Customer Reviews: Pro Football Prospectus: 2002 Edition
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on September 17, 2002
When I heard about Football Prospectus, I was very excited. For years, I have wished for a book on football with the depth and breakthrough research that the Baseball Prospectus provides.
For those of you who don't know, Football Prospectus is the spin off of Baseball Prospectus, in my opinion the best baseball book on the market year in and year out.
That being said, I have to say I was disappointed with the content of this book. Most of the articles amount to little more than opinion. There isn't the research and analysis to back up the opinions like there is in the Baseball version.
The book is organized by team with a general essay, a section on the o-line, a section on the defensive front 7, and a section on the defensive backfield. There is a skill players section organized by position in the back.
I wanted more analysis, I wanted a different way to look at the game, some new statistical tools, I didn't get it. What I got was some interesting writing from a group that I respect but nothing really special.
Would I buy this book again? Well, if you're going to buy a couple of $7.50 magazines, then I would buy this book instead. I would only buy it to support the guys at Baseball Prospectus and encourage them to keep going and refine this product.
Would I buy this book again next year? I think yes because I believe in the Prospectus people, and I think this is a work in progress. Given another year and some feedback, I think they can make something special and needed -- a book dedicated to football that offers cutting edge statistical analysis and insight.
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on September 13, 2002
To apparently justify the publisher's attempt to expand the 'Prospectus' brand name (i.e., the successful Baseball Prospectus annuals), the authors proudly proclaim that they watched a tape of every NFL game played last year. Apparently, this experience was solely for entertainment purposes, as it is nearly impossible to determine what new statistical information they derived from this exercise. Most of their statistical analysis is comprised of taking common stats and haphazardly throwing them together to come to some predetermined conclusion.
For example, in the Pittsburgh Steelers' chapter, the writers attempt to show Kordell Stewart's escapability. The authors conjure up the Quarterback Elusiveness Score, a ratio between quarterback rushes to sacks. Chicago Bear QB Jim Miller places number two on this list, by virtue of his low sack total (a product, in part, of his chucking the ball away at the slightest sign of pressure) and his rushes, which were primarily kneel downs (30 att., -23 yds.). The only thing elusive is what this is trying to tell us.
With the information at their disposal, they could have analyzed the times a QB forced a throw, fumbled while scrambling, sidestepped in the pocket to throw for yardage, etc. However, such creative thoughts seem to elude the writers again and again.
Thus, much of this book isn't a whole lot different than your average yearly football magazine. It's even chock full of cliches -- halfway into the book, the authors have credited the aftermath of 9/11 in aiding the efforts of three different teams to 'come together'.
When you put together a football annual, the reader should expect more than rote analysis, particularly when you boast that you have much more up your sleeve. This book is below average.
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on September 21, 2002
Some of the reviewers here rip the book for not living up to the standard of the Baseball Prospectus, but that's not really fair. The BP guys are building on a 20-year foundation of baseball analysis, and that book has been around for five or six years. There isn't a similar foundation of hardore football analysis to build on. I think these guys deserve some credit for what they did do in their first edition. Compare it to the first edition of BP, or the first Baseball Abstract by Bill James, and this book compares very favorably.
There are some new analytical tools here that other reviwers are simply ignoring. I think the system for objectively rating defensive players is intersting -- the first effort to do this that I've ever seen. There are special team stats that you're not going to find in football magazines, and data on offensive and defensive coordinators. They analyze the offensive lines and the secondary, adn the defensive front seven. Say that this pales in comparison to BP if you must, but give them credit for covering topics that aren't generally covered in football books.
Rather than blasting the book for what it didn't do, I'm excited about the things that they did do. Futuer editions will only get better, and I'm grateful that my favorite sport is finally getting some serious attention.
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on October 29, 2002
Following in the footsteps of the Baseball Prospectus series of books comes the Pro Football Prospectus. I think it's a good first try but I can't tell if it will grow to be as strong as BP, which covers each major-league team and presents new and interesting research in each annual. If you're buying PFP for a fantasy football draft it will be useful to get the rankings at each position and see the trends of all the skill-position players' rate stats (although not that much better than one of the newsstand fantasy mags). It's also nice to see the authors go back several years in grading the drafts of each team.
The research does not, however, stack up to the corresponding analysis in Baseball Prospectus. Of course this is an unfair comparison for a couple of reasons: baseball research has been going on for far longer, and BP has been publishing for seven years now and has gotten a lot of framework in place for studying the game; and even more fundamentally, football is a much harder game to analyze. Each play in baseball involves primarily the batter and the pitcher and usually one fielder; it is relatively easy to assign credit or blame on each play. (Rating fielders is difficult, but play-by-play data and new techniques are helping to improve fielding metrics.) Each play in football is affected by the majority of the 22 players on the field -- even, say, wide receivers on a running play are throwing blocks or acting as decoys to stretch the defense. As a result, the authors' rankings of each team's offensive line, front seven, and defensive backfield seem pretty dicey when just calculated from raw stats. For instance, they rank offensive lines just by looking at the allowed-sacks-per-pass-attempt rate and the team's yards-per-rush, which is a good start but leaves out the QB's mobility, the RBs' quality, and about 50 other things that affect these stats. Analysis of these nearly stat-less units is long overdue and much appreciated, but there is so much noise in the numbers (from different styles of play, strength of schedule, interaction with other units, etc.) that you have to take these relatively simple rankings with a large grain of salt.
On the other hand, if I recall correctly the authors said that over the off-season they reviewed every play from every game from last year. Between compiling their own play-by-play data and initiating a statistical framework in which to build on, they've got the potential in future books to break new ground. Admittedly though, I don't remember reading anything exciting in PFP 2002. (I might also be biased against the book because they panned my team, the Browns. Certainly many fans were way too optimistic before the season started, but I think PFP's 6-10 prediction went too far the other way.)
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on October 6, 2002
Not since The Hidden Game of Football has there been a book that discussed football in such detail. This book provides analysis of each team and not that typical useless analysis either. The essays are always interesting and really make you think about this game we love.
Of course, the statistical analysis is also present, though that is not my cup of tea. I prefer the commentary on every player and team to all the numbers. However, a friend of mine who plays fantasy football used my copy of the book to build his draft and was quite pleased with the results.
If you like football and want to know more about it, this is the book for you. I can't wait until next year's edition!
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on September 23, 2002
The Football Prospectus and its website,offers a fresh break from the "insider report" analysis offered in the mainstream sports media. Some of the new methodology needs to be re-worked, and some of it, perhaps, tossed aside, but the authors have taken the very-important 1st step of developing new methods and beginning the process of serious analysis (which continues during the season on their website).
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on October 9, 2002
I'm a huge Baseball Prospectus fan and was very excited when I heard that this book was coming out. I pre-ordered it at Amazon and couldn't wait to get. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations at all. First off, there were numerous simple facts which were wrong. I'm a Patriots fan and began by reading their writeup for my team; in the first paragraph, they wrote "A vicious first-half hit...sent Bledsoe to the hospital". I remembered this happening towards the end of the game, so I looked it up and sure enough, ESPN's game writeup agreed with what I remembered.
Writers are human so I didn't worry about it and kept reading. However, in the next paragraph, the author mentions "All-Pro linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer". This is a pretty bad mistake; Katzenmoyer was never an All-Pro. He's only played two years: his rookie year and 2000, in which he was hurt for half the season. Any reasonably enthusiastic Pats fan would know this. That's two errors in the first two paragraphs!
While errors like these aren't a huge deal in of themselves, they show that the team writeups (the bulk of the book) weren't written by people who knew much about the team (or bothered to check their facts), which really takes away a lot from what the book could be. One of the great things about of Baseball Prospectus is getting to learn a ton about every team; I follow the Red Sox very closely and every year BP tells me things about the team I didn't know. I was looking for at least some of that in the Football Prospectus but found none, even for the teams I don't follow all that closely.
The larger problem I had though, was in their method for computing stats. In baseball, each player's actions are fairly independent and the season is quite long. This means that stats for a given player can be isolated and the sample size is large enough such that the stats present a good picture of the player. Football is a completely different beast, however; the season is very short and, more importantly, one player's performance is entirely dependent on his surrounding team, the situation, the play called, and the opponent. For example, a D lineman in a 3-4 defense is primarily responsible for driving back the O lineman in front of him in order to protect the LBs. A D lineman in such a defense can have a great day but not do much that will show up in the PFP stats (tackles, sacks, etc.). Whereas, the same player in a 4-3, might not have a great day, but end up with more tackles, simple because in this defense he's allowed to penetrate without worrying about protecting the LBs. Now, I don't have a problem with the writers creating a system to measure performance, but they use their stats throughout the book as if they were Scripture, and that simply isn't the case. In their explanation of their system, they admit that it has plenty of flaws. I just wish they had kept this mind when doing the team writeups and picks.
Who knows, maybe next year's will be better. Afterall, the first Baseball Prospectus left out a whole team. But that doesn't change the fact that the first Pro Football Prospectus has a lot of problems and provided little beyond what the casual fan already knows.
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on November 4, 2002
Perhaps the authors meant the first half of the season, not the first half of the game.
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on May 8, 2003
Not nearly as good as the Baseball or Basketball Prospectus, though part of it might be that this kind of book is just harder for football.
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