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Analytics: Helping or Hurting Sports?

 

It’s the biggest change in sports over the past decade. Advanced analytics are everywhere in the game today. Every pitch in baseball, shot in hockey, pass in football, and shot in basketball is recorded and studied in the new era. Film study has gone even further under the microscope to create impressive graphics and stats. From the hitting distribution and pitching spray charts on the diamond to QBR (quarterback rating) on the gridiron, analytics have taken off. This movement has revolutionized the sports world and even become a hit in Hollywood with movies like “Moneyball”.

On a local scale, the Philadelphia 76ers have even began to rely on analytics to rebuild while the Phillies have been teaching new hitting methods down in Clearwater during Spring Training. So honestly, are analytics helping or hurting sports?

Well both. The statistics that have come out of the new wave are making it easier for analyst to judge player efficiency. It also is assisting fans to understand the science behind the statistics, helping them get a better comprehension for the game. At the same time though it’s hurting some of the credibility the leagues have among fans. In addition, the lack of offense has diminished the product on the field and in result, struggling to expand popularity among our ADHD society.

Baseball is experiencing a drought it has not endured since the 1960s. The pitching talent in the MLB has increased tremendously after the steroid era as it seems every year there are another 5+ young pitchers dominating the league. Because of the rise of pitching success, professional baseball saw decade-lows in batting averages and runs scored. Yet its not just baseball experiencing offensive scoring changes.

The National Hockey League has seen a decline as well since the 2005-2006 season. A tremendous amount of low scoring games this season have gone into overtime and shootouts. The games biggest star Sidney Crosby has only 23 goals in 65 games. The NBA is seeing a decline in it’s star players scoring too. In the 2007-08 season, there was a total of 27 players averaging 20+ points per game. Today, there are only 15 players with those kinds of numbers.

Did you notice what major sport was left off the list of diminishing offense? The NFL has raised their scoring by constantly altering the defensive rules to favor the offensive side of the ball. “Putting a skirt” on the QB and eliminating contact after 5 yards in the secondary has created more space for highlight-reel moments to occur. Consequently, the sport is more popular than ever before! Baseball will be enforcing rules this year to speed up the game and I expect to see additional rule adjustments made throughout the other leagues as well. After all, the casual fan would much rather see the score escalate quickly than sit in 95 degree heat for a ball game that produces only 3 base runners.

 

Author: Tyler Edgerton

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