Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Discussions about how referees affect scoring by both teams

Great post at Basketball Prospectus Unfiltered about the effects of NBA referees on how many points per possessions teams will score.

I have been doing similar analysis for how a specific NFL referee crew might have an effect on how many points are scored per game.

The hypothesis for the NBA and NFL analysis is that some referees will favor scoring points for the home and visiting teams. This is a logical hypothesis because just as some umpires in baseball have a small strike zone (making it harder for the pitcher to strike out batters), maybe some NBA referees call many fouls against the defense (making it harder for the defense to stop the offense) and maybe some NFL referees call more defensive pass interference penalties than others (making it harder for the defense to stop the offense).

The idea is that if a referee is equally helpful to the offense of both teams, then the referee might not be intentionally trying to influence the result of the game, but just that different people call games a little differently. Tracking referee performance may be the next level of analyzing the game -- and it is disappointing that sports analysts don't spend more time on it.

If only sports analysts spent more time on it, fans might get more insight into the games and one day I might get a little publicity for referee analysis. Nothing wrong with a little attention, right?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Open discussion of January 2012 NFL playoff referees

I've taken a little break from crunching numbers about NFL referees this season, but let me start an open discussion about NFL referees and the 2011 playoffs (the ones in January 2012).

For starters, what do people think about how Bill Leavy in a video review (challenged by the New York Giants) let stand the ruling on the field that Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings was down before losing the ball, so it was not a fumble? (The Giants won the game despite the call, so the call didn't change the result of the game.)

The NFL has stated that:

Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1 of the NFL Rule Book (page 35) states: ‘An official shall declare the ball dead and the down ended: (a) when a runner is contacted by a defensive player and touches the ground with any part of his body other than his hands or feet. So by rule, if Jennings’ calf was on the ground prior to the ball coming loose, he is down by contact. Contrary to what was suggested during the game, there is no need for the runner’s knee to be on the ground.

Rule 15, Section 9 of the Rule Book (page 98) governs instant replay reviews and states: ‘All Replay Reviews will be conducted by the Referee on a field-level monitor after consultation with the other covering official(s), prior to review. A decision will be reversed only when the Referee has indisputable visual evidence available to him that warrants the change.'

Referee Bill Leavy conducted the instant replay video review and determined that there was no indisputable visual evidence to warrant reversing the on-field ruling of down by contact. As a result, the ruling on the field stood.

What do people think? Was the replay clear or not?

Feel free to comment on other controversial referee calls during the January 2012 playoff games, also. I am pretty perplexed about Bill Leavy's decision though and would like people's thoughts!