Weekly Roundup

I'm starting a new regular feature here at Advanced NFL Stats. There are lots of great sites that feature interesting football and sports research. So each week or so, I'll try to provide a list of links to articles that catch my eye along with some of my own thoughts. If you have any suggestions or additions, send 'em in.

I'll start of with this article from Football Outsiders. Bill Connelly improves his Equivalent Points concept for college football. It's a lot like Expected Points, but only considers current-drive points. It's unusual for FO because the methodology is actually (somewhat) described.

The Pro-Football-Reference.com blog has been unusually active this week. First, Doug Drinen discusses the computer rankings that go into the BCS formula, particularly Jeff Sagarin's Elo system. The article does a good job of explaining how such a system works in layman's terms. I wrote about the Elo and Sagarin systems earlier this year.

Chase Stuart looks at how rookie QBs Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco stand up in historical context. Basically, Ryan's year is freakish. I wish the networks would give the Falcons a national game. I haven't even been able to watch him play. Here is my own take from last week on Ryan and Flacco and their season-long improvement.

Doug also looks at season sweeps and splits. Which is more common: a home-and-home split or a 2-game sweep? In the end, the author is really looking for whether teams "have the number" of an opponent, or whether sweeps are just a part of the natural variation in team strengths. I strongly disagree with the conclusion--I do think it's an interesting post.

Turning to other sports, Hawerchuck looks at Malcolm Gladwell's observation about NHL players and their birth month distribution. (More discussion here.) Hockey players in Canada are grouped by birth year, so throughout their childhood development the early-month-born players are the bigger, faster, and stronger ones. (Remember when you were 11? 12-year olds seemed like giants.) By the time players get to the pros, fewer late-month players are around. But the ones that do make it tend to outperform the others. In case you're curious, I took a quick look at this for NFL players and found no differences in birth-months on current rosters.

I can sympathize. I'm a late-birth-month guy who had to play rec-league basketball against older guys, usually a grade or two ahead of me. I held my own for the most part, but was usually at a big disadvantage that took a lot of the fun out of it. But when I played against my friends and classmates, I was a half-step ahead of them--kind of like swinging with two bats I guess. (End of therapy session.)

Speaking of basketball, Phil Birnbaum discusses a study that finds that traditional, qualitative measures of NBA player ability are at least as good as the advanced quantitative measures. Phil points out that the more scientific quantitative measures don't consider the defense half of the sport very well--or at all. But quantitative analysis is still useful, at least for the offensive side of the sport. This should give us pause in football circles. Team-level analysis is one thing, but the player-level analysis in football has to be taken with a grain of salt. We can talk about how "good a year" a player is having, but only part of that performance belongs to the player himself. And individual defensive performance is, for now, nearly impossible to measure quantitatively.

Lots to chew on. Hope you like the roundup. Again, if you have any suggestions for additions, even your own stuff, post it below.

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4 Responses to “Weekly Roundup”

  1. Brian Burke says:

    This isn't bad: FO looks at each team's running attacks.

    I like this line: "The Ravens are strategic throwbacks, running to set up the run, running with the fullback, running with an unbalanced line like it's Yale vs. Dartmouth in 1908."

  2. Anonymous says:

    I really like this roundup. I really like this blog. The math and sports parts of my brain are happy.

  3. KiranR says:


    Good stuff as usual. Since I am new to this field/arena, I am constantly searching for good sites/blogs/articles, so I would be very interested in what you find. I think you have particularly keen insight, so an added bonus is not only the article but your take on it.

    Hate to make a shameless plug for my own site, but since you did mention that it was acceptable to do so, here it is:


    My eventual goal is to develop enough material/thoughtful subject matter/opinion to contribute to the discussions in a substantive manner.

    Keep up the great work.


  4. Brian Burke says:

    Kiran-you might be interested in this.

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