On Advanced Sports Analytics
Does Charles Barkley have a valid point against them?
The other day I was at home flipping back and forth between a Spurs playoff game and a Curb Your Enthusiasm rerun, when I caught one of Charles Barkley’s rants against advanced analytics. Since I am the founder of a sports analytics company, my first reaction was this was just Charles being Charles. But after I thought about it for a minute, I actually began to agree with him to a certain degree.
I have played in maybe thousands of pick up basketball games in my life, and I have to admit,
I could spend hours talking with a person at a dinner party, and still not make as good of a connection with someone the way I do after running a harmonious, back door cut with a complete stranger during a pickup game.
Some players can just flat out ball together, and there are no box score statistics that can quantify that intangible.
There are certain players that everyone just loves playing with. These players aren’t the ones who have the new Air Jordan’s on, or the players with the full arms sleeves and headbands. They are the guys who make the extra pass before the assist, the guys who box out, the guys who get your help when you don’t get back on defense, and they are the guys who tell you to keep shooting after you clank five misses in a row off the backboard. There are no box score statistics that promote these players, and yet they are an invaluable asset to every team.
Our mission at 6th Man Apps is to help quantify the intangibles that go into finding who truly are ones responsible for why or why not your team is productive. We realized that box score statistics (such as points, rebounds, steals, etc) can be incredibly misleading. Box score statistics simply overlook the players that don’t necessarily light up the stat sheet, and they fail to find the players that, when they are in the game good things happen.
One example of an advanced analytic that I think coaches need to take with a grain of salt is what is called the Tendex. The Tendex is a player evaluation metric that is designed to give coaches one number based on box score statistics to evaluate a player. Usually the formula looks something like this.
[(Points)+(Rebounds)+(Assists)+(Steals)+(Blocks)- (Missed Field Goal Attempts)-0.5*(Missed Free Throws)-(Turnovers)-(Fouls)]/(Player Minutes)
Although this statistic is nice to have, nine times out of ten it is going to tell you what you already know, and that is, on paper who is your best player.
The approach 6th Man Apps takes on the Tendex statistic is instead of applying it to a single player, we apply it to an entire lineup. So for example we tell you “when these five players are on the floor at the same time, here is their Tendex as a unit, and each player indivually.”. This helps explain to coaches why a particular players Tendex sees dramatic fluctuations from game to game.
In taking this approach with the Tendex and other advanced analytics, we believe it gives coaches the ability to identify role players in a way that has never be done before.
HoopMetrics is a basketball scorebook, and stat keeping program available for the iPhone & iPad.