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Thursday, November 8, 2012
Checking in on Value Add

By Eamonn Brennan

When you think about the intersection of advanced sports statistics and political forecasting, you think of Nate Silver.

Far fewer people will know the name John Pudner, but college hoops fans probably should. Last summer, Pudner, a hardcore Marquette fan (and poster at Cracked Sidewalks) and data-oriented political professional who told SI's Luke Winn "I live in spreadsheets" decided to apply his skills to the game of college hoops. Specifically, he wanted to ape the sabermetric baseball statistic Wins Above Replacement, or "WAR," which measures and projects individual contributions over the course of a baseball season (and, every now and then, makes an out-of-touch sportswriter write regrettable nonsense). The hope was to create a metric that isolated and credited individual players for their contributions to a team by comparing those contributions to a generic "replacement level" player.

The result was what Pudner termed "Value Add." The formula, which factors in minutes played, usage rate and efficiency, first received its wider Winn-blessed airing last summer. Now, Pudner's entire rankings system is available online, and I've spent much of the afternoon scrolling and scanning for items of interest. (When I haven't been jumping up and down in my house like a kid on Christmas Eve, that is. What do you expect? The season starts tomorrow.)

So, what do Value Add's projected player rankings hint about the new season in front of us? A few observations:
Anyway, like anything else, these are just projections. Value Add by no means is a magic bullet for individual advanced statistical rankings; it has its flaws, too. But it is fun to poke around and see where it both confirms and challenges our assumptions about the season to come, and the players that will make it memorable.