So I have a confession to make. My fascination with statistics in sports really originated from my baseball-watching activities, back when I still thought of myself as more of a math-and-science kind of gal. You can bet I knew my 13 times tables better than any other 4th grader because Bobby Cox used a 13-pitch-per-inning benchmark to gauge his pitchers’ efficiency, and obviously I had to follow along as well.
I didn’t follow basketball stats quite as well, maybe because of the fast-paced nature of the game. I mean, there is a lot more time to discuss things like WHIP and OPS when the ball is being thrown around the horn, or the catcher is taking his 3249873294th trip to the mound. And, a lot of the more nuanced statistics in basketball (like how to calculate win shares) were influenced by the great baseball sabermetrician himself, Bill James.
I have only recently begun to really engage in the world of basketball statistics, delving for the first time into anything more complicated than PER (player efficiency ratings). Although PER is no simple formula itself either– I just find that it’s just referenced a lot more than things likeÂ Pythagorean Wins (which I still don’t get).
So let’s go with my new stat of the day which I do find pretty useful– eFG% (effective field goal percentage). Basically, it’s a slightly more precise version of field goal percentage that adjusts for 3-point shots: whereas FG% is simply (field goals made)/(field goals attempted), eFG% is (field goals made + (0.5 x 3-pointers made))/(field goal attempts).
Why, might you ask, am I launching into this very in-depth discussion of statistics?
Well, not surprisingly, it turns out that eFG% is pretty key to the Hawks’ success. When Hawks eFG% > Opponent eFG%, Atlanta is 31-3. When Opponent eFG% > Hawks eFG%, the team is 8-27. The team’s eFG% average for the season is 50.3% compared to 48.8% by their opponents; in our recent losses against the Heat and Nuggets, we’ve put up 46.2%/61.3% and 44.5%/58.2% Hawks-Opponent ratios.
But the interesting thing about this fun fact is that while the Hawks’ eFG% is slightly lower than their season average in these two losses, ourÂ opponents’ eFG% is much higher that the season average for what the Hawks have allowed, indicating that the team’s defense is what has been letting up more. I found this surprising given what I’ve seen over the past few games– I would definitely have guessed that poor shooting was accounting for our struggles more so than defense. Sometimes the stats don’t always match what meets the eye. Or perhaps “statistics are in the eye of the beholder.”
Ok, my head is spinning from all these numbers. Let’s get back to some basketball and back in the win column. Hopefully the Hawks can make it happen against the Pistons (48.9% eFG season average, in case you were wondering) this afternoon.