Statistical Manifesto: Where We Now Stand, at Our Beginning, Bear With Us and Be with Us.

Matty Marshall sounds off on a little bit of sports statistics history, the fuzzy math behind some of the most valuable sports stats in the world, and the real beginning of paintball, at least as far as our grandkids are concerned.

Right around the time when the North and South were killing each other by the hundreds of thousands in the Civil War, and the railroad was beginning to open up the American West, a writer you’ve never heard of changed professional sports forever.

He was a Cricket player, born in London, who moved to Brooklyn at age 12, where he eventually fell in love with Baseball. The sport was a fledgling at the time, just starting to emerge from its chaotic roots to catalyze into the form we recognize today as the modern game. From the time the first true professional team was formed in 1869 it took about 50 years for baseball to hit its big mainstream stride.

Baseball was the first professional sport to capture the nation’s attention and it did so on the backs of Heroes and Statistics. Babe Ruth and his 60 home runs. Ty Cobb and his .420 batting average. Lou Gehrig and his 2130 consecutive games.  A combination of amazing athletic skill, a means to measure it, and the location of Box Scores in newspapers, gave the fans something other than pure spectacle to dig their teeth into.

This happened in part because Henry Chadwick sat around one day watching a baseball game and thought,  “Hmmm, shouldn’t we be counting how many times these dudes get a hit? Oh yeah, and if we add up how many times they get up to bat, divide it by their number of hits, we can get an average that will tell us who’s the best.”

This was the invention of modern sports statistics. And a sign of things to come. Chadwick came up with a couple of basic stats, invented the box score as a means to deliver the information to the public, wrote for decades defining early sports journalism, and went down in history as “Father Baseball”. In the subsequent 143 years the game of professional baseball has existed, they’ve added around one hundred different measures of skill. In 1977, Bill James invented Sabermetrics and again changed the analysis of the game dramatically, it’s effects depicted most recently in the film Moneyball.  It took over a hundred years in order for someone to figure out that some of the most hallowed numbers in the game aren’t as important as the experts thought. It shook the pillars of the baseball temple.

I start with baseball because it was the beginning, and it has the most thorough statistics of any professional sport. Some might say Baseball needs statistics because it’s boring to the casual fan. Well, I say paintball needs statistics because it is confusing to the casual fan.

The NFL, which is anything but boring, especially in 1920 when it was created, and most of the first teams couldn’t afford the start up fee for the league. They didn’t start keeping players stats until the mid 30’s. Some NFL stats we take for granted are relatively new. For instance, the “sack”, which was first named by Hall of Fame Defensive End Deacon Jones, who said it had the equivalent effect on an offense as a city being sacked, wasn’t recorded until 1982, close to 50 years after the first football statistics were created.

The most important stat in football is the Passer Rating Differential, which was invented way back in the archaic age of 2009. In order to get the PRD, you subtract a team’s Defensive Passer Rating (the passer rating of a team’s opponent) from its Offensive Passer Rating. When prodded by Sports Illustrated, the stat savants at Cold, Hard, Football Stats took this new formula, applied it to the historical data, and it proved to be the best indicator ever created of how dominant a football team can be.  But in order to get that number you need the Quarter Back Rating, which your average fan might say is the most important stat (other than wins, baby), and which has its own interesting history.

The formula used to create the QB rating is so complicated, most people, including the sports agents, players, and owners who spend or earn multi-millions of dollars based off its application, couldn’t figure it out if they had a loaded .44 mag to their heads. It’s used as an example in college algebra textbooks.

Here it is:

Funny thing about the QB rating: it was jerry-rigged so a great score would come out to be around 100, like in school. The creator, Dom Smith, had this to say about the matter in a GQ article from 2001.  “I think our attitude was that 100 was an A,” he recalls. “And anything above 100, that was an A-plus.”

Another funny thing about the pass rating is most pro quarterbacks could care less about it. Unless they’re in the red zone, it’s 3rd down, or they’re negotiating their contracts, because of the fuzzy math it takes to come up with the number, they don’t really care. Trent Dilfer, who led the Ravens to a Super Bowl Championship, said in the same GQ article, “it’s (the quarterback passer rating) most useful for fantasy football people who are more concerned with numbers than good old-fashioned winning.” However, when put into the PRD, this shady funny number yields solid gold information about which teams, and which quarterbacks, are the best.

You can see the trend here. An athletic endeavor begins, survives and struggles over a number of years until it can organize its own house enough to start cataloging the game with objective measures of skill. It is only then that those who are casual fans of the game have access to something they can wrap their minds around. And then, as time progresses, more complex statistics emerge which actually, truly, finally, put a finger on the question all this nerd math was created solve in the first place–To find out who is the best.

The road to creating paintball statistics was not an easy one, as we had to get past the common questions of, “There is no way you can count who shoots who.”  Or “The game moves too fast to catalogue”, issues that arise when something seems, on its surface, too hard to do. In reality, as the past years of experimentation has shown, we found the opposite to be true.

This was evitable and necessary. As things evolve, they become more complex.  It’s how amoebas become apes and Model-Ts become Lamborghinis. In order for Paintball to move forward as a sport, we must have objective measures of skill. We must move beyond the subjective.

This has been over three years in the making, and a lot of trial and error. It has required a large amount of money and time. How does the 30-year-old Oliver Lang, arguably the best player the game has seen, compare to the 17-year-old version, the first year he came into the league? We will never truly know. We could sit around and argue for hours, but there is no evidence.

That’s weak.

That’s what this is about. Evidence of excellence. Knowledge. History. Measures of greatness others can try to surpass. The team who runs the PSP understands this; all this paintball amazingness is happening out there, we just need to count it, and this couldn’t be more important. Dave Youngblood said to me a few months ago, dead serious, that this is about laying something down for when we are not around anymore. Like, when we are dead, dust and gone. You put in all those drills, games, points, matches, years, decades, gunfights, for what? Let’s get some records into the books so people remember we were here.

So paintball statistics are now alive, and they are for the fans, as much as they are for the players and the coaches. Argue away. This is a beginning; we will only get better and more accurate as things progress. Even today, stats in NBA, MLB, and the NFL are still tricky, with tackles, fouls, errors and the strike zone existing as semi liquid things. We are going to try to be as accurate as humanly possible.

What is our Passer Rating Differential or our OPS (On Base + Slugging) one of baseballs new important stats? We will soon find out. Oh and by the way, the formula for OPS looks like this:

Looks fun huh?

Mathematics is the language of nature. And stats are the language of athletic skill. Can you measure heart with a statistic? Maybe not. But can we count how many kills X-Factor’s Mykel Kovar got in the first two games of Galveston, a guy who was on the bubble, who needed to transcend in order to give his team, the best team ever to come out of Texas a chance to win on their home turf, and save his starting spot? Yeah. And his kill count is a direct measure of his ability to dig deep, do work, and display the heart he knows exists inside him. So yeah, we did measure Kovar’s heart that rainy day in Galveston, right off the gulf.  And for that one day, it weighed 19 G’s.

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  • Pbcharlie

    How accurate is it? How do you know for sure who shot who, especially if there’s three or more people shooting at the last man standing? Or how do you know for sure who shot who off the break if two people are both shooting in the same direction? What if you’re giving kills to someone that doesn’t deserve it or not giving the real credit where credit’s due to that back player who’s making those kills because you think the superstar front player is making the shots? Although the effort is definitely appreciated, I just think it’s really going to be difficult and guesses are going to be made more than what the reality is. But I guess this statistical stuff has to start somewhere. Good luck.

    • Matty

      Pbcharlie,

       
             Thanks for the questions. Some of the eliminations
      will be lost, that is inevitable. This is why the actually statistic is called
      “Confirmed G’s” or “Confirmed Eliminations”. 
      I would not describe counting eliminations “easy”, but it is
      absolutely possible. Here’s why: most of the kills that happen on the field are
      the result of instances easily observable to a trained eye; one players beats
      another in a gunfight, a player gets shot making a move, or a player bunkers
      another player or makes a move to shoot someone crossfield. These are the low
      hanging fruit of eliminations, mostly simple to spot and confirm. We are toying
      with the idea of .5, or half, eliminations, like the sack in the NFL. If two
      players are shooting of the break toward one opposing player breaking out, and
      that player gets shot, both the players firing at him would get a half
      elimination. We did it this way in the beginning of our trials and the players
      seemed to like it. It just makes sense. Another important note, if the spotters
      are not sure who eliminates a player then the kill doesn’t get counted. They
      are not just assigning kills to the star players; they are trying to figure out
      who shot whom, to the best of their ability 
      Thanks, 
      Matty         

      • Mikilang

        Are statistics up yet anywhere?

        • ProPaintball.com

          Stats are online here: http://paintballaccess.com/stats/

          • Mike

            Is there a drop down box or something on the PSP website where fans can go and look up their favorite player’s or team’s statistics?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001333321408 Michael Stawski III

        And we can once and for all say whom eliminated whom :)   this has been discussed for some time glad to see it’s gaining traction!

      • Nico’s dad

        I’m a 50+ y/o business owner who is passionate about paintball. I am constantly racking my brain trying to figure out how to bring the almighty dollar to the sport of paintball so that it can grow and flourish. It’s a tough nut to crack. Lazyk68 pointed out that stats are one important component that should be incorporated into a multi-faceted approach. Lazyk68 is talking about a packaging (or repackaging) of a product (paintball) so that it has a broader appeal. It is great to see sharp minds analyzing paintball from a business perspective, keep it up!

  • Nate

    Matty,
    Thank you very much for your effort in the statistical side of paintball in trying to advance the sport. I have a question I want to ask you. What do you think about the possibility, if the leagues ended up merging, forming a league that would be more similar to traditional sports in that professional teams play one team periodically, i.e. a week. There could be two or three large tournaments throughout the season and then the rest would be a regular season type deal. The format could be changed to be longer like the old Xball. I feel like this would make paintball more like a traditional sport. Let me know your thoughts on this idea.

    • Chrispydct

      I have been trying to push this idea out there for awhile now. In the pro and semi-pro divisions, there needs to be a more articulated way for teams to play each other as well as building a ‘fan base’ for the team. Teams need to travel to each other and play each other during a ‘regular season’ and then play in playoffs for a final winner at the end. The best thing that we can do is to keep World Cup and use that as a playoff format for pros, semi-pros, and divisonal teams to come and square off for final national champions.

      This process would require a considerable amount of start up capital but would be healthy in the long run for our sport.

  • Stevenevets

    I believe a good idea is for the stats be under a players name that you click on and look at their career stats in addition to the stats from games. Like you click on a player section and it shows career g count like in football with career touchdowns ect. ,average gs per game, maybe instead of batting average the kill/death ratio. But the main idea is make the stats available per player rather than having to look at a teams game vs another team to see that players stats … it would help fans to follow their favorite players more closely … but keep the tournament stats availible

  • Micahel

    Very well said. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001333321408 Michael Stawski III

    love the closing

  • Zachtraylor

    Love it. I can’t wait to see how far this evolves. This is a huge step to legitimizing the sport we all know as Paintball. Hopefully we can all contribute to these statistics and help find those magic numbers that we all throw in each other’s faces to brag about how the team we pull for is better and why.

    Also, hell of a stat to pull for Kovar. He had an amazing day. 19 G’s is a damn good day.

  • jordantsai

    Love it.  One suggestion, could you maybe add an option to the stats page to look at each players’s personal stats?  Right now you have to follow each team through each game.  Great work so far though!  This is looking to be an awesome season!

  • Lazyk68

    I am a sports television graphics operator & paintball fan.  My career is about delivering stats (in-game, team performance & individual performance [career & in-game]) for sporting events for clients like ESPN, FOX Sports, Comcast, etc.  Statistics are for players or fans.  Fans & other players want to know how a player/team is performing & therefore assign a value.  Other teams may look as a scouting guide.

    Yes, it is good as a historical record of who has come before & how they would match up with current players.  Look at the baseball section of any bookstore. 

    Stats are gathered by league officials monitoring the game and placing them in a central database.  I take that real time info and put it on the screen for the viewer. Teams then break down the overall numbers and create game notes to inform, especially media, of how their team performs. An example, http://www.cubuffs.com/SportSelect.dbml?SPID=257&SPSID=3890&DB_OEM_ID=600 .  This is created by a Sports Information Director (SID) for each team, for each game/event. I will use that info for career graphics about star players.

    Leagues put their own versions together:
    http://www.secdigitalnetwork.com/SECSports/Home.aspx
    http://www.secdigitalnetwork.com/Portals/3/SEC%20Website/Baseball/2012/confstat.htm
    http://www.secdigitalnetwork.com/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=2mCCgutQdLE=&tabid=472&mid=2563

    Paintball will be challenged to have enough officials to cover all the
    fields & all the behind the scenes work.  Leagues & teams need to know how to analyze the
    information to make it useful for the fan & players.

    Why am I giving you all of this information?  Sporting events like MLB, NFL, MLS, NBA, NCAA, NHL are ENTERTAINMENT EVENTS.  The public pays to go and be entertained.  Fans follow a team, buy jerseys & hats.  Where the public goes, the media follows.  Where the media goes, the sponsors follow.  An entertainment event can be franchised because it is a money making enterprise.  You need to convince Joe & Betty to spend their date money at the paintball games & not at the movies.  Stats & education will legitimize paintball as a competition sport or maybe just crystallize a fractured fan base.  Make major league paintball an entertainment event with a clean venue, seats, ticket sales, music, between game entertainment, announcers, contests, sound efx, stats, whatever.  Make it a product.

    NASCAR fans love the behind the scenes story-lines as much as the race itself with all the crashes, revenge bumps, equipment scandals, team work & strategy.  That is delivered by SIDs & the media because there are fans in the seats looking for whatever information/analysis they can get their heads around.

    Have the information ready when the fans arrive.  Media guides, fan programs with breakdowns & officiating guidelines will help put casual viewers into the sport.  Statistics can be made to support anything, knowing how to use them is the real power.

    Let the firestorm begin…

    Advice: Get rid of the “G Count” reference.  Rename it something more professional for outsiders to understand.

  • Remus9oh7

    I definitely like the idea. I think I might try to see if we can implement something in my home town, give something for the locals to follow. Question though, is there somewhere the stats are explained? Specifically, the stamina and hit off break are slightly confusing and clarification on what they are recording would be great! Thanks.

  • Guatemala Mike

    Matty, Thanks to you, Dave and the many other people that are keeping paintball on the map and in a great way. I, like you, started playing tournaments in the woods in the old NPPL days. In those days I would have never imagined hyper ball, x-ball or a league as well run and popular as the PSP. Not that we are perfect and still have a great potiental for growth. The development of statistics will be a great tool for growth and prosperity. As a pro x-ball spectator and happy to say at my age, a lower division player, I have observed a small thing that appears to be a stunt in the growth of x-ball to the spectators. The issue is with the flag pull and no hang or the players grinding off seconds just to run out time or have the opposing team signaling and end to the point. Very unproffesional and boring. Maybe Lane and Tim would consider writting a rule for a maximum pull to hang time or something along those lines. A rule like this would speed up the game as well. That is my two cents worth. Keep up the good work and long live the PSP.

    Guatemala Mike

  • Havard Hansen

    Just a quick thought… on the player graphic it would be cool to have the players shoulder width measured. So you can tell how big or small the players are, which in the end plays a factor in painball…

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  • Fabrice

    we will finnaly know who’s the best players out there !!! like , like , like 

  • babak

    ٌI believe we all know the first thing about every thing is the flow of money, so if we can get money into this sport it is obvious thata everything will go fine. When it comes to the issue of getting money into a sport you must be able to talk about “Number of Spectators” that is how many eyes you can draw to your sport and this must be proofable and documented to be able to get SPONSORS that pay MONEY in CASH, So we have to figure out some ways to Entertain people , i mean the ones who are not involved with paintball at all.
    I think the very first Step is what that has been mentioned in previous posts that is to have leagues that are like other traditional sports, to have a game format that people underestand – like X-ball – , so if we have a league of 12 teams each playing a game per week this would be something to follow for people and as menioned above Fan clubs would come forward as people will have something to talk to every week, this is “Entertainment”, So having a tournament every 4-5 months will not make this entertaining for people who are out of Paintball family.
    I believe we have to make our jersey layouts simpler, may be one or two solid colors, names should be real names not niknames or etc, Numbers should have limitations, just like a soccer team, this makes it more look like a sport not a game.
    Also i believe this is the one and only Team Sport among all kinds of sports as comparing to ball games we can assume each and every one is having a ball !!! (of course the soccer ball!) and playing and when you are on the field for 3 minutes you have been playing for 180 seconds this is something unique that does not happen in other sports , so i believe we have to be carefull when we talk about the best “PLAYER” as this should be a center point in paintball teams that you have to have a best team and if we have a person called the best player then we might couse some conflicts among teams in long term basis.
    I think we have to focus on making this sport an Entertaining one , we all know that this is the ultimate sport but we are not sponsors , so we have to find ways to show thoes people this side of our sport.