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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for Forbes.com and Soccerly.com and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


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Scorecasting – Book Review

Written by on May 12, 2011 | 9 Comments »
Posted in History and Books

Scorecasting “The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports are Played and Games Are Won”

Written by Tobias Moskowitz and Jon Wertheim a senior writer for Sports Illustrated

Published by The Crown Publishing Group.

Moskowitz is a Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago and Wertheim a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and they have authored an interesting book that makes for an entertaining read.

The book follows the template of a number of other texts published over the last few years that look to statistics to prove or disprove some of our commonly help believes.

Moskowitz and Wertheim’s effort is tilted very much to the traditional North American sports but soccer makes much more than a cameo appearance.

The book motors along and addresses a wide array of topics while puncturing some of balloons of conventional wisdom along the way.

Without spoiling the read they go after a number of sacred cows such as defence winning titles, every cliché ridden coaches favourite “no I in team” (although as someone once murmured under their breath in a team talk “but there is an “a” in asshole), and home field advantage.

The last one was particularly illuminating and tells us that away teams might be better off with an official who is hard of hearing rather than spending any time questioning his eyesight.

An associated piece to “home field advantage” is what happens to teams with running tracks surrounding the pitch – let’s just say that it is not good news for West Ham as they look to take up a new residence post 2012 Olympics.

The chapter on how Dallas’ drafting tactics under Jerry Jones changed the way NFL teams approached the draft got me thinking whether or not someone was looking at MLS statistics in this regard. Dallas realized that high draft picks were overvalued – in some cases vastly overvalued – and that by focusing on lower picks they could get much greater value.

MLS does not write big cheques to high draft picks but nonetheless the performance of picks at different levels over the last 15 years would make for an interesting read.

It is something I have said before but I will repeat. I continue to be amazed by the effort that North American soccer reporters put into analyzing players and reporting on who might go first, second or whatever in the draft.

The exercise seems quite pointless as my gut tells me that there is no more correlation between a high first round draft pick and success and a low one and success.

There again maybe someone can point me in the right direction and I may have to slaughter one of my sacred cows.

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9 responses to “Scorecasting – Book Review”

  1. Soccerlogical says:

    “The exercise seems quite pointless as my gut tells me that there is no more correlation between a high first round draft pick and success and a low one and success.”

    -You said this a few times. Is that because the MLS drafts mostly college based players who have already bloomed and have little room for growth or do you think MLS scouts just can’t spot talent?

    Isn’t it important to properly scout players during the MLS draft and differentiate a top pick and potential starlet like a Theo Walcott from a lower draft pick like Darren Gibson? Isn’t that type of scouting (i.e. draft picking) important in determining future stars and flops like scouts of any other league and youth system?

    * Granted, the pool of talent coming mainly from college is garden variety workman-like at best with little difference between a pool of mediocrity.. but there can always be one or two diamonds in the rough no?

  2. “Isn’t it important to properly scout players during the MLS draft and differentiate a top pick and potential starlet like a Theo Walcott from a lower draft pick like Darren Gibson?”

    If that is the case then someone should be able to point me to statistics that show I’m wrong. I would suggest your unintended description nailed it – “potential.”

    The writing and analysis that we read around the draft suggests that many of these players are ready to step in and play at a MLS level when the reality is that very few are – and the ones that eventually do are not necessarily high draft picks.

  3. “Isn’t that type of scouting (i.e. draft picking) important in determining future stars and flops like scouts of any other league and youth system?” what the books shows through the analysis of the Dallas Cowboy system is that the value was in the lower picks and that paying a lot to top picks was not a driver of success.

    There is a massive difference between (a) scouting and (b) placing emphasis on the draft by suggesting that a team picking high has a better chance of unearthing a starter than a team picking lower.

    My beef is with the way it is reported not with scouting.

  4. Soccerlogical says:

    What do you mean by “reported”… you mean the way it’s hyped up by networks and the league?

    * Wouldn’t a higher first round draft pick amount to more success than a lower one at least 65% of the time. I mean the pundits and scouts must see some “sparks of potential” in some over others. There must be some success rate of hits over flops?

  5. “Reported” – yes that is what I mean.

    * Wouldn’t a higher first round draft pick amount to more success than a lower one at least 65% of the time. First of all how many draft picks actually make any impact – second if that is the case then somewhere someone must of a list of say top five draft picks each year that have gone on to be much more successful than those picked lower in the draft.

    In summary the impact of drafted players on MLS clubs in the first two or three years of their career compared to the hype is out of proportion.

    And the emphasis placed on players picked high is out of proportion to the number who go on to be successful.

  6. Glen says:

    Part and parcel of the American hype machine. The media thinks it can ordain who the stars will be. And hates to admit it if (when) they are proven wrong. So the hype goes on well past the best-before date. See Michelle Wie.

  7. Derek Taylor says:

    I’d be surprised to find the Dallas model translate to any of the other big-four sports or MLS. The Dallas model is now thought of as the New England Patriots model (get 6 picks in the top 90 instead after trading a higher first-round picks). Roster size in the NFL (53/23 starters) would seem to favor the multiple picks philosophy over the other sports.

    Draft broadcasts are hours/days of self-flagellation…who needs what and how are they going to get it? What are this guy’s flaws? Is he going to be an all-time great? Did you see this play he made in college? The NFL does a great job getting attention of its draft. There are at least four draft guides on the newsstands here in Canada when the NFL draft approaches (heavens knows how many are available in US bookstores). Every other sport wants a piece of that.

    Drafts are also about allowing the bad teams a chance at leveling the playing field. And limiting costs to teams as a whole. And evening the playing field to teams who can’t/don’t want to spend as much on scouting.

    Some day I’m going to do the MLS draft research you speak of Bobby.

  8. Soccerlogical says:

    Gotcha Bobby!

    It is unfortunate that occasionally a superstar such as Soccerlogical gets drafted in a later round than a hyped up player like Derek Taylor.

    🙂 (Just playin’ DT)

  9. Tim says:

    after this debate…i have to read the book

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