Saturday, 4 April 2009

Lies, Damn Lies

I wrote a few days ago about how statistics differ between different web sites on football matches. Apparently it is subjective whether or not a shot is a shot.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on the subject of ‘assists’ in basketball.

Apparently in the NBA, statistics are recorded by the home team’s statisticians, a situation which perhaps not surprisingly means that home teams tend to receive more than away (road) teams. The Denver Nuggets had more than 17% higher assists to the home team!

The article goes on to say that assists are comparable to errors in baseball - decent indicators of performance, but “splashed with a healthy dose of subjectivity”. The writer also states that assists these days are more common (60% of field goals) than 50 years ago, when the number was approximately 50%.

Assists in football seem to me completely pointless. Does the goalkeeper who passes out to a player who dribbles the length of the field and scores deserve an assist, the same as the player who runs the length of the field and who then lays the ball back for a simple tap in? Most would agree not. Ice-hockey, I believe, records up to two assists for a goal. I see no value in these as tools for betting.

Back to football though, and surely there should be an official statistician at top games? The differences in the MLS are not insignificant, but most stats could be confirmed by reviewing film of the match. Yes, there might be some doubt about whether a shot was on target or not, but there shouldn’t be one site reporting 20 shots in a match for a team, and another saying there were 10. People have money on the line here!

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