Saturday, February 16, 2013

The NFL Moneyball Dashboard

With their victory in the Super Bowl XLVII, the Baltimore Ravens moved ahead of the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers and inched closer to the New Engalnd Patriots on the updated version of the NFL Moneyball Dashboard. 

The Moneyball Dashboard compares the success of each NFL franchise since the year 2000 by measuring their performance in the post-season against their average payroll.  Teams are awarded 1 point for qualifying for the playoffs and 1 point for each post-season win, so a Super Bowl win is currently worth 5 points. Teams landing in the upper left quadrant can be considered over-achievers as they have exceeded the NFL average for playoff success while their average payroll falls below the NFL average. On the flip side, teams in the lower right quadrant could be considered under-achievers. The size of the circle for each team helps to compare their regular season success by measuring their wins per season for each million dollars of payroll.  Use the power of Tableau to compare teams by selecting them from the bubble chart or using the filters to the right.

A few observations:

1. Since the Houston Texans only joined the NFL in 2002, I think it is a little unfair to label them under-achievers.  The Texans have finished .500 or above 5 of the last 6 years and have won a playoff game each of the last 2 years. Even though they have the biggest payroll in the NFL, they are surely headed in the right direction.

2. Due to a lack of franchise payroll data, the dashboard only reaches back to the year 2000.  The New Engalnd Patriots benefit the most from this limitation having started their incredible run of post-season success in 2001. An analysis that includes measures dating back to Super Bowl I would perhaps provide a more fair comparison.

3. What do the post-season numbers say about competitive balance? About half of the teams find themselves clustrered between 6 and 15 playoff points.  Seven teams(NE, BAL, PIT, IND, PHI, GB, NYG) exceed 19 points and could be called high achievers.  Eight teams,excluding Houston(KC, JAX, CIN, MIA, WAS, CLE, DET, BUF) have yet to earn 5 playoff points and only 1 team, Buffalo, has not gained a post-season berth since 2000. Without any deeper statistical analysis, I think we could say these numbers support the idea that the NFL has achieved a fairly good level of competitive balance.

4. How does post-season success corrrelate with payroll? From a quick glance at the distribution, there is little or no correlation. While it is true that most of the poor performers have payrolls below the NFL average, so do the payrolls of the two most successful teams, the Patriots and Ravens. Interesting note: The best-fit line for just the NFC teams actually has a negative slope, suggesting that the cheaper teams actually do better. Either way, there is really no evidence of correlation.

Would love to hear suggestions on further analysis or ways I could improve the dashboard.


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