because it helped clear up that whole basketball scoring thing for me! I've never been a big basketball fan, so I felt a bit in the dark.
Pythagorean Wins And Lucky Monkeys
I like me some stats, boy howdy, but there's a few things I'm not sure about. One is applying Pythagorean wins to football. For those of you who don't know the name of Data's brother, some smart baseball types realized that baseball teams pretty much try to score runs all the time. This means you can predict future performance better with run differential than record.
It works in basketball, too, because basketball teams pretty much try to score baskets all the time. A team leading may try to suck a possession or two out of the game by stalling late, but that effect is extremely minor. It works in hockey because hockey teams pretty much try to score goals all the time. A team leading late will take fewer risks but that effect is minor, too. Futz with the exponents and it's cool.
You can do this for football as well, but Lloyd/Tresselball observers can tell you that football teams do not try to score points all the time. This is because football has more state—primarily the line of scrimmage—than the other sports, and that state is simultaneously applicable to offense and defense. There is never any reason to not score in baseball or basketball. In football trying to score is riskier than running three isos up the middle and punting in a way that missing a jumper is not. Because of this, lots of personnel turnover, and wildly varying schedules, I don't think raw Pythagorean wins is a particularly useful predictive device. It does correlate some. I just don't like it. I acknowledge this is a Murray Chass sort of criticism.
I bring it up because BHGP has a long post featuring Pythagorean wins that eventually kind of discards the concept by way of praising Northwestern for consistently exceeding expectations. There's a table I'll post a bit later showing eight years of Big Ten performance versus expectations followed up by this:
The fact that most teams have such consistent "luck," when coupled with the fact that close wins and losses appear to be the strongest factor in where a team appears on the list, means this list may not be a measure of "luck," per se, but rather the simple ability to win close games. Since such ability is presumably based in large part on things like on-field experience, efficient playcalling, and clock management, the list could be considered a measure of a coach's in-game ability. Is it any wonder that the conference's biggest late-game buffoon and a geriatric who doesn't even wear a headset sit at the bottom of the list? …
It's also a credit to Pat Fitzgerald and the late Randy Walker at Northwestern. Even in its worst years, jNWU has outperformed its pythagorean expectations. In every year included in this study, Northwestern had a positive overall pythagorean margin, and in all but one the LOLcats had a positive margin in conference play.
There is an objection to this based on stock-picking monkeys.
Seriously. In 1999, a six-year-old female monkey named Raven threw darts at a selection of tech stocks that subsequently returned 213 percent. This was a bubble environment but even in that context her performance was impressive—22nd amongst thousands of funds. If you had 64 monkeys do that every year half of them would be discovered to be frauds by not beating the market, but you would expect at the end of that eight year period there would be one very lucky monkey who beat the market for eight consecutive years.
Any normally distributed set of data is going to have a lucky monkey and Ron Zook. I present a lucky monkey and Ron Zook:
Wins – Pythagorean expectation, 2002-2010
|Rank||Team||Ov +/-||Conf +/-|
Except… that is not a normally distributed lucky monkey. In conference (which is a more interesting number to me because nonconference schedules are so unbalanced), Northwestern accounts for nearly 70% of the deviation from perfectly Pythagorean records by itself. Lloydball advocates Michigan, OSU, and Wisconsin follow in order, and BHGP points out that Michigan State would be the second luckiest monkey if only the Dantonio era—more MANBALL—was considered. There seems to be something non-monkey there.
But I'm uncertain if that's good or bad if you're a fan. Does this mean manball is good at closing out games, as BHGP suggests the chart shows? It's a possibility. The other possibility (24-21 vs SDSU, 10-7 vs Utah, falling behind by 14 in the Orange Bowl before suddenly remembering David Terrell exists, etc.) is that Lloydball-type play shuts off the offense once it gets a narrow lead or until it falls behind significantly, thus leading to a lot of tight games generally slanted towards wins.
The most haunting stat from the Carr era is this: Carr was actually more likely to win a game if he entered the fourth quarter with a narrow deficit than a narrow lead. Since the point of football is to win more games, period, not more games than you were expected to based on the final score, the excellence of your coaching is bound up with your record. Exceeding expectations as Ohio State means your manball is working (until you get into a championship game). Doing so as Michigan, but never beating Ohio State, means something different.
There's too much weird stuff tied up in scoring points in football to draw many conclusions from a look at just margins. Primarily this comes down to wanting to score, which is a complicated decision based largely on your faith in the defense. This is hard when your defense is good-ish (Michigan) but not when it's terrible (Northwestern) or awesome (Ohio State). OSU and Northwestern rarely make the wrong decisions because theirs are obvious. Michigan (and Iowa, and Penn State) fans are haunted by the the decisions that turned out wrong.
BONUS GUESS ON NORTHWESTERN: Why would the Wildcats consistently exceed expectations? Guess: they feature in games with lots of points. Their spread has been as consistently effective as their secondary has been flailing, so a lot of Northwestern games feature large scores. If NW is consistently winning 42-35 that will look different to the formula than OSU grinding out 17-10 wins.
BONUS LOCALLY RELEVANT SECTION: FWIW, only one Michigan team shows up at the margins. If you think about it you'll probably figure it out:
Of course, using the full schedule allows for statistical variance based on strength of non-conference scheduling. If we look solely at Big Ten play, as close to a level playing field as we can get, Sparty still wins. It's just not 2010 Sparty:
Rank Team Py +/- 1 2008 Michigan State +2.16 2 2004 Northwestern +1.77 3 2010 Michigan State +1.69 4 2004 Michigan +1.63 5 2009 Northwestern +1.53
That 2008 Spartan squad went 9-4 (6-2) despite a total margin of victory of +28 and an in-conference margin of -7. In fact, 2008 Michigan State was one of just five teams since 2002 to post a winning record in the Big Ten despite being outscored in conference play.
The 2004 team that went to the Rose Bowl despite deploying a freshman quarterback thanks to things like nailcoeds.exe outperformed Pythagorean expectation significantly. You might be all like "a HA!" because the next year Michigan slumped to 7-5 in 2005, but they went 11-2 the year after that—there's just so much noise.
Better men have tried to trick me into enjoying math, Mr. Cook. And 7 out of 5 of them failed.
There are 10 types of people in the world.
Those who know binary, and those who don't.
you're truly a man of fraction.
My brain would be much more effective in trying to figure this out if it were a Tuesday or Wednesday ...
Finally! So we can finally conclude...umm...Dantonio is still a douche?
Your "conservative coaches outperform because they win 'close' games that aren't actually close" explanation makes sense to me.
I'm not sure the stock picking analogy works all that well, though, since football doesn't have an efficient markets hypothesis that can explain a lot of the variation (even if the hypothesis might be overstated).
I don't believe in "clutch" or anything like that, but I also do believe that Les Miles's inability to read a clock has to have a non-trivial effect on LSU's ability to win close games. I think a lot of the variation (maybe even most) is luck, but I'd be shocked if there weren't other things contributing.
I have no idea what I just read, but I did enjoy the picture of the monkey in the suit.
I do feel I should've understood it better, seeing that I know Data's brother is Lore.
Are always trying to score. After having been left wing locked to death many a times, I'd say hockey has MORE instances where someone isn't trying to score, but dump the puck and eat up time if you have a lead. I mean, at least in football you have to try and move the ball forward 3 times before you punt. In hockey you can have possession of the puck, and actively and purposefully give it away to the other team. In a sport where one goal can mean so much, and teams with far fewer shots often find ways to win, I'm not sure it's not worse than football.
And basketball, by having a shot clock means teams are forced to try and score at some point. But as for always trying to score...I'm not sure you're getting the same data from a slow down defensive team like, say, Wisconsin, as you were from old Loyola Marymount (or even Pitino Kentucky). Lot of teams will bleed a clock earlier in the game, trying to make it a lower scoring defensive game, taking only good shots (and last second prayers) vs. taking any available shot. I mean, the Pistons used to hardly run the same style offense as the Phoenix Suns.
So saying every sport is like baseball, with no time limit, and thus no reason to not keep scoring (you're at bat, you don't help your defense a lot by hitting a lot of foul balls and taking more time), and football isn't, is kind of a broad assumption.
I wondered the same thing, but maybe the "always trying to score" assumption works OK in hockey because there's not a whole lot of scoring at any time in the game, whether a team is sitting on its lead or not. Likewise, because basketball is so high scoring, the marginal effect of bleeding the shot clock on some possessions is mitigated. Anyway, that's my theory (a/k/a rank speculation) about why the statistical analysis still (kinda) works in hockey despite the dubious "always trying to score" assumption.
if only because I remember listening to so many WIngs games in the early 90's featuring Rick Zombo, Yves Racine and Gerrard Gallant where I would yell at my radio "Quit playing not to lose instead of playing to win!" where the Cheveldae or Hanlon would eventually give up the tying (if we were winning) or decisive (if tied) goal because it seemed Murray favored the "dump and chase".
Then again, I was 12 or 13, and it was on radio, and I grew up without cable tv, so if my memories are incorrect, please excuse me
I completely concur that it's a much strong point in hockey than basketball. That's why I made them separate points. I mean, the hockey memories I was thinking of was the old New Jersey Devils...and don't tell me they didn't spend PERIODS not trying to score as much as trying to keep away. I agree that the number of possessions in basketball and being a high scoring game of the nature mitigates it somewhat. Just wondering how it accounts for teams of great variance, like the high scoring run and gun ones I mentioned, vs. defensive passed the ball around till the last second squads. Obviously no one uses the Four Corners anymore.
I'm not really sure what you add to the blog. You just seem really angry all the time.
And yes, I know I don't add jack...
He's "angry all the time" -- doesn't every blog need its own "Angry Guy"?
There are several here.
But some stand out above the rest. Check out the board thread about the BTN re-airing of the 2008 Capital One Bowl -- it takes a special talent to get angry about that game.
I imagine 11 Warriors will be in need of some extra ones soon.
Wasn't that line about line half-positive (or at least totally ambiguous)? Saying that someone is better at Thing A than Thing B really says nothing about how good he is at either one. If I'm better at brain surgery than at tying my shoes, I could be a complete twit, the best damn brain surgeon on earth, etc. Comparisons of Lloyd's record with a 4th quarter lead to others' records with a 4th quarter lead (ideally controlling for size of the lead) would be more useful.
I wasn't really replying to you, chief. More of a general point about Brian's comment that your preemptive strike created an opportunity for me to make.
You need a deep breath.
This post is clear evidence that the "There are..." threads in the board are relevant. Next season, plz! :-)
I agree that pythagorean wins does not work as well in football as it does in baseball.
HOWEVER, I wonder where this idea that football is situational and maybe moving the ball is easier sometimes than other times, are in the discussion of FEI?
When FEI is discussed yards divorced from points become king and game situation is totally ignored.
Before someone lectures me with things I already know or dismisses me as not understanding stats, I would suggest that maybe many or most of these advanced stats don't work as well with football because of the smaller sample size and situational nature of the game.
In other words, maybe Michigan has a good offense but maybe it's not really the #2 offense in the world.
I'm with you on this one. The uniqueness of football doesn't seem to lend itself to statistical analysis like baseball or basketball. The advanced stats seem like a really nice additional tool that provides a nice aggregate picture, but doesn't work for individual games/teams out of the context of the game itself.
Now please break it down to my level -- how many games will Michigan win this year?
I prefer Yardage Differential for the very reasons stated in this post, I just have never been able to express my reasoning as clearly as this. Offenses are always trying to gain yards and defenses are always trying to stop them. It's still not perfect, but useful nonetheless..
In honor of his recent retirement, one of my favorite sports sayings:
"I'm like the Pythagorean Theorem. There is no answer."
How are the 3 Rich Rodriguez coached teams, included in the sample, "Lloydball?"
How does Michigan's performance change if you take those out?