2. The Search for Useful Stats

Why do teams track statistics in the first place? The primary purpose is to separate a player from his team. We know at the end of a contest who won. What we don’t know is which players were responsible for a team’s success (or failure).

The history of baseball statistics begins in the 19th century.1 Eventually, the idea of tracking numbers carried over to other sports, and today sports fans are presented with a dizzying array of statistics. All these numbers are supposed to tell us which players are “helping” or “hurting.” For that to happen, though, one has to identify which numbers are “useful” which can be a problem.

For football, the problem is quite severe, especially with respect to turnovers. Interceptions ...

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