If you have followed baseball at all in the past 5 years, chances are you’ve most likely heard about things such as WAR, FIP and possibly wRC+ and other insightful metrics that measure as well as help provide value and insight.
You may have also heard the name Tom Tango. His work in baseball statistics quiet simply amazing and his work in ‘The Book’ changed the way I view baseball and I strong encourage you to read it, if you like baseball and like numbers in general.
He also has a website. Here is a little snippet from the brilliant mind weighing in on the popularly disputed hockey statistic, plus/minus;
While I like plus/minus in hockey, I love it in basketball. There’s not enough scoring in hockey to get good samples, which is why we look for anything, like shots for and against. In basketball, there’s scoring a-plenty.
Anyway, this is the actual fact: we are recording who was on the ice/court/field when a run/goal/point is scored. We are also recording this when you are NOT on the field of play. This is actually at the heart of WOWY (with or without you). And, as we’ve seen, it’s fantastic.
So, that’s what we have: we have a signal, and we have the noise. We make our adjustments to reduce the noise so that that signal can come through.
And then the summation
If you don’t like plus/minus, fine, whatever. But calling it bad means you’ve come to a conclusion. And that conclusion won’t hold.
Okay there is a lot here to really discuss from a soccer perspective. But the biggest thing to think about is that people use statistics to come to a conclusion. The whole point of statistics is get to a better understanding of a concept. I think too often people in soccer circles dismiss things because there is “too much” noise. But the thing is that if we can get SOME signal while we acknowledge that there is noise it can at least trend us in a better directions than chosing to remain completely ignorant.
I feel like people take stats and they try to turn it into a “this is what you think you saw, but really what you saw was this..” argument. The fact is that you can’t watch the picture and you can’t catch everything. Statistics there to be a compliment to what we see as well as catch things that we fail to notice.
The key to all of this is finding the signal to latch on to and follow.
One last thing is Tango mentions shots for and against. This has been associated with most good basic analysis for team soccer the last year or so. While simple, it can still provide some rough ideas to measuring and possibly projecting a teams performance.