Sports data and stats…an intro

29 Oct

I had the opportunity to speak with a sports statistician with a NBA team over the summer.  We discussed advanced stats for basketball (sabermetrics in the baseball world).  I went back the the U.S. and ordered two books that I think any sports fan would enjoy (burgeoning sports statistician or not).

The first, yeah, I picked up Moneyball.  The book appears to be a true story about the Oakland A’s front office…characterized as a bunch of castaways that make a low budget team a continual contender through number crunching.  Oh wait, there is a movie you say….not a movie guy, but I know it’s out there.  The book is always better though, right?

Anyway, I also picked up and began reading Dean Oliver’s book Basketball on Paper.  First off, Dean Oliver is hilarious!  The book is cool read if you are a basketball fan just to see how he ranks teams and players throughout NBA history.

Well, I tried looking up advanced hockey metrics and I came across a couple of cool blogs and websites.  Yet, none of these people discuss data collection.  The thoughts behind the stats and analysis portion were nice, but it is definitely much easier to do the analysis when ESPN and the like have collected all of the raw data for you.  Don’t get me wrong, to come up with a formula for what you want to examine and be able to explain a player’s productivity is not the easiest thing to do….but when you have all the data in the world to work with, it helps.

I know this because I tried to collect the data they used during a live game.  Using Dean Oliver’s method in his book I tried to chart what happened on the ice possession-by-possession.  Initial results: immediate failure.  I thought this might be the case, but I gave it a go anyway.  Hockey is way too fast….on-the-fly line changes, several center ice turnovers….speed wise, it is basketball on steroids.  I learned quickly that there was no way in hell I could chart a hockey game the way basketball games are done.  (Pictures of my nonsensical notes coming soon).

I concentrated on charting just the Ujpest team for faceoffs (player #, wins and losses) and my own notes.  I also have a diagram of the ice where I mark shots for both teams, circles for goals and arrows for deflections.

So, I bit off a little more than I could chew at the beginning.  I peeled it all the way back….and now that I am used to the game speed…I have added some additional items to my tracking list, including hits and scoring chances.  I also have the time to high five the camera guy when we score!


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