Shotgun Yesterday, Shotgun Today, Shotgun Tomorrow, Shotgun Forever

Submitted by Brian on July 1st, 2011 at 1:12 PM

denard-shotgun

via flickr user larrysphatpage

Almost nothing drives me more insane than someone who proclaims certain numbers to be bad because these other numbers are better without suggesting a mechanism that would make this true. Via Slate, Murray Chass provides the canonical example:

The stats freaks who never saw a decimal point they didn't worship were ecstatic last year when Zack Greinke won the American League Cy Young award while winning only 16 games. Felix Hernandez, who won 19 and whose 2.49 earned run average was second to Greinke's 2.16, would have been my choice, but the stats guys "proved" that Greinke was the correct choice because of his statistical standing in formulaic concoctions in which we mere mortals do not imbibe.
—Murray Chass, murraychass.com, May 9, 2010.

This makes me clench and unclench my fists helplessly. It seems impossible that you could be this venerated New York Times baseball writer without picking up on the fact that AL pitchers have no control over how many runs their team scores. The fists clench and unclench because attempting to model an argument with Murray Chass about this quickly leads into a cul-de-sac where Chass says something condescending about something he doesn't understand and repeats it ad nauseum as if he believes "no blood for oil" or "drill, baby, drill" is a coherent, self-contained, impregnable point of view.

Presenting Jonah Lehrer, who actually manages to write for Wired despite being able to compose the following:

Consider the case of J.J. Barea. During the regular season, the backup point guard had perfectly ordinary statistics, averaging 9.5 ppg and shooting 44 percent from the field. His plus/minus rating was slightly negative. There was no reason to expect big things from such a little player in the playoffs.

And yet, by Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Barea was in the starting lineup. (This promotion came despite the fact that he began the Finals with a 5-for-23 shooting slump and a minus-14 rating.) What Dallas coach Rick Carlisle wisely realized is that Barea possessed something that couldn't be captured in a scorecard, that his speed and energy were virtues even when he missed his layups (and he missed a lot of layups), and that when he made those driving floaters their value exceeded the point score. Because nothing messes with your head like seeing a guy that short score in the lane. Although Barea's statistics still look pretty ordinary — his scoring average fell in the Finals despite the fact that he started — the Mavs have declared that re-signing him is a priority. Because it doesn't matter what the numbers say. Barea won games.

A man who writes for Wired ascribes JJ Barea's value to "nothing messes with your head like seeing a guy that short score in the lane." Fists clenching and unclenching due to impossibility of refuting argument that stupid. Plenty of other people have tried to do so. Some guy at Deadspin who pointed out that the Mavs are amongst the most stat-obsessed teams in the league. A Baseball Prospectus guy tore apart Lehrer's introductory car analogy, in which car buyers who focus on a couple of barely relevant but easily understandable numbers instead of the important, hard-to-quantity data are Bill James, not Joe Morgan.

It doesn't matter, though. These articles always have a tautologically number-negating logic. The argument goes:

  1. I don't understand statistics*.
  2. People who understand statistics don't understand intangibles.
  3. ???
  4. Therefore my understanding is superior.

Now let's talk about Denard Robinson and last year's offense.

*[This lack of understanding can be many things but is always at least this: statistics are a suggestive tool, not math gospel. To be fair, some people use statistics like they are a golden hammer. These people are very annoying and should be yelled at. Just don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. ]

Y WE NO SCORE GOALPOINTS

y-u-no-easydenard-fumble

This came up a lot in the aftermath of the Spring Game, when the quarterbacks strove to make themselves indistinguishable from walk-ons and quite a lot of people put finger under collar and went "uggggghhh." This was met with a round of backlash largely consisting of people pointing at select—sometimes hilariously select—statistics from last year's team in an effort to prove the offense wasn't really that good.

The favorite was a focus on the first halves against good opponents, when Michigan did not score points. This did not escape notice even around here:

The Ohio State game has the power to make whatever happens in it seem like Michigan's season in microcosm, and so the overriding theme of the 2010 season is looking up at the scoreboard at halftime to see Michigan on pace for about 500 yards and about twenty points. Michigan had 238 yards and seven points this time around and instead of a competitive game we got the usual.

Michigan was frustratingly spectacular at getting to the half with almost 300 yards and something like ten points on the board. But using points to evaluate the output of an offense is like using wins to evaluate a pitcher. Events outside the entity you are trying to evaluate have so much impact on that number, it is only a fuzzy explanation of the story.

I have engaged in message board fights and observed many more about whether the Wisconsin game was a failure on the offense's part. At the half the score was 28-0 Wisconsin and the game was as good as over, whereupon Michigan came out of the locker room and scored three straight touchdowns against the UW defense. This would have made the game interesting if Michigan could have forced the Badgers to pass, ever.

My fists do the clenching bit whenever anyone tries to claim the Wisconsin game was evidence Michigan should move away from the spread. The Michigan offense's entire first half:

  1. Michigan drives from their own one yard line to the Wisconsin their 35 before punting.
  2. Michigan drives from their 28 to the Wisconsin 13; Seth Broekhuizen misses a 30-yard field goal.
  3. Three and out from the 36.
  4. Three and out from the 40.

(There was also a meaningless two play drive at the end of the half.) That's not a great four drives. It is a great seven drives if you consider the next three. Meanwhile, the final touchdown against UW is often dismissed as "garbage time" but Badger tacklers on that drive include JJ Watt, Patrick Butrym, and Aaron Henry—all starters—and Michigan hit Roundtree three times for more than 20 yards on a three-minute march. That was not Wisconsin's goal. Even if you still dismiss Michigan's last couple drives as garbage you have to acknowledge that the defense's inability to make them meaningful robbed the offense of opportunities to impress for real.

But you're sitting there and your fists are clenching and unclenching and everything is black and doom and blacky black doom, so maybe it's hard to tell.

Transistors don't give a damn

CLOUDcrying-buckeye

This is the disconnect. While what seems like a fairly large subset of the fanbase saw wholesale collapse in the Wisconsin game, computers saw two units failing immensely and an offense that put up 442 yards on a defense that gave up 321 on average, scored 31-ish points (computers will credit the offense with acquiring the field position for the field goal and deduct the miss from the special teams; if they deduct from the garbage TD they will use a lower denominator when trying to figure out expected points) on a defense that gave up 21. Statistically, Michigan's offense was at least a standard deviation above the mean against the Badgers.

While the Wisconsin game is the biggest outlier between the offense's actual and perceived performance, it's instructive. It is often lumped in with the crap from last year along with Iowa (tenuous case indeed there), MSU, OSU, and the bowl game. There is no reasonable case it should be. This is why statistics are useful, because meat-emotions often overwhelm our capacity for reason.

These are the questions I think we should be asking in our most robotic voices:

What aspects of last year's performance project most strongly to next year's?

There are three reasons for the gap between points and yards: field position, field goal kicking, and turnovers. The latter two combined to see Michigan's redzone scoring rate rank 109th nationally. The first two are almost entirely out of the offense's control. The latter was a huge problem all three years under Rodriguez. However, turnovers notoriously do not correlate year to year, are heavily dependent on quarterback, experience and saw Rich Rodriguez consistently in the black at West Virginia.

Michigan's turnover issues aren't fate, should improve naturally, and are not related to the spread. Most of Michigan's other issues at turning yards into points are not really the offense's.

That leaves an inherent flaw in the spread offense as a potential culprit that has the potential to repeat next year. Point in favor: Michigan was even worse in the redzone in 2009, finishing with just 49% of available points. Point against: Auburn and Oregon finished in the top ten last year. Further point against from a Football Outsiders study of the NFL:

We took … 20 overachievers and measured their performances the season after said overachievement; while their DVOA [ed: something value over average, a fancy stat they have designed to smooth out noise.]  in the red zone that initial season exceeded their total offensive DVOA by an average of 33.3 percent, in the following season, their DVOA in the red zone exceeded their total DVOA by an average of 1.3 percent. In other words, the teams' performances in the red zone mirrored how they did outside it, implying the overachieving was a fluke.

We also can measure this by using correlation coefficients, a way of measuring the relationship between two variables that results in a number ranging from minus-1 (at which the two variables have an exact inverse relationship) to plus-1 (at which the variables have a perfectly positive relationship). The correlation between a team's performance in the red zone and its overall offensive performance, year to year, is 0.08 -- essentially nil. Teams simply do not exceed their performance in the first 80 yards once they get to the final 20 on a regular basis.

The evidence suggests Michigan's red zone struggles should revert to the mean; the things that made the offense less than the sum of its yards last year are all small sample size outliers.

What's left that does correlate, or at least correlates better? Everything else. On a play by play basis Michigan's offense does well in standard and advanced metrics, and returns ten starters. If they should be better but weren't (because of things that should revert) and can expect similar performance next year (because of all the returning starters), then what should happen is that the expected and actual meet somewhere south of #2 nationally but well within the schwing range.

Is it better to play to Al Borges's strengths or the offense's strengths?

In 2008 this was easy since the offense had no strengths. In 2011 it's a difficult question. Michigan's transition demands that Borges or Denard (and, importantly, the OL) leaves his comfort zone. This is necessarily going to be suboptimal for someone.

The spring game suggests it will be vastly suboptimal for Denard if Borges gets his way, and it seems a lot easier to change playcalls than turn Denard into Jon Navarre. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. The last few years I've documented the ever-evolving Michigan run offense. Rich Rodriguez kept ahead of the curve by constantly adding new wrinkles to the ground game. He was able to do this because of his vast experience with the spread 'n' shred. Al Borges is a smart guy with a lot of experience but his history suggests his inventiveness may be more oriented towards the passing game. If a good chunk of offensive effectiveness is staying ahead of the game, Borges might be able to do that better from a pro-style offense.

But the following is true even in the NFL:

Shotgun formations are generally more efficient than formations with the quarterback under center.

Over the past three seasons, offenses have averaged 5.9 yards per play from Shotgun, but just 5.1 yards per play with the quarterback under center. This wide split exists even if you analyze the data to try to weed out biases like teams using Shotgun more often on third-and-long, or against prevent defenses in the fourth quarter. Shotgun offense is more efficient if you only look at the first half, on every down, and even if you only look at running back carries rather than passes and scrambles.

With an offense outright designed for the shotgun featuring a quarterback whose main asset is his legs, the cutting-edge effect would have to be absurdly important to make the offense more effective from under center.

Does I-form pro-style help you win in ways undefined by conventional statistics?

This is Brady Hoke's theory when he denigrates the zone-heavy spread offense as an impediment to having a good defense. A quick glance at the top defenses in both conventional and fancy measures suggests this is unlikely. TCU, Boise State, and West Virginia  were the top three teams in yardage defense. WVU, Missouri, Oklahoma, Auburn, Oregon, and Mississippi State are all in the top ten in defensive FEI. There appears to be little if any problem with having a top defense opposite your spread 'n' shred offense as long as you account for the increased pace of the spread.

Is it worth sacrificing effectiveness down the road for immediate results?

Unknowable, but there's no better way to quickly put the question marks on Brady Hoke's resume to rest than by having a breakout first season.

Extensive Conclusion Section

denard-shotgundenard-shotgundenard-shotgun

MOAR SHOTGUN PLZ

Comments

DDub

July 1st, 2011 at 1:34 PM ^

Following the 3rd blockquote, I think you mean "using wins to evaluate a pitcher".  Or maybe that's intentional hyperbole, evaluating a picture based on wins is quite silly too.

 

 

bigmc6000

July 1st, 2011 at 1:36 PM ^

I know you think the Barea argument is stupid but he's totally right... Seeing mighty mouse beating a bunch of guys over a foot taller than him in the lane does, in fact, mess with your head and basketball is certainly one of the sports where having your head in the game is essential. As for the Cy Young award you are right but saying intangibles don't matter is entirely a case by case basis not just something you can apply to everything.

AAB

July 1st, 2011 at 1:39 PM ^

because watching a tiny guy score makes the other team mad.  He was effective because the Mavs were smart enough to use him when the corpse of Mike Bibby was defending him.  He was effective because the Mavs take a statistically inclined view of the world and try to exploit every matchup edge they can find.  

El Jeffe

July 1st, 2011 at 2:03 PM ^

Word. I am convinced that Rick Carlisle has nekkid pictures of Eric Spoelstra doing unspeakable things to a dead girl or a live boy, and the agreement was that Spoelstra would continue to guard Barea on the pick and roll with the mouldering cadaver that is Mike Bibby.

Turd_Ferguson

July 1st, 2011 at 1:44 PM ^

I am pretty sick of hearing the argument that goes "We put up a bunch of yards last year, and we're returning a bunch of starters on offense, so we should put up even more yards this year."

We returned a whole bunch of starters (future NFL starters) in 2007 and look what happened.  If we don't rack up a whole bunch of yards this year, it's not nessecarily because Hoke forced the offense to regress-  what matters are WINS and that's where I'll be looking for improvement.

AAB

July 1st, 2011 at 1:47 PM ^

but I really hate the "wins are all that matters" argument.  I mean, yes, it's true that wins are all that matter.  But wins don't exist in a vacuum.  They're entirely a function of other variables.  Brian isn't saying that the goal of football is to maximize offensive output.  He's saying that having a really awesome offense (like Michigan did last year) is a huge part of winning games.  Since it's the one thing Michigan truly did well last season, it's important for the coaching staff to maintain that as much as possible.  It will lead to more wins.  

Turd_Ferguson

July 1st, 2011 at 2:00 PM ^

I understand that a dynamic offense is an important factor, as well as other things we didn't have last year (do I need to even mention the obvious= FG kicking).  I am just dreading some of the comments that will come when we don't rack up the same numbers as last year. 

Hoke and his staff are going to put together their own unique gameplan and as long as it is better as a whole, I will be one happy camper.

MI Expat NY

July 1st, 2011 at 2:25 PM ^

If our special teams and defense are only marginally better, but our offense takes a large step back, will complaints concerning offensive performance with 10 returning starters not be legitimate?   Hell, if our defense improves significantly, yet we're still only 7-5 because our offense became average, won't offense be exactly the thing we should complain about?

You're right, the total performance is what matters.  But it's a legitimate concern that Mattison is not defensive Jesus, and we're going to need an outstanding offense again to have a Michigan-like season.  I think, hope, that we'll be ok.  Not top 2 in yardage, but top 20 with better red zone efficiency, combined with an average defense and kicking game, which will be an overall improvement.

MI Expat NY

July 1st, 2011 at 2:40 PM ^

That's a reasonable statement.  I'm just a little worried about the next couple years if we don't properly use the offensive talent we currently have.  Our talent now is going to significantly similar to our talent in 2012, and maybe even in 2013.  In 2012 we have an absolutely brutal schedule, and 2013 we're going to be relying significantly on two of our weakest recruiting classes in memory (RR's last and the transition class).  If we don't have a Michigan like season this year due to offensive problems, it doesn't look good for our offense in the next two seasons, and it could easily be a seven year stretch without a Michigan like season, and that would be downright Notre Dame like.  

I guess, what I'm saying, is that short term success may be very important to any long term success that Hoke hopes to achieve.  

Turd_Ferguson

July 1st, 2011 at 2:36 PM ^

Obviously if the offense becomes lousy enough to lose us football games, there will a legimate room for criticism.  I just don't understand the pessimism about Borges ability to "handle" Denard.  DR is obviously a huge talent, but Borges is a veteran OC and has proven he can adapt to different types of players.  No, it's not going to look exactly like RR's spread, but just b/c we're not running the shotgun spread n shred all the time doesn't mean DOOM for our offense.

I'm looking forward to seeing the RBs and TEs used more, but that's just me.  I guess my point is, I don't know why people seem to be so down on Borges-  his offenses have been pretty good at his last few stops.

MI Expat NY

July 1st, 2011 at 2:50 PM ^

I trust Borgess.  I think the question of DOOM, comes down to whether you believe Hoke's public statements on the offense and what's been deemedn "MANBALL" is purely rhetoric meant to please the "rich rod was the devil with his fancy pants offense" crowd and he's going to let Borgess do his thing without a whole lot of interference, or whether you believe that Hoke thinks there's only one way to win at Michigan, and that's the way we're going to do it.  

I'm in the camp that believes the former, so I'm not expecting doom, in fact, I'm expecting a very good offense.  But if it's the latter, I'm going to be critical, and I'll believe I am justified.

Hugh Jass

July 1st, 2011 at 1:45 PM ^

is giving up a touchdown a minute which seemed like the case last year, your offense is always taking over after a kickoff return.  This usually means you must drive the length of the field in order to score.  The offense was able to do that plenty of times......It was a good offense last year - we'll see how it goes this year.  My fear is that the offense will take a step backwards.  The defense however should make a huge leap forward which gives me a reason for optimism.  GO BLUE

Marley Nowell

July 1st, 2011 at 1:46 PM ^

Hopefully we have a legitimate RB next year (sorry Vincent) who is an actual threat and takes some of the pressure off Denard.  If we have a good RB and any sort of kicking game we could have a much much better record.

JBE

July 1st, 2011 at 1:50 PM ^

Wait, are you comparing Michigan's ability to gain yardage but inability to put points on the board with Greinke's pitching effectiveness but lack of wins?  

I believe you say that Greinke had no control over the offensive side of game, so his win total shouldn't be indicative of how well he pitched.  I agree wholeheartedly.  But then you say:

"But using points to evaluate the output of an offense is like using wins to evaluate a picture. Events outside the entity you are trying to evaluate have so much impact on that number is only a fuzzy explanation of the story."

Are stating that Michigan's offense had no control of itself, and that the lack of points they scored against good/certain defenses was an uncontrolled variable, like the amount of runs the Royals scored or didn't score for Zack?  

Or you may just be saying that yardage is more indicative of a successful offense than points are, which I've heard that argument before.  

I don't know what you are saying.  But I can't see the correlation between the uncontrolled variable a pitcher faces and the uncontrolled variables an offense faces.  An offense controls itself ultimately, expect for field position here and there, or whatever.  I see no "events outside the entity" that drastically alter an offenses success rate like I see with pitching.      

AAB

July 1st, 2011 at 1:51 PM ^

Field position and special teams have a huge impact on how many points an offense puts on the board.  On most drives last year, Michigan could go 70-80 yards and not guarantee itself any points.  He's not saying the offense had no control over how many points it scored.  He's saying that other variables have a massive impact on the number of points the offense scored, so looking solely at the points scored is a really misleading and bad metric of offensive performance.  

gbdub

July 1st, 2011 at 4:13 PM ^

Stats like FEI attempt to quantify analytically the proper degree to which those things matter - they're not selling, they're calculating. Do you have a specific issue with their methodology or do you just have a gut sense that the numbers are lying?

JBE

July 1st, 2011 at 5:31 PM ^

FEI is one side of a infinitely multisided coin, and to quantify a multifaceted entity, such as an offense, by its use, or come to any conclusions based on its calculations is a false idol. Arguments concerning the effectiveness of the offense based on the FEI  is more an exhibition in the belief that the FEI is valid than any actual quantification of the offense - as the FEI is a manufactured perspective and allows no understanding of the true nature of the offense or its effectiveness.  In short, the FEI is a sliver, a amputated whole, a mirage, a single perspective in a never ending sea of eyes, and I'll pass.  Numbers will lie until every single perspective/angle is accounted for and recorded, which is theoretically impossible, so any attempt, in my opinion, to quantify the true breath of an offense by way of mathematics is masturbation.  

So I'll take my meaninglessness and chaos and trust my imperfect senses when evaluating entities of the unreal world, such as Michigan's 2010 offensive effectiveness.  And with my imperfect senses I witnessed a mediocre offense overall, which was surprising considering the talent on the field, shotgun or no.

gbdub

July 1st, 2011 at 5:51 PM ^

The score is one side of a infinitely multisided coin, and to quantify a multifaceted entity, such as an offense, by its use, or come to any conclusions based on its calculations is a false idol. Arguments concerning the effectiveness of the offense based on the the score is more an exhibition in the belief that the the score is valid than any actual quantification of the offense - as the the score is a manufactured perspective and allows no understanding of the true nature of the offense or its effectiveness.  In short, the the score is a sliver, an amputated whole, a mirage, a single perspective in a never ending sea of eyes, and I'll pass.  Numbers will lie until every single perspective/angle is accounted for and recorded, which is theoretically impossible, so any attempt, in my opinion, to quantify the true breath of an offense by way of mathematics is masturbation.

I suppose we should just fire every actuary, engineer, scientist, and statistician of every stripe. Their models will never be perfect, so we should just trust the equally valid wispy thoughts of a wizened guru sticking his moistened thumb in the air.

JBE

July 1st, 2011 at 6:34 PM ^

"I suppose we should just fire every actuary, engineer, scientist, and statistician of every stripe. Their models will never be perfect, so we should just trust the equally valid wispy thoughts of a wizened guru sticking his moistened thumb in the air."

 

No.  We merely must admit that the actuary, engineer, scientist, and statistician are just as clueless when recording and explaining the true nature of events and objects as the wizened guru is, and that the guru's thumb is just a valid as the scientist's microscope, which is not valid at all.  

So why would I buy false numbers when I furnish my own for free?  Why would I believe someone else's complied mathematical recording of events and objects when I have my own compilation to reference?  

I watched every game, and I think I'll go with my incorrect numbers instead of someone else's incorrect numbers, because at least I can back mine up with experience (perception through fallible senses) and maybe a bit of intuition - if intuition actually exists.  Hence, I felt the wind of the 2010 offense with my thumb, and it still whispers to me, "JBE, we weren't as good as the numbers suggest.  Dream well, and buy American."    

gbdub

July 1st, 2011 at 6:40 PM ^

Well if you're a card carrying member of the Wizened Guru Anti Science Union, Local #[Numbers Are Meaningless Abstraction], you should have said so.

Just make sure when you're on a plane, you really, truly believe that it will stay up, lest the meaningless and unfathomable physics decide to go all scrambly.

blueblueblue

July 1st, 2011 at 9:11 PM ^

Sorry, but this really displays a lack of understanding of what science is. Statistics is a tool, not a science. Physics is a science. Sociology is a science. Psychology is a science. Biology is a science. All may use statistics. And all are statistically liable to error. To deny that is to make a non-scientific statement. But all do not have to rely on statistics and those who do not are no less scientific. If you do not understand that, then you are not very well informed. Not trusting the stats is merely a different approach, a different hermeneutic, a different epistemology.

There is a certain statistical probability that any plane you get on will crash. But that goes out the window then that plane crashes. Then the probability is 100%.  That initial stat failed, and it provides no explanation as to why the plan failed. Statistics do not explain, they merely display. The physics that play into an airplane staying up has nothing to do with the use of statistics of concern here. Planes were built and tested in laboratories and under more natural experimental conditions, the beginning of which saw all variables controlled. Again, another poor analogy. 

gbdub

July 2nd, 2011 at 1:59 PM ^

That's funny, I suppose all those little sigma symbols in the presentations at my rocket company have absolutely nothing to do with statistics. I'll tell my boss that we should design our next autopilot without using any. I'm sure that will go over well. I'll tell the Air Force that they don't need any IIP probability plots for the next launch out of VAFB (cuz who cares about downtown LA anyway?). I'll sell our next satellite by saying, "Well, who cares what the launch success rate is? If yours makes it, it's 100%!". I don't need statistics, they just lie anyway. This will revolutionize the field of aerospace engineering. After all, my "no stats approach" is simply a different epistemology.

Statistics are an essential tool for EVERY science, because experimental science (and engineering) doesn't deal in absolutes.  Or do you forget your scientific method? How do you test if your experiment actually confirmed your hypothesis? Statistics. Repeatability is key to science. How do you define and quantify repeatability? Statistics. Saying "I don't trust statistics" is fundamentally unscientific, since you're effectively arguing against math. You an argue a conclusion derived from statistics is incorrect, or that the statistics were applied improperly, but proving that will usually require more statistics rather than less.

Statistics can mislead if used improperly. They can show correlation but cannot prove causation. They can show what is likely but not what will occur an any given trial. I'm not sure where you got the impression that I was saying anything different. But the mere fact that statististics can be misleading does not make, "You're wrong because statistics always lie" a compelling or scientific argument.

 

blueblueblue

July 3rd, 2011 at 10:25 AM ^

You make your arguments by mischaracterizing my arguments. Good luck with that tack in life, I hope it gets you far. I never said stats aren't used and are not important in rocket science, physics, or whatever. Go back and read my post.

As far as statistics being necessary for science, rather than merely sufficient, as you state with truly antiquated arguments, I will not try to educate you on that point. It is simply an axiom that statistics are sufficient, not necessary for science. Ask yourself, what came first, science or statistics? I feel like i am arguing with a teenager. Your obvious lack of familiarity outside of your own scientific realm infuses your points with alarming ignorance. We may just be talking about the differences between 'hard' and social science. But both are science. Suffice it to say that If science stayed rooted in your prescriptions, we would learn and advance very little as a society. Science evolves, try doing so yourself. Many, many scientists recognized that long, long ago. Perhaps you should venture out of your bubble to do the same. This former biologist turned sociologist was able to do that. Give it a try once and a while, your rocket science will only benefit. 

imafreak1

July 3rd, 2011 at 2:53 PM ^

LOL.

This is" yet another example" of incomprehensible academician-speak. It may be intimidating and give the appearance of intelligence but it is not an effective way of communicating with a general audience. It should be confined to trade journals and might not even be necessary in those.

 

chitownblue2

July 1st, 2011 at 1:49 PM ^

Not to be a dick, but writing:

"The latter (turnovers in the Red Zone) was a huge problem all three years under Rodriguez."

then

"However, turnovers notoriously do not correlate year to year"

Is sorta a "WHA?" moment for me.

And, I mean, these stats are great, but when we start acting like FEI trumps things like "points", I'm not sure we're talking football anymore.

SirJack

July 1st, 2011 at 2:06 PM ^

And this:

"While what seems like a fairly large subset of the fanbase saw wholesale collapse in the Wisconsin game, computers saw two units failing immensely and an offense that put up 442 yards on a defense that gave up 321 on average, scored 31-ish points (computers will credit the offense with acquiring the field position for the field goal and deduct the miss from the special teams; if they deduct from the garbage TD they will use a lower denominator when trying to figure out expected points) on a defense that gave up 21."

Makes me think Brian is delusional about the Wisky game. We got our asses handed to us for three hours straight, that's all. This post is clearly an apology for RR, but in spite our garish stats the distance between us and OSU, Wisky (not to mention, alas, MSU) was seemingly increasing.

El Jeffe

July 1st, 2011 at 2:25 PM ^

Et tu, Chitown? A low correlation means that, on average, teams with high turnovers in one year are equally likely to have high or low turnovers the next year, and vice versa. It doesn't mean that you can't have several bad years in a row that are still largely due to chance. Flipping heads three times in a row and all that.

This is what made me apoplectic about that Genuinely Sarcastic (I think, apologies if not) post about "attention to detail" and how it was lacking under Rodriquez and that's why there were so many turnovers. If there's one detail I'm pretty sure Rodriguez (or any coach) paid attention to, it was "not turning the ball over when you're within 10 yards of the goal line, or heck, any other place on the field for that matter."

Another explanation for the 3 miserable turnover years: absurdly inexperienced skill players including 3 straight years of first-year starting quarterbacks.

Obviously I'm not arguing with you anymore, I'm just venting.

santosbfree

July 1st, 2011 at 2:56 PM ^

I have no problem being a dick.  This whole argument that yards > points is so patently ridiculous that I can't believe it keeps being used around here.  Someone above argued that you can't get yards at will when you're in the red zone, and so no matter how many times you drive the length of the field it doesn't mean that your team will score.  Last year was like having a Tiger Woods drive off the tee followed by your average Joe's short game.

I think it is more amusing that a connection between this and Zack Greinke is made.  In Greinke's case, it was that ERA > wins.  Well, last time I checked, wins are all that mattered.  In the case of Michigan's offense, yards > points and again the only one that matters is points.  The relationship is established, but the point is laughably detached from sports.

MichFan1997

July 1st, 2011 at 3:10 PM ^

Wins are important to the team, not in evaluating Zach Greinke. King Felix had 3 more wins than Greinke in 2009, but that doesn't mean he had a better season. Even beyond ERA (which is still not a pitcher controlled number), Greinke was better than King Felix (stats like FIP show you this sort of thing). Greinke also had an attrocious set of positional players to play with compared to King Felix.

So last time you checked wins being all that mattered, maybe you were checking out what matters for teams. Greinke WAS better than King Felix in 2009. He DOES NOT control what team he in on. I don't understand why this is so hard for some people to comprehend.

MI Expat NY

July 1st, 2011 at 3:11 PM ^

Reading comprehension doesn't seem to be a strong suit around here.  The Greinke example wasn't used to say that just like ERA being a better stat than wins to judge a pitcher, that yards is a better stat than points to judge an offense.  It was to say that guys like Murray Chass, who over rely on one stat without context, are stupid.  

Brian continues with his post into the issue of how come we didn't score as often as we should have considering the proficiency of the offense.  He also points out that people like to selectively use poor performances finishing drives in the first half, while ignoring outstanding production in the second half.  All leading up to the ultimate question, should all of the principals of our offense be discarded in favor of one that might be more efficient in the red zone?  Brian thinks not, and I agree with him.

MI Expat NY

July 1st, 2011 at 3:21 PM ^

It's right there in the post:

"This lack of understanding can be many things but is always at least this: statistics are a suggestive tool, not math gospel. To be fair, some people use statistics like they are a golden hammer. These people are very annoying and should be yelled at. Just don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."

You don't need to rely on FEI to demonstrate that our offense was very good last year.  We only struggled in one particular area, red zone conversion.  Nobody is claiming our offense was perfect.  I don't see anyone claiming that since FEI said we were #2 in the country, that's what we were.  What people are saying is that FEI, combined with our total yards, points, Denard's awesomeness, etc. showed that we were pretty good on offense, even granting that we didn't score at a high enough efficiency.  

MI Expat NY

July 1st, 2011 at 3:59 PM ^

Where did he say that?  I see a statement that the first four drives weren't good (that's the whole first half).  That the computers would credit the offense with 3 points for getting into chip shot FG range.  That's it.  The rest of his argument is that the next three possessions were offense at its finest and that if our defense/FG unit hadn't been atrocious, more people would have noticed.  

As a whole, the offense was very good that day.  It didn't show up in the first half because we got 4 (4!) possessions.  

wile_e8

July 1st, 2011 at 3:42 PM ^

I'm pretty sure people refuting this is the whole point of this post:

This came up a lot in the aftermath of the Spring Game, when the quarterbacks strove to make themselves indistinguishable from walk-ons and quite a lot of people put finger under collar and went "uggggghhh." This was met with a round of backlash largely consisting of people pointing at select—sometimes hilariously select—statistics from last year's team in an effort to prove the offense wasn't really that good.

This happens in the comment section of pretty much every post tangentially related to the coaching change and/or offensive transition.