Saturday, November 8, 2008

Demovsky: Channelling Mark Twain

Anyone that knows my writings on the Packers and sports in general knows that one of my biggest pet peeves is the misuse of statistics. We see it far too much nowadays, often with the caveat that statistics are facts, and if you doubt the statistics, you must be doubting facts.

Mark Twain said it best..."There are three kinds of lies: lies, d*mn lies, and statistics." It's not that statistics are a bad thing. Personally, I love stats...crunching them, researching them, presenting them. But, in the wrong hands they have the capacity to be completely misleading, particularly when a set of statistics are used in isolation and other factors (or stats) are ignored.

Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette is normally an adequate writer, but over the years, I've repeatedly observed Rob wanting to prove his points so badly that he'll take some stats and hammer them out as if it were the judge, jury, and executioner in the case. In his latest online chat, he made a such a point:
[Comment From Aaron - Green Bay] Why have the tight ends been so under uitlized? Is it because they are needed to block for a shakey O-line or is Rodgers not comfortable hooking up with his TE?

Rob Demovsky
: Aaron: I looked at that during the bye week, and here's what I found: Last season, Favre completed 57.4 percent of his passes to receivers, 22.2 percent to running backs, 17.8 percent to tight ends and 2.6 percent to fullbacks. This season, Rodgers has completed a higher percentage to his receivers (62.6 percent) and a lower percentage to running backs (17.7 percent) than Favre did. His tight end (16.3) and fullback (3.4) percentages are similar.
The use of percentage of passes in this case is just one statistic that can be used to respond to this question, but it is grossly inadequate in giving a proper response. The question asked why the tight ends weren't being used more. "Well, the percentages are the same."

So? It's all "okay", then? We shouldn't complain about how the tight ends are being used because the percentage of passes completed is the same is last year (note: when BRETT FAVRE was quarterback!)?

Did you know that of all African-American men who have served as the Presidential nominees of the two major political parties, 100% have won the Presidency? In comparison, only 50% of all white men have ended up winning the presidency in the same time span.

What conclusions would you draw given just that information? Do you think, perhaps, there are more statistics or information that might help flesh out this picture just a tad?

Aaron's question didn't get completely answered by Demovsky, and with the information given, you'd imagine that there's no problem with the tight ends. However, let's take a look at some other stats.

For one, the production from tight ends have been significantly diminished from last year. At this point last year, Donald Lee had 29 receptions for 382 yards and a touchdown, a 13.2 average. This year, Lee has 22 receptions, but for only 163 yards and 7.4 ypc (he does have two touchdowns, however).

Clearly, Lee is not producing like he did last season, and isn't stretching the field like he used to.

Furthermore, departed Bubba Franks had 14 receptions for 90 yards by this point, a 6.4 average and 2 touchdowns. Putting together the statistics of both Tory Humphrey and Jermichael Finley, they have combined for 6 receptions for 80 yards...and 0 touchdowns. The 16 yards-per-catch average is inflated by Humphrey's long of 37 yards, incidentally.

So, why are Demovsky's percentages the same? Because at this point last year, Favre had 205 completions out of 308 attempts. Rodgers is 167 for 262 as of this point, a pretty significant difference. Favre had 47 more completions and 46 more attempts.

I'm not trying to make any point that we would have been better off with Favre this year, or that Rodgers is lacking (in fact, I suspect that part of Demovsky's intent was to divert blame from Rodgers).

However, it is clear, percentages or not, that tight end production has taken a major hit this year. The loss of Bubba Franks, who had drastically fallen off in his receiving production from the Sherman years, hasn't been even been made up by all the backups combined. Perhaps more importantly, Franks was a major asset with his run blocking.

I was, and still am, disappointed in the Jermichael Finley selection in this year's draft. He may grow into something someday, but to subtract a player like Franks and add a long-term project player in a season with high expectations seems a bit foolish.

There is no doubt that with the addition of Jordy Nelson, the strength of this offense is now in the hands of its receiving corps.

However, this is also because of the incredible drop-off of both the running game and the tight ends. Both of those struggling facets of the offense that would be helped with a solid all-around tight end, that could both catch and run block. Tony Gonzalez, anyone?

At this point, I would be happy with Bubba Franks back.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It couldn't be because they are throwing the ball less this year than last year could it?