Blackhawks News

There Are Three Kinds of Lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

By Unknown author

The opinion given in the title of this article was made famous by Mark Twain.  And it seems that a good number of hockey fans agree with it.  Baseball has had stats associated with it since its inception.  Since the 1970’s, however, various individuals like Bill James have expanded the use of stats into a new era called Sabermetrics . While many baseball fans have embraced the use of these new statistical tools, hockey fans have been far more reticent.

Thinking about it, it occurs to me that there might be a reason for this.  The type of people that are generally attracted to baseball and those generally attracted to hockey might actually be different.  So it simply might be that more hockey fan’s brains are actually hardwired to dislike stats.

Carl Gustav Jung in the 1920’s worked in the field of Personality psychology which studies personality and individual differences. The theory is that individuals think and process information differently based on ones own individual personality traits.  Katharine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Myers created the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment.

"From the wiki page, “The MBTI sorts some of these psychological differences into four opposite pairs, or dichotomies, with a resulting 16 possible psychological types.”"

If you are interested in learning your personality type you can take a number of tests on the Internet.  My personal favorite matches your personality to particular Simpson Characters.

Now the part of these tests that relate to stats deal with the “irrational” (perceiving) functions: sensing and intuition.  These deal with the way people gather information.

  • A sensing person tends to only trust information that is concrete.  They want to “see it, smell it, touch it, hear it, or taste it” before they trust the information.
  • An intuitive person tends to trust information that is more abstract or theoretical.  They tend to look for patterns in a wider context.

As you have probably guessed, intuitive people like to use stats, sensing people, well, not so much.  So if you don’t like stats, it might simply be that you are hardwired to feel that way.

And Hockey and Baseball may actually influence what type of personalities are attracted to them.  Intuitive people tend to be more individualistic.  Baseball is an individual batter against an individual pitcher. And obviously there are stats involved.

Hockey is more of a team game where the players “go to war” so to speak. and sensing people tend to be team players.  It is not uncommon for sensing personalities to become Fireman or Marines.  So it is very possible that a greater percentage of intuitive people are fans of baseball and the reverse for Hockey.  Which could very well explain the general greater acceptance of stats in Baseball over Hockey.

As you can probably tell, I am an intuitive individual.  I love to use stats.  I find them useful for all kinds of things.  And while hockey statistical analysis has not yet evolved to the level of baseball’s sabermetrics, there has been some really interesting work done.

Gabriel Desjardins has done some wonderful work at behindthenet. When you hear people talking about “Quality of Competition”, “Quality of Teammates”, “Offensive Zone Starts”, “Adjusted plus/minus”, they are usually talking about stats from this site.

Tom Awads GVT stats that are similar to baseball’s value over replacement players can also be found there.

These stats can be used to look at individual players and answer interesting questions:

  • Which players on the team play against the best opposing players?
  • Which players does the coach rely on in critical situations?
  • Which players does the coach “protect” and consider a liability on the ice?
  • Which players are winning the 5on5 battles regardless of linemates?
  • Which players most often move the puck in a positive direction when they are on the ice.

Now intuitive individuals find stats easy to use.  But that doesn’t mean stats are only for people that think that way.  Stats can be used by sensing individuals, too. In the TV show NCIS, the character of Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs played by Mark Harmon is a very exaggerated sensing individual.  He is also a very good interrogator which is normally an intuitive capability.  As the show portrays, it can be done.  It’s like trying to throw a baseball with your non-writing hand.  It may not come naturally, but you can train yourself to do.  And if you do, it can be very worthwhile.

In future articles I will probably use stats to argue my points.  When I do, I will try and explain how I use the stats from BehindtheNet.  And even if you are a “sensing” personality, I hope you will give them a try.

And if you take the test from the Simpson link above, please feel free to post the results.  What were the 4 letters given and which Simpson character did you match?  And do you like and use stats?  or not?  I know the sample size will be small but it would be interesting to see the results.