This post is a little belated for a variety of reasons. It’s already the third, I’ve already put up three posts this year, and Thanksgiving is the usual holiday for giving thanks. But New Year’s is also when everyone tends to look back and look forward, and that’s what this post is about.
Before everyone stops reading, I wanted to say thanks. I mostly want to thank Dave Berri of Wages of Wins. A few years ago I was becoming more and more interested in applying good mathematical analysis to sports, and somehow (I don’t remember how), I heard about his book. It was pretty amazing. After reading it I ordered one of John Hollinger’s prospectus books to see how exactly he went about creating PER. Did you know it turns out he just made up most of the numbers? I don’t mean that he didn’t think about them or that he picked them out of a hat, but there’s no objective basis for them. Thus a sports skeptic was born. Soon after that I came up with some football models, and this past year I finally decided to start a blog to get them out there and on the record. I put up my first post on 8/15, and according to the wordpress email I got, I put up 98 posts. That’s a post every day and a half or so, which I think is pretty good.
I also want to thank the people who take the time to read the blog. Obviously anyone with a public blog wants their words to be read, but I didn’t particularly expect anyone to read this one. To that end I’d like to thank all the readers, and more so people like Dave, Arturo, and Dre for linking to me and sending readers my way. Most of my traffic has come on posts about basketball, which is fine with me. My basketball posts have mostly been about my second goal for the blog, which is expanding knowledge on stats and analysis. Dave, Arturo, and Dre are much better equipped for providing NBA analysis than I am, but I’m happy to put in my two cents when I can and even happier that some people value the work. These three are obviously not the only people working on the NBA (I’d recommend pretty much any of the sites linked on their blogs) or who have influenced my thinking; I should also thank Brian Burke at Advanced NFL Stats for his great football (and stats in general) posts. And of course I want to thank everyone who gets things wrong from time to time or who doesn’t completely agree with what I think; without alternative viewpoints there would be nothing to be skeptical about, after all. I tend to think I’m right (who doesn’t?), but finding numbers to answer questions is what this is all about. They tell me I’m wrong sometimes too.
After looking back, it’s time to look forward. I’m hoping to blog a tad bit less if possible, so that I can actually spend some time writing my thesis (although this thing is fairly addictive). With football season wrapping up in about a month, that shouldn’t be too hard, since football takes up most of my time. But with the end of the season will come my major project for the rest of the spring and summer, which is a big overhaul of the models. Mario didn’t do nearly as well as I thought it would, and Luigi did reasonably but also had kind of an off year. That just happens sometimes (my old models, for whatever reason, just could never figure out 2007), but I’m going to take a deep look into what factors are most predictive of NFL game outcomes. I may not publish all the specifics (as much as I believe in academic sharing and transparency, I believe even more in profiting from what might be profitable), but hopefully the outcomes will still be informative.
My second goal for the year is to have more posts on statistics at a more introductory/informative level. They will always be based in sports, I promise. It’s hard enough for people to believe that looking at numbers can tell them more about a game than watching it does, especially when they’ve been watching or playing it their whole lives. Even if you think the numbers can tell you something, it’s hard to know which numbers to believe. My hope is that with more background, people can make better judgments about what the numbers mean and how to decide what numbers they want to believe. To that end, if anyone has gift cards they want to use after the holidays, I would recommend Wages of Wins and Stumbling on Wins, Mathletics, The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, and Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics. Although I might not agree with everything in all these books, I think they’re accessible reads that get you to think about what’s happening around you in a more systematic way. There are plenty of great books not on that list too, of course (including a couple I got for Christmas). I think everyone benefits from having their beliefs questioned and their minds stretched now and again.
On top of the football and stats, I’m sure I’ll come up with other things that raise my ire (although hopefully this deals with some of them). At this point I’m limited by what data I have handy and how much time I have to download/sort through it, but farther in the future I’d like to expand more into basketball and start getting into hockey (it looks like the Red Wings are on course for another good year). I hope you all had a good 2010, have a great 2011, and thanks again for coming by.