Examining Luck in Turnovers

Discussion of technique and strategy.

Examining Luck in Turnovers

by FenderGuy69 » Tue Oct 21, 2014 8:04 am

Another interesting article from our friends over at Harvard Sports Analysis Collective. http://harvardsportsanalysis.org

Examining Luck in NFL Turnovers


First, it is important to stress just how much turnovers matter in deciding a single game of football. Taking data from pro-football-reference from 2002-2013, if a team has even one more turnover than the other team over the course of a game, it will win 69.6% of the time, compare that to home teams winning about 57.2% of the time. Winning percentage only increases as the turnover differential mounts up.

If we expand to look at turnover differential on a seasonal level, its importance is even clearer. Regressing season wins against seasonal turnover differential indicates that each additional positive turnover is worth about 0.2 wins with an R-squared value of a whopping 0.419. That suggests that the seasonal turnover differential of a team alone – ignoring points scored, points against, strength of schedule and everything else that affects winning percentage – explains 41.9% of variation in regular season win totals from 2002-2013. Again, turnovers matter a lot.


So after a few hundred words of statistics, we arrive at a whopping conclusion that just over half of seasonal turnover differential is due to luck. That’s huge, especially when you consider that seasonal turnover differential explains over 40% of seasonal winning percentage.

Ultimately in a 16-game season, there’s just a whole lot of luck involved with winning football games and for all that commentators will talk about defensive schemes forcing turnovers this season, it’s just as important to be lucky as to be good.

http://harvardsportsanalysis.org/2014/1 ... turnovers/
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