Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Jan 2009

Aaron Schatz on the B.S. Report: 1/27

Here's the latest B.S. Report, the final "Mega Playoff Podcast Edition" with Cousin Sal, Michael Lombardi, and myself. This sucker is 80 minutes long. Yikes.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 27 Jan 2009

27 comments, Last at 30 Jan 2009, 12:25am by Aloysius Mephistopheles

Comments

1
by cbirkemeier :: Tue, 01/27/2009 - 7:08pm

Aaron, just to let you know, they're always about 80 minutes long.

2
by Gold_Star_for_R... :: Tue, 01/27/2009 - 8:46pm

And about an hour in on every podcast, either Simmons or the guests expresses disbelief in how long it's going.

3
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 01/27/2009 - 9:26pm

hehe exactly :)

still they make good shoveling/dishwashing filler.

4
by Temo :: Tue, 01/27/2009 - 11:10pm

I'm a regular listener of the BS Report, but god damn I could not listen to this whole thing. I got about 2 minutes into the Lombardi segment and just turned it off.

Cousin Sal was nice, but I did not need to hear Aaron complain for umpteenth time about crappy regular season teams doing well in the playoffs.

5
by Eddo :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 12:08am

OK, I'm not a Steelers fan by any means, but I know perfectly well who Gary Russell is. He is sometimes used as a short-yardage back and returns some kickoffs. P-f-r tells me he scored three TDs this year and another one in the playoffs against San Diego. Why is Cousin Sal so convinced there's no chance he scores? Especially if the Steelers are running a lot in the second half of a blowout? This just blows my mind.

10
by Israel P. - Jerusalem (not verified) :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 2:30am

Add to that ignorance "Do we even think he's good?" about Ben. And "Does anyone remember who won the MVP in SuperBowl XL?"

18
by PD (not verified) :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 1:53pm

Yeah, I used to like this podcast...but really, it's become worse than listening to analysts during the actual games. Simmons doesn't bother to do any research for this. There's no insight from his end. He says Ben completed "9 passes" against Baltimore. It was actually 16 completions. Not even close, but he doesn't care. And that's just one example. Simmons doesn't know any MVPs, can't recall past Super Bowls...what, exactly, is he bringing to the table here? I understand the appeal of this podcast is that you're just listening to a "friend" talk about sports, but it would help if that friend knew what he was talking about. At the very least, he could try. Just because he's moderating the podcast doesn't mean he has to lack knowledge of all relevant topics.

6
by Eddo :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 12:21am

Wow...and now Simmons is going about how Peter King has never seen a Hall of Fame resume he wouldn't vote for. Um, wasn't King one of the most outspoken critics of Art Monk?

7
by DestenDennard :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 12:38am

Yeah, for years he said Monk didn't belong in the HOF because Monk was merely a very good player and not a great player. Hence, he didn't belong because it was the Hall of Fame and not the Hall of Very Good.

12
by Lou :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 5:52am

King then reversed his opinion and voted for monk to justify voting for irvin. So he's never met a resume he didn't eventually like.

11
by Lou :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 5:49am

double post

8
by JQ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 1:28am

1st of all let me say that I look forward to every podcast that Aaron is on and find them insightful. That being said in my opinion he comes across as very whiney in this podcast. His basic undertone is that something must be wrong with the playoff system since lately the playoffs have been much less predictable based upon the regular season. I can understand that for a statistician this must be particularly frustrating but he makes it sound like it is a terrible problem

Aaron also seems to imply that this recent trend makes the regular season less relevant. In my opinion he couldn't be more wrong. Historically, 1 or 2 teams per conference used to dominate each year and if your team was 1 of the other 14 basically you had no hope for a large part of the year since you would get demolished by them after their 1st round bye. If this trend is indeed something that stays it makes the regular season MORE important. Every playoff position is coveted since everyone has a chance and therefore many teams have true hope for almost the entire regular season whereas previously it did not exist.

Finally, I would contend that Aaron is wrong in assuming that the NFL playoffs are designed with the goal of having the best team win. The real goal for the NFL is to generate interest. Growing up, the 2nd round games were almost irrelevant to watch because they were almost the equivalent of a ritualistic slaughter. I personally find it more compelling to watch a 2nd round game in today's environment of upsets than years ago knowing most 1 and 2 seeds would win by 20-30 points

22
by Temo :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 4:32pm

Don't lump all statisticians in there. I majored in Statistics and work in that area and love me some sports stats... but Arizona making the Super Bowl does not bother me in the slightest.

I'm just as annoyed at Aaron's insistence that inferior regular season teams making the Super Bowl is somehow abhorrent.

27
by Aloysius Mephistopheles (not verified) :: Fri, 01/30/2009 - 12:25am

Excellent point about the importance of the regular season. You could say current developments make the regular season both more and less important. Less important for the teams that are already in and playing only for higher seeding, more important for the teams on the fringe, battling for a shot just to participate in the tournament.

9
by t.d. :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 2:12am

Aaron sounds as if somebody ran over his dog. I love the site and all your work, but, seriously, if you're going to bitch about 'the wrong teams winning', start with the 2001 Pats. Then move on to the 2003 Panthers, who got this far. The system is healthier than it's ever been. In the 80s into the mid 90s, the NFC won in blowouts every year. Then, it would have made sense for someone to suggest tweaking the system. Not now.

13
by Independent George :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 9:13am

Why do the 2005 Steelers get lumped in as a 'bad winner'? They ranked 3rd in DVOA, and finished 11-5 despite starting Tommy Maddox for four games. The 2006 Colts weren't rated as high because of an awful defense in the regular season, but was anyone really shocked at their success? They'd been an outstanding team for many years, and won the title during an off-year.

As for the Giants, as Aaron himself has mentioned, they stop being shocking if you look at their playoff run as the precursor of the 2008 season (or the 2008 season as the continuation of their playoff run). The personnel is mostly the same (indeed, the most notable differences were losses on the defensive front); in hindsight, it looks like a team that really did come together at the right time.

The Cards might be a similar story; people have been talking them up for years, and it looks like the talent & the coaching staff are finally on the same page.

In hindsight, it might not be so much the story of bad teams making a mockery of the regular season, but of very good teams taking their first steps towards a long run of success.

14
by joepinion (not verified) :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 9:43am

I agree with the others: The constant whining by Schatz is uncalled for. Aaron is misplacing the significance of statistics and the purpose of the NFL playoff system.

With the exception of the 11-5 Patriots, the NFL playoff system does exactly what it is designed to do: fill a bracket with all the teams who have a legitimate shot at beating all the other teams top teams, and give significant advantages to the teams who performed the best of all.

Playoff home field advantage and a first round bye are HUGE advantages. Not a guarantee of course, but, statistically, a larger advantage than winning the coin flip in overtime, which we all think is so unfair. TEN, PIT, NYG and CAR all earned those advantages.

The low seeds winning? All that shows is that, despite well-deserved advantages, there are still about 12 teams who are capable of beating each other in a 4-round tournament. This proves the worth of the concept of a 12-team playoff.

One of the best arguments for the current playoff system is YOUR STATISTICS. All year you guys thought the Eagles were a top 4 team in the NFL; NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD THOUGHT THIS. Yet you were proved right when they crushed the Cowboys and won two playoff games. You proved that that 6 teams in each conference is a good number because that sixth team might really be the best.

If the wildcard teams lost every year, wouldn't this suggest that the playoff system is broken and we should allow only 4 or 8 teams into the tournament????

After their Week 12 loss to the Giants, with the division well in hand, the Cardinals were ranked SIXTH in DVOA ratings, POINT FIVE PERCENT BEHIND THE STEELERS. They coasted the rest of the year to slip way down, then played well in 3 playoff games. Now you're upset that they're in the Super Bowl because your statistics, which predict game results BASED ON PLAY RESULTS don't take into account the most recent play results.

A little human perspective on your statistics show that the Cardinals are just fine. Not only the that, but your stats JUSTIFY the current playoff system, not call it into question.

I love, love, LOVE your site. You are smarter than me when it comes to applying math to football. Which is why I'm so surprised that you are so reactive and indignant in this "free flowing conversation that occasionally touches on mature topics." I would think Bill James fans like yourselves would be our leaders in putting statistics into context, as opposed to giving good reason for ignorant columnists to whine about stat-heads only caring about the numbers.

The Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl is great from all perspectives, including both Super Bowl storylines and statistics.

15
by Eddo :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 10:47am

I agree. I wanted to say something like this last night but I was too tired to put together enough coherent thought.

To begin, I won't stop reading the work produced by Football Outsiders. On the whole, they provide the best analysis out there. Better than the "insider" analysis that is blind to players' flaws and too quick to identify trends. Better than the propaganda they put up at CHFF (aka "The Playoffs Are The Only Way To Judge A Quarterback"). Better than the human interest stories that are ESPN's columnists' bread-and-butter. Better than the controversy-for-controversy's-sake that CBSSportslines provides. Better than the biased crap put out by most independent sites.

But please, stop whining about the Cardinals and the unpredictability of the playoffs. As joepinion said, DVOA had the Eagles rated in the top four all year long, and they wouldn't have made a more exclusive playoff field.

Simmons's podcast was chock-full of whining. Somehow, he and Cousin Sal decide that adding a playoff team in each league would somehow prevent a supposedly inferior team like the Cardinals from reaching the Super Bowl. Huh? Maybe Simmons is only pushing this because, let's see, his Patriots would have been the seventh AFC team this year? And that the Patriots had a better regular-season record than the Cardinals?

Honestly, I wonder if this is clouding Aaron's judgment as well. Overall, he's not biased. But none of us can truly ever escape our fandom. Aaron wishes the Patriots had made the playoffs this year, just like I wish the Bears had and Temo and others wish the Cowboys had. This must subconsciously affect his analysis, just as it affects any opinions I have of Kyle Orton or Temo has of the Cowboys as a whole.

I usually defend FO, even when I don't agree with their opinions, as they're all human and are likely to make mistakes. I think Aaron's only problem here might be that he's not realizing he's human and emotionally tied to a team that's a major historical outlier (11-5 Patriots missing the postseason).

Let's just enjoy the playoffs for what it is: the most exciting time of the year.

16
by GlennW :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 12:32pm

Keep in mind that the backdrop theme to every Simmons podcast is that the Patriots are the true deserving champion in each and every season, only deprived of this distinction through bad fortune (Brady's injury, Tyree's "lucky" catch where holding was not called on the play, Troy Brown's blown route in the 2006 AFCC, blah blah blah). Boo hoo hoo, Bill. I agree though that Aaron shouldn't contribute to this atmosphere. Statistical analysis is a tool, not an end unto itself as a basis for deciding a champion. Playoff surprises only make the refinement of such analysis more interesting, not less. Otherwise just scrap the playoffs, because we already know who the "best" team is based on the regular season.

I'm intrigued by the Steelers-Cardinals matchup, more so even than, say, Steelers versus the DVOA-endorsed-but-underachieving Eagles. Superior offense on one side, superior defense on the other. Let's line them up and see which one prevails, with the understanding that another element from one or both of the teams will probably make the difference. These unexpected factors make the games interesting. Instead of complaining about the Cardinals, how about digging into what unexpected events might decide the game?

I think Aaron does this site and himself a major disservice by stating outright that this Super Bowl matchup just "isn't interesting", when the Super Bowl represents the ultimate game in the sport from which he makes his livelihood. I've never sensed such a sentiment at Baseball Prospectus, for example-- rather that each postseason series is compelling and worthy of inspection in its own right. If the Super Bowl isn't interesting, why then should we read about it at FO?

17
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 1:36pm

First off the above 3 or 4 posts mirror some things I have said in other threads, so ditto. Simmons really is so blind when it comes to the Pats, but at least he admits he is a homer.

On top of it this Super IS very interesting. If you don't think it is interesting maybe you just don't actually like football all that much? I thought casual fans were the ones who needed a Dallas/Pittsburgh or New England/New York Super Bowl to get all excited? Perhaps Aaron doesn't actually like football itself but enjoys analyzing football statistically? I know that is how I feel about baseball.

19
by Eddo :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 2:13pm

I totally agree; I find every Super Bowl interesting because I love watching the NFL. In fact, the Super Bowl I was least excited about in the last decade was Patriots-Eagles, and I suspect that's actually because it was the chalk Super Bowl (even though the Steelers were the AFC #1 seed that year, it was widely agreed upon that the Patriots were the best team).

20
by I'm verified! (not verified) :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 2:17pm

The solution to the "wrong team in the Super Bowl" problem is simple - develop a system that uses 2/3 human input, 1/3 unbiased stat input to determine the 2 best teams, regardless of conference.

That'll be popular!!

Otherwise, let's just create a hard floor for the playoffs - can't get in without 10 wins. Some years, they'll be 12 teams, others 6, but they'll be less chance of "undeserving" teams in the playoffs.

21
by JQ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 3:33pm

The Playoff System is fine as it is even though Statistical Anomalies will exist.

For example this year the Pats missed the playoffs with an 11-5 record which is definitely an anomoly. Interestingly, the Pats being able to claim the #2 Seed in 2001 with the same record (11-5) that made them miss the playoffs this year was also an anonoly. I can't recall many teams with 5+ losses being the #2 seed in an nfl playoffs.

Heck I remember 1 year when GB was 12-4 and they did NOT even get 1 Home Game! They were 12-4 yet only the #5 Seed so their 1st game was on the road

From time to time crazy things might happen but they are quite rare and likely rare enough to not warrant a new system

23
by vanya (not verified) :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 8:45pm

I find the insinuations that Schatz is mad about the Cardinals because he's a Pats homer are ridiculous. The idea that Schatz is even a Pats fan in the first place is faintly ridiculous. I am Patriots homer, Simmons is a Patriots homer - Schatz is not, he bends over backwards to ingratiate himself with non-Pats fans, usually by insulting Patriots fans. Schatz is the one who started the "Rusher McFumbles" nickname for Cassel and mocked him every chance he could for 2 years. Some homer. A real homer would have taken a stand on the Manning-Brady debate in favor of Brady, regardless of the facts, Schatz actually seems to like Manning. In most bars in the Boston area a guy with an attitude like Aaron's wouldn't be welcome very long.

Anyway, I think it's obvious that Schatz is angry not because the Pats missed the playoffs (and as a Pats homer I think they DESERVED to miss the playoffs, they had no defense this year. They should have done their job and beaten the Jets in overtime) he's angry because like many engineers or economists or political scientists who build "perfect" statistical models, he can't stand it when the real world fails him. But I'm not saying anything joepinion hasn't already said more elegantly.

24
by Eddo :: Wed, 01/28/2009 - 8:56pm

I would never say Aaron is a homer; a homer is someone who always talks up his own team and takes any criticism directly towards his team personally. Aaron, as you say, often goes out of his way to do the opposite.

However, he can come off that way when talking with Simmons, who is most definitely a Patriots homer. I was just posing a theory that maybe Aaron is a little more personally affected by the success of the Cardinals this year, the Giants last year, and the Colts the year before, as all three runs came at the Patriots expense (the Cardinals' record was two games worse, and the Colts and Giants eliminated the Patriots during their runs).

Mostly, I would imagine Aaron's anger is due to what you said, that he is overly frustrated when his model doesn't accurately predict reality.

25
by t.d. :: Thu, 01/29/2009 - 6:16am

Aaron's 'team' this year would be Philly and Baltimore-not the Pats- the teams dvoa pegged as better than conventional analysis regarded them to be heading into the playoffs. So it'd be understandable if he were disappointed to have just missed out on a major coup for his metrics. I just think it's a good matchup between interesting teams.

26
by Eddo :: Thu, 01/29/2009 - 11:27am

Right, it'd be understandable if he was just disappointed to have predicted the Super Bowl correctly, but he's going on and on about how this year is just more proof that the system needs to change.