Advanced Metrics in Sports
By: Sujay Adhikari
What is Advanced Metrics?
Advanced metrics is the use of statistics in sports such as player efficiency and productivity. These statistics go beyond the normal field goal percentages, batting averages, goals per game, etc. known by even the most causal sports fans. Instead, advanced metrics change the weighting of certain stats, thus giving some measures more importance. By doing this, analysts are able to provide accurate empirical data on players and teams. While it has not been around for a long time, advanced metrics are gaining popularity and are quickly changing the landscape of the sporting world.
Sabermetrics is the first advanced metrics created. It is the empirical analysis of baseball.
Coming after sabermetrics, APBRmetrics is used in the analysis of basketball.
Should Teams Base Important Decisions Off Advanced Metrics?
While advanced metrics provide new ways to evaluate players, teams should ultimately use it as an auxiliary indicator and should not use it as the primary reason for changing a team.
Not all advanced metrics are accurate in their evaluation of players. Since humans are the ones who are creating the formulas and algorithms associated with the statistic, their can be some sources of error. For instance, most advanced metrics rely on weighting certain stats over others. Someone has to decide which statistic is more important than the others and accurately combine them to evaluate player, but who is to say field goal percentage is more important than free throw percentage or points per possession is more important than points per game. Although analysts have tried to perfect their methods through various trials and models, advanced metrics has not progressed far enough to where it can be relied on for major decisions.
Sports is more than numbers. The athletes are not stats on a piece of paper, but actual people who are devoting their time and effort into their sport. Anyone who has had any experience with sports knows that there are certain intangibles that players possess that make them better. The amount of effort they give, work ethic, and team chemistry are all important aspects of the game that cannot be measured. If management in a sports team decides to only follow the numbers, then they will miss the intangibles and negatively affect their team. Recently, the Houston Rockets, a professional basketball team whose general manager is a prominent supporter of advanced metrics, had one of their worst seasons in the last few years due to their lack of team chemistry. It was evident when watching that the team as a whole did not work together. While the individual players might all have been exceptional when it came to statistics, when they came together, it ended up hurting the team because there was no team chemistry. There are certain aspects of sports that advanced metrics cannot take into account. This is one of the major flaws of advanced metrics and why it should not be the primary reason for making a certain decision when managing a team.
Why it all Matters
Sports is an important aspect to not just American culture but the entire world. People of all ages watch, play, or are somehow involved with sports. According to a 2005 Topline Report about 34.2 million Americans age six and over reported that they played basketball at least once during the year. This is over 10% of the entire population and it was only one sport. This shows that sports has an incredible impact on millions of people across America.
Additionally, sports also has a enormous economic impact throughout the world. While people are participating and watching sports, they are spending money on apparel and equipment. As established in the previous paragraph, millions of people are involved in sports. This in turn leads to incredible sales and economic gains thus helping the economy of the location of sports franchises. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, Americans spent about $84.7 billion on sports-related items in 2004. This is $84.7 billion dollars that goes into the American economy and the local economies of the sports franchises once again showing the importance of sports.
It is evident that a significant portion of the population participates in sports and billions of dollars are spent on the industry. If a sports team wants to be a part of the participation rate and economic gains, then it needs to do one thing. Win. The ultimate goal of a team is to win and by doing so it can help excite its fans, bring a community together, and help the economy of the local area. Unfortunately, the best path towards winning is not through advanced metrics. While the increase in this field has certainly led to new innovations in sports analysis, when a team is deciding what it should do in order to win, advanced metrics should not be the primary tool.