Roundup 3/5

Scientists find the part of the brain that causes coaches to punt too often. (Hat tip: Marginal Revolution)

The Coase theorem says that dynamic ticket pricing is a good idea.

The Chicago Sun-Times says that Jay Cutler's interceptions were all due to poor decisions and not to pass protection deficiencies. Seems KC Joyner was right and I was wrong about Cutler going into last season. The stats show Cutler was a still minor upgrade over Orton, even accounting for all the interceptions. Whether the trade was worth it is another matter.

Jason Lisk defends Joe Namath from the charge he may not be a legitimate Hall of Fame QB. My take--It's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Passing Efficiency. He definitely belongs.

Lisk also tells us all about real football. If you read one link from this post, read this one.

What tends to happen to teams that lose the Super Bowl?

Each year after the Super Bowl, Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin puts out his widely read annual special teams rankings. I realize Gosselin is well respected, but frankly these rankings are mostly worthless. Ever notice why the worst teams tend to have the top special teams? (CLE #1, TB #2, IND #28, NO#29.) Most readers here already know that good offenses punt closer to their opponent's endzones, reducing their net punt averages. But there are lots of other problems with ST rankings. Just take average drive starting position. Cleveland led the league, but is that because of Josh Cribbs, or because they tend to give up lots of touchdowns instead of coffin-corner punts? I'm not saying Cribbs isn't good, just that conventional ST stats are trash.

Is WPA going mainstream? (In baseball, anyway.) Interesting discussion at, and the same concepts and principles apply in football or any sport. Hat tip: Tango. (I was contacted last fall by the NFL Network to do a feature on football stats, but I didn't have the time. Hopefully next season.)

Chase Stuart looks at how inconsistent QB interception rates can be. The numbers suggest that interceptions don't predict future interceptions well at all. So should my prediction model exclude team interception rate? Maybe. Interception rate does add some predictive value. Exluding it from the model makes it slightly less predictive. Perhaps interception rate tells us something about other dimensions of an offense's qualities and not necessarily about the likelihood of future interceptions themselves.

Why do top college coaches rarely make good pro coaches? An interesting take at The Sports Economist.

In Brian Billick's new book, More than a Game, he claims that teams became significantly bolder on 4th down following the Romer paper. Here is Billick being interviewed by NPR. (Hat tip: Jim Glass) I don't buy it for a second. First, when Billick wrote the book, any increase in 4th down rates over the past several yrs was imperceptible. Second, he's on film poo-pooing the paper. He's quoted as saying, 'It's a feeling. Every 4th down is 50/50. Either you make it or you don't." This is typical coach-speak for "I really have no idea when to go for it on 4th down, and I'm scared of being criticized if we don't make it, so I just follow convention." Billick was never known for aggressive 4th down decisions, even in the years since the Romer paper.

Plus, Billick made one of the all-time worst 4th down decisions not long after the Romer paper. On 4th and goal from inside the 1 with virtually no time left, the Ravens were down by 3 against the winless Dolphins late in the 2007 season. Typical success rates would be anywhere from 64-72% from the 1. Going into OT gives his team close to a 50-50 chance of winning, and puts them at the mercy of the coin flip. Billick went for the FG and promptly lost in OT. In the press conference the next day, Billick strangely admitted that one reason he did not go for the TD was his fear of being "critiqued" by the media. He gets points for honesty, anyway.

With Tomlinson's departure from San Diego, it's a good time for Chase Stuart to ask who is the greatest Charger ever?

Phil Birnbaum on how FG kickers are evaluated. All great stuff, but his best idea might be this: "Is there any predictive value to where the kick goes, rather than just whether it's good or not? I'd think that a boot right down the middle is better than one that just sneaks inside the goal post. If you had tapes of all the kicks, you could give every guy an accuracy score, and see if that has any correlation to future field-goal percentages."

Playing 'timed' games like basketball and football at a slower pace may aid underdogs because luck plays a bigger role. Do we see slower tempos in NCAA tournament upsets? Not a perfect study, but it's always good to put a theory to an empirical test.

Which component of the passer rating correlates best with scoring and winning? Jason Lisk tells us. One of the nuggets in there is that average passers who threw zero interceptions in a game lose more often than they win. This supports one of my theories that throwing very few interceptions is actually a bad thing. "Interceptions are a part of the bargain, a natural consequence to throwing the ball. You can guarantee zero interceptions by playing in an extremely conservative way, tossing short passes, taking sacks, or throwing the ball away anytime a defender is in the same zip code as the receiver. You can minimize interceptions, but you'll lose every game doing it."

Ever wonder how your favorite team ranks in terms of financial value?

Like its bastard stepchild 'The Curse of 370,' The Verducci Effect is being debunked. The snake-oil side of advanced sports analysis has to be the injury-prediction racket.  Stuff like the Verducci Effect or the Curse of 370 are no better than tarot cards or psychic hotlines. What's the difference between these two dialogs?

"I'm getting a premonition that you'll soon have either in financial or romantic predicament." A year later: "You're were so right! How did you know!"

"Our advanced metrics predict this pitcher with either suffer an injury or have a decline in performance following a career year." A season later: "Oh my God! How did you know?"

Beware the 'EITHER - OR' prediction of two likely outcomes.

Dave Berri's final 2009 QB rankings.

How to find cheap gas (or a wife, or anything) using decision theory. (Nothing to do with football, except possibly choosing players. I just love this stuff.) I'm in the market for a house right now, so maybe I should use the 37% rule.

Applying sabermetric techniques to historical Supreme Court comparisons.

More analysis of the proposed new OT format.

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6 Responses to “Roundup 3/5”

  1. j holz says:

    The Verducci effect link is broken.

  2. Brian Burke says:

    fixed thx.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Brian, are you going to the Sloan Sports Conference tomorrow? I heard there was going to be a panel about emerging analytics including football.

  4. Bob Weber says:

    Totally with you on Broadway Joe, if anyone deserves to be in the Hall Of Fame it's that guy!

  5. J-Mo says:

    Nice. With the math from the cheap gas/find a spouse articles, I definitely have a better grasp on the Monty Hall Dilemma.

  6. Jeff Clarke says:

    I just read the gas article. Beware of using this technique with real estate. Real estate agents are definitely aware of it and can use it to their advantage. They take you to see two absurdly overvalued houses (they've been on the market for months and their owners are delusional). Then they take you to see an average house. The average house looks like a great deal.

    I'm sure you're also aware of the rent vs buy debate. I used to live in the DC area and I can tell you that a few years ago, you were definitely better off renting. I sold my condo at the peak of the market and started renting. I haven't done the full calculations for DC recently (I rent in Seattle now) so I'm not sure if the slowdown lowered prices enough...I tend to think not based on anecdotal evidence. The rent vs buy debate is very similar to the punt vs go debate. Conventional wisdom says its always better to buy. CW is wrong. Make a spreadsheet and be realistic about all of the ownership expenses...include mortgage interest (but not principal), prop taxes, insurance, homeowners fees, periodic repairs, closing costs and opportunity cost on not being able to invest the down payment elsewhere. You can include market priced rent saved, a reasonable appreciation expectation (2-3% a year) and the mortgage tax deduction as income. Are you profitable?

    A few years ago the answer was definitively no, but everybody seemed to buy anyway. Thats why I sold. Now its a closer call. Just don't buy because "Everybody says home ownership is a great long term investment".

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