The eye test vs. the numbers.
As statistical analytics have become more and more a part of the daily discussion and analysis of sports, there has always been a divide about what is more important – the data or the visuals.
“You’re not watching the game, you’re only looking at the numbers.”
“You’re ignoring the data behind the game you are watching.”
In reality, both are incredibly important to analyzing the game properly. Numbers will never tell the entire story. Just looking at a box score and a shot chart doesn’t give the proper context of what happened in a game. At the same time, just watching the game without referring to a box score, shot chart or more advanced metrics can also lead to an incomplete story.
Last Friday, the WNBA announced that the league’s official statistics site – WNBA.com/Stats – has integrated video with its data for the entire 2019 season and will soon add it for 2018 as well. Since this was announced just as the All-Star festivities were getting underway, it may have been lost to all of the excitement emanating from Las Vegas, so let’s take a closer look at what this means and provide some examples of how this video integration can help fans and experts alike when it comes to breaking down the game.
So where can we find this video? The simple answer to that question is pretty much everywhere on the WNBA Stats site. Let’s break it down.
Tuesday night’s game between Phoenix and Washington is a great place for us to start.
On the main box score page, there are links for nearly every individual and team stat as indicated with orange text rather than the standard black. Clicking any of those links will launch a new window showing the video that corresponds with that statistic.
For example, Leilani Mitchell tied the WNBA single game record with eight 3-pointers made in the game. By clicking the ‘8’ in the 3PM column next to her name, it will launch a page that shows video of those eight 3-pointers. In addition, it will also show a shot chart that indicates exactly where on the court those shots were taken. And below the video player and shot chart, will be a detailed look at each of those shots, providing exactly when that shot was taken (period and time stamp) and the distance from the rim that it was taken.
Now we have the data behind every shot and the video to go along with it to provide the full context of the play – was it a wide open shot or contested, was it coming at the beginning or end of the possession, was it a catch-and-shoot or pull-up shot, was the shot attempt assisted or unassisted, did the defense double team Brittney Griner in the post and was Griner able to kick it out to Mitchell for an open look?
Watching the video from each of those shots will answer those questions and when coupled with the data that shows where and when those shots were taken, it gives a clearer picture of Mitchell’s record-tying performance and how it helped the Mercury nearly come all the way back against the Mystics.
Play By Play
Rather than looking at every shot that Mitchell took, you can also browse through the play-by-play to find video of an exact play that may have stood out. The play-by-play video has every shot, every rebound, every steal, every block, every turnover and every foul from every game.
Thanks to her outstanding performance on Tuesday, Mitchell climbed to fourth in the WNBA in 3-point shooting at 44.8 percent for the season. By going to the Official Leaders pages, you can see how she stacks up to the competition in terms of makes, attempts and shooting percentage, but you can watch all 43 of her 3-pointers made, all 96 of her 3-point attempts, or those from any of the players ranked ahead or below her.
Video for Mitchell’s stats can also be found on her player profile page under the following Splits: Traditional, Miscellaneous and Shooting.
Traditional Splits essentially mimic that of a box score, but are for the entire season, or whatever portion of the season you want to look (Home vs. Road, Wins vs. Losses, By Month, Starter vs. Bench, By Days Rest) and can be filtered by any number of games (Last 3 games, 5 games, 10 games, etc.)
Miscellaneous Splits look at stats beyond the regular box score: Points Off Turnovers, Second Chance Points, Fast Break Points, Points In The Paint. Now in addition to having the stats for those categories, you can see the video for all of those possessions.
Shooting Splits break down every shot that a player takes by distance (by five foot or eight foot segments), by zone (Restricted Area, Paint, Mid-Range, Corner 3s, Above The Break 3s), by shot type (jump shot, bank shot, fadeaway, layup, tip in, etc.), and by assist (assisted vs. unassisted shots, as well as a player-by-player look at who assisted on her baskets).
Player Sortable Stats
This essentially takes the same splits we looked at on a player level, but looks at the entire league as opposed to a single player. You can use the same filters and splits to dig into the data and compare players, and now watch video for each of their stats.
Player Box Scores List
Mitchell’s eight 3-pointers were the most made by any player this season, topping the seven made by Shekinna Stricklen and Amanda Zahui B prior to the All-Star break. By using the Player Box Scores function, you can compare the top single-game performances in all categories and now have video to accompany any of those marks.
The same stats that are available for individual players are also available on a team-by-team basis, and all have the same accompanying video that is offered for individual players.
Team Sortable Stats
Here’s an example from the Sortable Team Stats page, where I looked at which teams made the most field goals during the fourth quarter for the month of July. I changed the Per Mode from Per Game to Totals, then changed the Season Segment from All Games to July in the drop down menu, then opened the Advanced Filters and changed the Quarter option under the Game Situation column from All Quarters to 4th Quarter. The result was the Phoenix Mercury with 65 and that ’65’ is clickable so I could watch all 65 of those fourth quarter baskets. And as you can see below, nearly every stat is clickable to watch video (3-pointers, rebounds, assists, turnovers, steals, blocks).
Team Box Scores List
On Tuesday night, the Sun posted the fifth 100-point game of the 2019 season, becoming the third team to reach 100 points in 2019 along with Las Vegas and Washington. By going to the Team Box Scores, we can compare each of those games and see which stats stand out most that separate one performance from the other. For example, Connecticut’s game was one of three that included at least 10 3-pointers made, while both of Las Vegas’ 100-point games came with five or fewer 3-pointers made. The Aces have also posted the most highest assist games with 31 each in wins over Indiana and Dallas. You can watch every one of those dimes thanks to the integration of video to go along with the numbers.