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Quick Note: Is the NBA More Consistent Than the NFL?

February 26, 2012

Today’s Quick Note is a discussion about a Freakonomics.com blog post that compares season-to-season predictability of athlete performance. This post, by Dave Berri, is titled “Talent Evaluation is Different in the NFL and NBA.” This is a very interesting analysis.

The most cutting part of the article examines specific performance metrics among NFL quarterbacks, and how those metrics compare year-to-year:

In our discussion of NFL signal callers, we noted the percentage of a quaterback’s current season performance that could be explained by what the quarterback did last year.  Here is a sample of what we found for a variety of different performance measures:

  • Quarterback Rating: 15.0%
  • Completion Percentage: 31.1%
  • Passing Yards per Attempt: 22.1%
  • Touchdowns per Attempt: 10.1%
  • Interceptions per Attempt: 0.6%
  • Expected Points per Play:  21.0%
  • Win Probability Added per Play: 11.7%
  • Wins Produced per 100 Plays: 16.9%

To put these numbers in perspective, for many statistics in the NBA, season-to-season explanatory power exceeds 70 percent.  As one can see –relative to NBA players — NFL quarterbacks are quite inconsistent from season to season.  This is especially true for interceptions per play — a factor that has a big impact on outcomes — where explanatory power is below 1 percent.  In other words, just because a quarterback avoided interceptions in the past, it doesn’t mean the pattern will continue in the future. 

[all italics added by me and show a quote from the article]

This is a neat article, and well worth a read!

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From → Sports

2 Comments
  1. TaxCoach permalink

    So, based on this statistics, accuracy is the biggest factor. We don’t need spectacular play. Only a reliable (and serviceable quarterback is enough). Yet, that’s not the feeling when we watch games. We’re excited to watch big plays, offensive as well as defensive. They often swing the momentum and determine the game.

    • Good points! Fans want excitement, but putting wins in the scorebook requires consistency, right?

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