Category Archives: Stats Are Cool

ESPN’s ‘Great Analytics Ranking’ Shits All Over The Redskins

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The Worldwide Leader unveiled a rather cool feature yesterday, The Great Analytics Rankings, sorting all 122 NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL teams by “the strength of each franchise’s analytics staff, its buy-in from execs and coaches, its investment in biometric data and how much its approach is predicated on analytics.” I don’t know what biometric data is, but this is interesting nonetheless, at least as it pertains to our favorite teams.

We’ll start with the good. The Nats and O’s are both labeled as “believers,” meaning they rank somewhere in the top half among MLB teams. For the O’s, it’s thanks to “GM Dan Duquette, manager Buck Showalter and pitching coordinator Rick Peterson, all of whom are respected for their analytical thinking,” though “they need a more coherent, holistic approach and a stronger investment to compete with division rivals Tampa Bay, Boston and New York.”

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Why RGIII-Russell Wilson Comparisons Are Stupid

Here with a guest post is the man SiPhi, who’s becoming a regular.


After watching yet another Redskins loss on Sunday, coupled with another Seahawks win, I started hearing and seeing Russell Wilson-RGIII comparisons. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, as it has been a constant since both mobile QBs entered the league in 2012.

Their rookie years were arguably the best and second-best years ever by a rookie QB, as they became the first rookie QBs to hit triple digits in the passer rating category (surpassing Big Ben’s previous rookie record of 98.1). The future looked bright for both, culminating in their first-round playoff matchup at FedEx Field. We all know what happened in that fateful game, but no one knew how the narrative would shift over the next two years.

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The Wizards Are Really Good At Shooting Threes And Should Probably Shoot More Of Them

Here with your weekly look at the Wiz is Mr. Irrelevant contributing writer Bryan Frantz.


Trevor Ariza led the Wizards in three-point attempts and makes last season by knocking down 180 of 442. Second in both categories was Martell Webster (146 of 372), followed by Bradley Beal (138 of 343) and John Wall (108 of 308).

Wall’s jumper improved dramatically last year, so Wizards fans were hopeful about his shooting heading into this season. But Ariza went to the Rockets, Beal broke his wrist in early October and Webster had his third back surgery in late June.
No other player got close to making 100 threes in a Wizards uniform last year. Al Harrington was the closest with just 34, and he most recently played in China.

For these reasons, Washington wasn’t expected to be a real threat from downtown this year, especially early on with all the injuries. Yet more than a quarter of the way through the season, the Wizards lead the entire NBA in three-point percentage with a blistering 39.7 percent. The entire NBA.

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Fancy Stats Show That RGIII May Be Good Again

Here’s a guest post from Eric Fingerhut, published with love for the Washington Post, Neil Greenberg and statistical analysis.

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“Stats show that Redskins’ Robert Griffin III will never be as good as his rookie season,” screamed the headline on the Washington Post’s Fancy Stats blog Monday afternoon. The third sentence of the blog post was less emphatic but still pretty definitive: “We likely have seen the best RGIII will ever be.”

There are a number of reasons I could think of why RGIII may end up never flashing the form we saw in 2012: lingering effects of his knee injury, a failure to adjust to being a pocket passer, defenses simply figuring him out. But stats that show that RGIII will never be the same, even two, three or five years from now? I’d be interested in seeing those. But the author of the post, Neil Greenberg, actually shows no such thing.

Using a statistic called “adjusted yards per attempt” — basically dividing a QB’s passing yards by his attempts while also taking into account touchdowns and interceptions — he first shows that, other than Griffin, just three rookie quarterbacks since 1970 have achieved an AYPA of 20 percent above league average. Only one of those quarterbacks had a season as good as that again, which would give Griffin a 33-percent chance of returning to form, slightly better than never. (That one QB who did get back to that level? Dan Marino, who did it five more times.) Of course, as anyone who knows anything about statistics should know, drawing inferences from a sample size of three is pretty unreliable.

So Greenberg then links to a list of all QBs who ever had a season 20 percent above the league’s AYPA average. Conveniently, there are exactly 100 on the list, 47 of which had at least one more such season during their career (including such illustrious names as Chris Chandler, Elvis Grbac, Erik Kramer and Wade Wilson). Meanwhile, somewhat confusingly, the post also contains a graph which states that 49 percent of QBs who hit the 20 percent over AYPA average never repeat that achievement.

In other words, a post with a headline stating that RGIII will “never” be as good as 2012, and whose text claims that we’ve “likely” seen the best of RGIII, actually shows that RGIII has about a 50-percent chance of being as good as he was in his rookie season. Sure, 50 percent isn’t a guarantee, but it’s a very long way from never. And if someone tells me that something is “likely,” I usually think there’s a much better chance than 50 percent of it happening.

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Wilson Ramos Hurt His Hand, Which Doesn’t Hurt That Bad


Nats starting catcher and Opening Day cleanup hitter Wilson Ramos reportedly fractured his left hand today on a foul tip, which is a very Wilson Ramos thing to do. (He’s only played more than 78 games in a season just once.)

We don’t know how serious it is or how long he’ll be out, but here’s a quick crack at what it could mean:

*In 231 career games with the Nats, Ramos’ Baseball Reference WAR is 4.9. It’s 5.3 on Fangraphs.

*Assuming Ramos misses two months or about 40 games, that’s a dropoff of about 0.9 WAR, so long as we also assume his replacement plays at replacement level.

*The replacement is Jose Lobaton, who posted a 1.5/1.4 WAR last season in 100 games with Tampa.

Meaning, while it stinks to lose Ramos at all, this shouldn’t hurt the Nats too bad. Maybe a game or less in the standings. And oh yeah, they won in 10 today.

Also, I know very little about WAR specifically and fancy stats in general. We may be doomed.

John Wall Is Shooting The Wizards To The Playoffs

Please welcome guest contributor Bryan Frantz to Mr. Irrelevant. Here he is on John Wall and your Washington Wizards.

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The Wizards are having their best season in years. They stand at 33-31, sixth place in the East and 3.5 games away from third. The five seasons before this Washington went 19-63, 26-56, 23-59, 20-46 (lockout-shortened season) and 29-53.

The collective misery of the Eastern conference, arrival of Marcin Gortat, improved health of Bradley Beal and improved play of Trevor Ariza are obvious contributors to the success. One topic that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, though, is John Wall’s jumper.

His shooting has never been something to brag about; his career shooting percentage sits at a modest 42.5 percent, and his three-point percentage hovers around 29.5 percent. Wall is making 33.9 percent of threes this season, though, and he’s shooting 3.7 per game (two more than his previous career high). Take a look at the shot charts:

John Wall’s 2012-13 Shot Chart

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John Wall’s 2013-14 Shot Chart

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His three-point shooting has become a legitimate weapon, to the point that defenses have to respect his jumper. This spreads the floor and opens up Ariza and Beal in ways that simply didn’t exist last season, which leads to more quality shots all around. The Wizards, as a team, are shooting 38.6 percent from three this season, up from 36.5 percent last season.

But it’s not just open threes the Wizards are getting. Washington is shooting 45.6 percent overall from the floor, tied for 11th in the league. That’s a huge increase from 43.5 percent of last season, when they were tied for 27th.

Shockingly enough, making more shots leads to more points. Washington is scoring a respectable 100.5 points per game this season, which is astounding considering they tied for last a year ago with 93.2 points per contest.

Again, this is not entirely attributed to Wall improving his shot. But a point guard needs to have an outside shot to become elite. Derrick Rose, injuries aside, makes for a great case study. In his rookie season, Rose averaged 0.9 three-point attempts per game and made just 22.2 percent. He improved mildly in his second season, and by his third season he had turned his three-point shot into a weapon. That year Rose shot 4.8 threes per game, knocking them down at a rate of 33.2 percent.

So while Wall has always been able to get his points — he’s never dropped below 16 per game — he now gets them from all over the floor. Defenses have a new element to defend, and his teammates benefit from it. The Wizards win.

Fact-Checking Kyle Shanahan

On Sunday, the Redskins lost to the 3-10 Falcons to fall to 3-11. Before that, though, Jason La Canfora published an anonymously-sourced evisceration of Kyle Shanahan and his staff. The son of Shan was asked about that, and he came back with a strong defense (emphasis added):

“When I hear people talking about them and they’re not good and they’re inept, that really offends me because it’s so messed up to those guys that people — because of their age, because they’ve worked with me before — that they’ve dogged those guys because our offensive staff, those guys, in my opinion are as good as a staff I’ve been around. And those guys — these two years, we have moved the ball better than any offense in the history of this 80-year organization. That’s something to be proud of. I think that’s a pretty good accomplishment that nobody’s done it better in all 80 years of a good organization and we couldn’t have done that without these coaches.”

That is something to be proud of, if true.

The 2012-13 Redskins have scored/are on pace to score 785 points. Pretty good, especially by Redskins standards. The 1990-91 Redskins, however, scored 866, and the ’83-84 teams scored 967. That is more. A lot more.

Shanahan was talking about “moving the ball,” though. He must be talking about yards, right? It’s pretty easy to argue that yardage isn’t the best way to gauge an offense’s effectiveness, but whatever. Just go with it.

The 2012-13 Skins rank roughly seventh in the NFL in offensive yardage. Looking at the aforementioned two-year runs of Redskins offensive glory, the ’90-91 Skins were roughly fourth in yardage and the ’83-84 Skins were roughly sixth. Again, that is better.

But! Kyle wasn’t necessarily talking about league-relative success; maybe he was specifically talking about offensive yardage totals (not that he looked those up or anything). And, if that’s the case, then he’s right.

The ’12-13 Redskins have accumulated/are on pace to accumulate 12,265 yards. That’s more than the ’90-91 (11,303) and ’83-84 (11,489) teams or any other Washington offense I could find. See? “Something to be proud of.”

Of course, this doesn’t take into account that today’s offenses gain way more yardage and score more points than ever before, or that the NFL didn’t move to a 16-game regular season until just 35 years ago. Minor quibbles.

RGIII’s Stats Aren’t Bad, At Least

If you were to ask someone, “Hey, how much worse is RGIII than Russell Wilson and Luck and Kaepernick this season?,” I bet he or she would say something like, “Shoot, those guys left him in the dust a long time ago.” But, if you take team records out of it, here’s what their 2013 seasons look like:

Wilson is clearly out in front, but RGIII, Luck and Kaep are more or less the same — in that middle-third of quarterbacks with 80-plus ratings and the stats to go with it. Advanced stats may suggest differently, and I haven’t watched enough Indy or SF games to suggest otherwise, but it seems to me those three are in roughly the same boat, looking up at Wilson.

Of course, the biggest difference is that RGIII is on a very bad 3-10 team, while the other three helm teams with a combined record of 28-10. Seattle and San Francisco are also distinguished from Washington in that they have very good defenses. Indianapolis, for its part, does not feature the worst special teams unit ever.

All of which is to say, maybe it’s not as bad as we think it is for RGIII right now. He basically put up a sophomore season in line with his heralded peers, one in which he started every game and made it through injury-free. After last year’s trauma, that’s no small feat.

Also, just for fun, let’s compare RGIII’s 2013 to three other recent QB seasons, each of which is relevant in some way:

The Cam comparison is often made and is a hopeful one, given how he and the Panthers have rebounded in 2013. The Campbell one is just me stirring up old stuff, dispiriting though it may be. And, ah yes, Donovan McNabb. At least Griffin’s got him beat.

Brady, Manning and Peterson Weren’t Great In Their First Two Games Back Either

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson had different injuries than Robert Griffin III. They were on different timelines and in different situations, etc. They’re different players, and, like all people everywhere, each is a precious snowflake.

Two games is also a small sample size, I know, but that’s what we have to work with when analyzing post-devastation RGIII. And I’m willing to bet that no one in New England, Denver or Minnesota was calling for Brady, Manning or Peterson to be benched after two games, either.

It’s a good thing, too, because each of them got way better after their first two games back from major injury. Again, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything for anyone else, but it is interesting.

Tom Brady in 2009

Tore his ACL and MCL in the first game of the 2008 season.

First two games of ’09: 62.0% completion percentage, 297 yards/game, 5.9 yards/attempt, 2 TD, 2 INT, 76.8 rating. Team went 1-1, including a one-point win over Buffalo.

Last 14 games of ’09: 66.5% completion percentage, 272 yards/game, 8.2 yards/attempt, 26 TD, 11 INT, 100.3 rating. Team went 9-5.

Peyton Manning in 2012

Missed all of 2011 due to a series of neck surgeries.

First two games of ’12: 68.3% completion percentage, 247 yards/game, 7.8 yards/attempt, 3 TD, 3 INT, 93.9 rating. Team went 1-1.

Last 14 games of ’12: 68.9% completion percentage, 298 yards/game, 11.7 yards/attempt, 34 TD, 8 INT, 107.5 rating. Team went 12-2.

Adrian Peterson in 2012

Tore his ACL and MCL in Week 16 of the 2011 season.

First two games of ’12: 72 rushing yards/game, 4.4 yards/carry, 2 TD. Team went 1-1, including a three-point win over Jacksonville.

Last 14 games of ’12: 140 rushing yards/game, 6.2 yards/carry, 11 TD. Team went 9-5.

Note: Peterson really got better after his first six games.

Robert Griffin III in 2013

Tore his ACL and LCL in January 2013.

First two games of ’13: 62.9% completion percentage, 325 yards/game, 7.3 yards/attempt, 5 TD, 3 INT, 89.6 rating. Team went 0-2.

Last 14 games of ’13: TBD.