Paul DePodesta – The Sabermetrica and the footbal


Published on May 04, 2020


Now a few months ago came the official announcement of Kevin Stefanski as the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns, but this seemed to be overshadowed by a figure that is rather cumbersome, on which many american newspapers have pointed its headlights: the Chief Strategy Officer, Paul DePodesta.
All this attention was a daughter of the scrupolosissima attention that the manager has reserved in the search for a new head coach and new General Manager, then, identified in Andre Berry which we were able to see the work of their own during the past draft.

To put that into context, however, what I'm going to write in the rest of the article, we need to take a step back and understand the origin of the member of the organization of the Cleveland Browns.

A native of Virginia, Paul graduated at Harvard in economics in 1995 and a year later lands to the Cleveland Indians, where he will also take care of the scouting. In 1999, he landed the Oakland Athletics in the capacity of assistant general manager to then become, in 2004, one of the youngest General Manager in the history of MLB following the intake of the Los Angeles Dodgers. We are obviously talking about Baseball.
In Los Angeles DePodesta was the creator of an exchange resounding with Lo Duca, Mota and Encarnacion transferred to the Marlins in exchange for Penny, Choi and Murphy. This move harbour lots of criticisms of the general manager, as The Duke was considered the “heart and soul” of the team. This trade was, however, not a success with the victory of the West Division even if the Dodgers were unable to get to the World Series.
The 2005 season was topped of so many disappointments with injuries of important players that have closed in advance of the team's hopes of Los Angeles. At the end of the season has arrived the dismissal for DePodesta, which is why it is however, still nebulous: there are those who affirm that the owner has decided to fire him because he wanted the Dodgers were always competitive because of their status, and others, that instead they saw the inability to find a new manager to the team the real reason of this removal.
Will have some other experience between San Diego Padres and New York Mets, but no longer as General Manager of the MLB.

Finished the historical overview of the current Chief Strategy Officer of the Browns, we have to redo it again step back up to his experience to the Oakland Athletics. Here happens something quite important: the general manager Billy Beane sees in him the ideas congenial to the needs of the team and he assumes it. Oakland, even without great financial means, is able to compete with very strong teams and this attracts the attention of the writer Michael Lewis, who will use DePodesta as the key character of his book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game”. The book first and the movie after, released in 2011, starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill which I highly recommend, have helped grow the reputation of the current manager of the Browns, though in none of the two states the name of as from a precise request of the same DePodesta.
The two works deal specifically with the reason why I am writing this article: the love and obsession of Paul vis-à-vis the sabermetrica.

What is the sabermetrica? It is the combination of statistics and analysis of many of the parameters studied to assess past performance and, above all, to predicting the factor.
This practice is now almost generally diffused in all the other three major leagues of american sports, but did not fully breach the inside of the American Football.

The work of updating under the sabermetrica home Browns is under the eye of all, and deals with two specific points: the select the best player possible, given the statistics, even if less impact compared to other more listed as-needed basis and to accumulate the pick to the draft, taking more and more space in the salary cap.
On the second point, we can find evidence about the trade that brought in 2017 the arrival of Brock Osweiler. The Browns arrived in the offseason with a record of $ 107 million free in the salary cap, and decided to take the $ 16 million Osweiler, who knew from the beginning would not have found space to the roster, to get a pick added at the second round of the draft next.

Returning to the parameters with which you can assess a particular role, it is not possible to get inside the war room of a franchise to be able to find out what exactly are the parameters referring to a role for which they have an interest but, however, we can safely say that a receiver is evaluated based on the percentage of receipt, to the percentage drop made, to the number of yards gained per reception rather than a parameter, such as the impact of this on the team. Often the impacts in certain teams, in addition to the skill of the player, are also due to game situations that are better handled in some franchises than others.

Example: this year we have all enhanced the performances of Michael Thomas of the Saints from able to get 1.725 yards on 149 receptions for an average of 11.6 yards and 9 TD, facilitated by a team which NOLA created to win, but the performance of D. J. Clarke have passed almost unnoticed, because without a team a bad as Jacksonville but still be able to get 73 receptions for 1.008 yards for an average of 13.8 and 8 TD. Statistically, the percentages are the same.

The conditions have changed from when he was the general manager in MLB. The NFL is the most rich and, therefore, there is the need to contain most of the costs being able to explore more with the salaries, however, has not changed the difficulty in finding coaches and a general manager willing to follow his creed. The call to the head coach or GM usually comes a time in life, and those who get it usually wants to play with their own capacity without relying on mathematical calculations. A lot do it for the feeling, this in the draft DePodesta does not exist.

Unlike other american sports, and when the television stations of the amino, the statistics in football leave the time that you are in when there are really too many variables that are impossible to evaluate. It is undeniable, however, that from the moment of arrival of DePodesta to the Browns, the franchise has grown exponentially as a quality, but not from the point of view of the results. Curiously, the latter factor has strengthened more and more the position of CSO as at the beginning of this offseason, he lived in the manner of an unnatural relationship with GM Dorsey with whom you do not accord on the adoption of analytics, even to select their head coach. Indeed, it is not a secret as DePodesta had made the name of Sean McDermott, now at the Bills, before the selection of Hue Jackson and that of the same Stefanski, already last year, before tacking on Freddie Kitchens. These two failures of Dorsey have in fact paved the way.

Will it work? It is not possible to know. What is certain is that this year in the draft, the Browns have had a large number of choices and it seems they have been very well spent, now it's up to the coupled Stefanski-Berry to return to the accounts. Accounts for which now, as never before, Paul DePodesta has put his face in the NFL.

Apply the sabermetrica in the NFL is really complicated because there are so many, too many, variables to take into account. The statistics are important, but how many times reading the report of the game we see the statistics lean towards a team that then comes out defeated from the encounter? However, it is impossible not to confirm what the Browns are clearly improved in quality by 2016, unfortunately the results have not (yet) confirmed.




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