3 Great Sports Analytics Interviews

All good things come in 3’s – and so it seemed last week when 3 great interviews landed in my Twitter stream. I often don’t click on these types of interviews unless a few people start re-tweeting them. Often they contain one quote from the subject wrapped around 1,000 words. But not this week. We were treated to some great quotes and insights from 3 very imortant people in the world of Sports Analytics.

bill-james1. Bill James Interview for NBC Sports

Now, 10 years after “Moneyball,” 40 years after he began writing about baseball in spare moments while serving as night watchman at the Stokely-Van Camp Cannery, Bill James looks around and, well, he still sees a whole lot of bullshit, some of it in places he helped build.

The opening paragraph is perhaps my favourite part; “Bullshit has tremendous advantages over knowledge. Bullshit can be created as needed, on demand, without limit. Anything that happens, you can make up an explanation for why it happened.”

It’s a really fabulous interview and well worth the time to read it here

kirk2. Kirk Goldsberry – This Guy’s Quest to Track Every Shot in the NBA Changed Basketball Forever

A really great article tracking Goldsberry’s rise in the game of Basketball. Far from coming from a sporting background he got his bachelor’s degree in earth science and geography at Penn State, and then a master’s and PhD in geography. Basketball has many more similarities to football and rugby that Baseball would. Unlike the static, state-to-state action in baseball, basketball is a constant flow. Basketball was like one of Goldsberry’s maps—a complicated, intertwining flow of information without a beginning or end. But that didn’t mean it couldn’t be analyzed.

Goldsberry called his system CourtVision, and it showed differences in players no one had ever quantified. Ray Allen, one of the NBA’s best shooters, had several deadly hot zones from three-point range, and he barely attempted any midrange jumpers. Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers’ dynamic star, took lots of shots from all over the court, but there were places that, if you were playing against him, you’d prefer he shoot from (like the baseline, because he struggled to convert from there). Goldsberry had generated nothing less than an instant visual signature of a player’s offensive game, easy to read and understand. This went way beyond what a smart analyst or coach might intuit from courtside. The more you studied the CourtVision maps, the more insights they revealed.

Take a read of the full article here

Jason Giambi To Return To Oakland A's Next Season3. Billy Beane can’t get enough of soccer after revolutionising baseball

You all know who Billy Beane is and you have to wonder how interesting it would be to see him ending up as a director of football in the premiership. Maybe one day!

  • Traditional stats only credit outcome. They don’t credit process.
  • “I’ve got brilliant staff,” he says. “One of my right-hand guys, Farhan Zaidi, has a PhD in behavioural economics from the University of California, Berkeley. He never played much baseball. He followed American sports when his dad was working for the Asian Development Bank.” Isn’t that a disadvantage? It would be hard to imagine many English clubs doing the same. “Yes, but he has no experience-bias when he comes to my office, so he is able to question the obvious,” says Beane. “A guy like myself, who has been in the game his entire life, may not be able to spot when the emperor is not wearing any clothes.”
  • “The best thing about the book was that it blasted the door open for people who were really bright,” says Beane. “Baseball is no longer sort of a closed-insiders’ club where you had come up through the business or be a player to be part of it. “Because of that, it became a lot smarter. And that’s great.

Take a read of the full article in the Guardian here

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