It is fun to speculate what it would be like to create the next dominant professional sport or breakout statistic. What if you were a modern day Abner Doubleday? What if you were Dr. James Naismith? What if you were sitting at the Rutgers game against Princeton and witnessing what we have come to know as football for the first time?
One of my main areas of interest is sports statistics. Therefore, this piece will seek to answer the question: what are some of the new statistical inventions or innovations that need to be infused into professional sports?
If I had to just pick one thing, it would be advanced football (soccer) statistics. A cutting-edge statistic is needed for three reasons. First, soccer is the only major sport without a tell-all statistic. Baseball, football and even basketball all have a major Sabermetric statistic. Second, soccer would be uncomplicated to understand and assess with a meaningful statistic. In baseball, announcers frequently mention WAR (wins against replacement) when talking about a fledging player. What is the equivalent in soccer? Unfortunately, there isn’t one.
Currently, the most relevant statistic for soccer is goals scored. I purpose a new statistic, Goals Above Replacement (GAR). This statistic would show how each player’s behavior elevated or decreased their teams chance of scoring a goal. Conversely, it also would show how each players actions reduce/increased the other team’s chances of scoring. When I watch soccer on T.V, I often hear, “Rooney has chalked up three goals, while Mata has only scored 1”. The problem with this is we do not know what caused these goals. Mata could have split the defense with a stopover and scored an upper-90 goal. Rooney could have scored three tap-ins. You wouldn’t know. Hopefully, one day Gary Nevile will say, “Mata’s GAR is 2.58, while Rooney’s is only 0.81.”
In conclusion, revealing statistics help fans understand what is happening on the pitch and desperately needed. I have made my case for one possibility. What might one of the early era groundbreakers like a Doubleday or Naismith say? More notably, what do you think?