Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A football thought

I assume there is something like sabermetrics for football, but I haven't seen it.  While I'm no stathead there are football statistics that I think are flawed.

Running backs tend to be evaluated by average yards per carry.  But average is a terrible stat, often concealing more than it reveals (the median would be a little better here).  Since the passing game tends to be more of an all or nothing venture, I think what you want from your rushing game is consistent yardage.  You run not only to keep the defense off balance but to stay out of long distance situations, and to pick up short yardage first downs.  Average yards per carry doesn't address this at all.  If a back runs for sixty yards on one carry, and gets zero yards on nine other carries, the average is a healthy six yards but you've only had one positive play out of ten.  If you face a third and two, how confident would you be in running for it? 

I'd argue a better measure would be the percentage of carries over a certain benchmark, say three yards, plus first down carries for shorter distances.  That is,you'd get credit if you got two yards on a third or fourth and one.  This statistical measure would I think accurately work to the advantage of a Larry Csonka type and against a Barry Sanders style back. 

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