SABERMETRICS COMES TO SOCCER. I have posted several times, including here, about how statistical analysis has changed how we look at baseball (People who study this are called sabermatricians; Bill James pioneered the study; MONEYBALL by Michael Lewis was a great book about this statistical revolution). The weekend Financial Times (November 21/22) had an article by Simon Kuper about how soccer is now being influenced by this kind of statistical analysis. Mike Forde of the Chelsea football club has been visiting with the Boston Red Sox and with Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics, the hero of MONEYBALL. English clubs have been buying data on the number of passes, tackles and distances run by individual players. Analyzing soccer is difficult. For example, there seems to be no connection between distance run by a player and performance or between tackles made and defensive performance. In a counterintuitive result, teams with who have possession for the majority of a game seem to do badly. (I wonder whether teams with a lead are inclined to clear the ball from their side of the field and make their opponents start over. If so, doing separate calculations for games with a leader and those that are tied would be helpful.) Soccer statisticians have succeeded in establishing relationships which translate performances between different leagues (baseball statisticians have developed similar translations). I would expect that basketball and American football will soon be able to learn from soccer.

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