Is there an equivalent of a "Moneyball" for the NHL?
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04-10-2009, 05:36 PM
Join Date: May 2003
I'm sure there are inefficiencies, but the biggest problem in finding them is the lack of raw statistical material to work with, especially with regard to players outside the NHL. For those guys, you won't find much more than scoring and penalty stats, and possibly plus-minus. Imagine Billy Beane and his staff trying to find college players the scouts had missed if the only stats he had to work with were, say, games played, hits, runs, and errors.
And it's not really likely to change that much - the cost and effort involved in getting lower-level leagues to record things like playing time, blocked shots, and so on is prohibitive.
There's also the fundamental constant-motion nature of the sport vs. a more static one like baseball. Moneyball talks about the guys who are developing better fielding metrics by breaking down things like where and how hard the ball is hit to. And that's useful because there's a limited number of other paramaters to consider in evaluating how a fielder responds to that ball.
But in hockey, everything one player does is relative to the other 11 guys on the ice. It's tough to derive useful stats when every action a player takes is subjective based on the circumstances around him. Let's say you decide to start recording dump-in recoveries by offensive players - is it reasonable to value them all equally, when the degree of difficulty of the recovery is so dependent on where the puck was shot from and went to on the dump, and how the defense was positioned?
So the development of hockey statistics generally continues to revolve around the processing of the handful of primary stats we have. And while there's some interesting work being done with them, there's really nothing as profound and practically useful as the stuff people like Bill James or Voros McCracken have come up with using the array of less-subjective baseball stats available.
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