We're All So Close Together

Heading home tonight. I am tired, and I am weary, or maybe I'm just like Hannibal Lechter when he makes collect calls to the FBI from some unholy tourist trap. But I did feel the need to weigh in on the latest stats dust-up, such as it is. I'm not sure entirely what's going on; I know that the Recluse was flush with angst, and that the crux of the matter can be found here. It instantly brought me back to the great PER Wars of a few years back, when myself and Silverbird5000 tried to take on Ziller and Kevin Pelton. We lost, but it was funny. Let the record show that this was all motivated by an attempt to dismiss Lamar Odom's dismal PER; as many of you have probably already seen, Odom's a fuckin' love supreme when it comes to adjusted +/- . . .for the past two years, when the Lakers grew strong again. So on that most superficial level, I'm not out to get stats anymore.

I will say this, though: The serious stats people I commune with also have one foot firmly planted in the very same currents of the game that I call home. Maybe they don't look for cartoons and metaphors, but joyous subjectivity always seems an important part of their statistical inquiries. These judgments are either bolstered or critiqued by numbers that, unless you're a dummy, have an undeniable power. Ever watch a game, think someone's playing well, and then see they actually shot like shit? So it is with advanced stats and more subjective claims about how, in ways both spectral and booming, Battier-esque and Bron-tastic, certain players or teams impact us as viewers. Anyone looking only at old numbers is as bad as the mythic ballhog who looks only at his points total; focusing solely on the new numbers is to imagine the game as an series of iterations that have no cohesion, will, or identity to guide them.

Which is to say, it all comes down to watching the game with some measure of both passion and sensitivity. Stats force you to think with greater sophistication, in terms of both aesthetics and matters most technical, lest stats overthrow your judgments. Maybe this is one man's attempt to come to terms with the way that numbers have begun to overrun this least quantifiable of sports. For that reason alone, though, I look to them as supplementary tools, ways of clarifying what the trained eye can already see. And yes, there is something vindicating about the ways in which some FD darlings have performed surprisingly well in this new realm.

It points toward some unified life force we can all share together, and makes me realize I've either been transformed or ruined by this ambitious book.

(NOTE: Said life force would be just one of the many episodes/stepping stones that crop up in Revolution in Mind. It's the interplay of outlooks that I'm feeling sorely affected by.)

Labels: , , ,


At 3/27/2009 11:48 AM, Blogger Kellen said...

For the most part, I like the stats, because they help to tell interesting stories, enhance mythologies. Gilbert Arenas shooting better and better from long range for example. That's what stats are meant for.

I like stats when they reveal someone might be better than people give them credit for. It's the kind of nice positive thing that you can hang your hat on. The trouble for me comes when you use stats to show someone is overrated, when they are used to puncture mythology. And I love me some mythology. The important thing about mythology isn't whether it's true, it's whether it means something.

A lot of the stat people hate on AI. He's a ball-hog and inefficient, look at the numbers, they say. This is what hurts. He is the Answer, and it's not about how the numbers prove he needs to pass more and not drive left. It's about breaking ankles, and throwing yourself at the game, the game that every night you go out there and die for. AI is about gaudy scoring, sick crossovers, and being AI. It's a self-fulfilling mythology maybe, but it's one we all need.

I guess I want it both ways. If the stats can validate some of the little guys, validate some stone-cold freaks who aren't getting love, then I'm for them. But when they try to take away the Legend of the Answer, I can't help but fight it.

At 3/27/2009 12:30 PM, Blogger Robert said...

I think anyone who gets too academic about a game as fluid as basketball is going to struggle with what lens to view it through. You can't put a number on swagger, or snarl, but it's got an indelible impact on the game.

Stats are as inelegant as any other language, but I think there's a smart way to read them. How much relative weight stats play in your enjoyment of the game is what should matter, so I don't know why there's a huge debate in the first place.

I feel like reading something definitive about the 2004 playoffs. Any suggestions?

At 3/27/2009 1:22 PM, Blogger Michael said...

I struggle with the new stats mainly because of Hollinger. I won't hesitate to admit that his pride in PER is mainly what turns me off - "Look what I invented, it can be used to tell everything that's useful about a basketball player nowadays." Oversimplification, I know, but it irks me when he tries to prove his point (usually about how great PER is) by using PER! If we don't accept that PER is great, the argument is flawed from the get go.

I won't deny, however, that adjusted plus minus, points per possession, and others in the advanced stats category are not only useful, but do reveal a lot about the game that was otherwise being overlooked.

I want to fight against stats, though, because of the fact that basketball has always been so unique - it's been the fluid game that's unable to be captured by stats as fully as the other games. If we change that, doesn't it make basketball just a little more blase?

I loathe the day a computer picks a statistically more powerful team against a man who's spent time watching the game and absorbing the details that are impossible to number down.

At 3/27/2009 2:10 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

For me, the stats argument is less about whether it's a more accurate approach and more an issue of what effect reading things statistically has on the general basketball-watching experience. As Shoals says, many people are able to balance the soulfulness with the analytics, but just as many don't do a very good job with this.

It's possible for a player to have value unrelated to what he contributes to winning, which seems to be part of what Kellen's talking about above. I don't think it's necessary for stats to validate soulfulness (and vice-versa), but we should recognize what each approach does.

wv: solerse: spanish reflexive verb meaning "to brighten one's self"

At 3/27/2009 2:35 PM, Blogger G Wolf said...

Michael - when has Hollinger ever done that? If you go read his explanations of PER, either on the website or in his Pro Basketball Forecast (nee Prospectus), he points out many, many flaws in it. Primarily, how it doesn't really account for defense.

It's a number, and an interesting one, but it's not the alpha and the omega of basketball.

Basically, take it with a grain of salt. Just like you would take it with a grain of salt when an announcer tells you how much heart KG is showing, or that the Pistons' chemistry is really coming through tonight.

wv: salestri: the second-person conjugation of "solerse", translated into Italian

At 3/27/2009 3:01 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

I like stats when they're used to supplement a take on the game formulated primarily through observation, but when the stats themselves are the tools used to observe the game, occasionally it distorts. For example, a baseball stat guy once determined that Joe Carter was one of the first outfielders in baseball history when I remember from actually watching games that he was huge in the clutch (he won the 93 world series pretty much by himself), and he apparently was a great teammate, for whatever that's worth. The same problem happens when evaluating AI. His field goal percentage nearly always sucks, but that kind of misses the point. Much like Joe Carter, who struck out a lot, was the major contributing factor to winning a world series because he DIDN'T strike out in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7, AI got the Sixers to the finals in '01 precisely because the 20 or so shots he'd miss a game tended to not be in the 4th quarter.

TL;DR, bottom line, until they can statistically quantify balls I'm going to take stats with a grain of salt.

wv: slyho---the (misspelled) Old Occitan cognate of solerse.

At 3/27/2009 3:02 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

"one of the first outfielders in baseball history" should read "one of the WORST" . . . sorry.

At 3/27/2009 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh finally I have a Blogger account, I can now comment. Wow. Thanks to the ever more creepy interwebs taking over my person. Besides that, I like the stats, the advanced stats as a help to find out whether or not players perform well. But since intensity and drive are the least scoreable (did I say that?) forms of output, I also need to see what a player does. Some people seem to just over rate stats.

At 3/27/2009 7:55 PM, Blogger nadiel said...

I am most intrigued by how new statistics are integrated into the mainstream. How did + - find its way into the ESPN box score? I would be far more interested in seeing eFG%, or team wide points per possession, etc.

At 3/27/2009 11:18 PM, Blogger David said...

I wonder if, by revealing some of the "new stats" and making players and coaches aware that they are being measured, the stats themselves will change. There are plenty of physics experiments, particularly in the photon realm, where the very act of measuring changes the thing you're measuring. Daryl Morey is keeping his cards very close to his chest - he doesn't want to have his secrets out 'cos then everyone will be trying to improve their TE Factor or BH Index or whatever.
Speaking of wonder, my daughter enthusiastically approves of the Wonderpets.. we're on our way...

At 3/28/2009 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am firmly in your camp. Well, more or less.

My visits (and I suspect many others) to Darko are based on their ability to weave the stats creatively into the wonder of the game. The story can become more rich (ie KG volume of scoring over the years) plus the ability for stats like this to create a historical context for future fans.

But, some people (Hollinger for some readers) just aren't that cool about it. It is like the difference between Rush and Zep or Kobe and LeBron. The first are great at what they do, but we know that being good isn't enough.

It has occurred to me recently this is way so many fans dismiss (too strong a word) players like Joe Johnson (too understated) and Paul Pierce (too petulant).

At 3/28/2009 3:18 PM, Blogger Alexander J said...

Another soapbox triumph old boy Shoals; the point that this all seems to come back to, in regards to fans (read: non-employees of the league/media/those who have no incentive other than loyalty and, often, physical proximity going for them), is that stats can be a great unifier among those who seek to argue for or against their own personal worldview of the game.

Liberated Fandom goes hand in hand with the advent of advanced statistical calculations; PER or adjusted +/- can do a great job of tracking certain elements of a player's contribution; we don't need such metrics to prove that Ryan Hollins contributions to the Maverick's playoff hopes are menial, I also think in regards to elite players these stats are not particularly telling of anything that one cannot find from watching the game itself. Where stats are coming is those who fall within the role-player/minor star area of those who one needs some way to discern value amongst a litany of relative equals.

Baseball analogies continue to be flaccid and a tad trite, this is a basketball blog after all, but I will say that my bestie from Oberlin used to go to Indian's games and fill out a complete box score with aplomb; that's the kind of discipline that gets a girl in to SAIC.

Anyhoo, fantasy sports and stats are the true equalizer for fans in the internet age. Just like seeing the spread is really just a bad cover up for the harsh realities of gambling addicts the world over, many statistics will propel fans toward this site, most likely, and away from youtube clips of Ricky Davis and Z-Bo launching errant three pointers.

At 3/28/2009 4:26 PM, Blogger j. edwin brandt said...

"But, some people (Hollinger for some readers) just aren't that cool about it. It is like the difference between Rush and Zep or Kobe and LeBron. The first are great at what they do, but we know that being good isn't enough."

Did I read this incorrectly, or did you attempt to settle the stats v. style by appealing to the Kobe/Bron debate? Did you really think this would clarify the conversation? Simile with caution, friendo.

At 3/29/2009 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Kobe/LeBron comment is a loaded one and in truth adds little to this conversation.

I have been thinking about Z-Bo lately. He recently stated that he was better than Chris Bosh. Is he right? How would we know? s it based on stats or who adds more flavor to the narrative.

Additionally, to dismiss Ryan Hollins as a non-factor based on the fact that he sucks is limiting. He seems like a hell of a guy.

At 3/30/2009 8:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Z-Bo papparently was referring to his super powers.

At 6/27/2012 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your great post.I like this very much,Black PC Dell Inspiron i560-5383NBK Desktop (Piano Black),jerseys with numbers,Pocket Watches,The best notebook,Graphic cards,price of a netbook,headphone earbud,the best backpacks,laptop bag and cases,MP3 Downloads,Finding a Ring,collar shirts for men,Batu Akik Kecubung,Calculator for graphing,Accounting software programs,Mouse cordless optical,Price for mp3 player,Glove Oven,smoothies blenders,Golf Bags,PC tablet prices,software for audio editing,commercial arbitration,short love poems and quote,car covercraft,healthy organic food,

At 6/27/2012 7:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this post is goodBusiness based at home,motorcycle,lg cell phones,cell phone battery,walkie talkie talk,cheap dvd portable player,antenna for wifi,Asas Hukum,antenna for wifi,screen protector for monit,battery for a laptop,a leather wallet,android cell phone,prepaid cell phones,cell phone cases,Flash memori card,jenis Akik,solar lamps for garden,pump with filter,flip flops sandals,fragrance for men,women fragrances perfume,Movie this year,universal cell phone battery charger,


Post a Comment

<< Home