Good Morning, Broncos fans! Trout/Cabrera MVP voting notwithstanding, the baseball community has embraced statistical analysis more so than any other major sport.
MLB front offices are not only littered with so-called outsiders who utilize a blend of advanced metrics and scouting in their decision-making process, but a large portion of teams, led by the A's, Rays, Rangers, Indians, and Mets, are now run by these people.
Michael Lewis's bestselling book Moneyball glorified this way of thinking as employed by Billy Beane's Athletics, and the Red Sox went from cursed franchise to two-time World Series winner in no small part by studying the A's model. Tampa Bay has become a low-payroll powerhouse, winning an average of 91.6 games over the past five years despite having paid its players an average of just $57M per season over that span.
There's of course always been resistance from the baseball lifers and scouts, and the beat writers who think their access gives them a better understanding of how the game is played and won, this year's AL MVP voting a prime example.
But among those actually making the front-office calls, such derision for an evolving way of thinking is shrinking, and quickly. It's not so much about replacing an archaic model, but about understanding that new information can complement the traditional and help make for better decisions, whether in terms of player transactions or on-field calls.
Eventually, the same will happen in the NFL; organizations like the Patriots, Packers, Ravens, and Eagles are already there. Says Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome of a recent front-office hire:
We're always looking for confirmation on things we think we know and insights that could provide an edge for us in personnel and coaching.
Newsome's own path from HOF player to becoming one of the most highly respected and successful GMs in the game has been well chronicled, and he stood as the rare (only?) player-turned-executive success story prior to Denver's own John Elway. The mindset evidenced by that one-sentence quote - that thirst for knowledge - should not be underestimated when considering what has made Newsome so good at what he does.
As for that short list of teams who have openly adopted statistical analysis, there are likely other franchises that have just not acknowledged having done so, whether out of the desire for secrecy, or to avoid criticism from the traditionalists.
Some of them have consulted with Advanced NFL Stats head Brian Burke, who discusses his work for NFL teams in a recent interview with Chase Stuart. Says Burke,
Teams are secretive about these things for obvious reasons. But it’s no secret that the win probability model has a lot of direct applications that teams would be interested in. Different teams are interested in different things. Some are interested in decision analysis (4th downs, onside kicks, and clock management, for example). Others are interested in player analysis or salary analysis. I’ve become aware of a couple teams that have been using my Expected Points model for their own purposes even though they had never contacted me.
But the biggest surprise, in all honesty, was that some teams were taking advanced stats seriously. I first noticed hits at the site from various team facilities. (My old hit counter service made that very easy.) I thought they must be stray clicks simply because my site comes up on the first page when you Google ‘nfl stats’. My thinking was that we were doing all this analysis in a vacuum just for consumption by like-minded statheads, but it turns out ANS had a few secret admirers.
It's heartening to learn that teams are actually taking Burke's work seriously, whether at the front office or head coaching level. Anything is a start.
Now, obviously, we have no idea whether the Broncos are among Burke's clients, and given that he grants teams an exclusivity within their division, we'll hope the Raiders, Chiefs, and Chargers don't get to Brian first.
You know where this is going, especially since we've been all over John Fox's fourth-down calls from Sunday.
John Elway, hire that man!
The league kept NBC from flexing Denver's game against the Bucs since the Broncos play the following Thursday, and as expected, the team worked out Steve Slaton yesterday.
John Fox says it's likely that Knowshon Moreno will be activated for the game in Kansas City, what with Willis McGahee sidelined.
Mike Klis examines what stands between the Broncos and the AFC's number-two playoff seed; in his latest mailbag, Klis says the AFCW race is over, calls Demaryius Thomas a top-five receiver, and suggests that if Denver has the two-seed locked up, Brock Osweiler could get a chance to start the season finale.
Pittsburgh brought Plaxico Burress back into the fold, also adding former Patriots QB Brian Hoyer to back up Charlie Batch, who will start this week in place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich.
The NFL flip-flopped on Ravens safety Ed Reed, converting his one-game suspension into a $50K fine, showing as usual that they are often more interested in PR than in actually making the game safer.
Cal fired Jeff Tedford, known best for having turned Aaron Rodgers, Trent Dilfer, Joey Harrington, Kyle Boller, David Carr, and Akili Smith into first-round draft picks.
Khaled Elsayed lists best (Von Miller) and worst (Chargers LT Mike Harris) players from Week 11, bestowing upon Miller the heftiest praise he's ever given him (which says a lot, since Elsayed has been on the Von train for long before any other writer out there):
There isn’t a better player in the NFL right now than Von Miller. On either side of the ball and at any position. He had another ridiculous day pass rushing.
No argument from us there.
Jason Whitlock sucks up his pride and gives Peyton Manning and Von their proper due; Sam Monson analyzes the fine play of Steelers corner Keenan Lewis; Peter King and Chris Kluwe continue their Ray Guy debate.
Bucky Brooks says USC's Matt Barkley has shown he's not the QB prospect some (including this writer) had thought he was prior to the season. TYJE