Advanced Metrics in Football

One of many experimental iterations ...

Goaldeje

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So, unless you've been in a cave recently, you have probably heard about advanced metrics in baseball. Worp, whip, and other acronyms have taken over, and it is starting to creep over into football as well. Here is a very interesting article (to me) about why the Eagles have not signed DeSean Jackson to a long term deal:

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/6847210/desean-jackson-eagles

Team-adjusted plus-minus — an advanced metric I developed a few years ago — considers the quality of a receiver's quarterback, the play of the pass-catchers around him, the length of a receiver's routes, and the down and distance of each of his targets to build an expected catch figure. Over the past three seasons, it estimates that Jackson caught 16 fewer passes than he should have. That's nearly 10 percent of his career total. At his career rate of 18.2 yards per catch, that's just less than 300 yards left on the field over the past three seasons.

The game tape also suggests that Jackson isn't catching the ball frequently enough, as the Football Outsiders Game Charting project marked Jackson down for 11 dropped passes last season, the fourth-highest rate in the league. In 2009, while Jackson had a more reasonable six drops, four of them came on plays in which the primary defender was listed as "Hole in Zone" — in other words, passes when Jackson was wide open and let a pass slip harmlessly to the ground.

All these incompletions kill Jackson's efficiency. Even while averaging 22 yards per catch in 2010, Jackson's DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) was a middling 2.3 percent, which ranked 44th amongst receivers. He scored only six touchdowns as a receiver (adding one as a rusher and one on that punt return against the Giants to make eight overall), and that occasional quick strike is countered by all the times he wasn't able to come up with a pass and the Eagles were forced to punt. DVOA has a propensity to underrate deep threats like Jackson, but other players with similar profiles have been able to sustain high DVOA figures with this style. Steve Smith of the Panthers, for one, led the league in DVOA during his third full season as a starter. Jackson was 23rd in DVOA in 2009, but he has yet to put together a truly great season.
http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/6847210/desean-jackson-eagles


I spent a fair amount of time at football outsiders last year getting a better understanding of offensive line play. Just kind of curious if you put any stock into these types of stats, or if you are more of an eyeball test kinda guy/gal?
 

China

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I guess I've been in a cave. I've never heard of Worp and Whip. But then I don't follow baseball. The stats geeks have to have something to do with their free time, why not turn their attention to football.
 

Om

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Not sure how a team views it, but for me it's about the when and where a player makes his impact plays. Few players in football have made bigger plays at bigger moments over the past couple seasons than Jackson ... and there is no way to put a metric on the effect that a single play that turns into a single win that turns into a team-momentum thing can have in the big picture.

Not a big fan of Jackson as a guy---at least not from afar. There's a certain level of punkitude vibe I get from him. But I'd sure as hell love to have his skill set on the field in burgundy and gold. Man's a game-changer.

Full disclosure ... haven't studied the stats in the article, so if my commentary has already been addressed, mea culpa. :cool:
 

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Moss > Jackson. Don't believe the hype. Of course he's staying on that team. Someone might give him more scratch, foolishly. But he won't have a better chance of making the big show than on that squad.

As far as the stats-boom of recent years, show me someone who's using that information to win with a regularly higher percentage at the bookies and I'll buy in. Otherwise, like all analysis, it's REACTIVE and has no bearing on reality.

This is my problem with football now. The quality of the game is diminished due to the over analytical nature of it's culture. Players are focused on stats by nature now, from childhood. Even the consumer is focused on the fantasy game almost more than the actual game.

I'll admit it can be fun to banter around the what-if's, and stats are a good way to wage these arguments. But the cost is the solidarity of the team.
 

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"Moss > Jackson."

Really? Not sure I agree ... and I'm a Moss fan generally.

Guess it turns on the standards we're applying. Got time to make your case for Moss over Jackson? Not saying I necessarily disagree---just curious about the standards you've applied.
 

Dik Shuttle

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You put Moss on that squad over the last 5 years and it's his numbers the league is debating, not Jackons.

Moss is a better all-around receiver. He's older now - so there's that to consider. But if you compare career to career, and not the stats necessarily, but as players - route running, hands, blocking/positioning, leadership. I feel Moss ranks higher in all of these areas.

In the over all point I'm making, it's not the stats alone that tell the story.

Truth be told, I'd still take Moss over Jackson today, just 'cause I think if you take DeSean off that squad he isn't the same receiver somewhere else. I think he'd stink it up here; no mobile QB and all that....
 

Om

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You put Moss on that squad over the last 5 years and it's his numbers the league is debating, not Jackons.

Moss is a better all-around receiver. He's older now - so there's that to consider. But if you compare career to career, and not the stats necessarily, but as players - route running, hands, blocking/positioning, leadership. I feel Moss ranks higher in all of these areas.

In the over all point I'm making, it's not the stats alone that tell the story.

Truth be told, I'd still take Moss over Jackson today, just 'cause I think if you take DeSean off that squad he isn't the same receiver somewhere else. I think he'd stink it up here; no mobile QB and all that....
If the criteria was which was "the best receiver" I guess it would come down to which one values more, measurables and stats (I'll give that to Moss given his comparative longevity), or pure game/season impact. The latter, at least at this point in his career, I'd have to give to Jackson without hesitation.

I disagree that Jackson wouldn't be the same player elsewhere. He's a raw playmaker, not a system player. Dramatic broken-field punt returns at the absolute crucial moment aren't about being a good route runner, they're about being a speed demon with great open field running ability. Add to that the explosive downfield threat that alters the way defenses have to play him, and his impact cannot be measured simply by metrics.

Makes it sound like I'm putting down Moss. Really I'm not. I just have a special place I set aside for true game-changers. They don't always have the best numbers, no, but man. There are damn few of them. It's when you finally get one on your team you appreciate their true impact.
 

Dik Shuttle

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All of the factors you've mentioned, OM, depend upon the ability of the rest of the squad putting attention elsewhere. A potential running game, a QB with time, a special teams that isn't run by Danny Smith... er - I mean, that blocks well upfield.

You're not going to sell me on the idea that DeJack is some Sandersesque talent. And I kinda think the fact that he's still in Philly may be a bit of an indicator that he's been a bit hyped.

I fully understand your support of Moss and admiration of Jackson. And you'll note my bias in my display of my "U"... hehe [and your Va Tech duly noted...]

Again, my overriding point is - I don't trust stats. And the metric system is right out...
 

Om

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Fair enough, DS. Bottom line is we agree on the basic principal here---stats alone are a lousy barometer of a player's "true" objective impact and/or ability. Football is simply too team-oriented a sport to allow it.
 

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