08-09-2012, 09:58 AM #1
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Ponder and pressure
I'm a big statistically-oriented, analysis-driven individual with baseball so naturally, when it comes to football, I also gravitate towards the data that goes beyond the boxscore. That's why Football Outsiders, a sister site of Baseball Prospectus, is one of my favorite websites - it breaks down stuff that is deeper than what you find at your standard Fantasy Football coverage.
Football Outsiders' Danny Tuccitto recent posted an analysis that involved the performance of quarterbacks in 2011 based on when they were pressured by the opposing defense. Tuccitto uses Football Outsiders' Defense-adjust Value Over Replacement (DVOR), a stat not too different from BP's VORP, to assess how the QBs performed in those pressured circumstances.
The first thing of note was that, overall, the Vikings' Christian Ponder was the 11th-most pressured quarterback in the NFL last year. in 26.4% of his dropbacks, Ponder was pressured by the defense. For those who watched the team and their offensive line who seemingly allowed defenses to seep through like crap through Depends of a senior after the nursing home's chili night, this should come as no surprise. Actually, to me, it felt like he was CONSTANTLY under duress and the fact that ten more quarterbacks had more action is a bit enlightening. The Texans gave Matt Schaub very little protection and allowed him to be pressured a league-high 33.3% of the time.
Here's the interesting aspect of the data that Tuccitto shares: According to his research, Ponder's performance in those pressure situations ranked 21st (-95.0% DVOA). This is a bad but not terrible performance, especially for a rookie with a shoddy offensive line and lack of a big-bodied receiver to help rescue him when he is in trouble. More concerning, perhaps, is that comparison of Ponder's non-pressure situation performance. The research says that when he doesn't have a lineman or blitzing corner in his face, Ponder ranked 33 out of the 34 quarterbacks (-1.6% DVOA).
This will undoubtedly serve as fodder for Ponder haters -- particularly his performance in non-pressure situations -- but we should keep in mind that he's had a poor offensive line and lacked a high quality receiver beyond Percy Harvin (who's stature likely makes him a less ideal target during pressure situations).
08-10-2012, 05:24 PM #2
This is nice as a measure of the past, but holds next to no significance for the future. As you said, his targets and protection have improved. This has nothing to do with Ponder's performance from a improvement/stagnation/decline perspective, but it will certainly change the 2012 outcome prospects. This is why it's quite problematic to develop legitimate advanced metrics in football. NFL football is a head coach's chess match with tactical adjustments and schematic strategies. So trying to measure something comparable to VORP for a player is largely a waste of everyone's time. Many times it doesn't matter how talented a player is, it matters how well the player can be plugged into the 11-man system on a given side of the ball. It did not matter how good/bad Ponder played in 2011, it only mattered what he learned based on what he knows he can do well (speed, quick release, intuitive sense of pressure) and what he needs to improve upon (coverage recognition to prevent interceptions, offensive system learning curve, etc.). What is maddening about football to a sabermetric-minded baseball fan, is that the game is significantly more psychological. The more psychology that is involved, the higher the variance of outcomes, and the less useful advanced statistics can be.
Also, I'm of the belief that the truly good advanced metrics in football (like the NBA) did not make the same mistake as baseball. That data is being processed and interpreted by people employed by NFL/NCAA organizations. That leaves the bloggers with the noisy stuff like DVOR/DVOA. They didn't ignore the Bill James' for decades like baseball did. They listened to them and hired them before they got blogs going.
It is way too early to tell whether or not Christian Ponder will figure the game out at this level. It's nice to look at these numbers, but don't let anyone fool you into thinking these have any sort of predictive significance beyond noise.AKA: TMW
08-11-2012, 11:21 AM #3
This is nice as a measure of the past, but holds next to no significance for the future.
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This is why it's quite problematic to develop legitimate advanced metrics in football. NFL football is a head coach's chess match with tactical adjustments and schematic strategies. So trying to measure something comparable to VORP for a player is largely a waste of everyone's time. Many times it doesn't matter how talented a player is, it matters how well the player can be plugged into the 11-man system on a given side of the ball.
08-11-2012, 12:27 PM #4
The key difference is a point made in Michael Lewis' article about Shane Battier and the Houston Rockets front office from 2009.
There is a tension, peculiar to basketball, between the interests of the team and the interests of the individual. The game continually tempts the people who play it to do things that are not in the interest of the group. On the baseball field, it would be hard for a player to sacrifice his team’s interest for his own. Baseball is an individual sport masquerading as a team one: by doing what’s best for himself, the player nearly always also does what is best for his team. “There is no way to selfishly get across home plate,” as Morey puts it. “If instead of there being a lineup, I could muscle my way to the plate and hit every single time and damage the efficiency of the team — that would be the analogy. Manny Ramirez can’t take at-bats away from David Ortiz. We had a point guard in Boston who refused to pass the ball to a certain guy.” In football the coach has so much control over who gets the ball that selfishness winds up being self-defeating. The players most famous for being selfish — the Dallas Cowboys’ wide receiver Terrell Owens, for instance — are usually not so much selfish as attention seeking. Their sins tend to occur off the field.
Remember when Aaron Kampman was one of the best pass rushers in the NFL? Then the Packers brought in Dom Capers to go from a 4-3 Tampa 2 style defense to a 3-4? Kampman all of the sudden made no impact as a pass rusher while Clay Matthews rose to become a superstar. Did Kampman just lose his abilities? That's not a satisfying explanation, he lost the system that allowed him to flourish statistically.
Or the fact that almost every single quarterback who worked with Bill Walsh was significantly better and more productive than when they weren't working with him. A more modern example would be the Packers seamless transition from Favre to Rodgers. Is it because Rodgers is just 'that good'? Maybe partially. But when you have a West Coast Offense headed by Mike McCarthy that is so locked in with every single member of the offense coupled with a talented receiver core, you have a myriad of outside factors that are going to make it easier for a quarterback to succeed. That's why when they could rest Rodgers, Matt Flynn could drop an easy 480 yards on a good defense like Detroit who was vying for playoff positioning. On the flip side, Jay Cutler has worked with a new offensive coordinator in all but one season. He's struggled to gain consistency, but it's extremely problematic to say it's because of his talents.
So again, I'd stick by my notion that these advanced metrics are a 'waste of everyone's time'. People miss the point with football. I'm not overly concerned with Ponder 'Figuring It Out' or what his DVOA or DVOR was or can be. It's more of a concern as to whether or not Bill Musgrave can play chess with the top NFL defensive coordinators and communicate his system to the offense so they can carry it out to its maximum efficiency. If he can, you could even just plug Sage in there.
Last edited by Harrison Greeley III; 08-11-2012 at 12:28 PM. Reason: typosAKA: TMW
10-08-2012, 02:33 PM #5
I think Ponder has done a good job of avoiding mistakes, making better decisions, and carrying out the game plan, but he has been relatively lucky on defenders missing gift interceptions. He has gotten better, but not that much better. The biggest difference this year is the play-calling and the game-planning. When defenses are showing a run-stopping formation, Musgrave is getting the ball to Percy in the flat where the field's open and he can make the first guy miss. When defenses are planning for Percy or a passing down, Adrian is getting the ball against softer fronts. This team is not 4-1 because of Christian Ponder, it's because the play calling on offense and defense has significantly stepped up.
Frazier is also making some great calls on defense (particularly love the pass rushing 3 DE sets on 3rd downs, allowing more help in the zones from linebackers) and Musgrave is doing a great job breaking down the film and exploiting opponent weaknesses.AKA: TMW
10-15-2012, 11:02 AM #6
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Interesting discussion, I am not at all familiar with football metrics. From a casual perspective it looks like Ponder might have been scarred in his rookie year due to all the pressure and the concussion, and now is a little skiddish back there. Seems like every game there are a handful of plays where he abandons the pocket prematurely, often flushed to his left where he is pretty hopeless as a thrower.
10-15-2012, 06:50 PM #7
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One of the many problems with football and basketball statistics is that the opponent has finite resources to allocate as they see most efficient. A receiver who can't beat double coverage may produce worse statistics than an inferior player who is only drawing one defender. A power forward who guards the unskilled centers won't have as many points scored against him.
I'll put it this way: if LeBron James got the same attention from defenses as Wes Johnson does, what would his numbers look like? If the guy covering Calvin Johnson has no help all game, what would he be able to accomplish? These issues impact not only the statistics of that player, but everyone else in the game as well. The second guy covering Johnson opens things up for another player. The double that comes on James every time he steps towards the basket leaves shooters open all over the court.
In baseball, everyone sees essentially the same thing, tweaked to exploit that player's weakness.
Last edited by Kobs; 10-15-2012 at 06:53 PM.