During the NBA season this year, I wrote up some parameters for an alternative way to build an NBA winner: The Seattle Scientists. The idea behind the Scientists is the same old Moneyball methodology for small market teams — find the undervalued assets and spend your money there. In the NBA, my buddy Tony and I think effort, defense, and intelligence are the assets to focus on. In the the MLB, there are some related options: bunting, speed, and defense again. We settled on the Portland Peskies for this thought experiment (an over-educated city that would appreciate a non-traditional team), though the Indianapolis Institute and the Las Vegas Vig (“You can never beat the house!”) were also in the running.
It’s no coincidence that I’m writing this while my Tigers play their old nemesis the Twins. The Tigers (outside of Quintin Berry this year) never have any hitters that would fit the Pesky mold. But Twins outfielder Ben Revere (currently snagging a tailing line drive off his shoe tops) would be on the Peskies’ radar for sure, as would Alexi Casilla and Denard Span. Revere has 6 bunt singles this year on 13 tries and 16 steals Continue reading
Posted in Baseball, Basketball, Innovative Ideas
Tagged Alexi Casilla, athletic sport, baseball, basketball, Ben Revere, best bunt, Bunt (baseball), bunt base hit, bunt for a hit, bunt success percentage, bunt success rate, bunting for a base hit, bunts, defense undervalued baseball, Denard Span, Detroit Tigers, Major League Baseball, Minnesota Twins, MLB, Moneyball, NBA, nba season, NBA small market team model, Oakland Athletics, pa announcer, Portland Peskies, quintin berry, Seattle Scientists, small market baseball team model, small market baseball teams, small market teams, speed in baseball, speed underrated baseball, Sports, steals and bunts undervalued, Tigers Twins rivalry, Twins, Twins outfielders fast, Twins speed
My brother Conor (when he’s not blogging about political theory) does some excellent writing about Barcelona’s dominant football team. A couple weeks ago, he took up the age-old topic of fairness in sports in the context of European soccer. In most European leagues, there are no salary caps, revenue sharing agreements, or redistributive drafts. Rather than coddling the worst teams, leagues bust them down a division. Conor defends the uncontrolled European league structures with a call to the benefits of an aristocratic class:
There’s no escaping it. [Barcelona’s] degree of perfection requires an unequal distribution of talent and resources. This concatenated brilliance is probably unjust when measured against nearly any standard of fairness—but it’s also as close as anyone has yet come to fulfilling that specific style of play. FC Barcelona are but one example. For instance, recent Chelsea squads have flirted with perfection of a wholly different style of play. They are no less aristocratic simply because they have refined different aspects of their squad. Their strengths may be different, but they are no less refined for that. Every coat of arms is different—the aristocratic task for each is to live up to their particular identity. Undemocratic though they are, no one will mistake them for ordinary.
For whatever else they do to The Game As A Whole (or As A Spectacle), aristocratic clubs elevate the stakes and—more often than not—the peaks of athletic achievement. If Barcelona regularly administers whippings to clubs in La Liga’s middle and lower echelons, their clásico jousts with Madrid have periodically taken both teams yet closer to the pinnacle of sport.
I find this topic endlessly interesting, especially the comparison between United States leagues and European leagues. The United States redistributes less income proportionally than many other Continue reading
Posted in Baseball, Basketball, Commentary, Financial Analysis, Football, Hockey, Soccer
Tagged American sports more fair than European sports, Barcelona, Brian Urlacher, Carles Puyol, Conor, Conor Williams, diving ruining soccer, diving soccer, diving soccer flopping basketball, European football leagues, European soccer, fairness in sports, faking injuries soccer, FC Barcelona, Kevin Garnett, La Liga, Puyol tough, redistribution in sports, revenue sharing, reverse-order draft, salary cap, salary caps, soccer, Sports, tanking, too much diving soccer, U.S. soccer no dives, U.S. sports fairness, United States
Following on my general analysis of the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, here’s a look at the research presentations (you’ll note: nothing on the sports side of football or soccer! I submitted one of each but they were rejected . . . ):
An Expected Goals Model for Evaluating NHL Teams and Players (Brian MacDonald)
This paper tries to predict future performance better by incorporating more measurable statistics than past models (goals, shots, blocked shots, missed shots, hits, faceoff %, etc.). His prediction tests show that he makes improvements, and at the team level, I think these results have some value. However, moving to the individual level in a sport like hockey (or basketball, football, soccer, or rugby) is hard because of complementarities between players. For example, trying to measure one player’s contribution to team wins or goal differential based on the number of shots they take is hopelessly confused with the actions of other players on the ice that affect the quality and number of these shots.
Another issue in the paper is that MacDonald controls for team level statistics (such as faceoff win percentage) in the individual level regressions, when in fact much of player value may be driven by these statistics. For example, one of Red Wing Pavel Datsyuk’s strengths is faceoff win percentage, while one of his weaknesses is hitting. The value that individuals bring through these variables is caught up in MacDonald’s team level control variables. Still, the team-level analysis is a reasonable way to improve what’s out there.
Big 2’s and Big 3’s: Analyzing How a Team’s Best Players Complement Each Other (Robert Ayer)
This paper categorizes the top three players on each team Continue reading
Posted in Baseball, Basketball, Causal Analysis, College Sports, Hockey, Probability Analysis, Research Papers, Sports Stats
Tagged Allan Maymin Philip Maymin, An expected goals model, basketball, Big 2s and 3s, Brian MacDonald, Celtics, CourtVision, cumulative win probabilities NCAA basketball, deconstructing the rebound, Effort vs. Concentration, experience and winning NBA, free throw shooting under pressure, Gartheeban Ganeshapillai, Goldsberry, hockey, James Tarlow, John Guttag, Justin Rao, Kirk Goldsberry, machine learning, Mark Bashuk, Matt Goldman, MIT News, MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, motion tracking analysis NBA, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, NBA, NBA chemistry, NBA synergies, NHL, optical analysis NBA, optical tracking data, Peter Dizikes, Predicting the Next Pitch, Rajiv Maheswaran, Ray Allen, Rebound (basketball), rebound study wrong sloan sports, research papers Sloan Sports Conference, Robert Ayer, Sloan Sports Conference, Sloan Sports Conference research overview, Sloan Sports Conference review, Sloan Sports Conference summary, spacial analysis NBA, USC rebound study
“But he’s Canadian,” you say, “So what does he know about baseball?” Well, he’s from Toronto, the team most screwed by the current system, so let’s give it a shot:
A few days ago, the MLB announced that it was expanding its playoffs to include a second wild-card team. Under the new system, the two wild-cards will play a single game that determines who goes to the divisional series. Response has been, at best, mixed. The strongest criticisms, like this one from ESPN’s Joe Sheenan, have taken a traditionalist perspective. Sheenan worries about what this new system will mean for deep-seated, and still exciting, elements of baseball like the pennant race. He sees the wild-card system as debasing what has historically been one of the most exciting parts of being a baseball fan: following your team through a tense September race to win the division. By Sheenan’s estimation, the old system encouraged top teams to play their best throughout the whole season. If you happen to be one of the two best teams in the league by regular season record but can’t win your own division, tough grapes.
I sympathize with Sheenan and other traditionalists. Baseball’s regular season is long and arduous and does a pretty good job of determining the “best” team (or, at least, a better job than other pro-sports at determining the best team). Meanwhile, baseball playoffs, due to the nature of the game, are pretty close to random. As Billy Beane said, “my shit doesn’t work in the playoffs” – seven and five game series are simply too short to give us a good idea as to which team is best. In the 17 post-seasons since the advent of the wild-card, the wild card team has won five times Continue reading
Posted in Baseball, Common Sense, Pop Culture, Probability Analysis, Rules Analysis
Tagged Adrian the Canadian, baseball, Billy Beane, Boston Red Sox collapse, coin flip game, coin flip game is dumb, Division Series, ESPN, George Will, Joe Sheenan ESPN, League Championship Series, Major League Baseball, MLB playoff system is stupid, MLB playoff system proposal, MLB playoffs, MLB playoffs new rules, MLB playoffs new system, New York Yankees, pennant race, playoffs, probabilities, St. Louis Cardinals wild card World Series, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto, Toronto Blue Jays, Wild Card, wild cards, World Series, World Series odds
Following up on my new feature from last week, here’s a video-heavy installment of LOS LIIIINNNKKKKSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!! to help you bridge the gap until the Super Bowl:
If you’d like something a little more relevant for today, here are some thoughts on Super Bowl gambling, instant replay, and historical prediction stats, as well as my championship game wrap ups.
Posted in Baseball, Basketball, Football, Humor, LOS LIIINNNKKKSSS!!!, Pop Culture
Tagged 0.9999 pure, 0.9999 pure gold, Buffalo cold goins, Buffalo gold coin video, Buffalo gold coins ad, Buffalo gold coins rip off, Colonel Sanders, Curse of the Colonel, elephant, elephant eats poop, elephant video, Eli Manning, Eli Manning EQ, emotional quotient, EQ, ESPNw, EverQuest, Hanshin Tigers, Hanshin Tigers cursed, hippo, hippo farting, hippo video, Jim Brown, Jim Brown best highlights, Jim Brown highlights, Jim Brown incredible, KFC, links, Luke, Max Tall, Max Tall ad, Max Tall video, Maxtall, Miracle Socks, Miracle Socks ad, Miracle Socks video, National Basketball Association, NBA, NBA TV, NBA TV ads, NBA TV crappy ads, NBA TV stupid ads, NBATV, Nike, Nike fuel bracelets, Nike fuel stupid, Shake Weight, Super Bowl, Tom Brady