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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Charting Our Progress - The Do-Over

Ok, Like I said this series has been re-tooled. When I went back and looked at my notes (yes, sometimes, I'm that organized, must be a grad student-thing) I realized I hadn't included what was meant to be an important piece of the analysis.

The piece I will be adding involves the incredible work of SMQ and his stats relevance watch. His work is broken into a few parts, but I will explain that as we go on. In addition, you will certainly want to read his entire series at some point.

Anyway, the idea behind the stats relevance watch, according to SMQ was as follows:
"There are, as they say, lies, damn lies, and statistics. The numbers mean something, yet often we know not what. Here SMQ will look at the final regular season statistics in more than a dozen major categories to suss out who succeeded in what and how that statistical success correlated to overall success in terms of final record. SMQ does not have the luxury of a high-powered supercomputer or degree-type qualification in mathematics or statistics, but his analysis will be driven as deep as his egghead, tinfoil cap curiosity and cell phone calculator will take it. That is to say, quasi-scientific at best".
Part I of SMQ's Stat Relevance concerned Which stat correlates most closely to success, where success = W/L record

This is what the analysis by W-L record looks like in terms of the relationship between the winning percentages on the high and low ends of each category:

And SMQ's commentary:
First counterintuitive result: the most penalized teams were slightly better as a whole than the least penalized teams. Penalty yardage, over the course of an entire season, had no discernible effects on winning and losing. You can probably think of a situation that would specifically argue otherwise, cuz penalties are definitely bad, mmmkay?, but they're bad more as situational mistakes than an overall, cumulative drain.

What's more interesting is that offensive categories in general come out looking far more important in the relative measure, which reveals just how truly horrid teams that couldn't move the ball or convert or third downs really were. At the extremes, winners played lights out defense, but big losers offer some evidence that offensive deficiency was slightly more difficult to overcome this season than a defensive one. Again, on the whole.

Extrapolating: want to be good? Play good defense. Want to be very good? Convert fourth downs. Want to not completely suck? Move the ball and convert a few third downs. Penalties? In the end, irrelevant.

Part II of SMQ's Stat Relevance examined What do the best teams do best? Here SMQ was looking at success in terms of rankings and the relevant statistics. The analysis thus invovled examining the AP Top 25 "which was measured in two groups - the Top 10, which are then also included as part of the entire Top 25 - to determine as a whole where the elite of the sport are separating themselves from the pack."

This is what the analysis by rankings looks like:

And SMQ's commentary:
The rallying cry here is de-fense, validated by defensive categories carrying the top half of the chart in a sweep. Ranked teams not only found their run defenses among the nation's best more often than in any other category, but also never among the worst; run defense had the "highest basement" (Tennessee, surprisingly, ranked 71st), and the Vols were the only ranked team not in the top 50 against the run. The other defensive categories, total and pass efficiency defense, can make similar claims - only a couple ranked teams had to overcame a serious weakness in any of the defensive categories. More were able to make do, though, with average or bad aspects of their offense, where playcalling can more easily hide deficiencies. So the numbers show a general trend among ranked teams towards good defense across the board and efficiency and balance more than big yardage offensively.
So what does that mean for the "Charting Our Progress" series. Well, I now plan on examining these variables in terms of how well we performed in 2006 and over the course of Callahan's tenure. What we now will have, however, is some context from which to understand the relative importance of each statistic.

Make sense? I hope so. Now just check back tomorrow for the first installment of the new and improved attempt to chart our progress under Callahan.