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02-07-2012, 02:27 AM
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PocketNines
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Join Date: Apr 2004
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Using Numbers Badly: The False "Rinne Dominates the Blues in Nashville" Narrative

A lot of people on Blues boards often wonder why I often make the points I do about numbers. ".500" is meaningless, win percentage vs. using raw points in the standings, to name a couple.

The reason is that numbers, used badly, undergird narratives which turn out to be false when held up to scrutiny. There's a great example of it in Dan O'Neill's post-game writeup after the Nashville loss.

In that post-game piece, O'Neill wrote:

"From a historical standpoint, the Preds are 22-11-7 all-time against the Blues at Bridgestone Arena, including 6-2-3 in the last 11 meetings.

And a big reason for that disparity is the presence of goaltender Pekka Rinne."

Meaning there's a narrative about how huge an edge Nashville has against the Blues in Nashville. 6-2-3, wow, that sounds like dominance lately due to Rinne. Wait, the Blues are 5-3-3 also in that last 11? But, that's ... that's "well above .500!"

In fact, since Rinne entered the picture beginning with the 08-09 season, the Blues have faced him in nine of 11 contests in Nashville. In those nine games, the Blues are 3-2 against him prior to the shootout, and he's won 3 of the 4 games that have gone to shootout. So it's basically been a split when facing Rinne in Nashville. Totally against the narrative Dan O'Neill is pushing he went back 11 contests and carved out that stat specifically because that's how long Rinne's been there. Taking nothing away from Rinne, who is a fantastic goaltender, but the fact is he hasn't dominated the Blues in Nashville as O'Neill tells you he has.

The Blues are actually 15-15-7 + three ties in Nashville all-time. So they've gotten half the available points in Nashville. (For some reason O'Neill folded the three ties in and counted them as Nashville OT losses when expressing 22-11-7 but whatever.) Point is, the narrative makes it sound like some mammoth losing record. Yes, Blues have .500 and the Preds are over .500 in their games in Nashville, but it's not some huge disparity as O'Neill is selling you on believing.

In games decided in regulation and 5-min OT, Blues are 12-16 in Nashville (and the Preds 16-12, obviously). Not great, but nowhere near as lopsided as O'Neill would have you believe (11-14 in regulation, 1-2 in OT fwiw). The Blues are 3-6 in shootouts and there have been three ties. Nashville's been a solid team for some time and the Blues had a lot of rebuilding, so I'd venture to say this road record's actually pretty competitive.

Remember, numbers get used to make narrative, and lots of times that narrative is false. We can debate whether a player's stats reflect his real performance and we endlessly do (and should), and this is why we see Tarasenko's impressive numbers but still want to see him play with our own eyes to verify it's real (in his case, yes, thankfully). However, on black-and-white factual analyses like how standings should appear and using records to tell a story there should definitely be more scrutiny and skepticism.

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