Saturday, December 29, 2007

David's take on Hope

Although he doesn't mention Solo by name, English goalkeeper David James gives his opinion on part of her situation.

8 comments:

East River said...

I see his point that one shouldn't use stats to justify who plays and who doesn't. If you are winning, then forget the numbers.

MLS should take note of over reliance on stats. Many player contracts are based on stats, how many shots on goal, fouls drawn, blah blah blah... all that is zzzz! Christian Gomez numbers were down this season but he still is an invaluable part of DC United, same goes for Jaime Moreno. Handing players incentive laced contracts, takes players focus away from winning games and puts their focus on their personal play and has them thinking about if their numbers are down or not.

Yesterday I watched the Patriots vs the Giants and the NFL Network fixated on things like the Patriots had a 7 game streak of at least 1 completed thrown pass at over 40 yards. ZZZZZZ

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the USWNT fiasco got that much attention overseas...

Meredith said...

ive had a problem with stat obession in this country for a long time. I remember that the season that elway won his first superbowl, the stats people were out in force. No afl team has won a title in blah blah years, no wild card team has made it to the final in blah blah years, the packers have the best record in blah blah years. What happened: the human elment. The thing that stats dont account for. The things that distinguishes great players form the rest. Elway had a freaking amazing game. For every score by greenbay, denver returned and scored, and then in the last 20 minutes, elway took the lead, made some amazing plays and won the game. All the stats in the world couldnt predicit what happened.

Matthew said...

To add a little counterweight to this discussion, you’ll notice that James talks about Billy Beane, no doubt referencing Michael Lewis’ astounding study of the Oakland A’s and Beane, “Moneyball”. It examines why the A’s, with a far smaller budget than other franchises, won consistently. What Lewis found out was that Beane began judging players based on their stats (particular On Base Percentage), really borrowing from theories that had already been proposed by baseball statisticians. The baseball establishment at the time very much chose players based on intuition—what they looked like, how old they were, the “sense” of whether this was a good player. For example, high school players are much less likely to make successful major leaguers and yet scouts love these players, likely b/c they imagine all the development yet to come. Beane instead suggested that past behavior, quantifiable behavior, should form the basis for selection, not intuition. There are now other adherents to this perspective, including Theo Epstein (the architect of the Red Sox’ recent success).

Beane is very interested in soccer (he’s apparently a big Spurs fan) and has given hints that he would like to try applying his principles to soccer. I guess my question is whether soccer is essentially quantifiable in the manner of baseball. For example, baseball is filled with discrete events that can be measured (e.g., pitcher pitches the ball—hitter hits or doesn’t hit the ball) that can be objectively measured (though errors probably provide an exception to this). But soccer is inherently organic. Discrete events (aside from re-starts and events like PKs) are not rife throughout a match. Whereas a pitch in baseball is always thrown from the same distance shots in soccer can occur from an almost infinite number of locations. There are perhaps obvious bases for judgment (e.g., goals scored) but the “Moneyball” perspective is really about identifying high value players that are not valued by other teams. For example, how you could measure Claude Makalele’s importance to Real Madrid several years back? How much is Jesse Marsch worth to C-USA? Who is the better left back—Marc Burch or Jonathan Borstein? I’m not certain that soccer allows us to come up with quantifiable, objective answers to these questions. But they are still interesting debates.

meredith said...

matthew i do argree about the difficulty quantifying soccer, compaired to baseball or football. in soccer, a goal can be scored by the keeper and a shot can be blocked by a forward. how the hell can you take into account the shear fluidity of the game and the absence of very defined posistions. I do think that davids point is that soccer is in fact trying to do just that, and its not really as effective. because i think soccer is a less tactical sport, stats just dont seem to carry the same weight. I do still feel that in the modern game stats are overused, even in high school.

ghostwriter said...

As others have noted, due to it's almost improvisational quality, soccer is just not a good statistical sport where football and particularly baseball are. Though neither is without both, baseball is more a game of execution, soccer of imagination. Baseball might be thought of as a marching band, soccer as a jazz quartet.

While you could never hope to measure Miles Davis statistically, he sure made everyone around him better. Same for certain players. I'd argue that, while he's a long way short of a Miles Davis, Cuauhtemoc Blanco had that effect in Chicago last year and, as I recall, there were some doubts about him "objectively" beforehand.

With keepers in soccer the same is most definitely true. I've had this discussion before, and continue to believe that a soccer keeper is dependant on and more the leader of a group that defends goal than any other sport with a goaltender. The keepr's presence and communication are critical and his/her confidence is a palpable thing like Joe Montana or John Elway in the huddle during a crucial late game comeback drive.

That stuff can't be measured in statistics, never has, never will. Great coaches or GM's can see it, though, with the eye. In his defense, since this whole thing started there, I'd argue Billy Beane, despite his reliance on some team oriented statistics, has shown he has it.

Clearly, though, it was not part of Greg Ryan's skillset, 'cause Solo clearly had it going and when she got in Bri Scurry didn't. I know it's not clear the outcome would have been any different; but there's no way Elway was ever leading his team 98 yards in under 5 1/2 minutes to tie the 1986 AFC Championship game in Cleveland either, and yet that's just what he did. (And don't jump all over me, I know Solo hasn't proven she's Elway yet [even if she could since QB and Keeper have vastly different influences on play], but in 1986, neither had Elway: his Broncos lost the Super Bowl to the Giants that year.)

Soccer is just not ever going to be well measured or predicted by statistics. I agree wholeheartedly with James on that.

PS Happy New Year to all.

Coach said...

Stats are for losers, oh, and winners too! ;)

There is a place for stats in soccer, simply not as big a place as in many other sports.

Beax Speax said...

In sports or in business, the numbers are a tool to help managers make decisions.....