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On today’s episode of the Advanced Football Analytics Podcast, Professor Laura Albert McLay of the University of Wisconsin-Madison joins Dave to discuss her work on operations research in Football. Professor McLay outlines her research into different ways to use analytics to predict the selections of the College Football Playoff committee and how a logistic regression Markov chain provided the best predictive results. She explains how selecting the top teams in college football is similar to how Google ranks websites, and how operations research tools can help answer questions about the “quality” of a team’s season.

Dave and Professor McLay finish out the episode with a look at other Football questions that Operations Research can help answer, such as fourth down decision-making, two-point conversions and even scheduling.

Read more of Professor McLay’s work at her website, Punk Rock Operations Research, and make sure to check out her new podcast on the subject as well.

Direct download: 062_AFAPodcast.Laura.Albert.McLay.1.5.16.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

On this special college bowl edition of the Advanced Football Analytics podcast, Sharon Katz of ESPN Stats & Info joins the show to break down the upcoming New Year's Eve and New Year's Day bowl games.  Sharon begins by breaking down the predictive performance of ESPN’s College Football FPI statistic this season and describes some of the tweaks her team at ESPN made to the metric to better predict unique bowl scenarios.

Dave and Sharon then go in-depth into each of the new year's day bowls and provide analysis of the Outback, Citrus, Fiesta, Rose and Sugar bowls. They then preview the New Year’s Eve College Football Playoffs at the Cotton and Orange Bowls and make some predictions for this year’s eventual champion. They wrap up the episode with a look at a list Sharon compiled of the top ten biggest plays from the last decade in terms of win probability swings.

Direct download: 061_AFAPodcast.Sharon.Katz.12.30.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 11:04am PDT

This week, we go back into the AFA Podcast archives to revisit an interview with Jeff Sagarin and Wayne Winston, two longtime friends that have made a lasting impact on the field of sports analytics.

Dave talks with Jeff Sagarin and Wayne Winston about their four decades of work in the field of sports statistics. Wayne and Jeff met while studying together at MIT and have been friends ever since. In the early 80’s, they had their first collaboration on a football play-calling project for Indiana University’s head football coach, Sam Wyche. Since then, Jeff has been publishing his team ratings in USA Today while Wayne published his book, “Mathletics“, and currently teaches at Indiana’s Kelly School of Business.

During the show Jeff and Wayne discuss the history of their friendship, from playing dice based football board games in their dorm rooms to their current work as professional statisticians. Jeff gives his thoughts on how the BCS computer rankings have changed in recent years while Wayne shares his ideas on how to best evaluate football teams and individual players. Questions fromTwitter are also answered during the episode, so make sure to keep the ideas coming!

Direct download: Archives_AdvNFLStats.SagarinWinston.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Brian Burke (ESPN Stats & Info) returns to discuss the latest trends in FPI rankings. He and Dave discuss the recent performance of the Texans, Lions, Chiefs and Redskins and what their FPI rankings mean for their performance going forward. Brian discusses his recent work integrating win probability onto ESPN platforms in preparation for the Playoffs.

Dave decides to poke the bear and dive into Brian’s twitter posts and they get into a discussion of what “the eye test” really means and why it’s essential to define assumptions in any debate. They close out the episode with a look at the playoff probability leverage of key week 13 games.

Direct download: 060_AFAPodcast.Brian.Burke.12.4.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 6:19pm PDT

Mike Sando (ESPN Insider) re-joins Dave to discuss some of the most surprising teams in the NFL. He explains how health and personnel have fueled the Bengals’ breakout season and how Miami and Oakland have gone in different directions with their developing quarterbacks. They discuss the disaster in Dallas and the value and trade-offs necessary to budget for backup QB’s and Mike breaks down how the Seahawks’ strangely poor record even while winning turnover battles bodes well for their chances later in the season.

Dave and Mike then go on to discuss Mike’s revised “Insider QB rankings” and look at some of the rising and falling stars at the position this season. Mike discusses the risk/reward trade-offs of Aaron Rodgers’ “second reaction plays” and explains how the player personnel framework of “can we win with this guy?” has led to the benching of Colin Kaepernick and Peyton Manning. Finally, Mike makes his case for why Cam Newton’s performance this year should be judged less on metrics like QBR and more on his ability to fulfill the role his team needs him to play in the offense. The show rounds out with a look at the key Jets at Texans match-up and what it means for the AFC playoff picture.

Links from this episode:

Direct download: 059_AFAPodcast.Mike.Sando.11.20.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

This week Sharon Katz (ESPN Stats & Info) is on the show to discuss the 2015 college football season and the upcoming college football playoffs. Sharon breaks down the metrics ESPN uses to rate college team performance and dives in detail into the seasons that Clemson and Iowa have had thus far. Sharon and Dave break down the upcoming slate for the key Big 12 contenders, and discuss this weekend’s showdown between the top two teams in FPI (Oklahoma vs. Baylor). Sharon breaks down this year’s College Football Playoff Committee's rankings and outlines the changes that she’s seen in year two of the committee’s work.

The episode rounds out with a look at the NFL, with Sharon explaining why the NFL FPI metric has been so strongly in favor of the Eagles performance. She dives into some key week 10 match-ups and highlights the most important NFL games to watch this weekend.

Direct download: 058_AFAPodcast.Sharon.Katz.11.12.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 8:42pm PDT

This week, we go back into the AFA Podcast archives to revisit an interview with Virgil Carter, the man many consider to be the founding father of advanced football statistics.

On the episode, Dave, Brian Burke and Virgil look back at Virgil’s playing days when he was suiting up at quarterback for the Bears while studying for his MBA at Northwestern in the off-season. It was there at Northwestern that he published his first paper, Operations Research on Football. That paper introduced the idea of expected point value based on game situation, an idea that is still at the core of advanced football analysis. Virgil also talks about what it was like to play under head coach Paul Brown, and why if it weren’t for him, Bill Walsh might have never needed to create his “West Coast” passing offense.

If you want to learn more about Virgil and his fascinating career both on and off the field, check out the following links:

-Sports Illustrated article from October, 1972: “Handy Pair of Brainy Bengals
-Virgil’s graduate research paper: Operations Research on Football
-Pro-Football-Reference Player Page: Virgil Carter
 
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Direct download: 058_AdvNFLStats.VirgilCarter.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Sterling Xie (Football Outsiders, Bleacher Report) returns to review his preseason projections. He and Dave begin by looking at the results we've seen so far from the Detroit Lions and speculate what sorts of changes fans can expect to see with a new offensive coordinator. They then discuss the Vikings, and try to decipher the discrepancies between the team's record and DVOA as well as what to take away from Teddy Bridgewater's performance through six games.

Next, Sterling discusses his research on the top defensive front sevens in the NFL and explains which metrics he chose to isolate front seven performance. The episode finishes with a discussion of Sterling's work following the Patriots each week and which units he's watching closely in the second half of the season.

Links:

Direct download: 057_AFAPodcast.Sterling.Xie.10.29.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Brian Burke returns for his record-setting 15th appearance on the podcast. He discusses his recent trip up to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT and the work he's done to integrate Win Probability onto all the ESPN platforms.

Dave and Brian then discuss FPI and what it can tell us about the future of the remaining unbeaten teams, and how the upcoming return of quarterbacks from injury can raise a team's rating. They also discuss QBR and compare the seasons of Andy Dalton and Peyton Manning.

Dave and Brian then discuss how FPI can help understand upcoming week seven match-ups. The episode concludes with Brain retelling the story of how he was starstuck when he ran into some ESPN on-camera talent in the ESPN cafeteria!

Subscribe on iTunes, on Stitcher, or via RSS. Don't forget to leave a rating!

Direct download: 056_AFAPodcast.Brian.Burke.10.23.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 7:51pm PDT

Trey Causey (@TreyCausey) is a data scientist, NFL statistical consultant and writer. He joins Dave on this episode to discuss what he's learned during his time working for an "unnamed" NFL team. He explains how the structure of a team's analytics department is crucial to their ability to promote change in an organization, and how the unique time pressures of professional sports make creating a successful long-standing analytics operation a tough challenge. Trey goes on to explain some of his research on k-means clustering and how it's a useful way to organize players into groups. Dave and Trey close out the episode with a discussion of the 4th down bot and the challenges Trey has faced in updating its win probability algorithms for end of game situations.

Links from this episode

Subscribe on iTunes, on Stitcher, or via RSS. Don't forget to leave a rating! 

Direct download: 054_AFAPodcast.Trey.Causey.10.8.15.v2.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Mike Lopez (@StatsbyLopez), professor of statistics at Skidmore College, joins Dave to discuss his recent trip to the NESSIS conference. He and Dave go on to talk about his paper on how the rate of discretionary penalty calling by referees changes over time, and how certain rule changes in the NFL have had drastic effects on penalty rates. Mike then reviews his preseason prediction on how the new extra point changes would alter two point conversion attempt rates over the first few weeks of the season. Mike and Dave finish up the episode with a look at Mike's tracking of prediction websites, and discuss how the edge gained from advanced researchers making NFL predictions has waned in the last decade.

Direct download: 053_AFAPodcast.Mike.Lopez.10.1.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Jim Pagels (Forbes, FiveThirtyEight, Bloomberg) is on the show to discuss his recent research on NFL TV ratings. Jim explains how overlapping seasons for different sports create a negative crossover effect on viewership and proposes some schedule changes that could fix the issue. He also discusses NFL survivor pool strategy, a new way of using EPA to score your fantasy football league and closes out the episode with a discussion of where to find value in NFL futures bets.

Direct download: 052_AFAPodcast.Jim.Pagels.9.24.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Sterling Xie (Football Outsiders, @sterlingxie) is on to discuss last night's Patriots/Steelers season opener, the AFC East and the teams he researched in depth (Vikings and Lions) for this year's Football Outsiders Almanac. Sterling makes some predictions on the best and worst case scenarios for teams and picks his favorite matchups for week one of the season.

Direct download: 051_AFAPodcast.Sterling.Xie.9.11.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:11pm PDT

Keith Goldner (Numberfire.com) returns to provide some expert fantasy advice. He describes the data he uses to plan for his drafts and highlghts his favorite players to own in 2015.

Direct download: 050_AFAPodcast.Keith.Goldner.9.2.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 3:30am PDT

Brian Burke (ESPN Stats & Info) returns to discuss how he went from from running Advanced Football Analytics to his new role working on special projects on the stats & info team at ESPN.  He describes the new NFL Football Power index he's working on and assures Dave that he's hard at work bringing back all the old tools from AFA onto ESPN platforms. Brian also explains how his golf win probability model made a splash during the PGA championship, and how working at a big company changes the way projects get released.

Direct download: 049_AFAPodcast.Brian.Burke.8.28.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Jonathan Bales (@BalesFootball) is on to preview the year in daily and season-long fantasy football. He discusses the daily fantasy roster construction and player evaluation strategies outlined in his book "Fantasy Football For Smart People" and provides excellent tips on how to prepare for the 2015 fantasy football season.

Direct download: 048_AFAPodcast.Jonathan.Bales.8.21.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Gill Alexander (@beatingthebook), host of the Beating the Book podcast, joins Dave to discuss the current state of the football betting markets. On the episode, Gill explains how he incorporates a variety of perspectives, methods and data into his NFL handicapping and how keeping an open mind to opposing viewpoints can be a big advantage in wagering.

Direct download: 047_AFAPodcast.Gill.Alexander.8.14.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

 

Mike Sando (ESPN) joins host Dave Collins to talk training camp, quarterback rankings and the team storylines he’s following heading into 2015.

Direct download: 046_AFAPodcast.Mike.Sando.8.6.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 5:00am PDT

Brian Burke returns to preview the 2015 NFL draft. Brian and Dave begin by discussing the “backpack” metaphor for building an NFL roster and describe the trade-offs the NFL GM’s must make when preparing to bring on new talent. Brian goes on to explain how he reexamined the famous “Massey-Thaler Draft Surplus Study” with new data. To close out the show, Brian previews the newly updated Bayesian Draft “War Room” and Draft Trade Evaluator tools and explains how teams and fans can use them during the draft broadcast.

Direct download: 045_AFAPodcast.Brian.Burke.4.27.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

For the first time in its history, the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference hosted a data hackathon. The challenge was to put together a visualization using ESPN's database of NFL statistics. Dave travelled to Boston to participate in the hackathon, and as his output, documented the processes and outcomes of the event by interviewing participants, organizers and leaders involved in the experience.

Direct download: Sloan.Hackathon.2.26.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 4:12pm PDT

 

Brian Burke is back for the final AFA podcast of the 2014-15 NFL season. Brian and Dave discuss the Patriots deflated ball controversy with a quick recap of high school physics before analyzing the key analytical storylines of Super Bowl XLIX.  They look at the role of analytics in the TV broadcast, break down the key matchups on both sides of the ball and finish up the show by predicting which team will be crowned the 2015 Super Bowl champion.

Direct download: 044_AFAPodcast.Brian.Burke.1.29.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

 

John Urschel, offensive guard for the Baltimore Ravens and published mathematician, rejoins the show to recap his rookie year in the NFL. John covers a wide variety of topics, from describing his toughest blocking assignments, to how he makes his pre-snap reads, to breaking down how he handles crowd noise. The show concludes with a recap of some of John’s off-the-field activities, including his current mathematical research and volunteer work teaching math to Baltimore high school students.

Direct download: 043_AFAPodcast.John.Urschel.1.22.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

 

Neil Paine (FiveThirtyEight) returns to discuss the college football and NFL conference championship games. He explains how sports betting markets evaluate the impact of replacement players and provides his thoughts on the CFB playoffs, Monday's championship game, and what future college football postseasons might look like. In the second half, Neil and Dave discuss the implications of expanding the NFL playoffs to 14 teams before previewing this weekend’s conference championship matchups.

Direct download: 042_AFAPodcast.Neil.Paine.1.15.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

 

Brian Burke is back to recap the 2014 regular season. Brian and Dave begin the show by discussing the significance of the non-pass interference penalty in last week’s Dallas-Detroit game. Next, Brian reviews his recent posts on the idea of analyzing individual player contributions as “compliments and substitutes”, the college football rankings process and his own NFL ranking systems on AdvancedFootballAnalytics.com. They close out the episode with a look back on the “best of” 2014, preview this weekend’s divisional round games and make a friendly wager on Saturday’s Ravens-Patriots game.

Direct download: 041_AFAPodcast.Brian.Burke.1.7.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

 

Jimmy “J.I.” Halsell, former Redskins salary cap analyst and director of analytics and contract advisor at Priority Sports and Entertainment, is on to discuss coaching changes and salary cap strategy. J.I. describes his work in the Redskins front office, and shares some of the data and resources teams use to make major front office decisions. He explains how during his time at Priority Sports, he used different methods to build relationships and find added leverage for his NFL clients. At the end of the show, he and Dave take a look at the newly vacated head coaching positions and brainstorm some likely (and unlikely) matches for the jobs.

Direct download: 040_AFAPodcast.JI.Halsell.1.3.15.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:00pm PDT

 

Mike Sando (ESPN) returns to the podcast to recap his list of the best and worst offseason player acquisitions. Mike and Dave discuss the challenges of building a roster through veteran acquisitions, and review Mike’s picks for 2015 NFL MVP. They look at which coaches are on the hot seat, and debate which potential coaching vacancies present the best opportunities for success. The episode ends with a deep dive into Mike’s daily work covering the NFL. He provides Dave some detailed pointers on how he watches live and televised games in order to learn the most about team personnel and individual matchups.

Direct download: 039_AFAPodcast.Mike.Sando.12.18.14.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

 

Chase Stuart (Football Perspective) returns to discuss the college football playoffs, analyze long term trends in NFL passing offense and preview week 15 matchups. Chase and Dave look at the teams with fluid QB situations going into next season and predict which teams are the best destinations for the top college QB prospects. The episode wraps up with a look at the Baltimore Ravens and this Sunday’s Dallas/Philadelphia and Houston/Indianapolis games.

Direct download: 038_AFAPodcast.Chase.Stuart.12.11.14.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

 

Kevin Quinn, Economics Professor at St. Norbert College (WI) and author of “The Business of the NFL” and “Sports and Their Fans”, is on to discuss his research on the economics of the NFL. Professor Quinn outlines his model for optimizing owner behavior and explains the value of regional monopoly power in sports. He and Dave discuss the state of NFL ownership and how the current media contract helped shape the modern NFL. They conclude with a look how different economic tools can be used to model NFL team success on the field and weigh the advantages of each.

Direct download: 037_AFAPodcast.Kevin.Quinn.11.27.14.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Kevin Kelley, Head Coach of Pulaski Academy (Little Rock, AR), is on the show this week to discuss his unique strategic philosophy. Known as the “coach who never punts”, Coach Kelley has leveraged his offensive acumen, love of advanced stats and commitment to onside kicking to lead his team to three state championships since 2003. He and Dave break down the data underlying his strategies, dive into the details of how he executes his special teams plays and discuss the differing ways the football world has responded to his success.

Direct download: 036_AFAPodcast.Kevin.Kelley.11.27.14.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

 

Brian Burke is back on the podcast to answer reader and listener questions. Digging into the email and twitter archives, Brian and Dave dig up some of their favorite and most difficult to answer questions from the past few years. From the implications of intentional penalties to predicting kicker success, this episode covers a little bit of everything in the world of Advanced Football Analytics.

Direct download: 035_AFAPodcast.Brian.Burke.11.19.14.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

 

Neil Paine (Senior Sportswriter, FiveThirtyEight) discusses with Dave how he and the team at FiveThirtyEight use Elo scores to rank NFL teams and explains how his research on backup quarterbacks led to surprising conclusions on the importance of backup QB skill level. Dave then digs up some of Neil’s older research examining how much individual wide receivers are responsible for their quarterback’s success. They close out the show with a look at the structure of the NFL playoffs and weigh the pros and cons of Neil’s proposal to make the NFL postseason more “fair”.

Direct download: 034_AFAPodcast.Neil.Paine.11.11.14.pod.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

 

Keith Goldner, Chief Analyst at Numberfire.com and regular AFA contributor, rejoins the show to break down the best and worst individual player performances this season. Keith and Dave discuss the optimal strategy for goal to go offensive play-calling, and examine the underlying reasons behind the net expected point (NEP) production of the NFL's top QBs, RBs, and WR/TEs.

Direct download: 033_AFAPodcast.Keith.Goldner.11.6.14.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

 

Alok Pattani (ESPN Stats and Info) rejoins the podcast to break down the new college football playoffs process. Alok explains the statistics he and his colleagues at ESPN developed to frame the on-air debate over which teams are the “best” vs. which teams “deserve” to be selected by the playoff committee. Dave and Alok analyze the first set of rankings released this week while Alok shares takeaways from his conversations with committee representatives and makes his probabilistic predictions for which teams will make the “Football Final Four”.

Direct download: 032_AFAPodcast.Alok.Pattani.10.29.14.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

 

Brian Burke is on the podcast for an (almost) mid-season recap of the NFL season. Dave and Brian go team by team and dive into some of the more interesting 2014 team successes and failures. They also highlight visualizations and tools buried deep in the new AFA site, and make some predictions for what to expect in the second half of the season.

Direct download: 031_AFAPodcast.Brian.Burke.10.23.14.final.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

The AFA podcast is back with a brand new episode featuring sports economist Dave Berri, author of “The Wages of Wins” and “Stumbling on Wins”. Dave and Dave begin with a discussion of the Detroit Lions recent success, and look at some of Professor Berri’s research on the predictive power of quarterback stats. Professor Berri then explains his views on the business of college football through the lens of labor economics and describes what it was like to testify during the Northwestern unionization hearings.

Direct download: 030_AFAPodcast.Dave.Berri.10.17.14.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Brian Burke makes his first regular season appearance on the podcast to recap week two and discuss some of his latest analysis. Brian explains his break-even models for two point conversions and challenges and describes how the WOPR allows him to create test data for all sorts of interesting hypothetical game strategies. He also discusses an upcoming post that examines when teams should start running their "four minute offense". Dave and Brian close out the episode with an update on the 4th down bot and the new home and format for Brian's weekly game predictions.

 

This episode is sponsored by DraftKings, the leading provider of daily fantasy sports. If you use this this link or promo code "AFA" to create a new account and make a deposit you'll gain a free $2 entry into this weekend's $100,000 Play Action Tournament.

Direct download: 029_AFAPodcast.Brian.Burke.9.17.14.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Chase Stuart rejoins the show to break down the surprising week one winners and losers. Chase shares his observations from the Jets home opener and explains some of the weekend's more intriguing game scripts. He also examines the data on exactly how important week one results are in predicting the season while looking ahead to the most intriguing week two match-ups.

Direct download: 028_AFAPodcast.Chase.Stuart.9.10.14.v2.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

 

It's an episode full of pivot tables and preseason predictions as Mike Sando, ESPN insider, joins the show to discuss coaching tiers, predict breakout candidates and preview the upcoming NFL season. Mike shares his process for ranking and evaluating players and coaches, makes some predictions for the upcoming season and reveals his secret analytical weapon - a massive excel spreadsheet he uses to track every conceivable type of player data.

Direct download: 027_AFAPodcast.Mike.Sando.8.29.14.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 3:30am PDT

 

Keith Goldner, Chief Analyst at Numberfire, returns to provide some fantasy football wisdom. He dissects the different strategies for snake, auction and keeper league drafts, and explains how to incorporate risk management strategies when creating your roster. Keith and Dave also touch on daily fantasy games, and look at how to craft the optimal lineups for various league types. They close out the episode by highlighting the players to watch during the 2014 fantasy season.

Direct download: 026_AFAPodcast.Keith.Goldner.8.22.14.FINAL.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Aaron Schatz, founder of Football Outsiders, joins the podcast to discuss the newly released 2014 Football Outsiders Almanac. Aaron explains how he and his team developed a system to combine game film analysis with box score data to create their own advanced metrics.  He breaks down the difference between rate statistics and totals, and explains how the concept of “replacement level” is important in football. Aaron also provides team-by-team breakdowns and predictions, and finishes up the episode by conquering Dave’s “lightning round” of questions.

Direct download: 025_AFAPodcast.Aaron.Schatz.8.11.14_FINAL.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

 

Brian Burke returns to recap his busy summer offseason. After a brief lesson on the rules of Gaelic Football, Dave and Brian discuss what we can learn about NFL win shares from Jimmy Graham’s contract, some new updates to the site (WOPR, and Win Probability Model) and the 2014 season predictions Brian made for ESPN the magazine. Dave also issues a call for podcast contributors, looking for anyone interested in contributing their technical expertise to the show.

Direct download: 024_AFAPodcast.Brian.Burke.7.18.14.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

John Urschel, professional football player and mathematician, joins the show. John was selected in the 5th round by the Baltimore Ravens in this year's NFL draft. Last season, John was a Penn State football co-captain and as a student-athlete he achieved a 4.0 GPA while majoring in math. For his efforts, he won the Campbell Trophy, awarded to the top scholar athlete in Division one football. He recently proved the Urschel-Zikatanov Generalized Bisection Theorem and published his findings in the Journal of Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy.

Direct download: 023_AFAPodcast.JohnUrschel.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

 

Brian Burke returns to the show to recap the 2014 NFL draft. He describes the Bayesian Draft Analysis tool he created and discusses the value of trades made by teams during the draft. Brian and Dave then discuss their favorite new addition to the league, John Urschel and make a pitch to get him to contribute to the site. Brian also previews his new project, WOPR, and explains how it'll help generate data for some previously unanswerable questions.

Direct download: 022_AdvNFLStats.BrianBurke.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Cade Massey, professor of Organizational Behavior at the Yale School of Management, joins the show to discuss his research on the NFL draft. Professor Massey is the co-author of "The Loser's Curse: Decision Making & Market Efficiency in the National Football League Draft", a paper analyzing the market for draft pick trades He and his co-author, Richard Thaler (insert NYT link) discovered that teams picking at the top of the draft actually sacrifice a great deal of what he calls "surplus value" by not trading down for additional selections. 

Dave and Cade look at the reasons why teams employ less than optimal strategies, including risk aversion, adherence to norms established by "The Chart" and other psychological factors. Professor Massey defends his paper against some of the common criticisms, and discusses why he believes the draft is such a compelling spectator event.

Direct download: 021_AdvNFLStats.CadeMassey.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Jeffrey Ohlmann, Associate Professor at the University of Iowa's Tippie College of Business, joins Dave this week to talk about the NFL draft, the sports analytics class he teaches, and his upcoming presentation at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference. 

Direct download: 020_AdvNFLStats.JeffOhlmann.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

The “Best of 2013” episode contains highlights from this season’s most compelling Advanced NFL Stats Podcast interviews. On the show, Virgil Carter tells some terrific stories about playing quarterback for Bill Walsh, David Romer explains the feedback Bill Belichick gave him on his paper and Jeff Sagarin and Wayne Winston debate the best ways to analyze play by play data. Brian Burke concludes the show with thoughts on his four part series on momentum.

Direct download: 019_AdvNFLStats.2014.Best.of.2013.14.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Brian Burke returns to the show for the final podcast of the season. He and Dave kick off the episode with a NFL rules brainstorming session. They discuss some of Brian's (and readers') ideas for creative rule changes the league could implement to make the game more interesting and fun.

Brian then dives into an explanation of his latest article on the value of a time out. He describes his process for analyzing the win probability ramifications of "burning" time outs, and why sometimes it's better for a team to make any choice rather than use a valuable resource debating the optimum choice. 

Dave and Brian then spend some time looking at Brian's win prediction model for the Superbowl, and why it looks to be a very close match-up. To wrap up the episode they use the Franchise Season Plot tool to take a look back at the 2013 season.

Direct download: 018_AdvNFLStats.BrianBurke.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Kevin Quealy, graphics editor at the New York Times, comes on the show to discuss data visualizations. An expert in using data to tell visual stories, Kevin walks Dave through the process he and the graphics department use to tell news-worthy stories with data and graphics.

Kevin describes some of his recent sports work, including a graph of longest QB start streaks, the 4th Down Bot and his NFL draft success chart. He talks about how he and his team begin their work process by looking for interesting stories and data-sets, and how those stories go through a variety of iterations before they are turned into visually striking charts. Kevin explains his criteria for what makes a great visualization and provides some helpful tips for aspiring information designers.

Direct download: 017_AdvNFLStats.Kevin.Quealy.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Keith Goldner is back on the podcast to discuss this past weekend's divisional round playoff games. Keith is the chief analyst at Numberfire and also a regular contributor to Advanced NFL Stats. Dave and Keith begin by discussing some of the key decisions from the past weekend's playoff games, including whether Marshawn Lynch should've gone down at the one yard line at the end of the Seattle/New Orleans game, Riverboat Ron's goal line strategies and what to do when a punt is botched and the snap ends up in the end zone.

 

Keith reviews his lists of the regular season's most efficient quarterbacks and running backs and explains the differences between high efficiency and high success rate player performance. Dave and Keith round out the episode by previewing this weekend's AFC and NFC championship games, and Keith predicts which teams he expects to see playing for a ring in New York this February.

Direct download: 016_AdvNFLStats.Keith.Goldner.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Alok Pattani of ESPN Stats & Info joins Dave to discuss how ESPN uses analytics across multiple platforms. They discuss his team's research on NFL pass protection, EPA vs YPG, and offensive pace. Alok provides his thoughts on this weekend's divisional round games and makes predictions.

Direct download: 015_AdvNFLStats.AlokPattani.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Chase Stuart returns to the show just in time to discuss his latest Football Perspective research. Dave and Chase begin by breaking down the historical context of Peyton Manning's single season passing touchdown record. They then cover the Carolina Panthers and break down the changes they’ve made over the past year, the storylines surrounding Cam Newton, and how overall team performance can sometimes obfuscate an individual player's development

Next, Chase takes to his soapbox to make the case that the Jets should fire Rex Ryan and explains how retaining him would set a unique historical precedent. Dave and Chase then turn their sights to the Giants, and discuss what to make of Eli Manning’s interception spike.

The episode concludes with a look ahead to the week 17 Bears/Packers and Cowboys/Eagles matchups. Chase weighs in on what he’s most excited for in this year’s playoffs, and why playing a Superbowl outdoors might actually be more fair than playing in a dome.

Direct download: 014_AdvNFLStats.ChaseStuart.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 10:49pm PDT

This week Harold Sackrowitz, professor of Statistics at Rutgers University and author of "Refining the After-Touchdown Decision" joins Dave to discuss two point conversions. Harold first became interested in football analytics in the mid-90's when he and his son penned a paper on ball control, and whether the strategy of paying "keep away" from talented opposing offenses is an effective strategy (spoiler alert: it's not). His research found that an inferior team sacrificing offensive efficiency would require an unrealistically large reduction in the number of possessions to make a "ball-control" offensive strategy effective.

In the second half of the interview, Dave and Professor Sackrowitz talk about his paper on two point conversions. Harold was initially intrigued by repeated mentions of "the 2 point chart" on television broadcasts, and after digging up "the chart" he found it to be lacking in context. He devised a dynamic programming model to incorporate score differential, the number of possessions remaining in the game and a particular team's chance of converting a two point play. With this model he created a series of new charts to more accurately fit a variety of two point decision situations. Harold also describes the responses he's received and his subsequent conversations with NFL decision makers about his work.

Direct download: 013_AdvNFLStats.HaroldSackrowitz.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Brian Burke is back on the show to break down his latest work. He explains the details of the updated win probability formula and the story behind the brand new New York Times 4th Down Bot. Dave and Brian also discuss his latest post analyzing "streakiness" and how it can measure momentum.


They then dive into the wildly entertaining week 14 slate of games, beginning with a look at Keith Goldner's intentional touchdown post and a review of the best (Matt Prater) and worst (Philadelphia/Detroit) of the week 14 kicking game. Brian lays out the interesting math behind the Alabama/Auburn missed field goal return, and how the analysis behind it presents some tricky challenges. The show ends with a look at late season winter weather, and how it may affect teams as they prepare to battle for the chance to play outdoors in this year's New York Superbowl.

Direct download: 012_AdvNFLStats.BrianBurke12.11.13.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Dave interviews Pete Palmer, one of the original great minds in sabermetrics. Pete co-authored the Hidden Game of Baseball, and later, the Hidden Game of Football. Pete describes how he discovered a scorekeeping error that incorrectly listed Ty Cobb's 1910 batting average as too high, thereby literally rewriting the baseball record books. He then discusses what it was like to edit baseball and football encyclopedias, how he made the move into football analytics and his current role as a member of the New England Patriots stat team. Pete outlines the major findings he and his co-authors reveal in The Hidden Game of Football, including early versions of expected points and win percentages.  The show concludes with a discussion of questions he's interested in analyzing in today's NFL.

Direct download: 011_AdvNFLStats.PetePalmer.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

David Romer, professor of economics at UC Berkeley, is on the podcast this week to discuss why coaches should be more aggressive on fourth down. David is the author of "Do Firms Maximize? Evidence From Professional Football". In this interview, he explains his novel approach to analyzing fourth down decision-making. He outlines reasons why coaches are incentivized to make sub-optimal choices and how they can improve their team’s chances of winning by following his advice.

Direct download: 010_AdvNFLStats.DavidRomer.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Brian Burke is back to discuss momentum, clock management and topics from his weekly roundups. In his recent post on momentum, Brian used three different methods to investigate whether momentum is a measurable phenomenon in NFL games. Dave and Brian discuss why momentum is such a popular concept and hypothesize why coaches and analysts seem to rely so heavily on the idea. They also discuss Brian’s article on clock management, and why it’s unlikely that truly non-zero sum scenarios exist in a football game. They finish up the show with a "rapid fire roundup" of some interesting articles and analysis from around the web.

Direct download: 009_AdvNFLStats.BrianBurke.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Dave talks with Jeff Sagarin and Wayne Winston about their four decades of work in the field of sports statistics. Wayne and Jeff met while studying at MIT and have been friends ever since. In the early 80's, they had their first collaboration on a football play-calling project for Indiana University's head football coach, Sam Wyche. Since then, Jeff has been publishing his team ratings in USA Today while Wayne published his book, "Mathletics", and currently teaches at Indiana's Kelly School of Business.

Direct download: 008_AdvNFLStats.SagarinWinston.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Joining the show this week is Virgil Carter, the man many consider to be the founding father of advanced football statistics. Dave, Brian and Virgil look back at the Virgil's playing days when he was suiting up at quarterback for the Bears while studying for his MBA at Northwestern during the off-season. It was there at Northwestern that he published his first paper, Operations Research on Football. That paper introduced the idea of expected point value based on game situation, an idea that is still at the core of advanced football analysis. Virgil also talks about what it was like to play under head coach Paul Brown, and why if it weren't for him,  Bill Walsh might have never needed to create his "west coast" style passing offense.

Direct download: 007_AdvNFLStats.VirgilCarter.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Ben Alamar, author of Sports Analytics: A Guide for Coaches, Managers and Other Decision Makers is on the show this week to discuss his new book. Ben is a professor of sports management at Menlo College, and works as a consultant to a variety of NBA and NFL teams.

The episode begins with Ben describing his background in economics and why he saw a need to found the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, the only peer-reviewed journal solely for papers on sports economics. They then discuss his work with Michael Lewis for the book Moneyball, and how he approached the question of analyzing the success of offensive linemen.

Ben then discusses his new book, and breaks down some of the experiences he’s had working to build the analytics programs of professional sports organizations. Finally, the episode ends with his thoughts on the recent NFL season by continuing the now weekly tradition of praising Peyton Manning for his otherworldly statistical year.

Direct download: 006_AdvNFLStats_BenAlamar.FINAL.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Brian Burke is back for another episode of the Advanced NFL Stats podcast. This week, Dave dives into Brian’s most recent articles. First up is a study analyzing when defenses should decline penalties after a loss. This piece uses expected points to determine the break even yardage required for a defensive coach to opt for a loss of down over a loss of yardage.

The second part of the episode is dedicated to the Baltimore Ravens and their mediocre rushing attack. Inspired by his favorite team’s recent offensive woes, Brian looked at which teams might be better off if they abandoned the run completely as part of their offensive game plan.

The show concludes with a discussion based on a comment from the Brian’s previous podcast appearance. Dave asks Brian to justify his claim that most NFL coaches are relatively interchangeable, and that at the highest (NFL) level, there is little discernible difference different head coaches.

Direct download: 005_AdvNFLStats_BrianBurke.FINAL.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Dean Oliver, Director of Analytics at ESPN Stats and Info, joins the show to discuss ESPN’s quarterback measurement tool, QBR. Dean led the development of QBR, and has shepherded its development since its release in 2011.

Dave and Dean begin the show with a trip back in time to Dean’s childhood in Hawaii, where he explains how he first became interested in statistics and developed his own baseball simulation dice games to play with friends.

They then discuss QBR in depth, looking specifically at the types of questions it is designed to answer. Dean explains how QBR’s component parts work together to describe a Quarterback’s contributions to his team’s success. He also discusses why certain QBs may surprise people with their ratings, and why we’ll be talking about Andrew Luck for years to come. Finally, they end the episode by covering how the stat has changed and improved since its inception, and look at how the college version of QBR differs from its professional counterpart.

Direct download: 004_AdvNFLStats_DeanOliver.PODCAST.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Chase Stuart, founder of Football Perspective and a regular contributor to the New York Times, calls in to the show from his home in New York City. Dave and Chase begin by discussing two point conversions, and how expected value and variance come into play when coaches make the call to go for two. Chase goes on to discuss his own metric for looking at in-game point differential, called Game Scripts. He explains how Game Scripts can be used in conjunction with run/pass ratio to contextualize a team's general tendencies over the course of a season. The episode ends with a check-in on season win projections for the five remaining undefeated teams, along with some well-deserved gushing about Peyton Manning's unbelievable season.

Direct download: 003_AdvNFLStats_ChaseStuart.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:30am PDT

Keith Goldner, chief analyst at Numberfire and a regular contributor to Advanced NFL Stats, joins Dave to discuss his recent research. Keith begins by outlining his Markov model for football, explaining how to use historical data to calculate the probability of an offensive drive ending in a particular "end state". The two then discuss the concept of "net expected points", and compare and contrast its value as a tool in combination with other efficiency stats. The show ends with a detailed analysis of two fourth down decisions from last week's games, highlighting the frustrating difference between good process and good results.

Direct download: 002_AdvNFLStats_KeithGoldner_FINAL.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

In the show’s first episode, host Dave Collins is joined by Brian Burke, founder of AdvancedNFLStats.com, to talk about his background and why he began researching the NFL. Brian breaks down some of his most poweful metrics, and provides context into the current state of pro football data analysis. They also preview some early season trends, and try to figure out just how bad the Jaguars really are.

Direct download: 001_AdvNFLStats_BrianBurke_FINAL.mp3
Category:Football -- posted at: 9:30pm PDT

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