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Re: DeanO's Olympic interpretations

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  • schtevie2003
    ... What I meant is comparisons over longer periods of time, where one abstracts from individuals and tries to look at the evolution of the game itself -
    Message 1 of 48 , Sep 6, 2004
      --- In APBR_analysis@yahoogroups.com, "Kevin Pelton" <kpelton08@h...> wrote:
      > > It is my impression that if group preferences were polled,
      > > empirical topics relating to NBA "history" of the kind to
      > > which I was referring would be noted as representing less of a
      > > group interest than current evaluations of players.
      >
      > I would point out that the APBR discussion group fills much of this
      > void, as something specifically looking at NBA history. At the same
      > time, I'm not really sure what you mean by "history of the kind to
      > which I was referring".

      What I meant is comparisons over "longer" periods of time, where one abstracts from
      individuals and tries to look at the evolution of the game itself - here, in as much as it
      impacts the statistical realm.

      > If it's debating the relative merits of different eras, then no, I
      > don't have any interest. If it's listening to people snipe back and
      > forth at each other, which this debate has often descended to, I
      > have even less.

      And I think it is this sentiment I was referring to. At a first approximation, comparing the
      relative "virtue" of Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O'Neal, say, may not be your primary
      interest. But then again, if you care less about it than comparing Shaq and Ben Wallace (or
      whoever) that is my point. Or in other words, it is essential to understand the contextual
      differences of the eras in which they played/play if for no other reason but to recognize
      when there are none (or they aren't important).

      Again, I am not interested in the relative merits of different eras, as a value judgement,
      but I am very interested in whether it can be identified that the way teams played in
      different eras had strong implications of how well they played.

      And as for people sniping back and forth, I have no interest either. I just have less
      tolerance for, let me say, bad faith when addressing very serious issues.

      > Bill James wrote in his New Historical Baseball Abstract:
      >
      > "It is my belief that the quality of play in major league baseball
      > has improved steadily over time, being higher in almost every
      > generation than it was in the previous generation. I recognize that
      > many of you have settled opinions on this issue, that many of you
      > disagree with me, and further, that there is little chance I can
      > change your mind."
      >
      > Ignoring for now the fact that James went on to state his argument,
      > and did so in more length later in the book (his Peripheral Quality
      > Indicia is marked in my copy of the New Abstract, dating back to a
      > discussion of change in level of play in this discussion group many
      > moons ago), I feel the same way he did. Most of us have settled
      > opinions, we have our reasons, and we're not going to change
      > anyone's mind. (One of my observations in writing a column became
      > that this is true on most issues.) So what's the point in going back
      > and forth when it's not going to change anyone's mind?

      The point is funamental and important. I am not trying to change anyone's mind if the
      issue is a matter of aesthetics. I am strictly making an argument on theoretical/empirical
      grounds. If the theory holds and is corroborated by the numbers, well, then an honest
      person is obliged to come to terms with the conclusions. If it doesn't or isn't, then they
      aren't. That's all.

      Again, I am not trying to argue that anyone's jump shot was less lovely than anyone else's.
      I am saying that, in the main, it appears that folks back then shot to quickly - at
      considerable cost to competitiveness. It is not an opinion that is introduced, it is the
      consequence of a logical argument.

      Now, if the argument was that modern athletes are better, the relevent evidence would be
      that players are bigger, faster, better jumpers, etc. Then the theory would be linking these
      facts to better play. That is another topic, but the general point is the same regarding the
      rules of argument.


      > With all due respect to the work people have done, I don't think you
      > can "prove" with statistics anything about the quality of play. The
      > data as far as performance of common players comes as close to doing
      > it as anything, but it suggests much more than it proves (to steal
      > another James line) and reasonable people can still disagree.

      One can disagree with anything; that just means that one can be disagreeable. In a forum
      such as this, one needs to engage the argument on its own terms. If found wanting, then
      one can disagree rationally. Otherwise....


      > It's just my opinion, and I respect those with great interest in the
      > subject, but I think the relative level of play across time in the
      > NBA is something best left to the Elliott Kalbs of the world than
      > this discussion group. In no way does that mean I do not have
      > interest in placing accomplishments in their historical context or
      > that context itself. I'm just not going to debate which context
      > is "better". *shurg*

      Again, the conclusion offered is not that players back then, even if they had known the
      good modern way and adapted it, would still have gotten blown out. To the contrary, by
      my argument, the relevant conclusion is that they would have been strictly competitive.

      Why, pray tell, is it not fair game to try to figure out/quantify notional improvements over
      time (as time clocks do in track and field) but also why isn't it an imperative? Again,
      "better" in this instance is not a moral judgement, it is a rather dry, empirical one; one
      should be very concerned (that is a moral judgement.)
    • schtevie2003
      ... Out with emotion, in with on point arguments. ... I am not sure which reasoning you are characterizing. But I don t think we are disagreeing here, at
      Message 48 of 48 , Sep 20, 2004
        --- In APBR_analysis@yahoogroups.com, "carlos12155" <carlosmanuel@b...> wrote:
        > I'm reluctant to post in this topic, because for some reason it seems
        > too emotionally loaded, but here I go. Schtevie, I think that your
        > reasoning has some flaws and will try to point them out.

        Out with emotion, in with on point arguments.

        > A)The notion that other things being equal a faster pace should mean
        > improved offensive efficiency only holds true if the faster pace is
        > the product of more fast breaks and the offensive efficiency in half
        > court sets remains the same. If the faster pace is the result of
        > shooting earlier in half court sets, there is no reason offensive
        > efficiency should improve. A faster or slower pace per se does not
        > tell us anything about offensive efficiency.

        I am not sure which reasoning you are characterizing. But I don't think we are disagreeing
        here, at least not completely. I am saying that we know that average time per possession
        increased. This could have come about either by relatively fewer fast breaks in the mix -
        which implies a decrease in offensive productivity, as fast breaks are "better breaks" - or
        by more time spent in half-court sets - which should not imply an increase in offensive
        productivity, if anything, perhaps a decrease.

        You write "if the faster pace is the result of shooting earlier in half court sets [now me: this
        is equivalent to going backwards in time] there is no reason offensive efficiency should
        improve". This is my point exactly, going back in time, the offenses were worse.

        Hence, I disagree with your last sentence. It is precisely because (in going backwards) that
        the pace quickened (and despite teams presumably having the benefit of a higher
        proportion of fast breaks) and their productivity dropped which implies that they were
        playing sub-optimally (i.e. they could have done better than they did, just by playing more
        under control and waiting for a better shot.)

        > B)You discard too easily the possibility of another explanation. Maybe
        > another factor made the offensive efficiency of half court sets
        > improve and as a result fast breaks became less neccesary. These
        > alternative explanations need to be discussed and shown to be false.

        The attractiveness of the argument I am making is based on the fact that as a result of the
        basic theory and facts, we know that the game changed in a certain direction (towards
        greater "efficiency"). And, we know what this means in terms of turnover and scoring
        percentages, overall they increase - by "definition". Furthermore, if nothing else changed,
        it is necessarily true that the fact that the game slowed during this time period implies
        that things could have been done better previously, but weren't. As to other explanations,
        I invite anyone to suggest them, and I have identified the categories where they are likely
        to be (differing rule changes/interpretations, changes in populations, etc.) And I agree
        that they should be discussed, but they need not be shown to be false for the game
        improvement argument to hold. What needs to identified are the relative contributions of
        various factors. (So, at the end of the day, one might say that the actual gain in offensive
        efficiency from the 60s (say) to the 80s (say) was x% due to refs deciding that palming the
        basketball was no longer a turnover, y% due to improved shooting ability, and z% due to
        an increase in athleticism, etc.) Right now, however, I am trying to establish the ceteris
        paribus argument that fast play was hasty play, causing many, many, forgone points.

        > C)You assume that the offensive team controls the pace when in fact
        > the defensive and offensive team control it. Now, it's true that the
        > correlation between a slowing pace and improved offense suggests that
        > the offensive team was causing the change, but it doesn't follow that
        > improved shot selection was neccesarily the cause.

        I actually do believe that the offensive team primarily controls the pace in this instance
        because it is the plausible story. (The alternative is an odd story that the offenses were led
        to their improvements by defenses playing better! This story would be that the defenses
        were eliminating fast breaks and playing harder defense, obliging teams to protect the ball
        more and be more patient, with great unexpected gains in productivity.) But for my
        argument to play out, it depends not at all on the assumption of offenses consciously
        slowing down play or being induced superior performance by better defense. (In which
        instance, the superiority of the moderns versus the old school is all the greater still.)

        And you are correct that improved shot selection is not neccesarily the cause of increased
        productivity. But, there is no strong anecdotal evidence that players became better
        shooters (and I don't think that free throw evidence would support it) so, by elimination,
        that leaves shot selection (and better ball control/fewer turnovers).

        > D)You assume that the scoring skill of 60s players was comparable with
        > today's players on the basis of their similar free throw shooting. It
        > seems to me a bit too simple.

        Yes it is simple, but one can argue in terms of broad categories. To repeat: if productivity
        increased, either there were more shots available (i.e. fewer turnovers) or they were better
        shooters (but not better free throwers?) or they got better shots (call it shot selection.)
        That is all possible categories, no?


        > Now, I agree with the general idea that 60s teams probably played too
        > fast, but before stating it as a fact we should try to prove it.

        I have given a proof (again, barring no "out of bound" explanation like changes in rules or
        their interpretation, asymmetric effects of improved or worsened athleticism, a deeper or
        shallower talent pool, etc.) Fleshing out the story of what happened and when is not proof,
        but confirmation.

        A
        > couple of ideas are, 1) Tracking the offensive efficiency of
        > individual players who played during the time period. If there was a
        > "coaches driven" change, their off. eff. should show an evolution
        > quite different from today's players.

        The reason I say this is not proof but confirmation is that we know that if the league
        average moved in one way, it will be reflected in averaged player averages. I think that the
        more interesting story is to try to explain why it moved in the way it did, and my strong
        prior is that league-wide strategy changes were based on emulating teams perceived as
        "successful". As I have noted, my guess is that perceptions of success related (and
        probably still relate) more to trying to "be like Mike, or the Celtics dynasty, or the Bad
        Boys, or whatever" rather than "be like the team that maximizes offensive efficiency".


        2) Compare data with foreign
        > leagues (where we can assume there is less scoring skill) and see
        > where the difference in talent shows up. If we could get data about a
        > long period of time, it could be interesting to see whether we can
        > detect statistically the improvement by international players that has
        > been seen.

        Sounds good to me.

        > Carlos
        >
        >
        > --- In APBR_analysis@yahoogroups.com, "schtevie2003" <schtevie@h...>
        > wrote:
        > > --- In APBR_analysis@yahoogroups.com, bchaikin@a... wrote:
        >
        > > What exactly is your trouble with the notion that slowing game pace
        > and inc=
        > > reasing
        > > offensive productivity directly imply that teams in the base time
        > period we=
        > > re not exhibiting
        > > optimal ball control and shot selection? The idea couldn't be more
        > simple.=
        > > If you have
        > > trouble with this piece of theory, state it. If you think there
        > were offse=
        > > tting factors
        > > otherwise explaining the empirical phenomenon, identify them.
        > Otherwise, s=
        > > tate that you
        > > don't (in a civil fashion.)
        > >
        > > Finally, perhaps, you can expound further on the general issue of
        > posting p=
        > > ropriety and
        > > identify what are legitimate and illegitimate topics of
        > conversations in th=
        > > e "stats group". In
        > > this learned discussion, be sure to include at least some mention of
        > the re=
        > > lative virutes of
        > > simulations and formal statistical analysis; that should be interesting.
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > > bob chaikin
        > > > bchaikin@b...
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