By: Edward Egros

sports

Using Coaching Stats to Predict the NFL Season

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If it's done more than once in the podcasting world, you might as well call it a tradition. It's time now for our second installment of our NFL season preview and once again, we'll spend this episode focusing on what many do not discuss: the coaching and the playbook.

Kevin Braig, also known as Quant Coach, looks at coaching and play design, separates those contributions from that of the players' and determines the most efficient football teams and who is likeliest to be the most successful the rest of the way. You can follow him on Twitter
@quantcoach and check out his website: quantcoach.com.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

Fantasy Football Tips & Trends

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Pro football players have already started preparing for the upcoming NFL season, months before games actually begin. Fantasy football players are no different. The most prepared are keeping up with training camps across the country, projecting performances for key skill players and maybe even assembling personal draft boards.

Daily fantasy sports may be less accessible and popular within the last couple of years, but there are signs season-long fantasy football has a more rabid following than ever before. After a couple of years of getting shut down, the
National Fantasy Football Convention finally got off the ground this July in Dallas. I was fortunate enough to speak at a panel at the conference, devoted to the analytics of fantasy football. Also on this panel are: George Kondraske, a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, Jon Hartley, an economics contributor for Forbes Magazine and the Huffington Post, and Troy Brazell, CEO of Optima Sports Analytics.

To listen to this podcast,
click here.

Previewing the Great Lakes Analytics in Sports Conference

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Next month, I will be speaking at the Great Lakes Analytics in Sports Conference. This event features the latest and greatest in sports analytics, with speakers from across the country discussing their unique research. My talk will be about my own research and how I incorporate these complicated concepts into easily digestible reports for television. The conference will be July 13th at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. For more information, click here.

To listen to this podcast,
click here.

The Numbers Behind Hitchcock's Return to Dallas

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The Dallas Stars are bringing back a familiar face, hiring Ken Hitchcock for a second tenure as their head coach. As with all head coaching changes, the team isn't just changing a person, it's changing a philosophy.

Its last coach, Lindy Ruff, was an offense first person, and that is not a "bad" philosophy. As we've shown in our research, hockey teams can win emphasizing offense. But with so many injuries last season to forwards and not having necessary backups to win low-scoring games, the Stars are now emphasizing defense.

Ken Hitchcock does just that.

To listen to this podcast,
click here.

What is Good Team Chemistry, Anyway?

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We wrap up our unofficial series on the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference discussing something that may not seem analytical at all: team chemistry. What are the intangibles that make players work better together, how do you quantify and recognize the unspoken communication between athletes and how can a team maximize its chemistry by finding the right combination of people?

To explain the theories behind quantifying team chemistry, I spoke to one of the study's authors, Kevin Roberts, of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

To read the paper, click here.

Analytics and the UFC

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It may not seem like a natural relationship: analytics and mixed martial arts.  But one research poster at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference discussed how different fighting styles can be more or less successful in a given bout.  Sean Hacket and John Storey put the research together.  I wanted to ask a couple of UFC fighters about the research, so I spoke to the two competing in the main event at this May's UFC 211: Stipe Miocic and Junior Dos Santos.

To listen to this podcast,
click here.

A Better Way to Compare Athletes?

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Walker Zimmerman of FC Dallas earned an invitation to play for Team USA and has already logged international acclaim. European clubs are also reportedly interested in his services. It is safe to say he has impressed enough around the world to be considered one of the more talented American-born soccer players currently playing.

Comparing soccer—as well as basketball and hockey players—has often been an inexact science. Some refer to their approach as the "eye" test while others use more analytical approaches. For instance, basketball has "
wins produced per 48 minutes played", hockey has "goals versus threshold" and soccer has "goal probability added". But one of the problems one data scientist poses is it is difficult to compare athletes who play different positions, have different styles of play and may emphasize different skill sets.

At the 2017 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference,
Shael Brown, an undergraduate student at Dalhousie University in Canada, proposes a new metric based upon the PageRank algorithm, the way Google's search engine ranks websites in its results. His presentation discusses how players' "relative ranks" when it comes to the flow of their game, can better help us compare the best in each sport.

To listen to this podcast,
click here.

To read Shael Brown's paper,
click here.

Character Counts

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How much does adding a player like Greg Hardy, who was punished for assaulting his ex-girlfriend, hinder his team based solely upon his past? One of the more difficult things to quantify is how much a football player's character matters for success. Not only is character defined differently by different people, anecdotal evidence does not seem to lead in any one direction.

But there may be something concrete to consider in the NFL. Alex Piquero is a professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas. In his research he has discovered players with a history of violent crime go on to commit more penalties on the football field than those who haven't. Recently I sat down with Professor Piquero to elaborate.

To listen to this podcast,
click here.

Super Bowl LI Prop Bets

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One of the busier days of the sports betting calendar is Super Bowl Sunday. This year promises to be no different. It's not just betting who will win against the spread, it's the prop bets! We go over some of the more popular and wackier ones.

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click here.

Why the Cowboys Lost

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Jason Witten finished his 14th season in the National Football League without a champion, in a season some would argue was his best chance of making the Super Bowl. While many predicted the Dallas Cowboys to advance to the NFC Championship Game, I explain the in-game decisions that doomed Dallas from the beginning.

To listen to this podcast,
click here.

Cowboys/Packers Preview

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Dez Bryant did not play in the first meeting, but two weeks of practices and preparations solely for this moment, and it's almost time. The Dallas Cowboys will face the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional round of the playoffs this Sunday. How much of an impact will Dez make, and how much will Green Bay hurt without Jordy Nelson?

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click here.

Who Should Cowboys Fans Root For?

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The Dallas Cowboys get to enjoy a weekend without football before starting their playoff run. However, they must also wait before learning of their playoff opponent. It could be the Lions, Packers or Giants. We go inside the numbers to see who Cowboys fans should and should not be rooting for.

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click here.

Cowboys/Eagles Preview

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It's the second game for the Dallas Cowboys where the playoff position is already set and there is nothing tangible to play for. While the approach for the Lions was one way, the approach in the season finale seems to be different. We'll explain if that approach is the right one for the ultimate prize: a Super Bowl championship.

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click here.

Cowboys/Buccaneers Preview

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The Cowboys suffered their first loss since the beginning of the season, with Dak Prescott playing his worst game of his career. Was the Giants game a fluke, or is it a troubling sign of things to come for the rookie quarterback? And can the Cowboys defense continue this perceived uptick?

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click here.

Cowboys/Giants Preview

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The Cowboys hope to avenge their only loss of the regular-season. What do the numbers say about their chances, and what makes Dallas so different from the team that played New York during Week 1?

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click here.

Cowboys/Vikings Preview

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The 10-1 Dallas Cowboys could clinch a playoff spot as soon as this weekend if they knock off the 6-5 Minnesota Vikings. Dallas has faced a number of highly touted defenses, but why might this one be different, and cause additional problems than the others? And why do the Cowboys do so well late in games, and why might that change in Minneapolis?

To listen to this podcast,
click here.

Cowboys/Redskins Preview

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The Cowboys knocked off the Redskins in Week 2, so why is there so much concern for Dallas for the rematch on Thanksgiving Day? How has each team changed since that meeting and do the Redskins have a disadvantage when it comes to their schedule this week?

To listen to this podcast,
click here.

Cowboys/Ravens Preview

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Can the Cowboys improve to 9-1 by knocking off the Baltimore Ravens at noon Sunday at AT&T Stadium, setting a franchise record for consecutive wins in one season? And why might the Ravens' biggest strength not be a strength at all? Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott offer their perspectives and we give our forecast.

To listen to this podcast,
click here.

Can a Quarterback Have a Hot Hand?

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Dak Prescott vs Browns
When Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo left a preseason game with a back injury, many believed it would only be a matter of time before he returned. Instead, rookie Dak Prescott has led this team to an 8-1 record, currently the best in the NFL. Now it looks like, for at least the rest of this season, the Cowboys are sticking with Prescott. One argument is he has the "hot hand".

But does the "hot hand" actually exist for an NFL quarterback? Is it a statistically significant phenomenon the Cowboys must adhere to, if they are going to compete for a Super Bowl? Alan Reifman is a professor at Texas Tech University and wrote about this phenomenon:
Hot Hand: The Statistics Behind Sports' Greatest Streaks. You can follow him on Twitter @AlanReifman.

To listen to this podcast,
click here.

Analytic Accessibility in NASCAR

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It seems like nearly every sport reports more advanced statistics than ever before. But one sport where that does not seem to be the case is auto racing, specifically NASCAR. While speed and finishes have always been readily available, new ways of evaluating drivers, teams and tracks do not seem to be as commonplace. I spoke to six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson about it, as well as how he feels he and his team have innovated the sport.

To listen to this podcast,
click here.

#NewsEngagementDay

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This October 4th is News Engagement Day. The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication dedicated this day to making news, "…a national priority again [where] everyone is encouraged to read, watch, like, tweet, post, text, email, listen to or comment on news."

For News Engagement Day, I went to Southern Methodist University and spoke to a digital journalism class about data journalism, or using numerical data to find trends and uncover any cause and effect through quantitative measures. Not only did I explain how I hope to advance data journalism, the class was given an assignment: using baseball data, who should the Texas Rangers root for in the American League Wild Card game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays? In other words, which statistics suggest the Rangers have a better chance to beating once the wild card winner advances to the ALDS? The students then shared their research.

To listen to this podcast,
click here.

Special thanks to Prof. Jake Batsell for allowing me to speak to his class and for the photos used in this post.

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NFL Coaching and Analytics

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The NFL season is almost here. While much of the talk predicting who will win the Super Bowl involves the players, one expert says we should also be focused on the coaching and the playbook.

Kevin Braig, also known as Quant Coach, looks at coaching and play design, separates those contributions from that of the players' and determines the most efficient football teams and who is likeliest to be the most successful the rest of the way. You can follow him on Twitter
@quantcoach and check out his website: quantcoach.com.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

College Football Preview

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College football teams have begun their preparations for the upcoming season, and with it, dreams of winning the National Championship. Metrics for predicting who has a chance to reach the four-team playoff have improved over time, and while parity still exists and seasons are often determined by one fluke play, there are standards for success that withstand the unpredictable. To discuss these metrics, I spoke with Phil Steele of Phil Steele's College Football Preview magazine.

You can follow him on twitter
@philsteele042 or go to his website: philsteele.com.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

Previewing Wimbledon

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Wimbledon is approaching and with it, new ways of mastering the game that's been around for more than a century and a half. Aside from the ways analytics have advanced tennis, there are a lot of storylines for this year's fortnight, including if Novak Djokovic can move one step closer to completing the calendar Grand Slam, and if Serena Williams can figure out why she hasn't won in her last three attempts.

In this podcast, I discuss these issues and more with tennis coach and strategy analyst Craig O'Shannessy. You can learn more about his work from his website,
braingametennis.com. You can also follow him on twitter: @BrainGameTennis.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

The Limits of the Human Body

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Pasted GraphicAs we approach the Olympics, athletes are not only trying to win Gold, they are trying to shatter records past champions set. But research on the human body, coupled with analytics, suggest that in one sport, it may be physically impossible to do any better than we already have.

This podcast created four years ago discusses how Track & Field athletes are getting dangerously close to running as fast as the human body will ever allow it to.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

Avoiding Information Overload

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Pasted Graphic 1There are a lot of reasons why Jordan Spieth has become one of the more successful young golfers the PGA Tour has ever seen. It's not just that he and his support system embraces golf analytics, but they have found a way to communicate these ideas.

Because quantitative analysis can provide a wealth of information, there is the real problem of "information overload" where the athlete becomes overwhelmed by what analytics can teach. In this podcast, Spieth explained how he uses analytics and how he strikes a balance between using these tools and not letting the tools overwhelm him.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

Growing Soccer in America

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Brandi ChastainWearing a hard hat doesn't rival the most notable image of Brandi Chastain's career. But ripping her shirt off after clinching the 1999 World Cup isn't the only thing she wants her soccer legacy to be about. She was in Frisco, TX to be a part of the groundbreaking for the National Soccer Hall of Fame Museum.

This museum is one of many ways some are trying to grow soccer in America. In this podcast, I talk to Chastain about her efforts to grow the sport and if raising awareness about concussions in her sport will ultimately help soccer's popularity.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

The Death of the Running Back?

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image2The NFL became the most successful North American sport because of what running backs like Eric Dickerson contributed. It's no secret today's football strays away from the running game, which gave the sport its foundation. Now, offenses resort to the pass more to the point where it seems like quarterbacks and receivers are the only two positions doing anything on the field.

This podcast includes Dickerson's thoughts on the devaluation of the running back and how the NFL is going in the wrong direction. I then break down, analytically, why passing has become a greater priority.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

The Art of Projecting the NCAA Tournament Field

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IMG_1689To predict the field for college basketball's NCAA Tournament properly, you have to watch a lot of games and keep up with a lot of teams. You also have to determine which metrics most accurately reflect the tournament committee's decisions for inclusion and seeding. One bracketologist who crunches the numbers throughout the season is Shelby Mast. You can read his projections in USA Today, on his website, bracketwag.com and you can follow him on Twitter @BracketWAG.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

Hockey Analytics

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Hockey is fast and physical, but slow and passive when it comes to adopting more analytics. At least that was the case during the sports analytic revolution of the 2000s. Now, the majority of NHL teams employ someone with an analytic slant. It's also becoming easier for the fan to recognize trends and put together more educated predictions.

My guest is Carolyn Wilke, Managing Editor of Today's Snapshot and a statistical consultant for the NWHL. You can follow her on twitter
@Classlicity.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

Sports Analytics in Action

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It's been more than a decade since Michael Lewis released the book "Moneyball", which chronicled the Oakland A's of the early 2000's. General Manager Billy Beane embraced sabermetrics, a form of baseball analytics.

Since that time, an increasing number of professional sports teams have embraced this blossoming field. Coincidentally, many of these teams have gone on to incredible success. By grouping all professional sports, I have put together a list of the top five teams that are the most analytically based. I am excluding the A's only because they have been thoroughly chronicled.

To listen to this podcast, click here.