Statistics cause a surprising amount of drama for sports fans. (It affects baseball fans the most, of course, but all sports fans get hit to one degree or another.) Pay too much attention to statistics and you either turn into some sort of heartless computing robot or you start a website devoted to nothing but mocking bad sportswriting. Pay too little attention to statistics and you find yourself advocating that your favorite team start the untested third-string quarterback because you “like his moxie” or “because he looks like a player” or something equally vague.
And even if you find that happy middle ground, there’s the question of choosing the RIGHT statistics — is your quarterback racking up yards because he’s just that awesome, or because he’s constantly playing from behind and has to throw the ball 68 times a game? Stuff like that.
Which brings us to the current 3-1 Redskins squad. There are two major ways to look at their statistics: one very good, the other … well, the other isn’t bad, but it’s a bit sobering.
Let’s look at the good one first. Murph at Homer McFanboy takes a look at the stats and finds them enormously exciting. Here’s a sampling.
In 2006, Campbell completed 63 of 122 passes for 713 yards with 6 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. His completion percentage was 51.6 and his QB rating was 68.8.
In 2007, Campbell completed 67 of 113 passes for 869 yards with 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. His completion percentage was 59.3 and his QB rating was 84.3.
In 2008, Campbell completed 81 of 124 passes for 878 yards with 6 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. His completion percentage was 65.3 and his QB rating was 102.2.
If you were to graph most of the statistics as Murph lays them out, with years running along the X axis and the statistic in question heading up the Y axis, the resulting line in almost all cases (Campbell’s QB rating, Portis’s rushing yards, Moss’s receiving stats) shoots up the page at a vertical that looks too steep to climb.
On the other end of the spectrum is DW’s analysis over at Riggo’s Rag. He compares the numbers after this year’s 3-1 start with the numbers after last year’s 3-1 start, and what he comes up with is both surprising and (as previously noted) somewhat sobering.
Last year’s offense at this time was averaging 21.75 pts per game and 340 yardsper game.
This year’s offense is averaging 21.5 pts per game and 342 yards per game.
Last year’s defense at this time was giving up 13 pts/g and 268 yrds/g.
This year’s defense is giving up 20.2 pts/g and 315 yrds/g.
DW does point out areas where having the same stats actually implies an improvement over last year, most convincingly the strength of schedule and the fact that this years stats-to-date includes the slow start against the Giants, and both those are certainly relevant. But there’s still a pretty stark difference there.
The obvious change between the two approaches is that Murph is looking at individual statistics while DW is looking at group statistics; I suppose the question is which one of these blocks of data provides a more accurate picture of where the team stands right now. Are the skill position statistical leaders performing better while the team as a whole remains the same?
I don’t think that’s it, necessarily. The team’s performance feels crisper and more assured than it did at this time last year, although once you start using words like “feels” (and “crisp” or “assured,” for that matter), you’ve left the realm of statistics and moved into … something less technical.
Spence at DC Pro Sports Report finds a more mathematical way of putting it, noting what kind of teams the defense gave up yardage against and where in the game it was. I tend to agree with that assessment, and with Murph’s wildly optimistic analysis of the individual statistics, but it doesn’t hurt to keep DW’s point in mind.
In the end, it’s all decided on the field and that’s why they play the games and blah blah blah, of course, but without people doing analyses like these, what would we as fans have to bicker about?