Before I start this blog, I want it to be clear, I have no problem with analytics. I respect the field and follow many great analytics people on twitter. It is a great tool. It’s not something I plan to write about often, as there are some great people out there that do a wonderful job of breaking it down and I wouldn’t do them justice.
Notice I did not say it was new. It’s not, coaches and fans have been talking about various components of analytics before many of the people responsible for bringing in more mainstream were born. Zone starts; driving play, creating more than you give up, etc. are as old as the game itself.
Very recently, an attempt has been made to bring analytics to the masses and for the public to be able to look at and quantify those numbers. I applaud this. Any tool that makes us enjoy and understand the game is welcome.
Now that doesn’t mean that people who don’t enjoy it or follow it are burying their heads in the sand or don’t understand it. It doesn’t mean that you have to follow analytics to understand the game. It doesn’t mean that everyone that writes an article about analytics is using it correctly or understands it. It doesn’t’ mean that everything in analytics is correct or that it’s not open to criticism or that anyone that dares criticize it doesn’t understand it. Most importantly it doesn’t mean that people that use analytics do not have confirmation bias and those that only watch the game do.
Most of the above paragraph is fairly obvious. There are many hockey executives that don’t follow analytics and their knowledge of the game can’t be questioned. Writing about any subject doesn’t make you an expert. Analytics is a complicated field even people that are looking at the same numbers may not agree. The last point though I believe needs some expansion because some of the analytics world have assumed analytics has an advantage over watching by “eye” because it eliminates confirmation bias.
One of biggest concerns in science is confirmation bias; it is a danger that you will unconsciously interpret your data to prove your hypothesis. Once you have spent hours, days and months of your time doing experiments and crunching numbers to form a conclusion. Your experiment results will skew toward your conclusion or hypothesis. It is why peer review is an essential part of science. There are many articles that touch on this I choose one.
The same thing is true in hockey analytics, if you A) come up with a conclusion of a matter before looking at the numbers, how you look and interpret those numbers will be affected B) if you spend hours and days trying to make a conclusion and then watch the player you will automatically see those things that confirm your numbers.
We all suffer confirmation bias, whether I subscribe to analytics or not. We need to remove this myth that analytics is the ONLY unbiased way to interpret the game. There is NO such thing. No matter what our view is and how we came to that conclusion we can be questioned. Analytics is no different than any other science or opinion. It is open to criticism and debate.
It’s a great tool and used in conjunction with watching the game can enhance your viewing pleasure and understanding of some aspects of the game that you may not normally think of. It’s a fun and new way to enhance our view of the game.
Enjoy the game! If you want to analyze it and crunch numbers do so to your hearts content, and if you do a great job I will enjoy reading it and yes, I may debate it. Just as you would debate my analysis of a player based on over 40 years of watching and playing the game. But make no mistake, there will be debate and you are not automatically right because you broke it down on a spreadsheet, anymore then I am right because I have watched the game for 40 years, but it will be fun to debate it and watch it. Isn’t that the point?