game point scoring (one point per 50 yards passing, 20 yards rushing/receiving, etc.), and play their Fantasy Footbal games regularly.

So there you have it - a stathead comes clean. I've got my spreadsheets, and I know how to use them. Thank God for Microsoft Excel.

Of course, all the spreadsheets in the world won't get the NHL back on the ice anytime soon...