Hockey ain’t Baseball, stats-lovers

Sabremetrics and Moneyball have worked in baseball, but would the same work in hockey?

To me the sports are just too different to allow statistical data to overtake live scouting. Willis mentioned Sabremetrics as a key to the success of the Red Sox, and while I agree it had something to do with their success, I think JW missed an obvious statistical equation with Epstein and the Red Sox: money.

Look at their salaries compared to other teams. To say it was Sabremetrics that won them the World Series, without at least mentioning their gross salary advantage is a bit misleading.

Moneyball makes a much better argument because Oakland made the playoffs four out of the last nine years with a payroll that was always in the bottom ten of team salaries, and three of those years in the bottom five. They had half and sometimes 1/3 of the salary of the Yanks and Red Sox.

Billy Beane’s theory worked to get them to the playoffs, but only once did they win a series. Epstein made the playoffs but the Red Sox were always in the top five in salary, so I think their success is based as much, if not more, on money as Sabermetrics. If anything, the Red Sox championships prove why baseball needs a true salary cap. Sure, the Rays — after years of being the laughingstock of the league — made the playoffs last year, but how long before they lose all of their young players to free agency? It’s a joke when you have the Yanks at $209 million, which is $70 million more than any other team, and almost FIVE times more than the Rays $43 million. I think Moneyball and Sabermetrics was more a product of survival than anything else.

The other reason why stats work better in baseball is that every play starts the exact same way. The pitcher pitches, and the batter tries to hit it. Sure there are lefties and righties to take into the equation, but the play always starts in the exact same spot.

That is not the case in hockey, nor will it ever be. Players have to react much more quickly in many different areas of the game. That doesn’t mean stats aren’t valuable in hockey, and are becoming more common, but the variables in hockey differ from play-to-play and situation-to-situation much more than they do in baseball.

Baseball junkies don’t pipe up and say that hitting a fastball or change up is harder, because I agree it is super tough, but that is more of a twitch muscle reaction and great hand eye coordination. The game of baseball is not as fast, thus split second decisions in hockey happen more frequently. An average hockey player has to make 500-600 decision a game, (based on 13 minutes of icetime), and most of them have to made instantly.

In baseball it’s different, thus the stats can better show the attributes of a player. In hockey, for the same type of stats to work, you would have to break every play down, with every variable. Teams forecheck differently, sometimes a D-man makes a pass with no pressure, while other times he is pressured by the opposition. Are some D-men better at passing across their body, or straight up the ice?

Face-off stats for example could be more accurate if you had: taken on forehand v. backhand… and whether the opponent was on his forehand or backhand. Most guys are naturally better drawing it back on their backhand. I’m sure those stats are coming, but in a game that relies a lot on pure instincts and split second decisions, I think it’s harder to find accurate statistical data that will back up whether a player is contributing to his team.

In baseball, a great defensive infielder has amazing reaction time, and the error stat backs it up. In hockey, I don’t see giveaways as an accurate enough stat, especially because guys who handle the puck more often will obviously have more giveaways. Hemsky has led the Oilers in giveaways for many years, but no one thinks he can’t handle the puck.

Also in Sabremetrics, they feel that drafting a college ball player has a much higher rate of success than drafting a high school player. We will need to see at least a 15-20 year study to see if this is indeed true. That doesn’t seem to be the case in hockey. Almost all of the top young players have come from Major Junior or the European leagues the last ten years, and beyond. Crosby, Kane, Oveckin, Phaneuf, Getzlaf, Carter, Richards, Malkin to name a few.

Currently in the top 30 scorers the only two to play college were Zack Parise, and he left after two seasons and Todd White (**Side note — Todd White top 30 in scoring: I’d love the statistical breakdown on how that is possible. Todd freaking White! Nothing explains why he’s there

But I digress. I’m never one to automatically shun something just because it is different, and I think that some statistical analysis can show sides of a hockey player we never looked at before, but at the same time I think too much of it could make the game robotic.

The best part about hockey is the raw emotion and excitement. The end-to-end rush, a tic-tac-toe goal, a bone-crushing hit, the elation of the crowd, the willingness of a player to try and block a Souray or Chara shot (I’ll take Souray in an upset in the hardest shot later today — 105 for Souray, 104 Chara), a spirited scrap and most of all the mistakes that lead to odd-man rushes or even better goals.

The speed of the game is increasing all of the time, thus the players have to react even quicker, and that will lead to great plays, but also mistakes which the game needs.

I appreciate baseball for the nuances it has, but I also realize it is a much slower game and for me personally not nearly as exciting. Hockey is too fast to break it down in the same fashion as baseball, and that is what makes it great.

Of course hockey could use an upgrade in certain statistical areas, but to breakdown every aspect of the game would be too difficult and I can’t see how the data would be accurate. The guys making the grades are just as likely to make mistakes as the players on the ice. Like I said, I can see areas that it could help, but until they come up with stats for heart, determination, a willingness to compete and battle I just can’t see how a contact sport can rely on statistical data as much as a non-contact sport like baseball.

  • David S wrote:

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    Although I’ve got to say, I’ve been very impressed with the discourse in the last two threads; especially since I don’t think anyone’s called me an idiot yet

    Considering how a discussion like this over at LT’s pretty much got to the point of guys settling things behind the bike racks after class, the civility here borders on amazing.

    Refreshing, isn't it?

  • RobinB

    @ dr_oil:
    I spoke to Matty this morning when I read the item you posted the link to. While Jim hasn't been told by anybody with the Oilers they've inquired about Lecavalier, it's a sensible assumption — thus he worded it carefully — on his part.

    The Oilers have been much more aggressive under the new CBA in getting themselves in the running for players — the offer sheets to Vanek and Penner, the pursuit of Hossa etc., so it's no stretch to believe they will or already have let Brian Lawton know they're interested in getting in on the bidding for Lecavalier if the Lightning decides to move him.

  • Rick

    RobinB wrote:

    @ dr_oil:
    I spoke to Matty this morning when I read the item you posted the link to. While Jim hasn’t been told by anybody with the Oilers they’ve inquired about Lecavalier, it’s a sensible assumption — thus he worded it carefully — on his part.

    So is it safe to chalk up the timing of Matty's blurb and Garrioch's peice as coincidental timing or is there a little more out there that Matty simply wasn't able to confirm?

    Garrioch usually warrants an outright dismissal in terms of accuracy but both segments at the same time does make it a little more interesting.

  • RobinB

    @ dr_oil:
    One other thing: don't be fooled by Lawton's denials about contemplating moving Lecavalier.

    While it might be true the Lightning and Oilers have not talked about the specific package of players Lawton is poo-pooing in the papers today, that doesn't lessen the likelihood Tampa is at least listening to various offers.

    I'm told Lawton has talked to Glen Sather in New York at least once. Lawton will deny that, of course, but I believe the source to be solid.

    GMs like to throw people off by issuing denials about reports, but those denials are often made if any SINGLE aspect of the report is wrong. If, for instance, team X is offering two players, a first-round pick and a prospect for Player A, but the real offer is two players, a first-round pick and a second-rounder (not a prospect), the GM will flatly deny the report even if the teams are talking. That way he can say, "Well, I denied it because that wasn't what was on the table . . ."

  • Dropping Deuces

    RobinB wrote:

    @ dr_oil:
    One other thing: don’t be fooled by Lawton’s denials about contemplating moving Lecavalier.
    While it might be true the Lightning and Oilers have not talked about the specific package of players Lawton is poo-pooing in the papers today, that doesn’t lessen the likelihood Tampa is at least listening to various offers.
    I’m told Lawton has talked to Glen Sather in New York at least once. Lawton will deny that, of course, but I believe the source to be solid.
    GMs like to throw people off by issuing denials about reports, but those denials are often made if any SINGLE aspect of the report is wrong. If, for instance, team X is offering two players, a first-round pick and a prospect for Player A, but the real offer is two players, a first-round pick and a second-rounder (not a prospect), the GM will flatly deny the report even if the teams are talking. That way he can say, “Well, I denied it because that wasn’t what was on the table . . .”

    Lecavallier to the Oilers (e3)

    – Dropping Deuces

  • dr_oil

    Thanks Robin, certainly no surprise by the denial from Lawton, pretty much skimmed that part of the article as it's no surprise, but like Rick says, the timing of both articles was curious.

    I also had a thought about Tampa actually liking the offer from the Oilers but maybe Viny himself wasn't excited about coming here. He seemed to go out of his way this weekend saying how much he loves Montreal. Was that his way of letting his GM, the Oilers and maybe everyone else know where he wants to go, if he goes?

    Lawton could be in full denial based on the fact the trade won't happen because of Vinny himself.

  • RobinB

    @ dr_oil:
    That's right. It's no secret Montreal has been linked most often with Lecavalier, for all the obvious reasons.

    Like you said, Lawton is safe issuing a denial about Edmonton if Lecavalier has whispered in his ear: "Don't even think about trading me there."

  • Dropping Deuces

    RobinB wrote:

    @ dr_oil:
    That’s right. It’s no secret Montreal has been linked most often with Lecavalier, for all the obvious reasons.
    Like you said, Lawton is safe issuing a denial about Edmonton if Lecavalier has whispered in his ear: “Don’t even think about trading me there.”

    Why doesn't someone tell Vinny he would be on a line with Penner. That might change his mind.

    Seriously though, we would have to unload Horcoffs contract in this deal or find someone else who will trade for it. Obviously Cogs or Gagne would be in the package along with Gilbert/Grebs, picks, what else?

  • There are actually 6 former NCAA players in the top 30 in NHL scoring: Zach Parise, Martin St. Louis, Mike Cammalleri, Todd White, Thomas Vanek, and Dany Heatley.

    When you consider that there are really only 20-30 NCAA programs producing NHL players, those numbers are comparable to any one Canadian junior league or European country.

    Furthermore, in baseball, if you looked at just the top 5-10 players, it's mostly foreign players from Latin America, or wunderkinds that are able to play in the pros as an 18 or 19 year old. The idea of drafting college players applies more to the middle-of-the-pack guys, and to some extent, that trend has happened in the NHL as well, where it is becoming more and more common for teams to try and sign older, undrafted free agents from the NCAA to fill out their roster, because there is a higher rate of success and more immediate return on an older player.

  • Nah, Dellow deserves a sound beating.

    ?

    Moneyball makes a much better argument because Oakland made the playoffs four out of the last nine years with a payroll that was always in the bottom ten of team salaries, and three of those years in the bottom five. They had half and sometimes 1/3 of the salary of the Yanks and Red Sox.

    Oakland made the playoffs five out of the past five years, but that's not a big complaint.

    Billy Beane’s theory worked to get them to the playoffs, but only once did they win a series.

    Either you believe in luck in a small sample playoff series or you don't but the A's lost four first round series 3-2. All of the research in baseball indicates that luck (or bounces or whatever) is huge in a single game. The A's seemed to have an awful lot of bizarre losses along the way, the Jeter play and Tejada getting called out against Boston amongst them.

    Personally, I have an awful hard time chalking a five game playoff loss against a team when a series can turn on someone making a play like Jeter did against them. There's just a ton of luck and timing in these things. The Oilers were six minutes away from going down 3-0 against the Sharks (hockey's version of the A's these days) in 2005-06. Raffi scores and all is right with the world. It's sports. Things happening in small samples is not unexpected.

    Epstein made the playoffs but the Red Sox were always in the top five in salary, so I think their success is based as much, if not more, on money as Sabermetrics.

    Lots of teams have spent piles of money over the course of baseball history without making the playoffs. The Red Sox have spent tons of money, sure, but they've also made the playoffs virtually every season. Epstein also basically turned the team over from 2004 to 2007 and won again. While they obviously spend a ton of money, they seem to spend it pretty well. They're undoubtedly one of the best big salary teams in baseball history.

    Sure, the Rays — after years of being the laughingstock of the league — made the playoffs last year, but how long before they lose all of their young players to free agency? It’s a joke when you have the Yanks at $209 million, which is $70 million more than any other team, and almost FIVE times more than the Rays $43 million.

    Since you're a playoff success guy, I'm sure that you're aware that, of the last eight World Series, only the Yankees, Red Sox and Cardinals have played in more than one, and they've all played in two. The point I'm driving at is that, even with the payroll issues, the playoffs in baseball have a large crapshoot aspect to them and, while money spent wisely can buy you better odds, it's probably not a huge difference.

    IIRC, TB has most most of their key guys locked up for five+ years, whether becasue of contracts or their arb status.

    I think Moneyball and Sabermetrics was more a product of survival than anything else.

    Bill James first started doing the writing that's provided the underpinning for a lot of the sabr stuff in the mid-1970's. The Yankees of the late 90's were sabr clubs, in that they were high OBP teams. I'm pretty sure that that's referenced in Moneyball. Your statement is just wrong.

    An average hockey player has to make 500-600 decision a game, (based on 13 minutes of icetime), and most of them have to made instantly.

    While I'm not sure how you've calculated this, the question is how many of those decisions matter, in the sense of having an immediate impact on the scoresheet. I place that number a lot lower. Take Hemsky with the puck crossing centre ice – he can pass it off, dump it in, try to skate it in…sure, there's a decision to be made but no matter what he does, it's unlikely to result in a goal either way. What's of value is the sum of his decisions over time and that's going to be reflected in the SF/SA numbers, the GF/GA numbers and more esoteric numbers like where the faceoffs at the end of his shifts happen. While I recognize that there's a valid point to be made that there's a lot more stuff happening in a hockey game, I don't know that I quite agree that there's a lot more stuff happening that ultimately has a significant impact on anything.

    Face-off stats for example could be more accurate if you had: taken on forehand v. backhand… and whether the opponent was on his forehand or backhand. Most guys are naturally better drawing it back on their backhand.

    I'm not sure that backhand v. forehand is the interesting thing…I'd like to see it recorded where in the zone a faceoff was taken. From that and knowing hte players involved, you can start to get a sense if certain players have "hot spots" or "cold spots", in terms of the location of the faceoff and handedness of the other player, which will dictate what the player is trying to do. I'd bet that teams track it.

    In baseball, a great defensive infielder has amazing reaction time, and the error stat backs it up.

    I'm almost certain that this isn't true. A great defensive player might have amazing reaction time or, and I'm thinking of someone like Cal Ripken here, he might have other attributes like an arm or smart positioning that cover his lack of reaction time. The error stat is pretty much considered to be nothing more than a curiosity by the sabrists.

    Also in Sabremetrics, they feel that drafting a college ball player has a much higher rate of success than drafting a high school player. We will need to see at least a 15-20 year study to see if this is indeed true.

    This is no longer the current thinking amongst baseball sabr types. The draft is basically a series of bets. If teams, as a whole, aren't valuing the various possibilities correctly, you'll get inefficiencies. Rany Jazayerli made a pretty compelling case that there was an inefficiency to be taken advantage of in the past, but, since the release of Moneyball, that teams may well be overrating college hitters relative to high schoolers.

    That doesn’t seem to be the case in hockey. Almost all of the top young players have come from Major Junior or the European leagues the last ten years, and beyond. Crosby, Kane, Oveckin, Phaneuf, Getzlaf, Carter, Richards, Malkin to name a few.

    With respect, you're probably looking at the wrong group when comparing to college players. The most obvious area is foreign born players versus North American players. I don't know whether it's as true today, but I'm almost certain that, in the past, foreign born players were likely underrated at the draft table compared to North American players.

    In any event, the proper question to ask is whether college players drafted in a certain position – say between 10 and 15 or whatever – do better than major junior players drafted in a certain position. The vast majority of stars may well come out of Major Junior or the European league but what really want to know is whether or not one of leagues tends to have its draft picks do better when drafted in a certain area than others.

  • Tyler wrote:

    I’m not sure that backhand v. forehand is the interesting thing…I’d like to see it recorded where in the zone a faceoff was taken. From that and knowing hte players involved, you can start to get a sense if certain players have “hot spots” or “cold spots”, in terms of the location of the faceoff and handedness of the other player, which will dictate what the player is trying to do. I’d bet that teams track it.

    They already track, offensive, defensive and neutral zone faceoffs…you can see it yourself at http://www.nhl.com

    college.Tyler wrote:

    With respect, you’re probably looking at the wrong group when comparing to college players. The most obvious area is foreign born players versus North American players. I don’t know whether it’s as true today, but I’m almost certain that, in the past, foreign born players were likely underrated at the draft table compared to North American players.

    Bang on regarding the four guys I missed being from College. European players are no longer underrated at all, the difference now is that more players want to come and play in the NHL, and that NHL teams employ scouts who solely scout the European leagues.
    Tyler wrote:

    Bill James first started doing the writing that’s provided the underpinning for a lot of the sabr stuff in the mid-1970’s. The Yankees of the late 90’s were sabr clubs, in that they were high OBP teams. I’m pretty sure that that’s referenced in Moneyball. Your statement is just wrong.

    Survival for Oakland specifically is what I meant, because they couldn't compete financially with the big boys. Yes, Epstein might have used Sabrs, but their ability to go out and sign the big free agents had a huge role, and I'd argue a more vital role, because of the quality of players they brought in. My point was that in the NHL teams can't do what the Sox and Yankees do due to the cap and that makes it a more level field.

  • Tyler wrote:

    Oakland made the playoffs five out of the past five years, but that’s not a big complaint.

    Not sure where you looked, but the A's have only made the playoffs once in the past five year, 2006, and that is the only year they won a playoff series.Tyler wrote:

    Either you believe in luck in a small sample playoff series or you don’t but the A’s lost four first round series 3-2. All of the research in baseball indicates that luck (or bounces or whatever) is huge in a single game. The A’s seemed to have an awful lot of bizarre losses along the way, the Jeter play and Tejada getting called out against Boston amongst them.
    Personally, I have an awful hard time chalking a five game playoff loss against a team when a series can turn on someone making a play like Jeter did against them. There’s just a ton of luck and timing in these things. The Oilers were six minutes away from going down 3-0 against the Sharks (hockey’s version of the A’s these days) in 2005-06. Raffi scores and all is right with the world. It’s sports. Things happening in small samples is not unexpected.
    Epstein made the playoffs but the Red Sox were always

    You can say luck played a part, or that the Yankees and Red Sox had better teams because they spent double and sometimes triple the money. Or Oakland is the unluckiest team since the Buffalo Bills, who lost four Superbowls in a row. My point was that the big boys still had an advantage in the playoffs, due to money. And while Beane's believe in Sabrs and moneyball worked in the regular season, it wasn't enough to overcome the big spenders in the playoffs. That's a fact, regardless how much I believe in luck.

  • Re: faceoffs – I'd like to know which circles the faceoffs are in too, ie. to the right or left of the goalie.

    Bang on regarding the four guys I missed being from College. European players are no longer underrated at all, the difference now is that more players want to come and play in the NHL, and that NHL teams employ scouts who solely scout the European leagues.

    The issue with Euros and college players is, as I said, whether they tend to get drafted too low. This isn't something that you can disprove by saying that there are lots of Euros or college guys in the NHL or that the best players tend to be junior grads; that's not the issue. I suspect that the problem isn't as bad as it once was – the 1979 draft is a beauty, with a disproportionate number of the guys who panned out late being college guys or Euros – but Russian drafting has completely gone in the toilet. I can't believe that Russia is that bad, or that the KHL business is going to go on forever; teams are probably missing out with Russian players at the moment.

    Survival for Oakland specifically is what I meant, because they couldn’t compete financially with the big boys. Yes, Epstein might have used Sabrs, but their ability to go out and sign the big free agents had a huge role, and I’d argue a more vital role, because of the quality of players they brought in.

    I'm just not buying that. Look at the Sox roster – the only big money FA on that team was Manny and, arguably, Damon. They had the money to bring in the talented guys but they had a ton of other guys bringing lots of OBP and SLG to the table cheap in the form of Bellhorn, Youkilis, Ortiz, Millar and Mueller. Their entire infield, outside of SS, was basically guys they picked off the scrapheap for nothing, as was their DH.

    It's important to realize that you're kind of mixing two concepts here too: first, the idea of using statistics to identify who doesn't suck, which many teams have done, big and small budget and second, the importance of using statistics to identify players whom the market isn't properly compensating. The A's basically had to specialize in this, because they couldn't afford the guys who the market did pay properly. The Sox could afford some of those guys who were properly paid, but not as many as the Yankees. Their ability to identify the Bellhorns, Millars, Ortiz' and Muellers set them apart from the Yanks, IMO.

    My point was that in the NHL teams can’t do what the Sox and Yankees do due to the cap and that makes it a more level field.

    Well fair enough. Of course, that makes finding some other edge even more vital for big money teams like Edmonton.

    Not sure where you looked, but the A’s have only made the playoffs once in the past five year, 2006, and that is the only year they won a playoff series.

    That's what I get for nit-picking. I meant that it was five out of nine, not four out of nine like you said.

    You can say luck played a part, or that the Yankees and Red Sox had better teams because they spent double and sometimes triple the money. Or Oakland is the unluckiest team since the Buffalo Bills, who lost four Superbowls in a row. My point was that the big boys still had an advantage in the playoffs, due to money.

    Well no, it doesn't necessarily follow that they had an advantage in the playoffs because of money. Maybe it's because Boston and New York are located on the East Coast. Maybe it's because of a lot of things. You're committing a classical logical error here – you're assuming that because because b followed a, b was caused by a. That's just not necessarily true.

    Besides, the Yankees haven't won a playoff series in four years despite being played three and having been the highest paid team in that team. I don't think that the money is determinative myself. At most, it might help us identify who has a better team but, given that Oakland was benefitting from a ton of players whose value wasn't recognized and guys who were still in the cheap years of their contracts, I'm not convinced that the money difference means that muhc.

  • Rick

    Tyler wrote:

    Well no, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they had an advantage in the playoffs because of money.

    ….

    … given that Oakland was benefitting from a ton of players whose value wasn’t recognized and guys who were still in the cheap years of their contracts, I’m not convinced that the money difference means that muhc.

    Baseball is at best a passing interest for me so I have no clue as to how the teams you guys are comparing were made up but how much does experience play a part in the comparison?

    If Oakland's success was based on getting production from players in the cheap years of their contracts I would assume a lack of inexperience is also a part of that. If the Yankees for example are overpaying then I would assume that they are overpaying in part because of experience.

    When it comes to the playoffs inparticular I would think having players with experience must be enough to account for the "luck factor".

    And if that is the case then certainly money spent plays into the equation.

  • Ducey

    Gregor, you might know something about hockey but don't pretend to be an expert on baseball.

    I am not an expert either but …

    a) the difference in drafting college guys vs high school guys in baseball has to do with age. HS guys are 18. College guys are typically 21 due to the eiligibility requirements. Beane and JP Riccardi have traditionally decided that you can make better judgements on where a guy will be when he is 25 when you are looking at a 21/22 year old. As well, the studies show that pitchers tend to get injured at a high rate – especially at a young age. HS pitchers are not a good bet. I could go on, but the point is that this discussion is not applicable to the the hockey draft because everyone is 18.

    b) the college discussion is useful in judging guys who were not drafted. Many guys can develop significantly in college due to being late bloomers, taking advantage of good programs, becoming more mature etc. The Ducks have done very well with college undrafted guys such as the Oilers signing Brian Lerg.

    c) Moneyball has more to do with taking advantage of players who are undervalued by the other teams than stats. Oakland recognized that OBP is the most important aspect of an offensive players value. A player who hit .300/.335 is worth less than a player who hits .250/.360 yet the baseball community valued the former as more valuable. This concept of buying low is directly applicable to hockey. Detroit has done so with Europeans, the Ducks with College seniors, the Oilers even tried with drafting guys like Pisa and Jussi M. Areas to be exploited include overcoming the bias regarding size, Europe etc.

    d)Oakland's success had more to do with great starting pitching than anything. Hudson, Mulder and Zito would make any GM look smart. Since they have gone, Beane has not been as successful.

    e)In hockey, the draft is a complete crapshoot. Figuring out where a player will be when he is in his prime at age 18 is very problmematic. However, simply taking a players stats and looking at his points produced based on time on ice might have reduced Schremp's value somewhat as his high point total was based not only on his talent but his high playing time in London. This is stats. Looking at a players value at even strength also seperates out guys who make a living on the powerplay. This is stats too. I imagine lots of GM's look at a guy in junior and see 39G 60A and figure this guy is going to be a scorer in the NHL. If they were to do a little analysis, they would realize the guy likely won't be on the PP in the NHL and that they should be looking at the his Even Strength production. If 25 goals were scored on the PP, maybe this guys isn't a first round pick anymore.

    f) baseball analysis is greatly enhanced by the fact that there are limited number of outcomes from an at bat and that players play static roles. Even the mighty Bill James would admit that the baseball world has not been able to adequately judge defence based on range etc do to the many variables involved (depth, speed of ball, surface, speed of runner etc).

    g) you are correct in that hockey will never be able to judge the value of a player based solely on stats because there are simply too many aspects to judge and players play both ways. A goal against is due to many factors including the goalie. However, I think your bias is that stats are not worth much. In fact they are. A good GM will apply statistical analysis the numbers to a bunch of players allowing him to target certain players that are being overlooked. He then can scout that player more specifically. I expect a GM that will do this will win more trades and more games than the traditional Don Cherry types.

  • Ducey wrote:

    Gregor, you might know something about hockey but don’t pretend to be an expert on baseball.

    I don't recall saying I'm an expert anywhere on Baseball. I said that baseball uses more stats and I think it is a sport where stats can tell more of the story than they do in hockey.

    Ducey wrote:

    Beane and JP Riccardi have traditionally decided that you can make better judgements on where a guy will be when he is 25 when you are looking at a 21/22 year old.

    Why even mention Riccardi in the same boat as Beane? He hasn't had near the success rate, and the Jays record shows that his ability to evaluate talent is not where it needs to be.Ducey wrote:

    However, I think your bias is that stats are not worth much. In fact they are. A good GM will apply statistical analysis the numbers to a bunch of players allowing him to target certain players that are being overlooked. He then can scout that player more specifically. I expect a GM that will do this will win more trades and more games than the traditional Don Cherry types.

    I never said stats aren't worth much, but rather the way hockey is played it makes it harder to find stats that are applicable. Of course stats are useful, I just don't see how they will match up to the statistical analysis of baseball.

  • Hawerchuk

    I think there's a bit of a definition problem here. The view of "statistics" you present here is dated. Baseball has moved beyond the stationary view of the game and the (X+Y)/(A+B) approach that Bill James used because he didn't have any other data at his disposal.

    Just a couple of simple examples: Ultimate Zone Rating (now at least 8 years old), which uses observations of the speed and trajectory of every batted ball to measure fielding ability; and Pitch-F/X, which gives you release point and location data for every pitch thrown. This data's being tracked because people realized that baseball is not a stationary game that you can measure using the basic statistics that were developed in 1876.

    Interestingly, a lot of the analysis you see of this new kind of data is really simple – the big deal is that you've got reams and reams of what amounts to subjective (or objective in the case of Pitch-F/X) scouting information, and someone is looking for patterns in it.

    If you don't think this kind of thing can be applied to hockey, I'd point to Dennis' work over at Mudcrutch's site. He's doing something very simple – watching games, recording when there's a scoring chance, and writing down who's on the ice – and then he just adds all the chances together. He's scouting the game, except he's being rigorous and recording everything – but his final "statistical" analysis is really, really simple – yet extremely powerful.

    I don't see how you could argue that you get less out of Dennis' approach than you do out of "watching the game" without objectively keeping track of what happened. Indeed, I'm sure that the best teams employ people to watch film and count exactly the kinds of things that Dennis counts.

    In terms of analysis, hockey's about 20 years behind baseball, and that long ago, it didn't seem like all this "math" was going to have an impact on the game. But if the NHL were to stick RFID tags on every player and the puck and track their location throughout the entire game, we'd have some very simple but significant analytical results with a matter of years.