Football Outsiders takes a long look at the Lions

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Phil Zaroo over at scored an impressive audio interview with Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders.  For those not familiar with their work, the guys over at FO have made waves over the past few years with the way they view and analyze football statistics.  Anyone who’s ever lost a fantasy football game because their QB kneeled out the clock a few times, and therefore gained a few negative rushing yards, knows that the typical metrics of football success—total yardage, sliced in a variety of ways—don’t accurately represent the true effectiveness of plays or players.

Barnwell, and his associates, have developed a system of measuring “value”—essentially, giving context to every yard gained and point scored—what down and distance was it, what team was it against, what was the score, what was the time in the game—and, by comparing the results to the league average in similar situations, they mathematically deriving the team’s effectiveness in terms of value (‘value over average”)  It’s an approach often compared to Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane’s “Moneyball” scouting method.

Lions fans won’t be surprised to know that according to FO’s analysis, the 2008 Lions defense wasn’t as bad as the scoreboard suggested—it was much, much worse.  The 2008 Lions defensive value over average was the worst they’ve ever measured—and it isn’t close, either.  Lions fans WILL be suprised, however, to know that the Lions were actually ranked ninth in short-yardage situations, and Barnwell suggests in the interview that Dominic Raiola is fighting an unfair perception that he can’t push the pile, and that the total lack of ability or consistency on either side of him throughout his career is more to blame.

Barnwell also delves into the differences between Rod Marinelli and Jim Schwartz (who has been a contributor/consultant to FO in the past), the Lions’ revamped linebacking unit, their projection of the Lions' win total and—of course—the quarterback debate.  It’s a great listen.

Discuss it here, in The Den!