Thursday, June 30, 2011

Will This Be Your Breakout Year?

There are many articles out there about finding a job in sports. Almost every sports conference has a panel devoted to this topic. Most of the advice is sound, since it often comes from insiders holding influential positions.

The focus is always on “breaking into sports,” which has become very difficult due to the huge number of people attempting it. There is an alternate approach. I describe it as “breaking out”, like a hitter having a breakout season.

The world has changed. Back in the 1990’s, you had to build and polish a resume with all the right background, send it off to the decision makers, and then hope for the best. Now, technology enables sports outsiders to become insiders without actually breaking in. The barrier is still there, but the right skills and knowledge can streamline the process.

The key step is to put your work out there for all to see. Whether through a website, blog, app or videos, you can gain exposure in sports far easier than ever before. When I wrote The Baseball Perspective in the early 1990’s, it required a graphic designer, print shop and the U.S. Postal Service for a 12-page newsletter to reach 1,000 or so subscribers and prospects. The same process would take far less time and cost almost nothing today!

While your passion and skills should determine what you put out there, I recommend avoiding the edgy sports opinion blogs that are everywhere. Specialize as much as possible. Great examples exist all over the internet. HitTracker is an amazing website that tracks the flight and distance of every Major League home run. Darren Heitner’s Sports Agent Blog is a tremendous resource for insiders, as is Cots Contracts. How about starting a website analyzing NFL coaching decisions? Or how weather conditions impact game outcomes and/or statistics? Everybody wins – you gain exposure and the industry gets another resource.

Internships are great for making contacts and gaining experience. However, your work may not reach the masses or have your name attached to it. With our approach, there’s no limitation on who sees it, especially if you have no problem presenting at conferences and seminars.

Although easier than breaking in, breaking out in sports presents its own challenges. I’m sure the people who run the websites mentioned above had to work long and hard. But fortunately, talented individuals with something valuable to offer now have far more control over their own future in sports. Isn’t that the way it should be?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

One Simple Test for Predicting NBA Success

If a college player can score at a high rate before turning 20 years old, they have a great chance for NBA success.

This quick test was explained a few years ago in The Sports Resource Newsletter. That year, the 2008 NBA Draft had seven players selected who had averaged 20 points per 40 minutes in their final college season before turning 20 years old. Among that group, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Eric Gordon have emerged as strong NBA players. J.J. Hickson appears headed for a solid career. Jerryd Bayless and Kosta Koufos still have a ways to go.

The next two drafts produced just two “20 under 20” players apiece. All seem destined for excellent careers. The 2009 draft included Tyreke Evans and James Harden, while 2010 had DeMarcus Cousins and Al-Farouq Aminu.

This year’s draft features just three members of the 20 under 20 club. Kyrie Irving and Alec Burks have gotten their share of attention, but a third player isn’t projected to go until the 20’s in most mock drafts. Tennessee’s Tobias Harris actually did the other prospects one better – he averaged 20 points per 40 minutes before turning 19 years old! This hasn’t been done by a drafted player in his final college season since Kevin Durant in 2007.

Burks turned in his own impressive feat by going 20 under 20 in both of his college seasons. He joined Derrick Williams, Jordan Hamilton, Kenneth Faried and Chris Wright as players who did this in seasons other than their final college campaign.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Five Reasons to Activate Your Sponsorships with Statistics

When fans enter professional sports venues today, they become immersed in technology. While the huge HD video boards grab their attention, they also want unique insight about their favorite team. Diehard fans seek the type of information that only comes from innovative statistical content. So where is it?

In the past year, I have visited numerous NBA, MLB and NFL facilities – including some of the newest and most technologically advanced in the nation – yet not once did they present anything beyond the basic stats.

This is great news for brands looking for creative ways to activate their sponsorships. Fans seek out revealing statistical content. And while teams want to provide it, they may lack the resources or expertise to make that happen.

Here are five reasons why it pays to make creative statistical content part of your sponsorship activation strategy:

1. This approach brings sponsorships to life. Rich statistical content educates fans about the strengths of their favorite team and its players, and sends a crystal clear message. The right metrics won’t confuse fans at all, but build on their connection to both the sponsor and property.

2. Innovative statistical content is ideal for social media. Besides gaining exposure on the video boards, sponsors can also deliver a powerful message in 140 characters, whether by text, Facebook, Twitter or all three mediums. Since fans following a team via social media tend to be its most loyal enthusiasts, brands connect directly to them. Of course, the content must have value.

3. Creative sports statistics are sticky: they get repeated over and over.

4. It is cost effective. Putting such a plan in place will fit well within your activation budget. Brands get ROI for a fraction of what other methods deliver.

5. Analytics tell a great story. Much of the sports industry has yet to discover this. So if you’re looking for fresh ideas, why not make them part of your brand’s story?

Activating sponsorships in this way requires the right content and approach to make it happen. And The Sports Resource has that covered.

Steve Fall's business The Sports Resource has provided NBA, MLB and NFL agents with sports analytics consulting since 1997. Agents use his statistical packages to build player value for contract negotiations, free agency, arbitration and the draft. Last year alone, he worked on over $335 million in contracts. His analytical tools also help companies activate their sports sponsorships.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Properly Valuing Hit Types

It seems logical that a double is twice as good as a single, a triple three times as good as a single, etc. However, the run values for offensive events vary tremendously from those figures. And they also change over time, depending on the level of offense in the Major Leagues.

Making use of a statistical technique called regression analysis, The Sports Resource calculated run values for five offensive events over two different time frames. Run production dipped from the first timeframe (2000-07) to the second (2008-10), which impacted the results.

The value for triples stands out more than anything else, especially in the more recent timeframe. There’s a large gap between the value of doubles (.75 runs) and triples (1.28), and a much narrower one separating triples (1.28) and home runs (1.42). Common sense would assume that a hit covering 4 bases would carry 33 percent more value than one for three bases. But the actual difference is just 10.9 percent.

What does this mean for agents? Players who hit lots of triples and relatively few homers – such as Jose Reyes and Dexter Fowler – produce more runs than many would think. For example, Reyes' three homers and 11 triples (through June 13) are equivalent to 13 homers and 0 triples.

The other interesting change is the drop in run value for singles. The best possible explanation is that with less overall offense, it’s harder to bring home runners from first base (especially due to the dip in home run rate). In addition, there tends to be fewer runners on base when singles get hit than from 2000 through 2007, further decreasing their value.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Better Sports Statistics and Missed Opportunities

Moving beyond core statistics has immense benefits for anybody associated with or interested in sports. Advanced metrics – or even relatively simple per minute stats – bring greater insight and understanding.

It takes a look inside the numbers to see the value of players like Joel Anthony. The ABC announcers missed a great chance to do so in Game Two of the NBA Finals. When Anthony made an amazing block, commentator Jeff Van Gundy joked that play-by-play man Mike Breen would have been far more expressive had LeBron James made the play. Did anybody on the broadcast realize that Anthony is the second-greatest shot blocker in Miami Heat history? Don’t the viewers deserve such insight?

Among Heat players with 1000 career minutes played, only Alonzo Mourning (3.67) blocked more shots per 40 minutes than Anthony (3.01). They rank one-two in block percentage as well, which estimates the percentage of opposing two-point shots a player swats while on the court. Unfortunately, that’s not the type of information provided during telecasts, at least not yet.

Anthony is so good defensively that it enables him to contribute despite obvious shortcomings in his game. According to’s Tom Haberstroh, the Heat outscored their opponents by over 19 points per 100 possessions during the regular season when Anthony played with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. With this sensational shot blocker positioned down low, the Heat can play tight defense on the perimeter and force turnovers.

Anthony has increased his blocks per 40 minutes figure during the playoffs (2.85 through June 6) compared to the regular season (2.54). He also had Miami’s best postseason plus/minus figure (+88).

As detailed in a recent post, analytics tell a great story. None of these statistics are confusing or difficult to explain, and they show the impact Anthony has on the game.

Agents and clubs officials see the value of advanced metrics, and use them because they increase bargaining power and influence lucrative contracts. It will take some time before sports analytics has a major presence on game broadcasts, stadium and arena video boards, and sports talk radio. But it will arrive, and it won’t be long.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In Defense of Win Totals

In a recent issue of ESPN the Magazine, Steve Wulf wrote about the debate over pitchers’ win totals. He summarized that wins have far more value when used to evaluate careers than individual seasons.

The Sports Resource put this to the test by comparing pitchers wins – which many statistical experts despise – to Wins Above Replacement (WAR), perhaps the best individual metric for quantifying a starting pitcher’s contributions.

During the 2010 season, the top 10 pitchers in wins had a 3.14 ERA. The best 10 pitchers in WAR posted an outstanding 2.60 ERA. Obviously, the latter group was much stronger. Phil Hughes made the wins group with a 4.19 ERA. The highest ERA in the WAR group was Jered Weaver’s 3.01.

As the timeframe expands, something interesting happens: the gap begins to narrow considerably. After the 0.54 ERA difference in 2010, it drops to just 0.19 over five seasons (2006-10). In a 10-year stretch (2001-10), the gap falls to 0.11 (see chart). While wins never match WAR as an evaluation tool, they become much more valuable.

While run support, defense and bullpen support impact win totals tremendously in one season, those factors tend to even out over time. Rarely will a pitcher receive horrible run support over a 10-year timeframe. His support/luck will eventually improve. Or, if he pitches for a poor team with consistent offensive problems, he could sign as a free agent or get traded to a higher scoring club.

The takeaway message is that agents shouldn’t dismiss win totals completely. Career and multi-year win totals can demonstrate value for starting pitchers, especially in the later arbitration and free agency seasons.