Quantifying Shane Battier


Of interest to any fan of this blog will be Michael Lewis’ long New York Times Magazine article about Shane Battier, in which Battier becomes a jumping-off point for some discussion of analytic approaches to basketball. One thing about the article that bothered me probably had nothing to do with Lewis, but the piece has been given the headline “The No-Stats All-Star.” The implication being that statistics can’t measure Battier’s important contributions.

On the contrary, as Dave Berri observed in response to a similar claim back in November 2007 if you understand the statistics correctly they say Battier is very good. Stats say that Battier is an efficient scorer with his modest number of shots, and that his net possessions numbers resulting from steals and turnovers are very good. Battier also appears to be, as best as one can tell, an excellent on-the-ball perimeter defender. This last bit really is an aspect of the game that conventional statistics don’t do a good job of capturing, but certain statistical systems—including Wins Produced—indicate that Battier is a valuable player.

At any rate, lots of good stuff in the article, just wanted to highlight that one point.