Editor’s note: This post is part of our Sports Analytics Roundup series. You can read more about the series here.
Update on steals: One of the hottest sports analytics articles of late was FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Morris on the value of steals. That article -- which pegged the relative value of a steal as equal to the value of nine points scored -- continues to generate discussion. Since then, Morris has promised a four-part response to common themes. He has released Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 so far. [UPDATE: Here's Part 4.]
The Box Score Geeks’ Patrick Minton shared some high-level criticisms of FiveThirtyEight in his response to the value of steals question. Minton would have liked to see more details of Morris’ regression equation. That’s a very valid point people have made against FiveThirtyEight’s quick-hit DataLab blog.
Across the Court’s Justin made similar points, and specifically stated this: “Essentially, the main reason steals looked so valuable in the original article is that they are rarer, and there was a misapplication of unit analysis in comparing stats.” Really interesting points here from an analyst with an engineering background.
Baseball umpires: The new replay system is one of the more contentious topics of the early goings of the 2014 MLB season. Several posts have gained traction about umpires and replays since. Most notably perhaps, Daren Wilman’s baseball savant website tracks all of the challenges and their success rates. This will be a great resource to keep bookmarked throughout the year.
Meanwhile, the strike zone is an area that will not be left up to the replay monitors. Just before Opening Day, Brayden King and Jerry Kim shared their strike-zone research at The New York Times. Their findings: "about 14 percent of non-swinging pitches were called erroneously." The various factors they discovered were fascinating.
That article was similar to one later posted by Etan Green at FiveThirtyEight. This research, which was presented at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference last month, shared some fascinating visualizations of strike-zone shrinkage and expansion in various counts. Again here, he found that umpire errors occur in the most pivotal situations.
Catapult: Recently, we heard about Mark Cuban’s investment in Catapult Sports, an Australian company that is one of many tech startups set to dominate the future of sports information. The organization continues to gain steam.
ESPN Insider’s Tom Haberstroh wrote about how Catapult’s GPS tracking technology is on the cutting edge of the NBA’s injury prevention analytics movement. A key line: “Catapult's two main goals are to minimize injury and maximize performance. Often, the message teams are finding is that their players need to work smarter, not harder.” The one example of how the technology spotted a player’s injury by his extreme right-hand preference was really interesting.
An Intel-sponsored post at The Verge also profiled Gary McCoy, a Senior Applied Sports Scientist at Catapult. The real-time data possibilities of this technology for sideline coaches are amazing.
QBR: Good or bad? Football Perspective's Chase Stuart had a pretty positive analysis of ESPN's QBR statistic, which surprised me a bit. The conclusion: "It may be a proprietary measure of quarterback play, but it’s not a subjective one with no basis in reality." This perhaps makes sense with its focus on Expected Points Added. The comparison here was really well done and fair.
Hockey: The Score's Justin Bourne looked at "score effects" and why they exist. Andrew C. Thomas analyzed the value of pulling a goalie. FiveThirtyEight's Eric Tulsky wrote about Jessica Schmidt, one of the leading innovators in hockey analytics.
More basketball: SB Nation’s Tom Ziller had a great look at the NBA’s increasing pace: Turns out that 28 of 30 teams have been going faster in the 2013-14 season. CrabDribbles’ Hal Brown looks at myths about stats in basketball in a very enjoyable read. Statitudes’ Justin Kubatko asks if Dikembe Mutumbo is a Hall of Famer. Second Spectrum has a video to go along with their Sloan-winning paper on the three dimensions of rebounding.
Jacob Rosen is a graduate of the University of Dayton, where he majored in applied mathematical economics and was the school newspaper's editor-in-chief and sports editor. Currently, Jacob (an Akron native) contributes to WaitingForNextYear, a website dedicated to Cleveland sports.