For my print column today, I wrote about tempo-free statistics and the people who believe staunchly in them. John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus, who wrote about Alex Fanaroff’s column last week, offered a crash course in tempo-free statistics in our phone conversation, parts of which are excerpted below.
What is your general philosophy on tempo-free statistics, and why is all of this worth examining?
The important thing to remember is that by using this tempo-free thing, we’re not being terribly advanced or strange. We’re just trying to get to a point where other major sports have long been and taken for granted, and that is being able to point to a team and say, empirically, that they have a good offense, or this team over here has a good defense. It’s strange that in basketball — not just college, but basketball period — we haven’t been able to do that, widely, as fans until the past few years.
And I realize that I’m taking my life in my hands saying this to a Dukie, but the key pioneer here was Dean Smith. He was the guy who said, well, wait a minute, what we really should be doing is keeping track of how well we do on each opportunity in the game. He did that as an assistant 50 years ago in the late 1950s, and everybody that anybody else, up to and especially me, has been doing ever since is just following along in his path.
So it’s not new by any means. It’s very old. But what is new is that people are paying attention to it and using it. It’s an accurate way of putting teams next to each other that are very, very different in terms of pace or style and saying, well, this is how well they really did.