Earlier today, NY Giants WR Hakeem Nicks was quoted as saying “stats are for girls” as in guys who care about stats are only interested in showing them off. Lost in the need for him to clarify that point (for obvious reasons), was the greater point that stats are meaningful but often not as meaningful as people think. With the pervasiveness of fantasy sports, stat hogs have even more to chew on but stats out of context are just that – fantasy sports.
I can’t tell you how it burns my grits when I see people going off about how this or that player is “trash” because he only has XXX receptions or XXX interceptions or whatever the case may be. Meanwhile, that player may be playing some of the best football he’s ever played but it doesn’t show up on the statline for various reasons.
No single stat should ever sit at the table alone.
Not too long ago, Chuck Klosterman at Grantland talked about how fantasy sports is changing our perception of players. Klosterman used Titans RB Chris Johnson,who had a mediocre season last year and is in the midst of a pretty good one this year, as an example of how the obsession with stats is dehumanizing players and skewing the way we think of them now and could conceivably in future affect player legacies. Stats already play a big part of whether a player makes it into the Hall of Fame–we want records and things of that nature to be broken before we shower someone with praise. But Klosterman envisions this going a step further to essentially categorize non record breaking or non fantasy stud seasons as failures.
I think Klosterman makes a salient point that also speaks to one of the major issues with stats and the inability of one stat to tell you about all relevant factors e.g. performance in clutch times (it’s basketball season so we might as well get used to that term again), snaps where a player is double teamed or has the defense rolled to his side, how one players’ absence or lack of performance affects others (ex: the impact losing a guy like JJ Watt would invariably have on the Texans secondary) or any other number of factors that can only be gauged by WATCHING the sport or, at the very least, looking at more than 1 or 2 statistical areas.
It is for that reason ESPN came up with the total QB rating that nobody uses except them. But even though I refuse to pay attention to total QBR that doesn’t mean I don’t understand the spirit behind it. ESPN was looking for another way to measure a QBs success rather than simply looking at percentage of completed passes. In order to really get an idea of how a QB is performing in totality you want to consider a number of factors..average yards per pass attempt, what part of that is the WR’s YACs, how many times they’ve been hurried, hit or sacked, how long they hold the ball, how their O line stacks up, how they perform in the redzone specifically, how they run their 2 minute offense, what receiving weapons they have etc. etc. etc.!
On Nicks, the Stat Gods at Pro Football Focus has him currently at 24 overall out of 110 receivers that have taken over 100 snaps this season (last year, he finished the season ranked 7). That is damn good and the fact that he has to defend his stats at this point in the season after injury makes Klosterman’s argument even more poignant. There’s always room to improve, and I’m sure the Giants, their fans, and Nicks himself would love to have him bust into PFF’s top 10 again. But I don’t think there’s a need to press that issue at the current time.
As for whether stats can be used to impress girls, absolutely. Stats make guys popular and popularity attracts the ladies. But Nicks doesn’t seem to be struggling in that department.
Oh while I’m here…I was able to live stream some of the sessions from Blogs with Balls 5. During the diversity session, someone brought up the lack of minorities and women who are experts on sports stats. It was suggested by Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders that more minorities and women should get into the stat game and I think that’s a great idea. So yes, stats ARE for girls, or at least they should be…too.
You can watch the video from the panel on the BWB you tube channel: