Senseless rant or brilliant diatribe? Don La Greca rails on analytics use in sports

Don La Greca is a sports commentator, radio and tv personality. He works with Michael Kay on ESPN radio, covers the Rangers and NHL. He’s also known for his epic rants from time to time.

The Rant!

This week, La Greca finally snapped on the use of analytics in sports. His focus was on some nonsense about the NY Giants offensive line, which is terrible. You know what, see it for yourself.

Regardless of his antics, he is SPOT ON! If you listen, and I mean listen, this isn’t a rant against the stats but how they are used (overused and misused in my opinion). This is about people who seem to be on a mission to create sports narratives based on numbers. Because they know about these stats, it makes them smarter than you. That’s the real issue.

He’s Right

It took about a day for this rant to go viral and has been met with its fair share of criticism. The funniest being La Greca’s mocking of the Pythagorean Theorem. Stats lovers have decided that’s the way to negate or disprove his argument. While a theorem is a statement that has been proven over time by other established statements, these brilliant people still missed the point. In sports, there will always be far too many variables to make accurate predictions or speak in absolute truths.

They also don’t seem to get the joke. La Greca isn’t a mathematician, most people aren’t but we’ve almost all heard of the Pythagorean Theorem. So the fact that he used a popular math term in his rant, doesn’t discredit his argument either. It actually makes those focused on that single point look like they really don’t have a valid counter argument. That’s because they usually don’t.

Value In Numbers

“What do you mean my stats are fancy?”

I’ve said it before, advanced analytics are here to stay and that’s a good thing. There is nothing wrong with more data, but hockey and other sports not named baseball, can’t be broken down into a single repeatable event. Simply put, batter A may face pitcher B 30 times over the course of a season. In essence that is a one on one repeatable event and valued information can be garnered from that. Same for how a batter or pitcher does against righties and lefties.

In hockey, there are far too many things happening on one shift or one play to ever be considered repeatable. It is organized chaos on ice, plain and simple. That doesn’t discredit the stats being utilized and improved upon today. However, trying to continuously drive nonsensical narratives like higher corsi teams/players do better is ridiculous.

Once again, corsi is a byproduct, like a goal, of what happened on the ice. We’ve known for decades that the teams that shoot more will likely win more. It’s not because of corsi, it’s because of the talent being better and the game plan being effective. NHL GM’s and coaches do not build teams or game plan to be better at corsi. That’s a fact.

Advanced stats are and will continue to be, just one tool of many in evaluating players and teams in all sports. When you effectively marry that with being able to spot intangibles like heart, toughness, and character you can build a winner.

Thank You, Don!

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore