By Tony McKenna (macattack).
This was originally a post by Tony on Lee Mooney’s ‘Winning by Numbers‘ article. It’s so good, and important, we made it into an article in its own right.
Lee, this is a great article and whilst people have focused on your brilliant graphic, I have chosen also to discuss some of the main points you have raised. I missed the original publication of your piece but it has made me think deeply and I felt that I just had to respond.
Volume, Intensity and Inteligence:
This resonates with me because, for a long time, I have acknowledged the limitations of the most quoted and sourced stats. It stems from none other than Bill James himself; the following quote is one of my favourites since it is a definitive warning from probably the most revolutionary of statisticians there is:
“It is one thing to build an analytical paradigm that leaves out leadership, hustle, focus, intensity, courage and self- confidence; it is a very different thing to say that hustle, focus, intensity, courage and self- confidence do not play a role in real world baseball teams”. (Bill James, quoted from `Mind Game` – p177).
Here we are talking about variables pertaining to the human condition. Bill James’ list is certainly not exhaustive in that sense; and you have added other considerations such as game intelligence. In this sense, I am also very interested in a player’s movement in time and space; their positional play – off the ball. The problem with these entities is that they are infinite and abstract, and being abstract they cannot be easily measured or quantified, and therefore represented as statistics.
Even crucial ‘on the ball’ skills defy easy explanations. I recall many years ago, the late George Best, speaking on the Parkinson show; he referred to the time a reporter was asking him to verbalise his thoughts when engaged with the ball and beating opponents. Best was dismissive – laughingly so – saying it was impossible to verbalise instinctual aptitude in such conscious manner. Instead, the Belfast wonder referred to what Shankly termed as the `football brain`. Unfortunately, this too, is an ineffable entity.
The rest of this post is for Subscribers only.