Sports Statistician Answers Sports Math Questions From Twitter | Tech Support | WIRED

WIRED
17 Oct 202313:11
EducationalLearning
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TLDRDean Oliver, a former NBA assistant coach and sports statistical analyst, addresses various sports analytics questions. He explains the efficiency of layups in basketball, compares Michael Jordan and LeBron James, and discusses the importance of the passer rating in football. Oliver also touches on the rise in no-hitters in baseball, the value of defense in basketball, and the significance of advanced stats in the NBA. He provides insights into the role of a sports statistician and the importance of interdisciplinary knowledge in the field.

Takeaways
  • ๐Ÿ€ The most efficient shot in basketball is the layup due to its high success rate and potential for foul calls leading to free throws.
  • ๐Ÿ€ Three-point shots are the second most efficient due to the extra point awarded, despite a lower success rate.
  • ๐Ÿ† Comparing Michael Jordan and LeBron James, Jordan was a slightly better defender while LeBron is a better passer and adopted the three-point shot earlier.
  • ๐Ÿ“Š Becoming a sports statistician requires knowledge of sports, programming (like Python), and understanding of statistics and communication between math and sports people.
  • ๐Ÿˆ The most important quarterback stat is passer rating, but ESPN's QBR is considered more comprehensive in the modern NFL.
  • โšพ๏ธ The increase in no-hitters correlates with lower batting averages and changes in defensive strategies, such as the now-illegal shift in baseball.
  • ๐Ÿ€ In high-pressure situations like the final free throw, players' performance can be affected, with studies showing a 5-10% decrease in shooting accuracy.
  • ๐Ÿ† Defense in basketball helps teams win championships by strategically countering opponents' strengths in the playoffs.
  • โšฝ๏ธ Messi and Ronaldo's comparison in soccer is primarily based on goals scored, which is not a perfect measure but is the most commonly used statistic.
  • ๐Ÿˆ NFL running backs are being devalued due to a better understanding of the offensive line's impact on their performance.
  • ๐Ÿ€ Advanced stats like offensive and defensive ratings are highly applicable and effective in the NBA, providing a detailed understanding of team performance.
Q & A
  • What is considered the most efficient shot in basketball?

    -The most efficient shot in basketball is the layup or any shot around the rim, as it has a higher percentage of success and a higher likelihood of resulting in a foul.

  • Why are shots beyond the three-point arc considered efficient despite a lower success rate?

    -Shots beyond the three-point arc are efficient because they award an extra point, making the 35% success rate valuable due to the increased point potential.

  • How does Dean Oliver compare Michael Jordan and LeBron James statistically?

    -Oliver suggests that while Michael Jordan was a slightly better defender, LeBron James is a better passer and adopted the three-point shot earlier. Overall, they are considered almost equally skilled.

  • What are the necessary skills to become a sports statistician?

    -To become a sports statistician, one needs a strong understanding of sports, programming (like Python), knowledge of statistics (both basic and advanced), and effective communication skills to convey mathematical concepts to sports and non-sports audiences.

  • What is the significance of passer rating in evaluating a quarterback's performance?

    -Passer rating is the longest-standing metric that evaluates a quarterback's performance based on touchdowns, yards, completion percentage, and interceptions, although newer metrics like ESPN's QBR are considered more comprehensive.

  • Why has there been an increase in no-hitters in baseball?

    -The increase in no-hitters is attributed to lower batting averages due to defensive shifts and changes in pitcher management, with games now often involving multiple pitchers instead of one.

  • How does the pressure of a game situation affect a basketball player's free throw shooting?

    -Pressure can affect a player's free throw shooting, with studies showing that shooters under pressure may perform 5 to 10% worse due to factors like altered depth perception and increased heart rate.

  • In what ways does defense contribute to winning championships in basketball?

    -While offense often carries teams through the regular season, the best teams in the playoffs know how to enhance their defense to counter better offensive teams and strategically defend key players.

  • What is the true shooting percentage in basketball and how is it calculated?

    -True shooting percentage is calculated by dividing total points scored by a player or team by their shot attempts, which includes field goal attempts and a fraction of free throw attempts, providing a more accurate representation of a player's scoring efficiency.

  • Why are running backs currently being devalued in the NFL?

    -Running backs are being devalued because of a growing recognition that the offensive line plays a significant role in their yardage, leading to a shift in credit for performance from individual running backs to the collective offensive line.

  • How do advanced stats like offensive and defensive ratings work in the NBA?

    -Offensive and defensive ratings in the NBA measure how many points a team scores and allows per 100 possessions, providing a precise representation of a team's performance on both ends of the court.

Outlines
00:00
๐Ÿ€ Insights into Basketball Analytics

Dean Oliver, a former assistant coach for the Washington Wizards, addresses various basketball-related queries, emphasizing the efficiency of different basketball shots, comparing Michael Jordan and LeBron James, and explaining the educational background beneficial for a sports statistician. He discusses the importance of quarterback stats in football, reasons behind the increase in no-hitters in baseball, and the impact of pressure on free throw success. Oliver also touches on the role of defense in winning championships and evaluates the statistical comparison between Messi and Ronaldo, focusing mainly on their goal-scoring records.

05:01
๐Ÿ“Š Advanced Sports Metrics and Their Impact

The script delves into advanced sports analytics, addressing misconceptions about Derek Jeter's fielding abilities, explaining NFL spreads, and clarifying true shooting percentage in basketball. Oliver highlights the evolving valuation of NFL running backs and the effectiveness of advanced NBA statistics. He also explains the statistical assessment of NFL offensive guards, debates the overrated nature of assists in basketball, and acknowledges the transformative impact of Bill James and Billy Beane on baseball through their data-driven approaches.

10:03
๐Ÿ”ข The Significance of Various Sports Statistics

The focus shifts to the relevance of different statistics in the NBA, debunking the common emphasis on traditional stats and highlighting the importance of offensive and defensive ratings. Oliver explains the 'four factors' that determine the efficiency of a team, discusses the complexity of the triangle offense, and assesses red zone efficiency's value in football. He concludes by addressing the key metrics that signify a receiver's ability in the NFL, emphasizing the evolution and significance of sports analytics in understanding and enhancing player and team performances.

Mindmap
Keywords
๐Ÿ’กLayup
A layup in basketball is a two-point shot attempt made by leaping from below, laying the ball up near the basket, and using one hand to bounce it off the backboard and into the basket. It's described as the most efficient shot in basketball due to its high success rate. Dean Oliver mentions it to illustrate the importance of shot selection in basketball, highlighting that shots around the rim not only have a higher percentage of going in but also increase the likelihood of drawing fouls, which can lead to additional points from free throws.
๐Ÿ’กThree-point arc
The three-point arc is the circular line around the basket beyond which players can score three points for a successful shot, as opposed to two points for shots made from inside this line. Oliver discusses the efficiency of shots beyond the three-point arc, noting that even though these shots are made at a lower percentage compared to layups, the extra point awarded makes them a crucial aspect of basketball strategy.
๐Ÿ’กDefensive rating
Defensive rating is a statistic that measures how many points a team allows per 100 possessions. It is a key metric in evaluating a team's defensive efficiency. Dean Oliver highlights this statistic when discussing the most important statistics in the NBA, emphasizing that defensive rating, alongside offensive rating, provides a more accurate representation of a team's overall performance compared to traditional stats like points or rebounds.
๐Ÿ’กEffective field goal percentage
Effective field goal percentage (eFG%) is a basketball statistic that adjusts the field goal percentage to account for the fact that three-point field goals count for three points while two-point field goals count for two points. Oliver mentions this metric as part of the 'four factors' that explain why an offense or a defense is efficient, showcasing its importance in understanding shooting efficiency.
๐Ÿ’กQBR
Quarterback Rating (QBR) is a statistic used in football to measure the performance of quarterbacks. It considers various factors, including touchdowns, yards, completion percentage, and interceptions. Dean Oliver points out that QBR is a better metric than the traditional passer rating because it also accounts for modern NFL elements like the running quarterback and avoiding sacks, providing a more comprehensive assessment of a quarterback's effectiveness.
๐Ÿ’กShift
In baseball, the shift refers to a defensive strategy where fielders move from their traditional positions to locations where a batter is most likely to hit the ball, based on statistical analysis. Oliver discusses the impact of the shift on the increase in no-hitters and how making the shift illegal aims to balance the defense's ability to shut down hitters.
๐Ÿ’กTrue shooting percentage
True shooting percentage (TS%) is a basketball statistic that measures a player's efficiency at shooting the ball. It takes into account field goals, three-point field goals, and free throws. Oliver describes TS% as a more comprehensive metric for evaluating a player's scoring efficiency because it considers the total points scored relative to the totality of a player's shooting attempts, including the added value of three-pointers and the ability to draw fouls and score from free throw attempts.
๐Ÿ’กPasser rating
Passer rating is a measure of the performance of passers, primarily quarterbacks, in American football. It evaluates quarterbacks based on touchdowns, yards, completion percentage, and interceptions. However, Oliver critiques passer rating for its simplicity and limitations in capturing a quarterback's overall impact, promoting the use of more modern metrics like QBR.
๐Ÿ’กOn-base percentage
On-base percentage (OBP) is a baseball statistic that measures how often a batter reaches base for any reason other than a fielding error, fielder's choice, hit by pitch, or force out. Oliver mentions OBP in the context of Billy Beane and Bill James' influence on baseball, highlighting their recognition of walks (and by extension, OBP) as undervalued aspects of player performance.
๐Ÿ’กProgramming with Python
Python is a high-level programming language known for its ease of learning and flexibility, making it popular in various fields, including data analysis and sports analytics. Oliver emphasizes the importance of programming skills, particularly in Python, for aspiring sports statisticians. He suggests that knowledge of programming, along with sports and statistics, is essential for effectively analyzing and communicating sports data.
Highlights

The most efficient shot in basketball is the layup, as it offers a higher percentage shot and a higher chance of getting to the foul line.

The second most important shot in basketball is beyond the three-point arc, due to the extra point awarded, despite a lower success rate.

In comparing Michael Jordan and LeBron James, Jordan was a slightly better defender, while LeBron is a better passer and adopted the three-point shot earlier.

To become a sports statistician, one needs to know sports, programming languages like Python, and have a solid understanding of statistics.

The passer rating is the longest existing quarterback stat, evaluating touchdowns, yards, completion percentage, and interceptions.

QBR from ESPN is considered a better metric than traditional passer rating, as it accounts for modern NFL elements like running quarterbacks and avoiding sacks.

The increase in no-hitters in baseball is attributed to lower batting averages and changes in pitcher management, with more combined no-hitters and fewer complete games.

Defense can contribute to winning championships, especially in the playoffs, by strategically defending against better offensive teams and taking away the best players.

Messi is considered better than Ronaldo in soccer stats primarily based on goals scored, which is the most commonly used measure of individual performance.

Derek Jeter was a below-average fielder despite his reputation and gold gloves, due to his limited range and ability to get to the ball.

NFL spreads are calculated based on various factors including player availability, game location, weather conditions, and refereeing crew tendencies.

True shooting percentage is a more representative stat that captures the efficiency of a player's scoring from field goal attempts, accounting for both two-point and three-point shots as well as free throws.

Pitcher wins are a meaningful but incomplete stat, as they indicate winning and avoiding losing but do not capture the details of a pitcher's performance.

Running backs in the NFL are currently being devalued due to a better understanding of the importance of the offensive line in their success.

Advanced stats are particularly effective in the NBA, providing a detailed representation of team performance through offensive and defensive ratings per 100 possessions.

In the NFL, offensive guards can be statistically measured based on their blocking effectiveness against defensive players, using extensive data tracking player positions and movements.

Assists in the NBA may be overrated for some players who get them from simple passes, but they remain valuable for those who create complex scoring opportunities.

Bill James and Billy Beane changed baseball by using data to identify undervalued statistics like walks or on-base percentage, giving their teams a strategic advantage.

Offensive and defensive ratings per 100 possessions are the most important statistics in the NBA, providing a clear picture of a team's efficiency on both ends of the court.

The triangle offense relies on the strengths of the players to make decisions and create good shots, but its success is limited to certain coaches and teams.

Red zone efficiency is a useful but not perfect NFL statistic, as it helps explain and predict the success of offenses but does not account for all variables.

For wide receivers, there is no simple metric that fully represents their ability; instead, a complex series of analytical stats like drops and catch difficulty must be considered.

Transcripts
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