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Pro Football Prospectus: 2002 Edition Paperback – August, 2002
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
About the Author
Sean Lahman is a pioneer of making sports data publicly available on the Web, starting with his Baseball Archive site. As a writer, he has contributed to THE FOOTBALL ANALYST, TOTAL BASEBALL, and BASEBALL: THE BIOGRAPHICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA. As a senior editor for Total Sports, he was the editor of TOTAL STOCK CAR RACING and coeditor of TOTAL BASKETBALL. Lahman and Todd Greanier are cofounders of the Football Project, and both live in Rochester, New York.
Todd Greanier is a cofounder of The Football Project, he lives in Rochester, New York.
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Top customer reviews
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.
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.)
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.