Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Basketball-Reference.com Interview

In the last 5 seasons (’00 – ’04), who has gotten the most offensive rebounds per game (minimum 200 games)?

A. Elton Brand
B. Tim Duncan
C. Kevin Garnett
D. Shaquille O’Neal
E. Ben Wallace

For those who like a challenge, feel free to make your guess in the comments section. I’ll post the answer tomorrow, with a link on how to find it.

The reason I’m in a trivial mood can be attributed to the fine options presented to me at www.basketball-reference.com. If you haven’t been there in a few weeks, or even a few days, you probably haven’t seen the changes that have been done with the site. Although it has the run of the mill player, team, and league stats, B-R (as it’s commonly referred to) has historical stats that you won’t find anywhere else like:

* Team Offensive & Defensive Points Per Possession
* Most Similar Players By Age
* Awards
* All Star Games
* Colege Stats
* John Hollinger’s PER
* Dean Oliver’s stats (ORtg, DRtg, PW, PL, PW%)

Recently a query page has been added currently called B-R Labs. With this, you can get customized stats on teams & players on just about anything you can imagine.

Justin Kubatko, the site’s creator, was kind enough to answer a few questions.


The Beginning:
What kind of background do you have in sports & technology?

In high school I played basketball (sixth man on a bad team) and tennis.
In college I played IM sports, mainly basketball and softball. After college I was the head coach for a JV boy’s basketball team in North Carolina for two years and an assistant coach for a boy’s high school basketball team in Albuquerque for two years. I started running seriously about three years ago and have completed two marathons (best time 3:31) and one half marathon (1:37).

On the technology side, I have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in statistics, so technology has always been a part of what I do. One thing I am having fun with now is learning Perl and MySQL.

What prompted you to start a stat site up?

One day I noticed that Sean Forman (owner of Baseball-Reference) had the domain name basketball-reference.com reserved. Since I knew Sean through SABR, I asked him if he wanted me to work on a basketball site for him.

I enjoy designing web pages and working with data, and I also felt that basketball needed a reference site that approached the quality of Baseball-Reference. A site that was easy-to-use and fun-to-play with that gathered together old data as well as new.

How exactly did you meet Sean Forman?

Sean and I were both SABR members, so in that sense we had “known” each other for a few years. I originally contacted him by e-mail; I think it had something to do with Baseball-Reference. I met Sean in person at the 2003 SABR convention in Denver.

What kind of help did you receive from the other stat sites (Baseball-Reference & Pro-Football-Reference)?

I received a lot of support and advice from Sean Forman, especially when the site was getting ready to go live. Specifically, he provided helpful comments on the site design and suggested numerous ways to improve the presentation of the data.

What did you use for your source data?

Sean Lahman donated much of the data used to create this site. While I have made many additions and modifications to Sean’s data, he saved me a significant amount of time.

When did B-R come online?

May 10, 2004.

Current Opertations:
Am I correct in assuming that it’s largely a one man operation?

Yes, you are. Sean Forman helps with some things on the server side, but I take care of all of the site’s content.

How much of it is automated?

Most of the pages are created using programs I have written. However, almost all of the pages on the site are static. If I want to make the same change to all player pages I have to re-run my programs. That may seem inefficient, but static pages help a lot with site speed. I want to avoid the dreaded “The operation timed out when attempting to contact www.example.com” messages.

In 1974 – player offensive rebounds, steals, and blocked shots first recorded. In 1978 turnovers. In 1980 three pointers. Will you consider adding things from 82games.com like oPER, +/- for the years they have available?

Yes, at some point. I wish I had more time to spend on the site, but God and family — my wife Laura and my sons, Zachary and Cristian — come first.

What is coming up in the future?

In no particular order: player game logs, more query tools, more ABA data, and current season statistics.

Fun Stuff:
When can I make my lifetime advertising purchase of Patrick Ewing‘s player page?

The timing of this question is funny, as this is something Sean and I are currently working on. Page sponsorship should be available within the next month or two.

Who is your favorite NBA player to watch?

This is easy: Tim Duncan.

Why?

I lived about an hour from Winston-Salem when Duncan was a sophomore and junior, so I got to see him play a lot on television. He is one of the most fundamentally sound players I have ever seen.

When does the NBA expand to New Mexico?

When the coyotes stop howling.

Which basketball player most represents your game?

I am going to say Richard Hamilton, but only because we are both runners.

There was an article about Hamilton’s running in a recent issue of Runner’s World. If you ignore the running aspect, I would say Ollie McClellan from Hoosiers (although I am much taller than Ollie).