The chasm between information and knowledge

A few weeks ago, Houston Rockets GM and co-chair of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Daryl Morey wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review titled “Success Comes from Better Data, Not Better Analysis.” As the title indicates, Morey – the first NBA GM to really use quantitative analysis, leading some to call him basketball’s Billy Beane – posits that “the age of the irreplaceable analyst no longer exists” and that the way to gain a competitive edge is by having better data. He elaborates: I see a world teeming with really good analysts. Fresh analytical faces are minted each year and sports teams are hiring them in larger numbers. If talented analysts are becoming plentiful, however, then it follows that analysts cannot be the key to creating a consistent winner, as a sustainable competitive edge requires that you have something valuable AND irreplaceable. If better analysts won't create […]

Measuring the value of a pass

When looking at passing statistics, many people tend to get hung up on pass completion percentage. The reasons for this are understandable; completion percentage is the most widely available number out there, it’s relatively simple to digest and it makes for easy comparisons between players. But pass completion percentage is not a very good measure of the value of a pass. While it measures how adept a player is at keeping the ball for his team, it doesn’t account for how much the pass impacted the team’s chances of scoring or – in the case of an incomplete pass – conceding a goal. StatDNA’s Ben Alamar came up with a in a June analysis, using a sample of over 130,000 passes from the Brazilian Serie A to examine the effect that each pass has on the odds that a team will score a goal. He bases the analysis on pass […]

Player tracking systems: Finding answers and creating questions

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about how to improve soccer statistics. We’re changing things up a bit today, shifting the discussion from how to expand upon statistics to looking at what tools teams use to obtain and analyze data. Specifically, we’ll be discussing player tracking systems. Player tracking systems are pretty much exactly what they sound like: tools that track every movement of every player on the field to collect and produce data. Companies that provide player tracking systems include Amisco and Prozone (who announced in June that they are merging) as well as STATS LLC (whose program is called SportVu) and TRACAB. These firms have contracts with teams and leagues all over the world, including the big-time – and big-money – squads that dominate Europe year after year. Teams that use player tracking systems — a growing group that includes Real Madrid, Chelsea, Arsenal and […]

Follow up: Other ways to improve the chance creation statistic

Last week, we wrote about how chance creation – a pass that leads to a shot on goal – is a better measure of a player’s worth than assist totals. That same article hit on some of chance creation’s flaws and discussed a way to improve the statistic, positing that using chance creation numbers in conjunction with path analysis could help teams in the transfer market. The discussion of how to improve chance creation was taken a step further in that article’s comments section and on Twitter, with readers coming up with several good ideas on how to improve the metric. The first – and most common – idea of how to improve the chance creation statistic involved giving each chance created a certain weight. We’ll expand upon that idea here. As pointed out in the previous article’s comments section, the quality of chances created and the degree of difficulty […]

Going beyond the assist: How chance creation and path analysis can help teams in the transfer market

Omar Chaudhuri recently pointed out on his blog 5 Added Minutes that assist totals are not a very good way of measuring a player’s value. The reason for this is rather simple: A player’s assist total is highly dependent upon the finishing ability of his teammates. A statistic that gives us a better idea of a player’s value is chance creation, defined as a pass that leads to a shot on goal. Chance creation gives us a better measure of a player’s value than assists because chance creation does not depend as much as assists on a teammate’s attacking competency. It essentially eliminates the “finishing variable” from the equation. All that is needed for a player to “create a chance” is for that player to make a pass that leads to a shot on goal. The outcome of that shot is irrelevant from the perspective of the player in question […]

Research Behind Chimu Solutions Featured in Boston Globe

The research that led to the formation of Chimu Solutions was highlighted in a Boston Globe article in June 2010. The article summarized the high-level concepts behind our methodology. [Amaral] believes it would be most valuable for scouting lower-level events and comparing players across different leagues and different seasons. Just as statistical analysis has influenced how baseball teams spend their millions, he predicts soccer clubs could follow suit.