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How would moneyball work in Football?

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#21 BuffOrange

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 03:16 PM

View Postjjamie12, on 02 January 2013 - 03:13 PM, said:

Seriously?  No one here has heard of Football Outsiders?

:lol:  I was thinking the same thing....for a crowd that loves to gripe about espn, there is a smarter world out there.

#22 San Jose Bills Fan

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 03:16 PM

View Postjjamie12, on 02 January 2013 - 03:13 PM, said:

Seriously?  No one here has heard of Football Outsiders?

Actually they, along with Cold, Hard, Football Facts, and Pro Football Focus have been discussed here numerous times.

#23 yungmack

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 03:32 PM

What makes Money Ball work in MLB is the absence of shared revenue, which leads to massive differences in the amounts of money available to spend on salaries from the "poorer" teams to the extremely wealthy.

The "money" part of Money Ball is useless in the NFL where teams each receive the same amount money and now have to spend a minimum on salary, and all are capped on the maximum.

HOWEVER, the formulae for identifying and ranking the value of one player over the other is still highly useful even if finding bargains is virtually nil.  In other words, the money you intend to spend on players still gets spent but hopefully the sabremetrics approach does a better job of identifying the right players on which to spend that money.

#24 BisonMan

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 03:42 PM

There is really no limit to the number of things that you could measure in football because the game is so intricate. The important factors are the ones that smart clubs would rely upon. For example, turnovers are likely a key metric in driving winning percentage. They also might be the most random. For example, forced fumbles might be good but fumble recoveries might not be. Interceptions in man-to-man coverage might be weighted higher than interceptions in zone coverage, etc.

For individual positions, each team likely has their own evaluation standards that should be tracked and standardized based on the competition. For example, if a Bills OT gets beat 3 times in one week by JJ Watt, that's not going to be rated as poorly as somebody getting beat 2 times by a second stringer. Essentially, they have to control for the environment (Cetus Paribus for all of your statistics geeks).


They may find some metrics telling that nobody really thought were important. For example, a normally stellar CB might experience a blown coverage once every 20 plays but that blown coverage wipes out all the good he's done the other 19 plays in terms of yardage given up or scores. The team might decide that he is worth less than a mediocre CB who never gives up big plays. Everybody knows Revis is great but how do you evaluate two lesser talents with different tendencies?


Once they evaluate performances, they have to pour the information into their salary system in order to make sure they aren't overpaying for talent. This is where the Moneyball factors come into play. If the stellar CB is priced more highly by "traditional football minds" and your evaluation systems shows that the mediocre CB delivers the same about in terms of WINS, you pay for the mediocre CB and let Philly sign the other guy.

I also think that metrics might dictate the way you play the game as far as the QB position. The A's played the game differently in the early 2000s than other teams did. They took more walks and their slugging percentages were lower. Nonetheless, they won more games than almost anyone else. We may be seeing this played out this year in Seattle where the Seahawks QB does not throw as well by traditional measures as a more traditional QB but they've changed the style of play for the position to get just as much out of him (run option). Obviously, teams will catch up to this going forward to some extent but in the meantime, they are succeeding with a 3rd round rookie at the helm.

Anyone wanting to read a cool book on sports statistics and their use by team, try Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won by Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim. It's terrific.

#25 dave mcbride

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 03:56 PM

View PostSan Jose Bills Fan, on 02 January 2013 - 03:16 PM, said:

Actually they, along with Cold, Hard, Football Facts, and Pro Football Focus have been discussed here numerous times.
I don't think they're discussed enough, truth be told.

For instance, check this out: http://www.footballo...fensive-defeats .

Notice that in 2006 - London Fletcher's last year with the Bills - he registered one of the best records of "defeats" in the past 15 year or so years. The Bills thought his time was up, as we all know.

#26 K-9

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 04:12 PM

View Postdave mcbride, on 02 January 2013 - 03:56 PM, said:

I don't think they're discussed enough, truth be told.

For instance, check this out: http://www.footballo...fensive-defeats .

Notice that in 2006 - London Fletcher's last year with the Bills - he registered one of the best records of "defeats" in the past 15 year or so years. The Bills thought his time was up, as we all know.

I don't know. Realizing that Defeats for a DL and LB are created differently, and taking nothing away from Watt or any other great player, when I see Nick Barnett is tied 11th in the league for Defeats through week 13 of this season, I gotta wonder about this stat. He was simply horrible this year and his numbers would reflect the sheer number of times teams went after him more than anything else IMHO.

http://www.footballo...eats-weeks-1-13

GO BILLS!!!

#27 DC Tom

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 04:30 PM

View PostEdwards, on 02 January 2013 - 02:54 PM, said:

Developing a Moneyball tool for football would, as K9 has pointed out, be a difficult task. But not necessarily an impossible one.

If I was tasked with developing such a system, I'd do the following:

1. Define the variable I want to maximize
2. Develop metrics to measure players' contributions to those variables.
3. Measure each current and potential player on those metrics.
4. Obtain players who provide the maximum ratio of contribution to money spent.

For step 1, I think a fairly decent metric would be yards gained per play (offense) and yards yielded per play (defense). Those could be further broken down into yards/running play and yards/passing play. One could refine the above by also taking into account turnovers. Yards per passing play should be weighted three times as heavily as yards per running play or turnovers. (The number three comes from a regression analysis performed by The New York Times.)

For step 2, you define each player's task on a specific play. Then you rate how well he achieved his task. A quarterback's job is to throw the ball accurately, an offensive lineman's job is to win his battle against the guy across the line from him, etc. You could rate the accuracy of each pass on a scale from 1 - 5, the quality of a QB's decision on a scale from 1 - 3, etc. You could also rate the quality of a WR's catching on a scale from 1 - 5; where a 5 counts as catching a very poorly thrown ball, a 3 counts as catching a well-thrown ball, and a 2 counts as dropping a difficult-to-catch (but still catchable) pass.

Step 3 involves watching a ton of film. It will probably be necessary to watch the same game many times, just so that each player can be assigned a grade on the above-described scale. Ideally, you and your staff would watch at least 1 - 2 seasons' worth of games, with each player assigned a grade for each play. Once you had that data, it would be fairly straightforward to develop a statistical model which could answer questions like, "If an offensive lineman loses his battle against a defender, how many fewer yards is the running play likely to gain than would have been the case, had he won the battle?" Once you can answer questions like that, then you can determine your average expected yards per running play with Offensive Lineman A versus Offensive Lineman B.

For step 4, you look for guys who can provide the most yardage per play at the lowest possible cost. This does not necessarily mean weeding out star players and their high salaries. A guy like Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning almost certainly contributes enough to his team's yards per pass play to more than justify a princely salary.

Except in your weird-ass mathematical world, that would never work, because error would always cause performance to regress to the mean, you !@#$ing froot loop.

#28 nashvillebills

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 04:49 PM

"I saw a great film recently.  It was called "Moneyball".  That Brad Pitt is so handsome.  It was a real entertaining motion picture.  In the movie, they used mathematics and these thingeys called "statistics" to evaluate a players overall worth..... I figured, what the hell, let's give it a try, we'll be viewed as innovative and forward-thinking!"    -Russ B.

gagbarfgaggggbarfffffff..gllllllllllllwoosh.

#29 Edwards' Arm

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 06:39 PM

View PostDC Tom, on 02 January 2013 - 04:30 PM, said:

Except in your weird-ass mathematical world, that would never work, because error would always cause performance to regress to the mean, you !@#$ing froot loop.

The mods haven't gotten around to banning you yet?

#30 BiLLsMaFiA1982

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 09:48 PM

View Postjr1, on 02 January 2013 - 01:43 PM, said:

Kyle Moore instead of Kelsey

This is a great analytics example in upside!

#31 K-9

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 09:56 PM

View PostBiLLsMaFiA1982, on 02 January 2013 - 09:48 PM, said:

This is a great analytics example in upside!

Except the analytics didn't tell us how bad Kyle Moore is against the run.

GO BILLS!!!

#32 Buffalo Barbarian

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 10:50 PM

View Postcage, on 02 January 2013 - 01:30 PM, said:

I'm surprised there isn't a thread on this yet, but one of Brandon's big announcements was the Bills will develop a sophisticated analytics operation to evaluate players....

NFL.com article

I'm interested in thoughts on several things.... does anyone know if any other NFL teams have dedicated any significant resources or had success with this approach?  Where and how would it be applied outside of salary negotiations?  I'm wondering what examples people can point to on the good/bad decisions that might be made with this approach?

If we were using sophisticated analytics I imagine that we would never have signed Fitz to a big contract, may have passed on Mario Williams in free agency and might have let Stevie walk?


hopefully this will help buddy see and feel a lot better.


"More traditional GMs, like the Bills' Buddy Nix, don't know what to make of it.

"You know, obviously, I'm old-school in more ways than one," Nix said, laughing. "It'll be something I'll have to get used to because I go a lot on feel and what I see."

#33 Kelly the Dog

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 10:58 PM

There was a good interview with the dude from Football Outsiders on GR this afternoon. It's probably in their audio vault. He repeatedly said that his metrics could be used in the NFL as a guide to make coaches and talent scouts evaluate guys on film. He went out of his way to say football metrics can only do so much and you should never base your decisions on them. It should point out stuff and players that may go unnoticed and then you should take a closer look at that player on film and then make your decision. It was a pretty interesting admission from a guy on the forefront of the football metrics business.

He also pointed out the vast difference between baseball metrics and football metrics, especially the obvious difference being that if you take a baseball player off one team and put him on another, he's going to be the same hitter with the possible exception of the park dimensions. But that doesn't at all apply to football players.

#34 San Jose Bills Fan

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 11:02 PM

View PostBuffalo Barbarian, on 02 January 2013 - 10:50 PM, said:

Hopefully this will help Buddy see and feel a lot better.

"More traditional GMs, like the Bills' Buddy Nix, don't know what to make of it.

"You know, obviously, I'm old-school in more ways than one," Nix said, laughing. "It'll be something I'll have to get used to because I go a lot on feel and what I see."

Even the biggest proponents of analytics/sabermetrics admit that it has limitations.

But the Nix quote above is exactly the sort of statement that Michael Lewis attacked in Moneyball.

It's probably useful to consider the old school and the new approach.

#35 Buffalo Barbarian

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 11:09 PM

View Postdave mcbride, on 02 January 2013 - 01:51 PM, said:

San Francisco tried a moneyball approach around 2005 or so, and it failed for a number of years. The guy behind it is Paraag Marathe: http://sfist.com/200...yball_49ers.php . He's still one of the powers in the organization, though, so I guess one could argue that it paid off in the end. They were in the wilderness for a long time, though. Basically, it's really hard, not just because of the way you value players and assign credit on plays with 22 moving parts. Injuries are much more frequent in the NFL and careers shorter. Hence when you're thinking about signing someone long term the formula doesn't really work given the projection issues.

Maybe now it is more refined and have tweaked it to work after some early failures like many inventions today that we take for granted.

#36 Buffalo Barbarian

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 11:23 PM

View PostSan Jose Bills Fan, on 02 January 2013 - 11:02 PM, said:

Even the biggest proponents of analytics/sabermetrics admit that it has limitations.

But the Nix quote above is exactly the sort of statement that Michael Lewis attacked in Moneyball.

It's probably useful to consider the old school and the new approach.

I agree that all methods should be used, but I basically was saying that I don't like how he as drafted so far.

#37 Buftex

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 11:35 PM

View Postnashvillebills, on 02 January 2013 - 04:49 PM, said:

"I saw a great film recently.  It was called "Moneyball".  That Brad Pitt is so handsome.  It was a real entertaining motion picture.  In the movie, they used mathematics and these thingeys called "statistics" to evaluate a players overall worth..... I figured, what the hell, let's give it a try, we'll be viewed as innovative and forward-thinking!" -Russ B.

gagbarfgaggggbarfffffff..gllllllllllllwoosh.

Well...I am not saying I agree with the "moneyball" principle for football, but Russ Brandon worked for the Florida Marlins, prior to the Bills...the franchise won a World Series using "moneyball"...and another one later... I am skeptical...

#38 pimp 2

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 01:21 AM

The part of using this to attack the opponents weakness in different formations, is what intrigues me. This I believe is what Bill-cheat does so will against his opponents...what I get from Russ is that he wants a HC that buys into this concept of strategy and not just the traditional way of film study. Andy Reid (other coaches also) used the scripted 8-12 plays with different formations to tip the DC's gameplan, then flip his charts to adjust his offensive gameplan  to the Def formations weakness...pretty sure he used some form of analytically data for player or formational weakness.Hell, I used to scream at Chan (thru the TV) because it never seemed like the Bills had a glue of how to attack the opponents weakness. The game that convinced me of this was the Jets game when Maybin had the 2 sacks. Knowing Maybins weakness at DE, CG never ran not once at him while he was on the field...not even a draw or screen.

#39 Phlegm Alley

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 01:51 AM

http://sportsillustr...508/1/index.htm

Everyone should read this article to help them understand exactly what types of analytics teams are using.  Not just for player evaluation (attaching a GPS to each player to get an idea of WR's route running, or closing time for a CB in pass coverage), but also for game situations, like how to attack in OT (should teams be more conservative, or run the 2-minute drill?).

A lot of teams have had analytics departments for some time now, and they make it no secret.  Whatever advantage you have to win should be exploited.

#40 bowery4

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 10:03 AM

I mean there is this link, so I get the jist of it... but my question is how new and effeftive are they?
http://www.wgrz.com/...tball-Analytics
I haven't seen any discussion about it on here, just wondering what you all think.

Sorry just saw the money ball thread :doh: this can be deleted mods