Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Stats Primer

I was reading the Internet last night. I only made it about halfway through the Internet when I came upon this article from the New York Times. It was written by a guy who wrote a book about the use of stats (short for "statistics," which is short for "numbers of things that happened") in baseball, but this article is about stats in basketball (proposed new name: statsketball). The piece is centered on Houston Rockets forward Shane Battier (proposed new name: Stattier).

It was intriguing! I learned a bunch about stats. I don't know if you guys have heard about stats, so let me teach you some things about stats.

First and foremost, you need to know what stats are. A stat is a way that we count things that happen. If you have more than one stat it becomes stats. In essence, stats is the plural form of stat, which is a name for something that happened. For instance, if a player takes a jump shot, that is a stat. Let's say that player (Rajon Rondo) misses that shot, that is also a stat. If you combine these, that is a player's stats.

The formula:


That is how we get stats.
(Note: sometimes people say statistics when they are talking about stats. They are the same things. These people just like to sound like scientists.)

Now that you know where stats come from, let's learn about what the article talks about. Because it's not just about stats. It's also about advanced stats, which are kind of like if stats could get superpowers. But between stats and advanced stats are intermediate stats.

Some people didn't think stats were good enough. They were haters. So they decided, "we need more stats." They took all the normal stats (like points and assists and rebounds) and divided them by other stats (games and shots and ratios). This made new stats which are called intermediate stats. They're pretty much normal nowadays, like how the average height of humans has increased over time.

But intermediate stats were not enough for some people. These people were probably people who liked; a) numbers and b) basketball. I don't know for sure, but that's a guess (they'd call it a hypothesis). So these people took stats and intermediate stats and decided to make advanced stats. It's the same as when John Madden invented the Turducken or Charles Darwin invented evolution.

Here's a diagram that shows how stats became advanced stats:

As you can see, stats was a quadroped in the primordial ooze until John Hollinger (a stat-liker/maker) made advanced stats which stands on two legs and lives in a forrest.

Advanced stats can tell us a lot of things. They can tell us how many points a player scores per minute. They can tell us what a player's PER is, which is a measure of how much good a player does. They can allow us to compare a team that plays fast but sucks (the Knicks) with a team that plays slow but sucks (the Wizards). All of these things are possible because of advanced stats. They're pretty cool.

But even advanced stats can't tell us everything. For instance, the Rockets have to have super-advanced stats that tell them how good Shane Stattier (nee' Battier) is at playing basketball. The public (me and you) do not have access to these, but we can assume that they would be like if humans grew wings. Even with super-advanced stats, the Rockets still need to use their eyes to assess things like Stattier's head folds, gap teeth, and ability to place his hand millimeters away from another player's face without actually touching it (REALLY annoying on car trips to Six Flags). Unfortunately, not even Tom Ziller can invent stats to measure those things.

I'm pretty sure I covered everything there is to know about stats, intermediate stats, advanced stats, and super-advanced stats but I might have missed something. If you think you'll get some extra learning from it, go read the article about statsketball. You'll be glad you did because then you can tell all your friends about stats.

Thanks for learning!

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