Bucks Diary

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Here is the Bucks "true" winning percentage

Before I start this post, let me clarify a misconception about me. I think alot of you have an impression of me as a stat head or stat nut obsessed with a calculator. In fact, until I read Moneyball by Michael Lewis, statistics were anathema to me, and like most redblooded Americans I did all I could to avoid mathematics whenever I could (which is probably why we are on the brink of losing our entire manufacturing base in this country).

If you want to draw a picture of me, think of me as sort of an iconoclast, the one asshole in the room who will stand up and argue that the sky, in fact, isn't blue... it just appears to be blue. I'm that kind of prick. And that's sort of what draws me to statistics. Nothing exposes lamebrained conventional wisdom better than statistics (or historical precedent... but each must be applied logically or they themselves are bullshit). And there is no greater force for bullshit nonsense on this planet at this moment than the worldwide monopolist, ESPN... and thus bullshit pervades the sportsworld and our beloved NBA.

Here's a quick example of my last point. Yesterday on ESPN I heard Skip Bayless argue that the New Orleans Hornets were just now "rounding into shape". He explained their "slow start" (note: he picked them to win the Western Conference, so therefore he considered their 12-7 record a "slow" start) by stating, without proof, that the Hornets believed they could just "show up and win" and that they were playing poorly because they were not used to being "the hunted".

Okay, can you recognize the utter LAMEBRAINED BULLSHIT he shoveled into those two meaningless statements? Let's dissect. He says the Hornets just thought they were gonna show up and they would win. What team in the history of history has ever thought that? And what's his evidence for that statement? He has none. Next. He claims the Hornets were not used to being the hunted. I confess: I have never understood what the hell the "hunter/hunted" analogy even means. Does one team purport to be licensed while the other isn't? I've never understood that one. Two complete bullshit statements being passed off as "expert opinion". That's ESPN in a nutshell.

Sure, on this blog from time to time I will spit out emotionally driven literary diarrhea... bullshit just disguised as my opinion. And as you've noticed I'm not too keen on peripheral details (who's ACTUALLY on a roster, how a player's name is spelled, etc). But by and large what I like to do is ask questions and then find the evidence needed to answer those questions. The little mistakes I count on the readers to catch. I try to focus on the larger questions. And in basketball most all of the solid evidence you need to answer any question you have is contained in numbers. There's no other way to keep track of the game's important events. So, writing a basketball blog, I've become comfortable working with numbers. But I'm not a stathead by nature and I have no formal statistical background. Whatever knowledge I have of the processes I've picked up through reading... which is the best way anyway. On with the show.

The Bucks "true" winning percentage

The Bucks schedule to begin this season has been brutal. Not only have they faced stiff competition, they have done so by and large on the road. And the two sports with the strongest home advantage are the indoor sports of hockey and basketball. So it stands to reason the Bucks may be better than their record indicates. The question is, "How much better"?

To find out, I calculated the efficiency differentials for every team the Bucks faced according to venue (home or away). I then flipped the numbers over (so that the Bucks opponents defensive numbers would be in the Bucks offensive column and vice versa). Then I took the resulting averages and ran them through the "expected winning percentage" formula I mentioned in the last post.

It turns out that if the Bucks were an average NBA team (a team headed for a 41-41 record), they would have won 10.5 of their first 24 games. So the Bucks, at 9-15, are about 1.5 games below average.

Now lets adjust their winning percentage to reflect that. If the Bucks were headed for a .500 season then given their schedule they should have a 0.437 winning percentage at the moment. The Bucks actual winning percentage is 0.375. Adjust that by .062 (theorizing that 0.437 is the team's actual "0.500 level" given their schedule) and you come up with a "true" winning percentage for your Milwaukee Bucks... fully adjusted for strength of schedule and road bias... of 0.438.

As such, I would argue that the Bucks adjusted winning percentage suggests they are headed for about a 35 win season, which is what most all of our models are saying at the moment. That's an improvement I would accept as satisfactory.

But I guess they would still be classified as hunters, but maybe one day they'll be lucky enough to qualify as the "hunted". Of course if that happens they better do more than just show up and expect to win.


At December 13, 2008 at 8:33 AM, Anonymous Paulpressey25 said...

I'm going to go "Skip Bayless" on you here. You note you might be satisfied with a 35-win season.

I'd note two things.

a)Projecting season wins based on the first six weeks doesn't take into account the "give up factor". Maybe this too can be disproven statistically, but in my opinion there are many teams (including the Bucks) who seem to play hard and do "ok" the first six-eight weeks of the year.

But once these teams look around and see they aren't very good, the effort ends. Guys sit out with minor injuries. Maybe the team adopts a tanking approach. In the end, the performance in January through April is worse. The Bucks have been such a team these last few years.

b) I would be satisfied with 35-wins, if I had say a rookie Chris Paul or Greg Oden on my team. We have no such player. We've instead got a bunch of overpaid veterans like Redd, RJ and Bell and a guy in Bogut who may not improve beyond where he is at now. These guys are all big parts of the team. There is no liklehood of tremendous continued improvement in seasons to come with such a core.

This team has to be a 42-44 win team now, or I don't see much hope in the future.

At December 13, 2008 at 11:03 PM, Anonymous Seattle Bucks said...

If you are not a stat head, then you must be a lawyer.

At December 15, 2008 at 5:05 PM, Blogger TCW said...


Youre right. There could also be injuries on the backend of the schedule, etc.

I'm just trying to get a feel for how the Bucks are playing at this moment, accounting for strength of schedule. Otherwise, you tend to get people who are either too harsh ("same old Bucks") or too optimistic (Paschke always refers to "Guess what? Another road game!")

I wanted to use the best method I could think of to independently cut between those two numbers.

At December 15, 2008 at 5:06 PM, Blogger TCW said...

Seattle Bucks,

So the Falcon has heard the Falconer..


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