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Sports Club Stats and Your Favorite Team / Fun With Statistics?

2009 May 6
by Brian Quarstad
scs

Minnesota Thunder are the thick green lines

PART -1
Near the end of the 2008 regular season for the Minnesota Thunder, a fellow Dark Cloud supporter brought this website to my attention. It’s called Sports Club Stats run by Ken Roberts. It’s fun to view and even more fun to play with as it’s interactive. This comprehensive statistical web site looks at team’s historical record for the season and projects through mathematical computations what the team may do in the future. I find the site best for looking at trends in teams. It was helpful last year near the end of the season. Sport Club Stats’ most helpful and interesting feature is its ability to predict your team’s chances of making it into the playoffs.

Here’s what Jim Kelley of Sportsnet.ca, had to say about Sports Club Stats.

Ken Roberts, the mind behind sportsclubstats.com, is good with numbers and he’s been doing it for years. His work is especially good come crunch time… it works something like this: each night Roberts takes the latest results and simulates the rest of the season by randomly picking results for each remaining game. Though he uses the word “random,” it is actually based on historical content. Roberts uses a weighted method that takes the opponents’ records and home advantage into account so the historically-better team is more likely to win. Employing a 50/50 method he gives each opponent an equal chance of winning (or tying if the sport allows it) in each game. He feeds it all into a computer and when it is finished “playing” all the remaining games it applies the league’s tie-breaking rules to see where everyone finished. It repeats this random playing-out of the season millions of times, (Monte Carlo method) keeping track of how many “seasons” each team finishes where.

The result: a reasoned statistical analysis of what a team’s odds are of making the playoffs; a projection as to how the daily remaining schedule will impact those odds followed by a projection as to how well a team has to finish in order to reach its goal.

It’s not perfect but after doing these calculations thousands of times it has a way of eliminating the odd fact here and there and averaging things out to see the true trend of a team. Looking at Sports Club Stats page for the USL, it’s not looking good for the Minnesota Thunder. Of course it’s far too early in the season to use something like this to predict things, but it certainly helps look at the latest trends of the teams and it’s clear who’s doing well and who’s not. When going into full screen mode you can run your cursor over the trend and see the individual scores of games.

Sports Club Stats also follows MLS which at this point is a bit more fun to look at since the teams are a month deeper into their season. Roberts also tracks MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA 1-A and 1-AA football and men’s and women’s Basketball. He  takes a crack at Auto Racing and NASCAR and MotoGP. In football (soccer) there is a European section where all the major leagues in Europe can be found. I like that Roberts has chosen to call it football rather than soccer. I’m impressed that Roberts included USL in his stats and saw them as a worthy league before all the Montreal and Puerto Rico CONCACAF Champions League hype.

Ken Roberts’ bio says he’s a software writer for Interface Technologies and lives in Raleigh, NC, so he must be a Railhawks fan, but I won’t hold that against him. Take a look around Ken’s site and let me know what you think.

PART 2
There are all sorts of interesting formulas using newer technologies. My friend Rich Allen does some of these sorts of things over at his Fulham blog called Craven Cottage Newsround. Colin Baker at Champions At Best, who is also a Fulham supporter but is American, does some innovative things with statistics at his site.

More and more managers in European football are using statistics to look at players’ performances and make adjustment to the players or the team if necessary. Sam Aladyce was said to be an innovator of this technology, tracking players movements, positive vs negative touches on the ball, runs vs sprints and overall distance run in a game as well as pass completions and tackles. Even some of the sites in the UK like the Guardian now have some fantastic chalkboard type features so you as a supporter can track your teams’ players individually and collectively.

“The biggest key is collecting and utilizing data that is linear to winning games.”
Billy Beane

As you would expect, some of the bigger clubs like Man U and Arsenal have been at the leading edge. Interestingly enough, baseball legend Billy Bean has been one of the evangelists of statistics in the UK.  Michael Lewis wrote the best seller, Moneyball about Beane who by using statistics and his baseball intuition formed some pretty good sides for the Oakland A’s without breaking the bank.

Beane became a huge soccer fan on a trip to England in 2003. Eventually he convinced the staff of the A’s to go to the 2006 World Cup in Germany where they all became fans. Beane has a great relationship with Tottenham Hotspurs which is the European team he supports, but he has made numerous trips to Europe working with managers in the UK, explaining his methods of statistics and those managers are listening.

baseball_futbolBeane currently works and partially owns the San Jose Earthquakes in MLS and was responsible for bringing the team back from the dead. He also works with Leeds University Business School professor Bill Gerrard in the hope of developing a proprietary system for evaluating soccer players, as well as looking to acquire additional sources of data. He devised a system with the A’s called “Sabermetrics” that he has converted for soccer. In other words, everything that happens on a soccer field can be broken down somehow into a statistic and analyzed.

According to the The Guardian, Sabermetrics breaks down football into four areas.

1. Number of touches
A measurement of how often a player is involved on the ball
Reveals Player’s fitness level, the number of times he gets into a position to receive the ball and team-mates’ willingness to pass to him

2. Shot creation
The number of times a player participates in a possession leading to a shot (both on target and off)
Reveals The attacking effectiveness of a player, especially attacking midfielders and forwards. Measures ability to balance ball retention with creating scoring chances

3. Ability to retain the ball

A measurement of the probability that the next player who touches the ball will be a member of your team
Reveals Contribution of players who are less directly involved in attack

4. Balls won per 90 minutes
Measures defensive effectiveness
Reveals Attacking players’ willingness to defend; defenders’ ability to tackle, intercept passes and position themselves well

Beane quotes:

“The biggest key is collecting and utilizing data that is linear to winning games.”

“In everything, there is something. It’s just having the ability to mine the linear data from all the background noise.”

About the US:
“It’s the vacuum effect. You have the world’s richest country. And you have the world’s biggest sport. `Collision’ is the wrong word, but the vacuum is going to have to be filled.”

Articles on Beane and soccer

The Guardian

The Star

Soccernet

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