Not All Sports Are Created Equal

As I am beginning my journey into the realm of sports statistical analysis, I am finding that MLB and NBA research and data dominate the amount of information that can be found for the NFL and NHL, especially in terms of Sabermetric and ABPRmetrics analyzing individual players. If I had to guess, I’d put the disparity at around 80% baseball & basketball to 20% football and hockey. These are just ballpark figures and may be way off, as they’re isolated to my meager hours of research into the subject on the Internet.

So, the logical question to ask is, how is it that a sport as popular in the US as football, with a league as lucrative as the NFL, that there is such a relatively small amount of information in this type of analysis for the NFL? The NHL can be written off because it never has measured up to the rest of the big four in popularity, but the NFL? There has got to be something holding it back that lies within the game itself. So let’s compare the sports of baseball and football.

Each has a clear, common goal: obtain more points (runs) than your opponent to win a game. Win more games than any of your opponents to be successful in the season. The difference is in how the two sports achieve this goal, and in the number of ways. In baseball, essentially the only way to score runs is through hitting. In football, points can be scored by running, passing, special teams, or even on defense, which complicates things greatly. Another factor that makes football more complex is that the current situation in the game greatly affects how your team will try to score (running the ball with a lead vs. passing when you’re down), while in baseball you still try to get a hit whether the score is tied 2-2 in the top of the ninth, or whether you’re up 13 in a blowout (I realize that there are certain instances in baseball where certain types of offense are more valuable, i.e. sacrifice bunts, etc. but at the fundamental level, you don’t let the score of the game change the way you play, like in football).

There is also a greater difficulty of assigning value to a player and determining how great a role they played in achieving a particular outcome in football, than there is in baseball. Football players are broken up into different positions, which affect what they are doing 100% of the time. Baseball positions only affect what they are doing 50% of the time, because everyone is trying to get hits and score runs on the offense, (unless you’re a pitcher in the AL). Whereas in football, a left guard isn’t going to be trying to rack up receiving touchdowns or YAC, so there is no easy way to compare him to a wide receiver.

The bottom-line is football doesn’t lend itself to be dissected in the way that baseball, basketball, and even hockey do and in order for this to happen, there needs to be some sort of revolution in the way stats are kept at football games.


1 Response to “Not All Sports Are Created Equal”

  1. 1 NFL Statistical Analysis « 5146 Games Trackback on November 28, 2007 at 3:53 pm

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