I’ve recently noticed a rather universal thought process among fans that I consider to be odd.
It hit me in the face a couple years ago when Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz announced his retirement. It ignited an intense conversation that continues today about whether he and Edgar Martinez, then entering the latter portion of his own Hall of Fame eligibility, should be elected to Cooperstown. The main argument against the two is that they spent the majority of their careers as designated hitters because they were so inept on defense. It’s a fine qualm to have even if the argument mostly comes from fans of the National League, whose sole purpose as baseball fans is to try and convince normal people that watching pitchers hit doesn’t make you want to gouge your eyes out.
What I did notice was how fans treated other players who did play defense, through no fault of their own.
Everyone knows that defense is important, but did anyone take Jeff Bagwell’s first base defense into account when deciding whether or not to vote him in? Likely not, because across sports there aren’t that many stats that can encapsulate a player’s contributions on defense. Your paw paw could sit at the kitchen table drinking his cup of joe thinking about how he can avoid contracting polio that day and clearly see how well a player hit by seeing the detailed results of his plate appearances.
We can expand this line of thinking to all of sports. There’s not much detail for individual defensive stats because individual contributions rely heavily on the process, while the result is largely credited to the team. Marquette’s team defense has been cited ad nauseum (spoiler alert: it’s been not great lately), but not a whole lot can be written about the individuals because the stats don’t tell you much about the process.
This is where you come in.
I want you to go back through your observations during the whole year and tell me what you think about the individual Marquette defenders. I’ll do this in the form of polls with the ultimate goal of quantifying how good they individually are.
Brilliant Idea, Ben! How’d You Come Up With This?
I didn’t. I referenced baseball in the first couple paragraphs because that’s where this idea first came about, though I haven’t seen this applied to basketball yet. Tom Tango is one of the 14,000 brilliant, forward-thinking baseball minds out there right now and came up with this concept, which he does every year. The idea is that millions (in our case, dozens) of fans closely observing one team can tell you more about the process than one stat can.
I’m going to make articles for every single contributor to this past Marquette team with a series of multiple choice poll questions with possible answers ranging from 1-10, 1 being terrible and 10 being amazing.
The questions will look something like “How would you rate [Player]’s [Attribute] on a scale of 1-10?” I’ve asked my fellow Anonymous Eagle writers as well as the fine folks at Paint Touches and Cracked Sidewalks for opinions on what attributes to use. They are as follows:
-Length (Straightforward. Height and arms)
-Strength (How much is this guy going to stand his ground?)
-Vertical Leap (Think rebounds and shot blocking)
-Lateral Quickness (Different from pure sprint speed. Is he able to get in front of defenders effectively?)
-Intelligence (Is he anticipating passes before they come? Is he avoiding getting lost in screens/making dumb mistakes?)
-Hustle (The #grit category. Is he trying hard?)
I plan on doing this every year, so I’ll add and subtract attributes with feedback from you all. I do have a couple additional guidelines for you.
1. I Don’t Care If You Didn’t Watch Every Second Of Marquette Basketball
I really don’t. As long as you’ve seen enough to have compiled some observations about players that you’re even semi-confident about, that’s all I need. I trust your attention skills, even if you don’t. This post doubles as a motivational talk.
You don’t have to vote on every player if you’re not comfortable scouting players that you haven’t seen much. Even of the players you do scout, you don’t have to vote on every single category for that particular player. Anything you have is useful. You have value.
2. Don’t Look At Numbers
I’m not asking you to intentionally forget numbers you’ve looked up previously. We’ve all done it in some capacity. But when you’re thinking about how to grade someone’s lateral speed, I don’t want you poring over Synergy stats. That’s not what I’m after. Trust your eyes.
3. This Only Applies To Defense
This should go without saying, but I need to control as many variables as possible here, so I’ll say it anyway. If you think a player has a 10/10 hustle on offense, but 1/10 hustle on defense, rate it a 1/10.
4. Don’t Consider The Player’s Position
This is the most difficult guideline for you to follow, but it’s probably the most important. I want to have a consistent baseline here. Let’s do an example.
Let’s say you’re scouting Jalen Brunson’s strength. I would say that most of us would agree that FOR A GUARD his strength is easily a 10/10.
I don’t want that. If he were to try and post up Isaac Haas right now, Haas would punt him into the stands. I want you to grade him on the scale of all college players. I personally would put Brunson at a 6 in that category. We can figure out where certain positions “should be” on these scales later, but I want everyone to be on the same page here.
I’ve been formulating this in my mind since the beginning of the season really. I want this to turn out well, so I hope you take the time to contribute and send the links to others. We’ll do a StoryStream where each player will have his own article consisting of the polls. I’ll leave it up for two weeks or something and then obsess over the numbers for like 3 days before writing about it. Gotta fill the offseason with content somehow.