Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mathletics at the National Press Club

Wayne Winston, Kelley professor of Operations and Decisions Technologies, has recently written a book on sports and math. While Professor Winston's books on Excel modeling are well known, Mathletics is a book about his real passion, sports and math. The book shows how statistics can help us determine how a player changes the odds that his team will win games--in baseball, basketball, and football. Professor Winston discusses some of the ideas from his book and recent sports events at his blog,

On Tuesday, October 20, 2009, Professor Winston joined Timothy Franklin of the National Sports Journalism Center, and Russ Thaler of Comcast SportsNet at the Press Club in Washington, DC to talk about statistics in sports reporting. Mark Schoeff, chair of the Newsmakers Committee at the Press Club moderated. Professor Winston also gave his projections for the Redskins and Ravens' upcoming seasons.
In an article at Comcast Sportnet, where he is chief digital correspondent, Thaler summarized some of the main points of discussion:

In a distilled version of his new book, Mathletics, Professor Winston spoke about the inefficiency of the statistics we tend to use in newspapers and during sportscasts like rushing yards, yards per rush, passing yards, yards per attempt, and quarterback rating, and led a discussion about a new way of quantifying a player or team’s performance.

The main component of his work is to assign a point value to every play, positive, negative, or neutral. That way, we could clearly see where teams are successful
and where they miss the mark in very specific terms. Instead of a quarterback rating, we could see which QB’s are contributing more to their team’s overall success, which ones are trending upward or downward, and which ones are more likely to make mistakes in certain situations. That goes for every player at any position on the field.

You can read more at and see videos of the talk.

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