Friday, October 7, 2011

Old Wine, New Bottles

There's been a recent spate of articles detailing the "Moneypuck" revolution in ice hockey. I've used advanced statistics before, e.g. in defending the misunderstood and oppressed, and find them useful in distilling large amounts of varied data into digestible pieces; they aid in the understanding of certain hockey events. We know more about the game today than we did 5 years ago, and every NHL team should be utilizing advanced statistics in making personnel decisions. That said, I'm with Tom Benjamin: "Hockey statistics will never do what we want them to do, which is to [comprehensively] evaluate individual hockey players." The reasons for this, I think, are complicated and not well understood: the team context pollutes individual results, the game is not comprised of binary or even recordable events, and "[h]ockey statistics do not add up to goals." In any case, NHL teams are starting to look at data more critically and are finally beginning to eschew traditional mythmaking as an explanation for results, and that's a good thing.

I imagine, however, that within this movement both outside and inside organizations there are more than a few snake oil salesmen (cough*puckstopshere*cough) who don't really know what they're doing and are going to try to hoodwink and bamboozle some teams into buying what they're peddling. I don't know if John Weisbrod is such a fellow, but he apparently went to Harvard and reads Thoreau, meaning he's like super smart and well edumacated, and he's involved in the Calgary Flames' efforts to use analytical software programs to evaluate talent. As a scout in the Boston Bruins organization, he "broke it down and redefined what we wanted a Boston Bruin to be," which sounds very, um, new and, er, scientific. But Weisbrod's money quote, after a desultory discussion of the sophisticated ways in which the Flames are using these tools, is regarding his time as GM of the NBA Orlando Magic:

[McGrady] was one of the most talented players in the league, very popular, but I came to the conclusion he didn't have the internal fortitude to win a championship.

The heart/60 metric is one of the great successes of the advanced stat discipline, no doubt.

1 comment:

Arun said...

Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. 14% of people know that