Crazy crap analytics can prove

The Mag lets the numbers prove the points. Crazy? We'll let you decide.

Originally Published: February 19, 2014
By Staff | ESPN The Magazine

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's March 3 Analytics Issue. Subscribe today!

Dwyane Wade is the worst three-point shooter in NBA history
Of the 307 players in NBA history to attempt 1,000 three-point shots, eight have a career three-point percentage lower than 30 percent. Wade is one of them. But what distinguishes him from this ill-shooting pack is that he gets worse when the game is on the line: Over the course of his career, from 2003 to present (through Feb. 11), 45 players have attempted 200 three-point shots in clutch time -- when the score is within five points in the fourth quarter or OT. Of those 45 players, Wade is dead last in three-point percentage at 25.1 percent, preceded not so closely by Al Harrington and Carmelo Anthony at 27.3 percent. As for those other 44 players? They average 34.2 percent in crunch time, almost 10 percentage points higher than Flash.

It's simple, really: D-Wade shoots from three with high frequency and converts few, allowing his defenders to lag closer to the interior, which clogs the area where higher-efficiency shots are attempted. So not only does Wade brick his own shots, he makes it more likely that his teammates will too. That's bad shooting. -- Paul Swydan


Bartolo ColonKyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsAt age 40 and 265 pounds, Bartolo Colon had one of his best seasons ever.

Bartolo Colon's weight isn't a cause for concern but for celebration
Last season Colon shocked the baseball world. At age 40, and spuriously listed at 265 pounds, the A's starter dropped 18 W's, his most since 2005; a 2.65 ERA, his lowest since '02; and a 141 ERA+, the second best of his 16-year career. It was the fifth straight year in his late-career comeback in which he's posted an ERA+ over 100.

But maybe the baseball world shouldn't have been so shocked. After all, history shows that the chubbier a pitcher is as he ages, the more slowly his skills decline. Of the top 20 pitchers over age 37 in WAR, 10 were in the top quintile of Body Mass Index -- guys like David Wells, Cy Young, Roger Clemens, Kenny Rogers and Gaylord Perry. Similarly, if you look at all pitchers who were active past their 35th birthday, those in the top quintile of BMI saw their ERAs increase 5 percent more slowly and innings totals decline 8 percent more slowly than their peers.

As for Colon in 2014, our projection model sees the Mets' new $20 million man going 10-8 with a cool 3.60 ERA at age 41. And there will be nothing shocking about it. -- Dan Szymborski, ESPN Insider


Luis Suarez is the world's best soccer player -- and it isn't close
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo may have been crowned the 2013 Ballon d'Or winner, but no player in the world is impacting the game offensively like Liverpool striker Luis Suarez.

After being criticized for his poor shot selection in '12-13, Suarez is blasting 47.4 percent of his 5.5 shots per game on goal this year, a more accurate rate than that of Ronaldo (39.7 percent), Lionel Messi (44.2 percent) and Franck Ribery (45.8 percent). The reason? His 9.3 touches per game in the opposing team's penalty area not only outpaces Ribery (8.4), Ronaldo (7.6) and Messi (7.2), it's the highest mark in all of Euro soccer.

Still not convinced? Suarez creates 2.9 chances for his teammates per game -- third best in the EPL -- and his 60 total chances tops Ronaldo (34 in 21 games), Messi (34 in 16 games) and Ribery (40 in 14 games). And all three have better supporting casts.

So never mind that award. When you watch Liverpool, know you're watching the best player in the world. -- Adrian Melville, ESPN Insider


[+] EnlargeColin Kaepernick
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesStats show that Colin Kaepernick takes too long to release the ball.

Colin Kaepernick can't handle the heat
No one disputes that Kaepernick is one of the most exciting young QBs in football, but when it comes to staying cool under the heat of a pass rush, no one struggled more than the Niners signal-caller did last season.

When he was under pressure, his completion percentage fell from 63.3 percent to 42.9 percent, a figure of futility beaten only by Geno Smith and Andy Dalton. And in those spots, Kaepernick's accuracy, a measure that accounts for throwaways, spikes and drops, was 54.6 percent, dead last in football. Compounding his issues, he doesn't get rid of the ball quickly enough. It took him an average of 3.11 seconds to release under pressure, the 29th-slowest rate in the NFL.

Not coincidentally, he was sacked on 20.2 percent of those snaps, the fourth-worst percentage among starters. Add it all up and he suffered a 35-point drop in passer rating, to 62.5, in pressure spots.

Yes, he makes up for some of those deficiencies with his feet; his 524 regular-season rushing yards ranked fourth among QBs. But when he's forced to make a play with his arm, no QB fares worse than Kaep. --Sam Monson


Carlos Beltran is the best base stealer in baseball history
Last season, at age 36, Beltran stole his 307th and 308th bases, leaving him just 1,098 behind Rickey Henderson for the all-time record. So okay, the Yankees' newest outfielder is far from the greatest base stealer in terms of volume. But in terms of efficiency, there's never been anyone better.

Consider: Of the 160 players in MLB history to swipe at least 300 bases, Beltran is the only one to have a career conversion rate above 85 percent. Consider also that he's one of just 11 players since 1951 to swipe 30 bases in four consecutive seasons at an 80 percent clip. In fact, his 90.85 percent success rate from 2001 through '04, when he swiped 149 bags, ranks as the greatest stretch of base-stealing efficiency in history. Add it all up and, over the course of his 16-year career, Beltran has contributed nearly four Wins Above Replacement to his teams with his base-stealing alone. On top of his 358 home runs, numerous postseason heroics and three Gold Gloves, it might just be enough for Beltran to steal his way into Cooperstown. --Paul Swydan

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