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Response to the stat-heads predicting 2012 niners will regress

Another thing to keep in mind is that the '81 team won the super bowl. I think there's a distinct difference between those who make the SB and those who don't....

Had we won the SB, there's a very good chance that the '12 team is not as good as the '11 team....don't think we get back all 11 defensive starters, and there's a good chance the focus is not quite the same. Who knows, maybe Alex Smith is gone...

Don't take this as an excuse for not getting the job done, but the reality of a sport played by human beings, not robots. Let's see what the Giants do this year...

As far as those stats are concerned, it can go both ways. To those who say we got a ton of turnovers, I respond with "but how many points did we score off of them"????

Glorified punts is what most of our turnovers looked like last season. A team like GB had just as many turnovers and had tons of blowouts due to their high powered offense. The few games this did not occur, the games were very tight.
the trendy thing to do is not pick the favorites...duh
Perhaps a better comparison would be the 1970 and 1971 SF 49ers (for those of you who can remember them)....

The 1970 Niner team finished with a record of 10-3-1 (up from 4-8-2 the previous year). That 1970 team lost in the NFC Championship game at Kezar. It's strength was its offense which dominated the league that season.

The next season, the defense improved due to the development of some young defensive players such as Tommy Hart, Cedrick Hardman, Earl Edwards and Skip Vanderbundt and the addition of a quick HB named Vic Washington. That 1971 team, although by most accounts better, finished 9-5. BTW, it also lost the NFC Championship game (this time on the road).

I would add that the Niners of 2011 were relatively fortunate when it came to injuries. The team has added some great depth this off-season but if they want to go the "promised land", they will have to again keep their core of great players healthy....IMHO.

Cheers!
Originally posted by PopeyeJonesing:
Originally posted by johnnyredneat:
Up on Grantland right now is an article which basically sums up all the reasons why most stat-heads think the niners will regress in 2012. (http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8237657/san-francisco-repeat-last-season-greatness) For those that buy into this sort of predictive analysis, here's a response to consider.

The author of the Grantland piece uses a few statistics to make his prediction that the niners will regress and finish around 8-8 this year. Here are some of them, summarized:
2011 49ers
Record: 13-3, up from a 6-10 record last year (+7 wins)
Turnover differential: +28 (#1 in NFL)
6-2 record in close games (games decided by 7 or less)
Pythagorean record: 12.3-3.7 (Pythagorean record: predicting a team record based on ratio of points scored vs. points allowed, so we outperformed our "expected record" by a game)

All three of those things fluctuate wildly from season to season, says the author. In other words, being good at them for one year probably doesn't portend continued success going forward.

But consider another example, "Team A".
Team A
Record: 13-3, up from 6-10 the prior year (+7 wins)
Turnover differential: +23 (#1 in NFL)
7-2 record in close games
Pythagorean record: 11.2-4.8 (+2 wins from expected record)

Team A is due for an even bigger regression, right? No hope of continued success. Except...Team A is the 1981 49ers, whose season marked the start of one of the great runs of dominance ever.

Food for thought when reading about the many niners doubters this offseason.

No offense, but you're responding to a probability model with an anecdote. I'd like the 9ers to go 13-3 again too, but you lost before you started.

No offense taken, it's a fair point. But my larger point wasn't to trash on the whole idea of using statistics to do predicitive analysis. I don't have a problem with that. But I do question cherry picking a few indicators while ignoring contradictory ones when doing a "statistical" analysis.

Example: Barnwell (the grantland author) mentions our 2011 pythogorean record (12.3-3.7, which actually mimics our actual record closely and thus suggests that we weren't "lucky" to finish 13-3). But then he ignores it. He also links to footballoutsiders (http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teameff) to note that our schedule was supporsedly the league's easiest in 2011. But he doesn't add that the same page analyzes us as being the sixth best team in the NFL (using their metric DVOA which is adjusted for strength of schedule), or that our #6 ranking doesn't change even if you don't adjust for strength of schedule (we came in #6 in both adjusted and unadjusted rankings). And so on...

I don't have a problem using stats, but I think you should do it all the way or not at all. Just relying on turnover differential and not much else to make a grand conclusion is lazy analysis.
I said this in another thread and I'll say it again

1. What they also don't take into account is that we easily coulda/shoulda/woulda been 19-0. There wasn't a single game where we were legitimately outplayed and deserved to lose (3 of our 4 losses were by a combined 8 points, 2 of which were in OT). The Dallas game we win if we had Goldson (M. Williams f**ked up several times that game leading to touchdowns) OR if Harbaugh accepts that penalty and takes the Akers 55 yd FG off the board. The Arizona game we win if the refs don't mistakenly disallow that Jon Goodwin touchdown (plus our best player, Willis, was out), leading to a 14 point swing in a 2 point loss. The Baltimore game had us at an egregious competitive disadvantage as we were the only team in NFL history to travel cross country for a Thursday game where we had essentially zero time to prepare (did we even get a single practice in that week?), plus we still likely would have won were it not for the terrible calls negating Ginn's 75 yd touchdown and Tarell Brown's interception. The NYG NFCCG game we obviously win if Ted Ginn played OR Bowman's forced fumble late would have counted. Not to mention our biggest (only?) weakness last year was our 3rd down and red zone conversion rates, which were a direct result of no offseason and should be MUCH better in 2012. Our biggest (only?) positional weakness last year was WR and now we have replaced Brett Swain and Joe Hastings with Randy Moss and Mario Manningham.

2. Some of the examples they list that we were lucky are skewed. For instance, they talked about how few players we had go on IR which is the most overrated stat of all time. If a team puts a backup safety on IR because going into the last game of the season he has a hangnail, that counts the same for that stat as if a team puts their starting QB on IR in August because of a catastrophic injury. So right off the bat I don't put much stock into that. Besides, we were not as healthy as they make us seem on defense - Sopoaga had his staph infection, McDonald was battling his hamstring all year, WILLIS missed a quarter of the season, Goldson missed the first 2 games which was a direct cause of our Dallas loss, our nickel spot was constantly in a state of flux due to injuries for a while 'til Culliver really nailed it down, etc. Also, remember how last offseason EVERYONE was saying how we were the team most at a disadvantage because of the lockout, and they were indeed actually right if you really think about it which makes our 2011 success that much more amazing and now we get our first ever offseason under the best coach in football. Where do they mention that?

Moral of the story? Even if we struggle to replicate our turnover differential or have some more injuries, that should be more than canceled out by the heavily upgraded WR corps and the fact that now we have an offseason under Harbaugh (which, among many other things, should improve significantly improve our 3rd down and red zone offense) and that this will be the first time Smith has the same OC/offense in back to back seasons. Plus, the fact that everyone is a year older really only has the potential to negatively affect just 2 guys, Justin Smith (still highly unlikely though) and Frank Gore, while it will help way more than 2 guys (Aldon, Bowman, Culliver, Iupati, A. Davis, etc.)
I'm not too concerned about matching the 13-3 record from last year. The most important thing is to win the division, stay healthy, and play your best ball late in the year. It is very much possible that we could be a better team this year, but finish with a worse record. We have a good team. As long as they make the playoffs, they have as good a chance as anybody.
[ Edited by SofaKing on Aug 6, 2012 at 3:47 PM ]
the thing people forget also, is that the 2010 team wasnt bad either. we lost only 2 games (i think) by 7 or more points and our record should have been alot better. so its not like its not like we had a s**t team, we had bad luck
[ Edited by bishop915 on Aug 6, 2012 at 7:55 PM ]
Stat heads can eat a dick.
Originally posted by bishop915:
the thing people forget also, is that the 2010 team wasnt bad either. we lost only 2 games (i think) by 7 or more points and our record should have been alot better. so its not like its not like we had a s**t team, we had bad luck

Very good point. Those two losses to Saints and Falcons were prime examples of this.
Giants fans have dedicated an entire thread towards this:

http://corner.bigblueinteractive.com/index.php?mode=2&thread=448653

"They still might win the NFC West, but put them in any other NFC division, and they're a 3rd place team."

"Those difficult to duplicate stats are telling

Remember when the Giants special teams was off the charts good? Critics said it was an anomaly, and they were right. Same with close games. Yes, clutch play makes a difference, but last year we got Ws in a few games we had no business winning, like the Arizona game. You can make a case for Giants and Niners both taking a step back. The difference is the Giants have a lot of room to improve on defense and they have the players to do it, as shown by the playoffs. The Niners have nowhere to go but down on defense and on offense they need Alex Smith elevate his game. Good luck with that. "

They got all the answers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!