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News » winning formula

winning formula

winning formulaCubs slugger Derrek Lee and White Sox reliever Matt Thornton are the two best baseball players in Chicago, Ben Gordon is the reason the Pistons will beat the Bulls for the eighth playoff spot in 2010 and Bears running back Matt Forte is expendable.

Don't believe it? Just ask a mathematician.

''The stats in the NFL that everyone looks at are useless,'' said Wayne Winston, a professor of decision sciences at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. ''You really want to just look at how many points plays generate.''

Winston, speaking from his home in Bloomington, Ind., said that Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are responsible for the most points in the NFL and that Jay Cutler last season produced twice as many points as Kyle Orton. He said passing is far more important than running in football, calling running backs ''disposable'' and pointing to the Colts' and Patriots' success without a dominant back.

In his new book, Mathletics, Winston details his method of calculating the degree to which a player increases or decreases his team's chances of winning. Winston and his team developed a point system to determine how many more or fewer victories a player will contribute than the average player.

Winston found a similar way to measure the effectiveness of NBA players and had a dim forecast for the Bulls' chances this season.

''In my mind, [letting go of Ben Gordon] is going to go down as one of the dumbest moves in sports,'' he said, ''especially to the team that's going to probably beat you out for the last playoff spot.''

Winston called the Bulls' first-round playoff series against the Celtics last season the greatest series of all time and had a theory about why the Bulls came up short.

After breaking down the minute-by-minute matchups in the series, he found the Bulls were at their worst when forwards Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah were on the court at the same time. In the 127 minutes the two played together, the Bulls were outscored by 71 points.

But Winston said the Bulls' lineup of Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Derrick Rose, Brad Miller and either Thomas or Noah -- which they had on the court for 56 minutes in the series -- outscored the Celtics by 42 points.

''You can't play your best lineup all the time,'' he said. ''It just doesn't work that way. But Noah and Thomas on the court together never worked the entire season. It's just not a good lineup.''

The reasons behind the Cubs' and Sox' woes in 2009 are easy to see using Winston's calculations. He found the winning probability of Cubs hitters was 7.47 points worse than the average team. Their pitchers' winning probability, meanwhile, was nearly 10 points better than the average team, with Angel Guzman putting in the best mound performance.

The Sox suffered similar woes at the plate (six points worse than the average team), and their troubles were compounded by a lackluster performance in the field (four points worse than the average team). But the Sox thrived on the mound, and Thornton made the biggest contribution to the team.

''This is what's great about this metric,'' Winston said. ''You can look at how many wins a guy creates in his opportunities and compare pitchers to hitters.''

Still, Winston conceded there are plenty of intangibles that can affect whether a player lives up to his potential.

Using Winston's metric, Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley's performance was nearly two victories worse than it was in his previous three seasons.

''He didn't add up to be the player they thought they were getting when they signed him, performance-wise,'' Winston said. ''No matter how good you do your math, there's still going to be a lot of uncertainty.''

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: October 12, 2009


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