Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Eye Test

FatherBlog, many years ago, had a rule that he wouldn't get his mail on the weekends.

Whatever arrived on Saturday would still be there Monday, and why let the weekend be ruined by something that came in the mail? TigerBlog is talking about actual mail here, not email, something that was still a ways away from being invented at that point.

TB isn't sure if FB still goes by that philosophy, though he'd guess he long ago forgot about it.

As for TB, he sometimes figures he won't check his email on the weekends or at night. And, of course, he's never actually done that.

TB knows people in college athletics whose athletic directors have rules that they are always to be reachable by email or cellphone. Fortunately, it's not quite that drastic around here, though there is a level of expectation of accessibility on pretty much everyone in every profession in 2011.

As a result, TigerBlog will check his email every now and then during non-business hours. And, it's quite frustrating to get an email that sparks an immediate concern over something, only to not be able to get in touch with the sender because it's 10 at night or Sunday morning or something like that.

For whatever reason, TB didn't check his email between yesterday when he left and this morning when he arrived.

When he got here this morning, he had 52 new emails, most of which were nothing pressing. It's amazing that people don't delete emails they really need (or maybe they do) when they start deleting the dozens that they don't.

Anyway, in the email pile was one from John Sadak, the outstanding play-by-player for the men's basketball team in the winter and the voice of the Wilmington Blue Rocks in the summer. That's 140 games each summer, by the way, which keeps him fairly busy and means that TB doesn't hear too much from Sadak until the fall.

Sadak's email had a subject line of "interesting," and in this case it was a good one.

Sadak sent TB a link to a blog entry on the Ivy basketball site "The 14-Game Tournament," one that attempts to use saber-metrics to determine bests and worsts from Ivy men's baskeball over the last 15 years, as well as to attempt to predict what will happen.

The basic premise, at least as far as which team was the best in that time frame, is that there are those who believe that it was Princeton in 1998, Penn in 2002 or 2003 and Cornell in 2010.

Cornell, because it reached the NCAA Sweet 16 and because it happened recently, is usually the one that is mentioned.

Sabermetics have the cutest names, and the one at work here is called "Adj Pythag," as opposed to things like "VORP" and "WAR" and "PERA" and all the others.

"Adj Pythag" refers to Adjusted Pythagorean Win Percentage, which, like all sabermetrics, tries to come up with a mathematical formula that can be used as a predictor of results or analysis of individual or team success or lack thereof without any emotional factors.

This formula spit out that Princeton in 1998 was the best of the Ivy teams in the last 15 years.

TigerBlog's response isn't: See, that proves the point.

Nope. Instead, it is: "TB didn't need a formula to prove that."

One point of all of the sabermetrics is that traditional numbers that were used for decades to measure athletic success, especially in baseball, are really statistically flawed and don't actually tell you who stands out. Wins. RBIs. Forget them.

The problem as TB sees it is that the more everyone gets caught up in the numbers, the further away they get from what really matters.

It's the "Eye Test."

As in, believe what the eye tells you.

TigerBlog saw the Ugonna Onyekwe Penn teams, the Sweet 16 Cornell team and the late 1990s Princeton teams.

He doesn't need any statistical analysis to tell him which team was the best.

He'll take Princeton first, Penn second, Cornell third.

The eyes have it.


Jon Solomon said...

No joke: When I first read through the 14-Game Tournament piece, my initial vision was of you reading it and nodding.

I've always considered the 98-99 Tigers to be one of the best Ivy teams to not make it to the NCAA tournament, so it is comforting to see the data back up what my eyes already confirmed.


Jon Solomon said...

Ps. For the record: I'd take 2010 Cornell over Onyekwe's Penn team on a neutral court.

Brian McD said...

TB - it makes sense that Athletics communications folks spend a little extra time focusing on major sports that all Ivies field, are popular nationally and have some stats to throw around. Are there any conversations about less prominent sports? For example, what was the best women's crew team of the past 15 years, the best men's swim team, the best women's soccer team or the best men's hockey team?