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On Lacrosse

With all due respect to Bill James, quantifying the statistical aspects of baseball is easy.

Well, as easy as baking bread on a New York City sidewalk in mid-August.

Baseball can be reasonably divided between offense and defense, with individual performance in each aspect of the game readily calculable.

Lacrosse, however, is a totally different animal. It's the 800 pound gorilla in the corner.

And I'm hoping to tame it. With a calculator, guile, and slow wit.

Unlike baseball, lacrosse cannot be broken down into discrete, easily identifiable bits of action that can be well summarized to form legitimate and informative statistical tools. The nature of lacrosse emphasizes fluidity, thereby disrupting the independance of offense and defense. Thefore, to quantify particular aspects of lacrosse, an analysis must be designed to answer the right questions.

Those questions, briefly, are the following:

1) Since the purpose of a lacrosse game is to win, what aspects of the game directly or indirectly influence a team's ability to succeed?
2) If scoring, both offensively and defensively, is a necessary prerequisite to victory, what are the best ways to determine efficient team production and indiviudal player contribution?
3) Is the tool of measurement sound?

Very little statistical research has been completed on the game of lacrosse. This is probably due to one reason - the game is still in its audience infancy. Some intrepid infomaniacs have developed strength of schedule and BCS-like statistical models for the college game, but little has gone into the actual analysis of the game itself. While a start, it's just not cutting the mustard.

What has been written is mostly concerned with the box game, where starved hockeymetricians have found a new outlet to further their statistical cravings. The operative question is whether those theories applied to hockey and box lacrosse can be grafted onto the field lacrosse game. I believe the answer is a wavered "yes."

Tools analyzing team aspects of the game are readily adaptable. Issues arise as to individual performance concerning tools like point allocation simply because the information necessary to form the analysis and calculation are not available because they are not tracked. So it's a mixed bag, but at least there is a bag to carry.

What does this all mean? Well, that's a complicated question.

From time to time, I'm going to take a look at some of the big picture questions facing Syracuse lacrosse such as whether a team's playoff experience matters and if defense actually does win championships. Until I can iron out the problems facing the quantifying of individual player performance, it's going to be a lot of team analysis from this point forward.

So you got that going for 'ya, which is nice.

And, if none of the above made sense, wait until basketball season.

Carney for Heisman: 2005!

There's no reason to beat around the bush. Doing so only conceives that the inevitable is not a reasonable possibility.

Brendan Carney is the greatest college football player in the country.

Again.

Last season, Carney's campaign for glory was sabotaged by a Syracuse offense that failed to be utterly abysmal. Granted, Perry's Posse was pretty terrible, but had they really mailed it in last season, there's no question that Carney would be entering this season on a quest to secure his second Heisman Trophy.

Nobody rockets the ball off his toe quite like Carney. The best way to describe Carney's punting prowess is that his punts are like Manute Bol on heroin - long and high. And awesome. Really awesome.

Who needs 44 when you've got 47?

Given the stable of talent Coach Robinson will be forced to utilize this season, Carney should be poised for another monstrous season punting the pigskin. As such, Syracuse :: 44 :: Orange will be once again driving the roomy, but comfortable, Carney for Heisman bandwagon. Feel free to jump aboard.

Next stop - Yale Club!

Essentials
Syracuse Athletics Player Profile
NCAA Player Profile

Career Statistics
PuntsYardsAverageLong
200360258143.164
200457244142.865

Career Bests
Number12 v. Virginia Tech - 2003
Longest71 v. Florida State - 2005
Yards481 v. West Virginia - 2005
Average52.0 v. Rutgers - 2004

2005 Statistics
PuntsYardsAverageLong
West Virginia1148143.759
Buffalo314949.753
Virginia726037.148
Florida State941245.871
Connecticut938243.453
Rutgers629449.053
Pittsburgh626143.547
Cincinnati518136.246
South Florida1043643.652
Notre Dame619833.041
Louisville939143.453
TOTALS823,49142.671

Just for the record, I hate the internet.

And not like a tongue-in-cheek kind of a hate, but a festering sore of puss type of hate.

The internet is a great resource capable of providing a wealth of information at a reasonably low cost. Unfortunately, athletic departments have yet to realize this, and if by chance they have, they are not using it to its greatest extent.

After pouring over Syracuse's 2004 offensive efficiency numbers yesterday, I wanted to compare them to historical Syracuse seasons. This, essentially, was to be an effort to determine whether there is a correlation between team success and offensive efficiency. What I found was the following:

1) Syracuse Athletics has not logged any final statistics from the 2003 campaign;
2) Even though the 1999 and 2000 seasons are listed as searchable, no game recaps or box scores are available;
3) The boxscores from the Virginia Tech and Kansas States games from 2001 are missing; and
4) Syracuse Athletics actually has more historical statistical information available on their website than most other schools and major sports websites, including ESPN.com.

What I was able to compile was complete information on the 2002 and 2003 seasons. 2001 is close to complete, and I hope Syracuse Athletics will forward the information I have requested on the Virginia Tech and Kansas States games shortly. Anything prior to 2001 seems to have fallen into the black abyss of "404 Error" and won't be coming back anytime soon.

[Data]
Syracuse Offensive Efficiency: Year-by-Year

YearTPPFSEFDEFTOB
20042872.08981.77841.4671245
20033202.1751.95151.7279293.75
20023472.09121.80231.5134272.4167


2004: Y/D - 25.0778; TO/D - .1617; 6-6 record
2003: Y/D - 26.1; TO/D - .1118; 6-6 record
2002: Y/D - 25.0944; TO/D - .1444; 4-8 record

[Knee-Jerk Analysis]
First, I would like to thank Paul Pasqualoni for taking over the offensive coordinator duties in 2004. Under his watchful eye, Syracuse reached a three year low (and, I'm willing to bet a four year low if I had available the complete 2001 season) in all offensive efficiency categories.

Congratulations!

George DeLeone was bad, but Coach P was worse. More turnovers per drive combined with fewer yards per drive equaled offensive mediocrity. Syracuse's offense in the new millenium has been pretty terrible, but last year was the worst it has been. Even though Syracuse's record hasn't wavered much in the past few seasons, the actual on-field production has markedly diminished. Daryl Gross should be commended for firing Pasqualoni before things deteriorated further.

Congratulations!

Secondly, it's important to note that there is no overt correlation, at least from these numbers, between overall record and offensive efficiency. In 2002, Syracuse put together one of its better offensive seasons in the three year span and the team accumulated its worst record in that same time period.

However, the story behind the numbers are interesting. In 2002, Syracuse completed 180 drives and ended up with an overall record of 4-8 and average efficiency ratings. In 2003, Syracuse completed 170 drives and ended up with an overall record of 6-6 and efficiency ratings better than 2002. What does this mean?

Well, the fewer drives a team takes, the longer the offense is on the field allowing the defense to rest longer thereby controlling fatigue. Even if a defense is pourous, if it isn't on the field an opponent does not have the ability to continually carve it up. So, even though Syracuse has fielded poor defensive teams in recent seasons, by limiting the number of drives and becoming more efficient, there is a noticeable effect on overall team record.

In short, hidden offensive inefficiency does have an effect on overall record, regardless of a team's defensive struggles or triumphs.

Finally, offensive efficiency may be tied to pass receiver ratings, at least when considering Syracuse's offensive philosophy.

Yikes!

In 2002 and 2003, Syracuse fielded at least one "studly" receiver - Jamel Riddle and Johnnie Morant, respectively. In 2004, Syracuse did not have any player in that echelon. Coincidentaly (or was it?), Syracuse had better offensive efficiency in 2002/2003 than 2004. Furthermore, Syracuse fielded a "studlier" receiver in 2003 than 2002 and ultimately had a better year efficiency wise.

There is little hard evidence to prove this hypothesis, but it's at least something to monitor in the next few season as Syracuse's implements the West Coast Offense.

Sexton the Shepherd

How about "Wyatt Sexton for Omnipotent Leader of the Human Race"?

While running some numbers on Syracuse's 2004 offensive efficiency, I came across one of the greatest knucklehead stories in the last decade. In a word, it's "freakin' awesome."

WWWD?

Tallahassee Police Department Incident Report.

Screw President, Wyatt. You've got bigger things in your future, or at least that's what I read in a little book called The Holy Bible. You may have read it before, considering you inspired its publication.

Florida State Sports Information Director Rob Wilson noted in a release that "most of us have known Wyatt since he was born and our concern is for him right now." He later stated that "it'll all be gravy, since we all know God can heal the sick."

This story further proves Darwin's theory of natural selection - people who listen to Dave Matthews Band should be murdered. And if Wyatt Sexton really is God, which I have no reason to believe he isn't, I think we'll need to think about a recharacterization of the whole "Intelligent Design" theory.

This raises an important question concerning why Heaven's radios haven't played any new music since 1998. Seriously, I thought Dave Matthews Band had been permanently relegated to appearing on those crappy VH1 "I Love the ..." shows.

On a football related note, if Sexton really is the Son of God, he has his hardest resurrection lying ahead of him - his football career. Last season, Sexton wasn't consistent enough to play his way ahead of the enigmatic Chris Rix. During spring camp, Sexton was only awarded the starting job because he had what FSU's very young, but very talented passers didn't - experience. With all this in mind, it would be a safe bet to believe that this suspension will have a significant impact on who Bobby Bowden entrusts with running the offensive system he rubberstamps.

Plus, Wyatt will have the unenviable task of getting adjusted to wearing a crown of thorns under his helmet.

Offensive Efficiency: A Precursor to Confusion

When all is said and done, the most important thing an offense can do is produce points. The more points an offense can produce, the greater the opportunity for victory.

Simple, right?

Well, sort of. If you're a schlub on ESPN, the aforementioned proposition passes for adequate analysis. Unfortunately, I'm hopelessly dedicated to making things more difficult than they need to be in an effort to accurately illustrate how poorly Syracuse is when the pigskin is in their hands.

Essentially, the following is mind-numbingly complicated and may not be readily comprehendible. However, it does have merit and is worth the statistical gymnastics necessary to produce the ratings.

[Introduction]
Drive efficiency is a terrific indicator of what constitutes a great offensive unit. Offenses that are able to limit turnovers (either via interceptions or fumbles) and score on a per drive basis limit an opponent's ability to seize control of the game, either defensively or offensively.

In simple math:

Ability to Score - Dumb Mistakes = Offensive Efficiency

It is this correlation between yards gained by an offensive unit and points scored that shows whether an offense is doing its job - to score as many points as possible in the most effective means available.

*Note:* I would be remiss not to thank Raymond Lee over at Professional Football Researchers Assocation for developing the drive efficiency methodology. He's the brainchild behind this system of measurement and without his statistical insights, there would be no analysis.

[Nitty Gritty]
In The Hidden Game of Football, the authors postulate that for every 12 yards an offense gains, a team should generate 1 point. The more offensive yards a team gains, the more points it should, logically, score. However, this fails to consider turnovers. Turnovers stall drives for one offense and generally put another offense in a prime position to score. Predictably, the prophetic authors of the aforementioned book took this into consideration.

Offensive turnovers are calculated to be worth about negative 4 points - 2 points against your offense and 2 points for an opponent's offense. The fewer turnovers a team commits, the fewer opportunities it gives an opponent to score.

Therefore, if we calculate a team's average yards per drive divided by 12 and minus the fraction of points lost on a team's average number of turnovers per drive, we should get an idea how effective a team is offensively.

[Terminology]
Total Points (TP)
Total season points scored.

Scoring Offensive Unit (SOU)
Season points scored minus touchdowns and extra points resulting from kickoff/punt/interception returns and safeties.

Points Factor (PF)
Yards per drive divided by 12.
This is the average amount of points a team would score per drive if it did not commit a turnover.

Scoring Efficiency Factor (SEF)
Points Factor minus [(Turnovers/drive) x 2]

Drive Efficiency Factor (DEF)
Points Factor minus [(Turnovers/drive) x 4]

True Offensive Benefit (TOB)
Drive Efficiency multiplied by total number of drives
This is the net number of points an offense benefits a team.

[Data]
2004 Big East Conference

SchoolTPPFSEFDEFTOB
CONN3632.58892.29972.0105333.75
WVU3612.55442.28612.0178330.9167
PITT3252.05651.90711.7577305.8333
BC2962.43932.16091.8824297.4167
TU2382.47202.23912.0063292.9167
SYR2872.08981.77841.4671245
RU2692.18891.76461.3404221.1667

[Knee-Jerk Analysis - Syracuse]
In yet another measure of offensive production, Syracuse takes it place amongst the bottom of the Big East. In every single efficiency category, Syracuse is closer to the basement of the league than to its middle ground.

Thanks, Pasqua-DeLeone!

It's almost mind boggling to understand how inefficient Syracuse was with the pigskin last season. Pasqualoni, along with his partner in destruction DeLeone, guided Syracuse to just 25.0778 yards per drive with a .1617 turnover factor. It's no wonder that Brendan Carney is sky-rocketing up Syracuse's all-time punting records.

It's really unbelievable how Syracuse was able to rest upon its special and defensive teams to win football games. Considering the offense was only able to provide 85% of the team's total scoring (second to last in the Big East), six wins was a miracle. Considering this team had short offensive drives requiring the defense to be on the field more than it should have been (read: fatigue), Smith & Co. performed admirably.

Syracuse can thank Ryan Hart (Rutgers) for throwing so many interceptions, because if he hadn't, Syracuse, more than likely, would have been lying dead last in the league in drive efficiency.

So what needs to change to generate more Syracuse offensive success? Well, it's pretty simple:

1. More yards per play to lengthen drives;
2. Convert field goal attempts and become more efficient in the red zone;
3. Fewer turnovers.

To quote Tony Kornheiser, "That's it; that's the list!"

As the points factor indicates, turnovers were never the primary reason Syracuse did such a poor job scoring offensive points last season. This is quite disheartening, considering that cutting down on turnovers is a relatively easy adjustment to make from a coaching standpoint. When an entire offensive philosophy is not generating points on a per drive basis, there is a major problem. The coaching change to Robinson seems to be making more and more sense.

[Knee-Jerk Analysis - Overview]
One thing should stand out right away - Temple and BC's TOB is greater than the team's actual points scored. I'm not exactly sure the reason for this, but I'll try to explain it anyway.

Given that this methodology is based on a team generating one point per 12 yards gained, these teams were missing scoring opportunities despite gaining a boatload of yards. Basically, these teams were able to string together long drives (thus dropping their total number of drives), but were unable to make field goals, turned the ball over in the opposition's territory, or were just abysmal in the red zone.

If Syracuse had a mirror image this season, it would be Temple. Temple was very efficient on offense this season with a .116 turnover factor and gaining almost 30 yards per drive. With a drive efficiency factor above 2, it is quite obvious that Temple was victimized by a terribly inept defensive unit that could not stop its opposition or create turnovers that would give the Owl offense advantageous field position.

Walter Washington, please come get your kudos.

Pass Receiver Ratings II

Yesterday I wrote a little bit about pass receiver ratings. While they are fairly accurate indicators of production and value, without something to compare these ratings to, they mean virtually nothing from an analytical standpoint.

For example, what does Steve Gregory's 55.789 rating really mean? Looking at the numbers, he was the second most productive receiver Syracuse fielded last season, but his actual value may be put into more perspective when compared to his Big East counterparts.

[2004 Pass Receiver Ratings - Big East]
Instead of engaging in the pre-suicidal exercise of rating every single Big East receiver who logged more than 2 total receptions, I chose to consider only the top 5o players in total yards receiving.

While pass receiver ratings are concerned with per game statistics (such as receptions per game and yards per game), using total receiving yards seemed like an appropriate player ranking to draw from because often total yardage is inappropriately associated with maximum production. Thus, by applying pass receiving ratings to those players that are most considered productive from unsavvy onlookers, the ratings may be a little bit more accessible.

The results were very interesting and I was very suprised with the proficiency of many receivers, especially those in the Rutgers program. Also, for all the gruff the Syracuse receiving corps took, they were amongst some of the better in the league when the ball was in their hands.

Rutgers placed three players in the top ten and had the most representatives in the top 25 with five. Boston College, Syracuse, and Connecticut each had four players in the top 25 while Pittsburgh and West Virginia were only able to place three players in that echelon. Temple was at the rear of the pack only getting two players into the top 25.



PlayerSchoolPositionPRR
1G. LeePittWR105.5871
2C. HenryWVUWR96.46835
3T. MosesRUWR92.514
4K. HenryUCWR76.793
5C. HarrisRUTE72.11382
6P. GoodmanTUWR69.0995
7G. AdamsBCWR64.008
8J. WilliamsUCWR61.8092
9B. LeonardRURB60.8127
10J. JonesSUWR57.469
11J. DelSardoPittWR57.4571
12S. GregorySUWR55.789
13E. GillPittTE54.11749
14I. ChukuUTWR52.20557
15J. HazardBCWR50.25913
16D. MurrayUCTE49.93709
17M. CutaiaUCWR48.96947
18C. BakerRUWR45.02269
19B. MylesWVUWR41.25446
20D. KashettaBCTE37.68023
21M. DanielsRUWR35.6607
22C. MillerBCTE34.10753
23A. FontenetteSUWR33.6098
24D. RhodesSURB32.73452
25K.J. HarrisWVURB32.30389
26M. FurmanPittRB32.14303
27T. BrownTURB32.07933
28E. JacksonWVUWR31.72663
29S. BuchesPittTE30.91062
30T. GonzalezBCWR30.86794
31C. BrockingtonUCRB30.15153
32B. SparksUCWR30.12276
33J. HarrisTUWR29.37115
34J. KowalewskiSUTE26.37206
35R. KirkleyPittRB26.20217
36W. FosterRUWR26.04663
37M. HendersonWVUWR25.3544
38B. McLeanUCWR25.19447
39L.V. WhitworthBCRB23.73777
40J. LillyBCWR23.38591
41C. HalesWVUQB22.56733
42T. MurphyPittRB22.28136
43A. CallenderBCRB21.74868
44W. ReyesSURB21.38768
45D. AndersonUCLB20.87172
46J. ColsonWVURB20.37521
47J. HairstonRURB20.34853
48U. FergusonTURB19.77242
49L. BemboSUWR18.80909
50C. BellamyUCRB18.38917

[Knee-Jerk Analysis - Overview]
First and foremost, the numbers here don't lie. The Big East Conference did not see a rash of productive receivers last season. In fact, outside of the top three receivers (more on them later), there was not a legitimate stud receiver that opponents would be unable to stop. Quite clearly, the Big East did not have a cupboard full of terrific number 1-style receivers, despite the passing numbers accumulated by passers like Dan Orlovsky and Ryan Hart.

For the most part, the league was riddled with a large crop of second and third receiver-type players. This can be explained one of three ways: 1) offenses across the league made a concerted effort to spread receptions around an entire receiving corps; or 2) team defenses were just outstanding at limiting the combination passing/receiving game; or 3) the receiving talent was just substandard. I am inclined to believe the answer is a combination of explinations 1) and 3).

Dan Orlovsky (3354), Ryan Hart (3154), and Tyler Palko (3067) all had great season passing yards totals. Given this fact, it would be expected that the receivers from these teams would have solid production ratings. Looking at those teams (UConn, Rutgers, and Pittsburgh), only Pittsburgh and Rutgers had receivers log what would be considered a very good season - Greg Lee and Tres Moses, respectively. With the exception of West Virginia's Chris Henry and arguably Keron Henry from UConn, no other team had receiving production flow through one target. This can only lead to the conclusion that all those excess receptions delivered by Big East passers had to be strewn about the field to a diverse group of recipients.

With regard to the notion that the Big East is populated with average to below-average talent, one need only look at the ratings themselves. Out of the 50 "leading" receivers in the Big East, 26 had a rating between 30 and 65. When 52% of a league's primary receiving targets have only average to below-average value, there is trouble.

This trouble is even more pronounced when it becomes apparent that only 12% of the league's better receivers produce legitimate number 1 target-type production.

12%??!!??

Given the utter dearth of legitimate star receivers in the league, the conclusion must be drawn that the Big East was just a wasteland for number 1-style receivers, and given this fact, that teams were forced to spread the receiving wealth around.

[Knee-Jerk Analysis - Syracuse]
Bad.

2004 Orange receivers couldn't catch a cold.

And things may get worse before they get better. Syracuse's top three producers in 2004 have all graduated or been repositioned. For most schools, this would be bad, but Syracuse has it even rougher considering those three producers also happened to be the team's top wide receviers in 2004.

And they were followed in the ratings by an unproven tight end, a running back who will now become the team's featured masher, and a now-graduated running back.

Ick!

Get ready for a veteran receivng corps that averaged a 19.1982 rating. I hope Rice Moss, Tim Lane, Lavar Lobdell and Bruce Williams come prepared for August practice, because they will have all the opportunity in the world to get onto the field.

Undervalued - Steve Gregory
Without a doubt, Steve Gregory is better on the defensive side of the football than he is on the offensive side. However, in the 8 games Gregory logged as a receiver in 2004, he faired pretty well. His 55.789 rating is analogous to what Donte Stallworth contributes to the New Orleans Saints, and that isn't too bad.

Had Gregory been able to play in all 12 2004 contests, a greater load would have been lifted off the shoulders of Jared Jones and a reliable target would have been available to a very erratic Perry Patterson.

Maybe this is a better persepective. Gregory's receiver rating was higher than any receiver Syracuse put on the field between 1999 and 2003 with the exception of Jamel Riddle in 2002 and Johnnie Morant in 2003.

That's 1) how unnoticed Gregory's season was; and 2) how bad the receivers on the Hill have been as of late.

Overvalued - Landel Bembo
Bembo just edges out Quinton Brown for the overvalued prize because Landel saw two starts in the 2004 campaign while Pasqualoni had the sanity not to show Brown the field until Syracuse had dug itself into an unmanageable situation.

Congratulations, Landel!

How bad of a season was 2004 for Bembo. Well, he finished with a receiver rating below a quarterback, a linebacker, and a golden retriever who snags frisbees. Had Pasqualoni had the foresight to get Damien Rhodes on the field more often as a third or fourth receiver, Bembo would not have had the opportunity to tarnish the field with his presence.

[Knee-Jerk Analysis - Big East Studs]
Greg Lee and Chris Henry are special players. And not just "good college player" special. Rather, legitimate NFL All-Pro potential special.

Considering Marvin Harrison never in his Syracuse career put up a rating over 100, Greg Lee did some kind of wonderful with Pittsburgh. With Lee's and Henry's size, quickness, and sure hands, there's no reason these two guys should fall out of the top half of the NFL draft when it comes time to call their names.

Probably the most surprising rating was that of Tres Moses from Rutgers. Built a little bit like Santana Moss, I had no idea the productivity Moses turned in in 2004. He just may have been the best kept secret in the Big East in 2004.

[Note]
Stats, Inc. has developed another pass receiver rating formula that I just stumbled across that I like about the same as the method used to complied the above ratings. I have yet to test this formula, but it does include a statistic that I find interesting - drop percentage. Drop percentage is an interesting statistic that I've been pondering for a while and have been attempting to apply to a rating that I've been working on called "Lost Opportunity." However, since drop percentage does not quantify production (the very nature of a drop indicates that no production can be valued because of its ambiguity and speculative nature of what would have occurred had the pass been caught), it is probably not the best way to gauge actual on-field production.

With that said, here is the formula developed by Allan Spear:

Sliding scales were developed for each category and the five category scores were then combined for an overall rating. The maximum a receiver can score is 100, which would mean he is on pace to break just about every record possible. As a rule of thumb, a score of 50 means you are a good receiver. Sixty puts you among the elite of the league and anything above 70 is outstanding.

YAC Avg = (YAC / catches - 1) / 4.5
This can only be between 1.0 and 0.0

Drop Avg = (((catches / catches + drops) - .8 )/.4)
This can only be between 0 and .5

TD Avg = ((tds/games)/1.25)

Catch Avg = ((catches/game - 2)/5.5)
This can only be between 1.0 and 0.0

1stDown Avg = ((1stdowns/catch)/2)

Receiver rating = (YAC Avg + Drop Avg + TD Avg + catch avg + 1stdown avg) / 4

Pass Receiver Ratings

[Preface]
Football is generally a game that requires players to work in tandem to achieve any semblence of production. For example, if a pass is to be completed, two things must occur:

1) The quarterback must throw the ball with enough accuracy and power to ensure the receiver has the opportunity to catch the pigskin; and
2) The receiver must catch the ball.

Unfortunately, terms/statistics like "pass completion," "passing percentage," and "receptions per game" do not adequately recognize the two-step nature of the passing game and consequently fail to properly give an accurate illustration of actual player production and value.

This is where Pass Receiver Rating comes into play, and given the fact that Syracuse is implementing an offense premised on a passing game emphasizing a receiver's abilities, this statistic has significant application to Orange football.

[Pass Receiver Ratings - Overview]
This system rates a receiver's performance or value throughout the season the same way the NFL attempts to measure a passer's performance or value.

While the system is patterned after NFL passer ratings, there are considerable differences. Whereas the NFL passer rating system is based solely on percentages, this system rates a receiver based on per game statistics. As such, quantifiable aspects of a receiver's performance by focusing on how often a receiver is helping his offense move the ball and how much a receiver is helping is offense score.

While this rating system does paint a clear picture of player value, it is not without fault. Given that this formula is not of my devise, there are some drawbacks.

Most importantly, the divisors used in the system are the result of taking the top ten single season performances in NFL history (through 1994) in each category and averaging them. Consequently, applying this system to college football receiver performances will not provide a perfect picture of value, but will do so adequately enough for a reasonable analysis to take place.

[Pass Receiver Ratings - Specifics]
The rating is calculated by figuring out a receivers catches per game, yards per game, TDs per game and yards per catch.

[({Catches/Game}/3.453) + ({Yards/Game}/56.209) + ({TD/Game}/.626) + ({Yards/Catch}/13.245)] / 6

The outcome is then multiplied by 100 to make the numbers look reasonable.

A 100.0 rating reflects an excellent season. A typical 'excellent season' would amount to 82 catches for 1476 yards and 15 touchdowns in a 16 game season.

[Data]
There's all sorts of information listed below.

Instead of listing only Syracuse wideouts and tight ends, I also included backs. This was done for two reasons: 1) the West Coast Offense utilizes backs as receivers very often; and 2) had I not included Walter Reyes and Damien Rhodes, a signficant amout of offensive receiving production would have been unaccounted for in 2004.

Also included are the following:
- Ratings for Syracuse's top four receivers for historical years 1999-2003.
- Syracuse's leading receivers for the Dome Era (1980 - 1998).
- Ratings for Greg Lee, Chris Henry and Jason Williams, who comprise three of the Big East's leading receivers returning for 2005.

Syracuse Receivers 2004

PlayerPRR
J. Jones57.451
S. Gregory55.789
A. Fontenette33.592
D. Rhodes32.739
J. Kowalewski26.389
W. Reyes21.409
L. Bembo18.819
B. Evans16.506
Q. Brown1.538


Syracuse Receivers 2003

PlayerPRR
J. Morant71.186
W. Reyes39.194
J. Jones35.711
R. Williams32.11


Syracuse Receivers 2002

PlayerPRR
J. Riddle66.227
D. Tyree54.458
J. Morant40.749
J. Jones34.465


Syracuse Receivers 2001

PlayerPRR
J. Morant52.337
J. Riddle44.886
M. Jackson35.235
D. Tyree29.225


Syracuse Receivers 2000

PlayerPRR
D. Tyree52.346
P. Woodcock49.415
M. Jackson43.959
M. Campbell37.909


Syracuse Receivers 1999

PlayerPRR
P. Woodcock52.631
M. Campbell46.714
Q. Spotwood46.513
S. Brominski44.325


Syracuse Historical Receivers

PlayerPRR
1998 - K. Johnson84.651
1997 - Q. Spotwood74.246
1996 - D. Maddox38.790
1995 - M. Harrison99.828
1994 - M. Harrison76.249
1993 - S. Hill75.601
1992 - Q. Ismail56.256
1991 - Q. Ismail62.193
1990 - R. Carpenter71.604
1989 - R. Moore99.005
1988 - R. Moore84.573
1987 - T. Kane100.361
1986 - S. Schwedes70.211
1985 - M. Siano80.583
1984 - S. Schwedes54.375
1983 - S. Schwedes34.274
1982 - N. Bruckner42.663
1981 - W. Sydnor46.953
1980 - T. Sidor36.005


Sample Big East Receivers - 2004

PlayerPRR
G. Lee - Pitt105.64
C. Henry - WVU96.528
J. Williams - UConn61.821

One of the old maxims in football is that a team's success on the gridiron is directly related to an offense's ability to run the football.

However, alternative football statistical analysts like Bud Goode and Aaron Schatz have successfully postulated that an effective running game does not translate into wins and losses. In fact, the particular method used for offensive production does not matter as much as a team's ability to produce efficiently, both offensively and defensively.

While these two stat geeks have used the NFL as their methodological model, the basic premise and formulae these individuals have promulgated should apply to the college landscape since the game replicates the NFL's the tension between an efficient scoring offense and scoring defense.

With this understanding, it's time to take a peek at Syracuse's yards per pass attempt differential for last season. I'm sure that the data detailed below and the accompanying rationales are only a starting point for looking at the 2004 football season and this particular statistic. More detailed analysis is sure to come.

[Yards/Pass Attempt (Differential)]
Looking at the raw data, it's amazing that Syracuse managed to grab six wins on the season. Not only was Syracuse just an abysmal team passing the ball efficiently, the defense was leakier than the hull on the Titantic.

An average team will give up as many yards per passing attempt as it gains. Thus, a team with a differential around 0 will finish with an average season record.

(Note: This does not necessarily mean a team will finish around .500)

Teams generally gaining 2-2.5 more yards per passing attempt than their opponents are considered the strength of a conference. To illustrate this point, a team gaining more yards per pass attempt is generally lengthening drives and consequently generating more points scored per yard garnered or drive completed.

In 2004, Syracuse's Yard/Pass Attempt (Differential) came out to -1.415. The average for the Big East was .0244. Here's a tabular representation of Syracuse's differential game-by-game and the overall season differential for all the Big East squads.

OpponentY/PA (Dif)
Purdue-5.204
Buffalo-.582
Cincinatti2.938
Virginia-9.89
Rutgers-2.207
Fl. State.64
WVU-5.775
UConn-1.367
Pitt-.41
Temple-1.95
BC2.16
GTech-6.17


Big EastY/PA (Dif)
WVU1.611
UConn.952
BC.728
Pitt.412
Rutgers-.4399
Syracuse-1.415
Temple-1.677

What does this all mean? Well, that's a complicated question.

First, Syracuse had one of the worst differentials in the Big East, if not the country. Given this statistic, it is very clear that in the games Syracuse was able to win, their opponents were forced into playing offensively ineffecient or, on a rare ocassion, Syracuse actually acted efficiently on offense.

For example, UConn, which had a season differential approaching almost 1, actually had their differential drop almost twofold. Even though Orlovsky threw for over 400 yards in that game, Syracuse had an efficient offensive and defensive outing making all those UConn passing yards virtually worthless and remarkably inefficient. It's the utility of yards gained and the ability of a defense to limit an opponent's marginal utility in yards gained that's important.

Furthermore, look at Syracuse's four Big East victories in 2004 - Rutgers, UConn, Pittsburgh and Boston College. While Syracuse had a negative differential in three of the contests (Rutgers, UConn, Pittsburgh), Syracuse had some of its most efficient offensive outings, statistically, and Syracuse's opponents created some of their worst differentials in 2004. Quite simply, Syracuse's offense was able to keep pace with its defense on those four rare instances. By acting efficiently on offense, Syracuse's defense was able to mitigate any potential disparity and put the offense in position to score. Note: In those 4 games, the Points/Pass Attempt (Differential) were all in Syracuse's favor.

Second, taking a look at Syracuse's average differential and the wide game-to-game swings with regard to differential, it's not surprising that the Orange finished with a 6-6 record. Given the inconsistent nature of Syracuse's applicable offensive and defensive output, it's not surprising that SU was unable to pull off any semblence of a winning streak.

Third, even an offense that emphasizes the pass will not succeed. The more Syracuse seemed to pass the ball, the worse its differential became and the losses ended up being more grusome.

For example, in every game in which Syracuse average more than 35 pass attempts, it's differential was at or close to -2. The reasons for this great differential can be explained three ways.

First, when Syracuse was throwing the ball around it was not throwing it around effectively by either throwing incompletions (netting 0 yards/attempt) or only throwing for short gains on screen passes. Such playcalling failed to maximize each passing attempt and was the direct result of Pasqualoni/DeLeone failing to look beyond simple pass completion numbers. In short, Syracuse's woes were equal part Perry Patterson's poor accuracy and Pasqualoni/DeLeone's poor playcalling.

Also, this raises an interesting question as to whether Coach Pariani's new West Coast Offense will translate into a better differential due to the system's methodology. And, of course, whether Patterson will murder the system to a degree that even the nature of the offense will not be able to overcome Patterson's shortcomings as a pocket passer.

Second, when a passing game is ineffective, time is not drained from the clock and a team's defense does not get a sufficient time to rest. Thus, it is not surprising that Syracuse's opponents were carving up the Orange's pass defense creating a great statistical differential. In short, the offense's failure to act efficiently directly impacted the defense's ability to stop an opponent and the vehicle that accomplished this was fatigue and poor clock management.

Finally, the differential formula does not consider turnovers, but it does consider sacks (sacks increases the number of passing attempts). If Syracuse had forced more sacks (read: not overpursued every quarterback it faced), the differential would have been signficantly lower. It's not surprising that West Virginia, who was second in the league in sacks by, finished the season with a respectable differential. So, the onus is on James Wyche, Ryan LaCasse, and the nickel backs to cash in their sack potential this season. In no uncertain terms, it would drastically help the team's chances for success.

This leads to another interesting phenomenon concerning Syracuse's poor differential. Given the number of turnovers Syracuse forced this past season (second in the Big East), its opponents were not given the opportunity to rack up more passing attempts and yards thus limiting the differential disparity that was possible. Assuming that the defense was acting in a limiting fashion, there is only one explination for the poor differential - Syracuse's offense was terrible.

Succinctly, it may be assumed that it was Syracuse's offense that created the great disparity in differential rather than the team's defense. Only when the offense acted efficiently did the team limit its opponents' yards/pass attempt. Syracuse's defense was performing at an average clip. It was the offense that was unable to contribute and was the primary culprit in the team's inability to win games in 2004.

[Preface]
As a loyal constituent of Red Sox Nation, I have grown accustomed to analyzing player production through Bill James's Sabermetrics. Examining contemporary and historical performance through the lens of on base percentage, OPS, and runs generated, a clearer illustration of potential future returns is made more tangible.

Like baseball, I think football, especially college football, can be understood and analyzed through methods dissimilar to traditional statistical outputs. These analytical approaches focus on the relationship between a teams production per attempt (generally) and the associated differential accruing to an opponent.

[Why Statistical Contrarianism?]
To be quite honest, there is nothing inherently wrong with looking at traditional football statistics to determine value and production. Evaluating quarterbacks through passing efficiency or points responsible for will give an adequate illustration of how one passer compares to another passer. Total offense statistics can provide a reasonable depiction of how a team's offensive system compares to conference counterparts.

However, just because something isn't broke doesn't mean it can't be fixed.

Traditional statistical formulae are flawed. For example, look at the formula for the aforementioned passing efficiency -

Passing Efficiency
[ (8.4 x {Yards}) + (330 x {Touchdowns}) - (200 x {Interceptions}) + (100 x {Completions})] / [Total Attempts ]

This formula, while encompassing all passing related outcomes, is fundamentally flawed. It fails to take into consideration fumbles resulting from a quarterback sack. It does not consider game situation which may affect number of yards, completions, interceptions, and attempts. And finally, the values applied to each passing category are virtually arbitrary numbers that once represented the average passer.

To quell any skepticism as to the validity of thinking of statistics outside of the box, check out Football Outsiders, Big Ten Wonk, Sabernomics, and Ken Pomeroy. (Note: Pomeroy is a daily must-read for the college basketball season.)

[Alternative Football Statistical Formulae]
Football statistics and Sabermetrics are not bosom buddies. Unlike baseball, there isn't a large number of games to draw a large statistical pool to complete a thorough analysis. In the arena of college football, the statistical pool is limited even more because of the the few number of regular season games per year (12) and a maximum statistical output of four years.

Therefore, it should be expected that variances and statistical anomalies will be more prevalent in a college football sabermetric analysis that that of a baseball or even the NFL illustration.

In addition to the few number of games to draw data, football has other issues that must be considered in making an analysis. Runningbacks and wide receivers will touch the ball fewer times than a quarterback and this may affect the significance of some assembled data, especially in games requiring a quarterback to pass more or a running back to bleed the clock.

And one must not forget the variable football has that baseball doesn't - the weather. Weather can be adjusted for in the formula, but its presence does confound some analysis.

[What this all Means]
Well, nothing.

Really, this has very little bearing on anything in particular. The blog will often look at different types of statistical approaches over this summer to try and figure out why Syracuse has been so absymal the last few years and what needs to occur during the Robinson regime to restore order to this madness.

[Formulae to be Used]
With Syracuse moving to the West Coast Offense (WCO), it's time Orange nation gets used to looking at some of these burgeoning pass-associated statistics. The receiver rating statistic has no real bearing on a team's possibility of success, but rather is used to only compare individual receivers production. The statistics stolen from Bud Goode are great indicators for team success. They are general team categories and do not look specifically at individual player performance.

Yards/Pass Attempt Differential
- Blatantly stolen from Bud Goode's site

Points/Pass Attempt Differential
- Blatantly stolen from Bud Goode's site

Receiving Rating
- This one is quite good. It quantifies the production of a receiver when he touches the ball on a game-to-game basis. Blatantly stolen from Ross Smith.

Offensive/Defensive Efficiency
- Examines the number of plays need to score or yeild points. This approach to offensive/defensive efficiency focuses on ability to score/yeild points rather than yards because a team wins and loses by the number of points scored, not the number of yards allowed/gained per play. Yardage also skews efficiency since it cannot consider field position.

This method is also great because it gives a strong indication of opportunities to score considering the number of drives available in a game.

In terms of yardage efficiency and points scored, teams should generally generate 12 yards of offense for every point scored. Professional Football Research has all this information on this glorious statistic.

If you know of any other alternative statistical models, please let me know at matthew.glaude@quinnipiac.edu. I'm looking for an alternative to passer efficiency/passer rating that can effectively encompass game situation and production.

If worse comes to worse, I'll just sit down and write something out myself patterned after basketball's point per weighted shot and passer rating. And then I'll blow my brains out.

Far Right - DBL Out, Y Hook OR Y Shallow Cross!


"The term West Coast Offense (WCO) is an umbrella term for precision-timed passing, variable formations, and the explotation of each player's skills."
- Bill Walsh

At some point during the mid to late 1980's, Bill Walsh (the old guy wearing the John "Hannibal" Smith jacket at right) decided to make football complex and frustrate pure running enthuisiasts nationwide.

What has come into vogue as indica of the WCO are quick outs and slants, screen passes, the tight end seam, incessant playaction, and the running back draw.

Out is the triple option, which has taken up residence somewhere between Crystal Pepsi and snap bracelets.

Given that Coach Robinson has decided to let Syracuse murder the WCO this season and drive me to full-blown alcoholism, it might be helpful to get some foundational knowledge of the system. There isn't a lot of free information regarding the WCO on the web, but here's the best of what's available.

General Information

Playbooks

Great Primer on the WCO

More from Ron Jenkins

Pros and Cons

I guess the question of significance now is whether Syracuse can flourish in this system. Given what Nebraska put on the field last season with similar personnel who were transitioning from a similar offensive style, I'd say that the Orange has significant growing pains lying in the not to distant future.

Get ready for Interceptionmania!

The Starting 22

To say the news coming out of Lampe has been spotty this summer may be one of history's great understatements. That and Hitler was a shady character. One of the two; it's a fine line I suppose.

Time to look at my projected starting 22 I suppose.

Offense
WR Tim Lane [Jr. - 6'2", 212]

OT Kurt Falke [Sr. - 6'6", 287]
OG Jason Greene [Sr. - 6'6", 300]
C Steve Franklin [Sr. - 6'5", 321]
OG Ryan Durand [RFr. - 6'5", 320]
OT Quinn Ojinnaka [Sr. - 6'5", 297]
TE Joe Kowalewski [Sr. - 6'4", 262]

QB Perry Patterson [Jr. - 6'4", 242]
RB Damien Rhodes [Sr. - 6', 217]
FB Breyone Evans [So. - 6', 234]

WR Rice Moss [So. - 6'2", 195]

Knee-Jerk Notes
If you're taking over a program that has trouble running the ball effectively against physical defenses and has trouble throwing the football against any team that fields 11 players, what's the first thing you do?

Install the West Coast Offense, of course.

This is going to be bad. Real bad. Like worse than the secondary bad. Perry Patterson cannot throw the football. Neither can Joe Fields. And Matt Hale is a Canadian, so he's not even invited to this conversation.

They say that when a team has two quarterbacks, it has no quarterbacks.

Well, SU is just cutting out the middle man.

Get prepared for a new low in passing efficiency and a new high (or low if you will) in interceptions thrown. Given the ability of Patterson and Fields in a pass-oriented attack, I would project SU's +/- turnover rating to be somewhere around -9 by years end.

And that's after considering the number of fumbles SU's defensive front seven should cause.

Where's Dee Brown to take snaps when you need him?

If Coach Robinson is bright, he redshirts Bruce Williams and Lavar Lobdell this season. Unless those two guys can walk into camp and be legitimate 1 or 2 receivers, there's no reason to walk these guys down the Johnnie Morant Turnpike.

Tim Lane and Rice Moss have all the physical attributes to be special receivers, it's just a matter of getting onto the field and gaining some down-to-down experience. With the size they have, there's no question they can eliminate some of the accuracy problems that plague Patterson. Behind Lane and Moss are JJ Bedle, Quinton Brown, and Landel Bembo.

Wait, let me rephrase that.

Behind Lane and Moss are three Matt Glaudes. It's just a wasteland depth-wise at receiver. Bembo and Brown were just atrocious when the ball came their way last season and Bedle has none of the physical attributes you'd expect from a major divison-1A wideout. There is no question that Joe Kowalewski and Damien Rhodes should see more passes than these jamokes, and if they don't, get those vocal chords ready for some old school booing.

Speaking of Damien Rhodes, he should be the only skill position player to receive All-Conference honors this season. Finally taking the role of showcased running back, Rhodes is poised for a 1,500 - 2,000 yard season, even in the West Coast Offense. Behind Rhodes is the capable Tim Washington and maybe rookie Boonah Brinkley. If Breyone Evans can play anything like Kyle Johnson did a few years back for James Mungro, Rhodes will put together a very special year.

Up front, Syracuse looks loaded with a lot of senior talent. Franklin, Greene, and Ojinnaka are all respectable lineman and will manhandle their defensive counterparts more likely than not. Even though listed as a center, Justin Outten may see some time this year at offensive tackle if Kurt Falke does not work out. While not spectacular, the offensive line should put together another respectable lunch pail season.

Defense
LE James Wyche [Sr. - 6'6", 267]
NT Tony Jenkins [So. - 6'3", 293]
DT Kader Drame [Sr. - 6'5", 284]
RE Ryan LaCasse [Sr. - 6'3", 255]

SLB Kellen Pruitt [Sr. - 6'4", 226]
MLB Kelvin Smith [Jr. - 6'2", 238]
WLB Jerry Mackey [Jr. - 6'1", 241]

LC Tanard Jackson [Jr. - 6'1", 189]
SS Dowayne Davis [So. - 6', 186]
FS Anthony Smith [Sr. - 6'1", 187]
RC Steve Gregory [Sr. - 5'8", 188]

Knee-Jerk Notes
The front seven for the Orange should be very good this season.

The Orange has a load of senior experience up front, but is riddled with a lack of depth. LaCasse and Wyche are legitimate All-Conference performers and have the potential to wreak havoc like Freeney/Thomas did just a few years ago. With LaCasse's speed and Wyche's freakish size and balance, opponents will have a tough time choosing which pass rusher to double.

Inside, there are more questions. Drame has all the tools to eat up the run on a consistent basis but has yet to show it. Jenkins has done little during his tenure and very well may cede his starting position come the start of the season. At 293 pounds he is slightly undersized to play a Ted Washington style nose tackle and slightly overweight for playing as an agile zone blitzer. If Jenkins fails to make an immediate impact, Chris Thorner, a 313 pound junior, may take over the starting duties.

Outside of these five players, there is very little to note as to depth. Eugene Brown is a giant question mark for the season, and even if he does play, he has not shown any ability in his three years on the hill to make any plays of significance.

At linebacker, Syracuse has an incredible load of talent, especially at the Mike linebacker. Jamar Atkinson, Jameel McClain, Tommy Harris, and Vicenzo Giruzzi all will battle for playing time this season and are all able to make the big play. Coach Robinson has said that he'd like to keep his starting linebackers on the field, but with the amount of depth he has at the linebacker position, it seems ludicrous that he'd leave spent linebackers on the field when there are able bodies on the bench.

There is no question that Syracuse will once again field one of the country's worst secondaries. It's going to be just dreadful. There is a very good chance that Connecticut and Louisville will pass for over 400 yards against this motley crew. Break out the Odor Eaters because these guys stink.

Steve Gregory thankfully returns to the secondary this season and should pass DeAndre LaCaille for the starting spot on the right side. Gregory may not pick off a lot of passes, but with his speed should close quite nicely when he gets beat and the safety fails to rotate over. On the other side, Tanard Jackson looks to be penciled in. Thomas Whitfield and Marcus Clayton will show up for practice, but should not tote their helmets onto the field. They are both terrible and at any other major program would be relegated to passing out parking passes.

Anthony Smith was a nice player last season and should provide the same type of production this season - consistent but never spectacular. At the free safety position, there are more question marks. Donta Herrod is an intriguing player at 5'11" and very well may take the starting slot from both Reggie McCoy and Dowayne Davis. However, all three players are very inexperienced and will no doubt make me want to take their lives at some point during this painfully long season.

Hot Cha-Cha!

The site is officially coming along and now looks like something other than 3rd grade artwork. Huzzah!

After screwing around with WordPress for about a week and making a failed attempt at writing all the code myself, I finally stumbled upon this tight template. It rocks, and as an added bonus won't give me permanent PMS.

I should be back destroying the internet with my dimwitted commentary and general blogging prowess by the end of the week.


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