Moneyballesque

Billy Beane and his carefully selected team of statistical efficient underachievers surely have changed the perception of winning in sports. As an avid fan of sports and growing interest new media technology I find the Moneyball scenario intriguing. When this past week’s ESPN The Magazine was delivered I was pleasantly surprised to see the entire issue catered toward analytics. The issue included various articles about how sports teams are using analytics. This issue included articles from Oakland A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy utilizing metrics in Saviormetrics an overview of how the Oklahoma City Thunder in Method Actors and Crazy Crap Analytics Can Prove. However, there was one article that most notably stuck out to me about The University of Miami.

The article by Peter Keating, Crunch Time, concerning the idea of offensive efficiency in basketball caught my eye. Miami Hurricanes head coach, Jim Larranaga, (sports fans might remember him as the head coach of George Mason during their impressive March Madness run in 2006) has employed a system of using data in determining offensive efficiency from his players. Basically, data is used to determine how the teams perform when certain players are out on the court. This is important in figuring out the optimal players on the court at the same time for the best performance of the team. This idea is measured in terms of +/_(insert points allowed or scored per 100 possessions).

Below is an example of a Box Store of a Hawks game from ESPN.com. In the far right of the box score is the +/-  that can be used to determine what lineup is the most successful. Using this type of data can help determine the optimal lineup for a team to win games.

The Keating piece lists a few websites Larranaga consults for stats. These stats contain a variety of unique statistics.

KenPom.com. Not going to lie. The amount of statistics and the nature of what they can tell from this KenPom.com are overwhelming. I watch a lot of sports and enjoy empirical evidence when determining my bracket for March Madness, but this site has opened up a world of new statistics from Pyth to AdjT. I had to research how these types of statistical values contribute.Pyth, an extension of Pythagorean expectation from Bill James, adapted by Daryl Morey, attempts to understand how many games a team should win.

Another site, WarrenNolan.com, provides statistics, graphs and charts.

ESPN has also started airing a show, Numbers Never Lie, weekdays on ESPN2 at 3:30. Since my interest in data has grown I have become intrigued with this show. Numbers Never Lie, hosted by Michael Smith and Charissa Thompson, takes topics in sports and applying statistical numbers within the arguments. Below are links to just some of the approaches Numbers Never Lie takes to combine data to help predict and argue sports.

Explaining Super Bowl XLVI: Numbers Never Lie

Numbers Never Lie – Should Broncos Commit To Tebow?

I have decided to introduce some of these same principles into my own Fantasy Baseball management strategy and how I fill out my March Madness Bracket. Sure, it’s just fantasy baseball and to those who are not familiar or interested will not understand. However, I am quite interested to see how utilizing data efficiency in sports will help me in picking players and teams in fantasy sports.

This idea of offensive efficiency in basketball in the Keating article in ESPN Magazine is an intriguing, Moneyball-esque presentation showing that this efficient use of data can not only be used across sports, but in ANY aspect. Sports are just the example, the story, and the explanation, but the principles are universal. Data is becoming trendy. Jim Larranga, Billy Beane, Numbers Never Lie and the other sports analytics experts are taking full advantage of the true value of data efficiency. These same principles can be used for Valpak and any other company willing to explore the endless nature of data efficiency.

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