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Member Since 25 Oct 2008
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Topics I've Started

"Moneyball" and Paintball

17 October 2011 - 10:20 PM

I wrote this article as a concept piece for a paintball editorial blog I'm thinking about writing. Would love to see some input and feedback :tup:

"Moneyball" and Paintball
What teams and players stand to learn from baseball, Bill James and the sabermetrics movement in sports

Tournament paintball has long been considered an intangibles game- to quote Matty Marshall, you want players with “gumption”, players who are “always 8’s, not ‘sometimes 10’s’ and ‘sometimes 2’s’”. You can’t quite tell what makes a player good... hell, you may even know they’re “good at laning” or that they “just shoot people”, but what does that really mean? Can we distill it down any further? In what context do these qualities exist?

In 1977, a Vietnam war veteran named Bill James released an 80-page doctrine on baseball stastics modestly titled The Bill James Baseball Abstract. Loaded with intricate statistical analysis, the book was heralded for both its novelty and complexity but considered to have very little practical use. Baseball was, after all, a sport about sweet swings and hitting homers, not walk ratios and on base percentage. The most important statistic was intangibility- whether or not a guy just had it.

Player evaluation followed this model for more than a century. A square jaw and firm handshake were almost as important as whether a kid could throw or catch. Never mind if he had a high strike-out rate or couldn’t hit a curveball- if he had “it”, he had a contract. Managers just knew.

The funny thing about just knowing, though, is that it fails to produce wins at an alarming rate. Teams like the New York Yankees were doling out hundreds of millions of dollars more than most other clubs and consistently coming up short. The game was practically rigged in their favor- baseball has no salary cap and very loose free agency rules; a fat payroll usually means you can have your pick of the litter as far as talent is concerned. The list of World Series Champions from 1990 to 2000 should have looked as such:

1990: New York Yankees

1991: New York Yankees

1992: New York Yankees

1993: New York Yankees

1994: New York Yankees

1995: New York Yankees

1996: New York Yankees

1997: New York Yankees

1998: New York Yankees

1999: New York Yankees

2000: New York Yankees

That fact that it didn’t pan out that way meant one of two things: either the Yankees’ management didn’t know “it” when they saw it, or “it” didn’t really matter that much in the first place.

Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane believed in the latter. In 2002, using Bill James’ concept that statistics held the key to winning baseball games, Beane assembled a playoff team on less than $40 million dollars (well below the MLB poverty line). Two years later, the Red Sox won it all using James’ formula. (Both teams were featured prominently in Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, the book-turned-movie that chronicles baseball’s statistical revolution.)

The Moneyball method works because it asks a few key questions: what is a win made of? Which numbers matter and which are irrelevant? What is the most efficient way to produce those numbers? In baseball, it was stats like OBP (on base percentage, or how often a player reached base safely) and wins-over-replacement that mattered. Those numbers could be distilled down into wins.

The question is, how can we apply meaningful statistical analysis to tournament paintball? Can we do it at all?

(Not to spoil the ending for you, but I don’t have any answers yet. I’m not even certain metrics hold any value at all in a game with as many variables as paintball. All I know is that it works in lots of other complex sports and is worth trying to apply to paintball in logical and reasonable way)

The following statistics are where I believe we should start. There’s nothing absurd like “first ball trajectory” or impossible to track like “amount of paint spilled on reload”; I don’t believe the answer would lie there even if we could log those things. If statistics do provide insight as to what a win in paintball is made of, I think the big picture ideas will be the real players:

(note: for the sake of continuity, I use the words “points” to describe individual paintball games, i.e. from the start horn to the flag hang. I understand “points” is ubiquitous with XBall, but these statistics should be applicable in the 3/5/7 man formats as well)

1) Living Off Break percentage (LOB): The percentage of points a player starts in which he reaches his primary without being eliminated on the way or in the five seconds that follow.

Why does this matter? Because it tells you which players contribute to your team’s...

2) Wins with an Advantage in Bodies after the Break (WABB): The percentage of points a team wins when up bodies after the break.

This will prove to be an incredibly meaningful statistic if it turns out teams win something like 60% of all points in which they have at least a one body advantage after the breakout. It could even be broken down further into WABB+1 (wins when up one body), WABB+2 and so forth.

Furthermore, if it turns out that WABB is statistically significant, it will also show that winning when you’re down on bodies after the break is more an aberration than a rule and shouldn’t be read into too deeply.

3) Wins-to-Break Shooters: The number in games won with varying numbers of guns up off the break.

Say you know you win 66% of games in which you have four guns up off the break but you only win 49% when you send three people sprinting to the far bunkers with their heads down. You can dial in exactly how many break shooters you should have in a number of different scenarios. You can also use this number to extrapolate how effective each player is as a break shooter- if you have a higher win percentage with four guns than you do five, the variable player may be an ineffective break shooter.

4) Shots-to-Wins Ratio: The number of points a team win when it fires more paintballs than the opposing team.

The NPPL sort of tried something like this in DC- after every pro point the commentator announced who shot the most paint. It was definitely cool to hear, but it doesn’t mean anything unless you correlate it to wins. We obviously have the technology for this one, and it should theoretically be one of the easier stats to track.

5) Live Body Percentage (LBP): The number of bodies the winning team has left after the flag hang.

Tells us how effective a specific team was in terms of both shooting the opposition and not getting shot.

6)Penalties Per Game (PPG): The number of penalties each team gets in a game.

If teams with more penalties consistently win games, it tells us that penalties are statistically irrelevant. If teams with more penalties consistently lose, it tells us that penalties have a major impact.

Couple that with...

7) Penalties per Point Percentage (PPP): the number of penalties a player gets over the number of total points he plays (the higher the percentage, the worse- more penalties per point)

Voila. Now you know precisely who is hurting your team.

I think these seven statistics are a good jumping off point. I don’t believe statistics like “player by player kill count” are either feasible to track or all that relevant- getting the kill is often the easiest part of the job. Somebody else could have been pinching that player out into your lane or drawing their attention or have forced them to move into a less advantageous spot. Overall team kills and difference in live bodies seem (at least on the surface) to be more relevant stats.

But I don’t know that. We don’t know that. If we can extrapolate what matters most in winning paintball games, then we can debunk all sorts of paintball dogma that is espoused but has never been fact checked. What if it’s not better to be short? What if it doesn’t matter? What if it’s better to be tall? What if breakshooting doesn’t matter? What if it’s the only thing that matters and taking ground is an exercise in futility?

These things need to be tracked because the key to consistently winning could very well lie within. The parody at the national tournament level alone should tell us that eyeballing players doesn’t work.

Or maybe it does, and paintball just has an unquantifiable randomness to it.

We don’t know.

We should find out.

JD's Get Ripped for the Winter Journal and How-To

12 October 2011 - 03:44 PM

In spite of everything I've always known about my body and in spite of everything I believe about human metabolism, I've spent the last 50 days eating "luxuriously" (read: lots and lots of sweets and refined carbs) while taking some time off before returning to school.

Funny thing has happened, though- I used to have six very clearly defined abs. Now all that's left is a faint outline.

I'm heading back to school in January and I simply must be lean and mean by the time I get back.

Fortunately for me, I feel as if I'm armed with the knowledge to get it done in short order. I've got science on my side.

As always, it's important to clearly state my goal:

Tomorrow (Day 1) is Thursday, October 13th. My "goal date" is December 16th- the day before the beginning of Christmas break, a day when I want to look better than I ever have.

These are my goals:

1) Fully visible six pack abdominals. I want to be ripped.
2) 31" waistline
3) To stick to my plan completely and totally, without cheating or straying and logging each and every day.
4) To transition easily into a lifestyle where I can maintain health and fitness

Why am I not listing a "goal weight"? Weight is an arbitrary number. I currently weigh 199 pounds at 6'5", but if I don't look good at 185, what's it matter? If I look stupid at 180, who cares? It's about feeling good and achieving a clear mental image of how I want my body to look- not reaching some arbitrary numerical goal.

I hold pretty strong science-based beliefs about the fastest and easiest way to shed body fat, but just to recap:

-fasting insulin levels dictate body weight
-low circulating insulin (with spikes coming only post prandially) facilitates faster weight loss in otherwise healthy individuals. I am an otherwise healthy individual- I won't suffer any hypoglycemia or hyperinsulinemia issues by tinkering with my diet
-carbohydrates, for the sake of keeping it simple, are uniquely fattening and singular in their ability to chronically elevate blood glucose. Higher blood glucose=higher insulin=no release of free fatty acid from fat cells=no fat loss
-eating meals within a confined window (as opposed to "grazing to stoke the metabolic fire!" [bullshit]) serves to increase insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control
-whole, natural foods facilitate faster fat loss
-limiting carbohydrates is key to efficient fat loss

With these things in mind, I present:

JDAtkinsn's 7 Pillars of Fat Loss

This is the plan I'll be following strictly for the next 64 days. I guarantee that, if followed, this plan will give me a cut six pack and relatively painless fat loss. I will stake my reputation on it. Put up or shut up time.

1) Consume less than 50 grams of carbohydrate daily.
2) Eat only whole, natural, evolutionary foods (Primal or Paleo foods)- meat, animal fat, nuts and seeds, fibrous vegetables, eggs, and fruit (in limited quantities)
3) No alcohol whatsoever (This is more of a personal challenge for me, but I've also noticed that I'm a BIG eater after a night of drinking- and I really don't enjoy drinking all that much)
4) No dairy or artificial sweeteners
5) Move around at a slow pace frequently and lift heavy three to four times a week (the case has been made over and over and over again against jogging for fat loss, so I'll be walking at an incline for an hour every morning and lifting heavy four times a week)
6) Eat only between 3pm and 10pm daily (based around Martin Berkham's brilliant, seminal, extraordinary LeanGains site- highly recommended for anyone)
7) Consider (but do not stress) over calories- food composition is vastly more important than quality

This will be my daily journal, link dump for relevant reads, discussion, picture thread, etc.

Please feel free to join in the discussion and take the trip with me.

Until tomorrow,

Texas Storm G6R

09 October 2011 - 09:00 AM

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The TSG6R was the first gun I've seen since the EGO7 that, based on milling alone, caused me to start salivating. I love how G6R's shoot, and I love the gloss khaki, so you have noooo idea how happy I am to own this piece.

Close (or dramatically change) the Nutrition forum

27 March 2011 - 07:01 PM

I fully understand the good intentions involved with having a "Paintball Nutrition Forum", but there's so much bad/faulty/terrible/dangerous advice being dispensed in that forum that it either needs to be moderated by someone who can provide proof of appropriate medical certification or it should be closed.

You've got people telling others to make decisions about diet, workout and drug/supplement use that have done little more than read other internet forums. You've got guys asking about proper dosage for wafarin and other blood thinners when it comes to playing paintball. You've got one guy who said "eat a bunch and get really fat and then turn all the fat into muscle" (I shit you not, I'll dig up the post and everything). There is the occasional P90X discussion and sometimes I get into it with people about carb-cycling and varying insulin responses, but for the most part that forum can ONLY do harm. The only disclaimer in the forum is one I wrote. Some of the pinned threads contain suggestions such as "run until you are so exhausted you can no longer run".

I'm all for a well-run nutrition forum, but bad advice in THIS forum is different than someone saying that a broken DM5 for $900 is a steal. I imploreeee you guys to make some changes.


(P.S.- I really do think everyone does a great job and, not that anyone gives a shit what I think, the staff and rules on this forum make it one of the best experiences on the web.)

The New PSP Field Length

02 March 2011 - 05:47 PM

So I actually managed to play on the new field dimensions this past weekend and I must say, I really like it. If nothing else, it makes it more fun to watch.

I've always thought that teams/players that practiced laning a lot or were really good at it had a more distinct, overpowering advantage than players/teams who were extremely proficient at any other singular skill. Breakout laning lasts all of four or five seconds in Xball and yet can decrease your team's man power by 20-60% (and does, more often than not). I always considered Xball to be less five on five and more five on five for three second and then four on two.

Playing with a bunch of really good teams, it seemed like less chaos off the break which actually rewarded teams with better communication and sound technique. I myself never had much of an issue dying off the break as I'm pretty fast to begin with, but it's more fun playing with teams at full strength after just a few seconds.

I'm of the belief that breakouts should be like NFL kickoffs- you break one for a touchdown a few times a season (have a few really dominant breakouts every tournament that definitively swing the point), but for the most part you're starting around the 20 (teams are pretty even body wise after a break) and even if your opponent takes one out to the 50 (shoots a couple of your players out), it doesn't necessarily guarantee they put points up (they still may not win even with a body advantage). Last few seasons, points seemed to be won or lost in the first five seconds, which was pretty lame- especially as a spectator.

So, has anyone else played it? Thoughts?