"Moneyball": the impact of statistical analysis on the NFL, led by the Pats

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by mayoclinic, Aug 19, 2012.

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  1. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    An interesting read from Pro Football Weekly:

    ProFootballWeekly.com - Numbers crunching starting to change NFL thinking

    The gist of the article is that statistical analysis combined with detailed game or scouting tape can be used on multiple levels: for personnel evaluation and roster building, for pre-game planning and opponent-specific strategy, and for game-day adjustments and play calling.

    Former econ major BB has been into statistical analysis for years. Not surprising, the Pats figure prominently in the article:

    Besides the Pats, the article notes the Packers, 49ers and Ravens among teams with an increasing focus on this kind of analysis. It's an interesting and provocative read, well worth reading the full article.
  2. captain stone

    captain stone Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal

    No Jersey Selected

    What was wrong about 4th/2 was the play called on 3rd/2: a pass instead of a run, and which was almost intercepted. A Pick-6 would actually have been preferable to what ended up happening, anyway.

    2 runs right down the Clot's pencil necks would've sealed the deal.
    Sorry to open an old wound, because I am otherwise in general agreement with the OP.
  3. cmasspatsfan

    cmasspatsfan In the Starting Line-Up

    Thats a good point thats been and its been made before but I still think it was the right decision to go for it on 4th and 2, I know the board is probably still divided with some saying it ws definately the wrong call and the other thinking it was right.
    Thanks for the article, interesting read.
  4. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    Aside from the in-game statistical analysis and decision making, I find the other 2 uses mentioned in the article even more fascinating: using statistical analysis combined with tape in personnel evaluation, and to project opponent tendencies. The article notes:

    I could see the Pats using that kind of tool in analyzing opponents and figuring out who is more likely to be used in what way in what situation. I could also see them using it in personnel analysis. The draftniks project Tavon Wilson as a late round pick but the statistical analysis of his college game tape reveals that he had a significant impact on the field on a high percentage of plays, which may not show up on the stat sheets. Chandler Jones had only so many sacks, but the statistical analysis corrected for injury recovery suggests that he would have a much greater impact. Statistical analysis of the Alabama defense suggests that Dont'a Hightower had a much greater impact on the overall play of the defense than Courtney Upshaw. The possibilities are endless, if there's enough tape and the program is sophisticated enough.

    Of course it's only a tool. BB - the ultimate "moneyball" guy in the NFL - has been open about the limitations of such analysis and the fact that it ultimately comes down to football players making plays. In an interview last fall he downplayed the use of statisticals with typical Belichick dry wit:

  5. One wonders if giving up meaningless yards up 3 TD's is statistically significant.
  6. MoLewisrocks

    MoLewisrocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    Steve Belichick was a pioneer in the statistical analysis of in game probability scenarios. Ernie was fascinated with his analysis and sought out his son at Wesleyn for that reason. It's a little different than the moneyball approach of analyzing individual players (as opposed to player usage and play success situationally). And while I do think he considers statistical data about individual players, he mostly relies on film because at the end of the day it matters not how fast you time on speed and agility tests in shorts and tee shirts against air after months of focused training, it's how fast and consistently you play in pads against better competition.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2012
  7. patfanken

    patfanken Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

    #91 Jersey

    Thanks for such a provocative and interesting thread, Mayo. A very enjoyable read so far. I think the article makes an important point that highlights the critical difference between Baseball and Football. It the relative effect of the "team" vs the individual for each sport.

    Football, IMHO, is the ultimate team sport. I can't think of any other team sport where the where the sum is more often greater than the individual parts. Nor is there another sport where coaching and individual game planning can even the playing field . A sport where the most talented players don't always win. The most talented TEAM does.

    All that makes trying to quantify and crunch numbers much more difficult than Baseball, which is more a game about a series of INDIVIDUAL contests. Plus you run into the PFF problem of how you determine what is success or failure. Its often either too subjective, and/or too hard to determine the underlining factors in assigning praise or blame. For example was it the WR's fault for the pick or was it the QB's. Only the coaching staff would know for sure, because they would know all the particulars necessary to make that determination. Any outside source would be just guessing.

    Breaking down film certainly tells you a lot. But it can't be broken down to the point that it will tell you how the individual will project into the team dynamic. and how that team dynamic (or lack thereof) will effect the ultimate outcome of the game.

    This "Moneyball" stuff can be useful, but only within certain boundaries and contexts. I think BB seems to striking the balance. These are numbers to "consult" on,factors to be aware of, but not necessarily to rely on.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2012
  8. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    I completely agree. That's part of why I find this kind of thing more interesting in terms of personnel selection and development than in actual game day planning and adjustments. The players have to make the plays, and they have to do so as a team. But this kind of stuff may help identify guys who are more likely to have the kind of skills needed. Add in interviews and personal workouts and discussions with college coaches, and you can get a fair amount of information. It's just a tool, so like any tool it can be used inappropriately or relied on too much. But it's interesting, and possibly useful if appropriately balanced.
  9. PatsWickedPissah

    PatsWickedPissah PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Data mining has the potential of finding heretofore invisible Vrabels. But once you have the #s, it's imperative to go take a long look at the film to discern whether you've stumbled on a statistical fluke or a pony under the barn pile.

    I wonder how many morons will stumble on this phrase and cite it as proof of BB "cheating"? :)

    Let’s see how often the Patriots used ’12 personnel’ (one running back, two tight ends) last year. Within an instant we have our answer: a whopping 65.5 percent of the time, far greater than any other NFL club last season,
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