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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Football Moneyball

The football world is inefficient.

There have been 42 Super Bowl titles won by a league which has ~28 teams (32 teams rounded down for recent franchises), meaning that each franchise should have won ~1.5 championships. Except that the Steelers, Cowboys and 49ers have won 5 a piece. Anyone who understands normal distributions in statistics will tell you that when there are 21 teams that have won one or never won a Super Bowl and 11 teams that are on the other side of the mean, that is lopsided. Or that 3 teams have won 2, 5 teams have 3, and 3 teams have won 5...that is a fat tail. Or that 6 teams have won 1 vs 15 teams that won none. This is not a bell-shaped outcome.

Failure begets failure and success begets success. What is happening is likely that all of the teams are making plenty of mistakes yet there a few teams that simply know how to make a lot fewer. The Eagles experiment of targeting second-rounders is a smart move. If they have average success in each pick, they will still come out way ahead because they will be getting a lot more 2's (and 3's and 4's) than the 1's and 2's they started with... resulting in a much greater input of players and the ~same probability per player. They will likely end up with more NET success in players drafted that stay with the team 3+ years. While it is possible they miss the once in a generation hall of famer, that is not entirely clear that they won't get a Favre or Strahan.. who were both drafted in the second round. And according to the draft value chart, a very high #1 (where there can still be colossal busts) can still give you that hall of famer but all the while will net you the equivalent of 4 or as many as 6 #2 picks if traded down in deliberate fashion. Value decisions will give your team the numbers to get it done.

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