Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Consistency

In his new book, radio host Bob McCown rates Martin Brodeur as the third best goalie of all-time. One of his arguments is Brodeur's consistency, and he cites as evidence the fact that Brodeur has only once had a GAA higher than 2.50. This, of course, is a ridiculous argument. The reason Brodeur has had low GAAs is because he has faced few shots throughout his career. In most years, he would have had to have been terrible to have a GAA even close to 2.50. Here are the save percentages Brodeur would have needed to post in each year in his career for his GAA to be 2.50:

.912, .900, .905, .902, .890, .898, .900, .898, .891, .893, .897, .914, .910, .902

For seven years in a row, Brodeur only needed to hit .900 or better to have a sub-2.50 GAA. So giving him credit for achieving that arbitrary mark is misguided.

I raise a skeptical eyebrow any time someone uses the word "consistency" (could be the Fire Joe Morgan influence). This is another example of consistency inappropriately being used to praise a player, as his performance actually shows a reasonably high degree of variance. From 1994-95 to 2003-04, the average number of shots he faced per game ranged from a low of 22.8 to a high of 26.4. That is a pretty narrow range, and was well below league average every single season. His save percentages in that span ranged from .902 to .927, i.e. from below average to excellent. Four times he was at .906 or lower, three times .917 or higher, and three times in between, showing a fairly broad range of success, and it was the stingy defence that always kept him at 2.4 goals against or lower.

Brodeur has consistently played a lot of games, but that is about the only thing he has done consistently (unless you count being a member of a great defensive team). He has had a couple of outstanding seasons, as well as several mediocre ones, which is fairly typical of goalies. His low shot totals tend to hide his off-years, and make commentators gush about his consistency, but they are wrong: The consistency truly lies in New Jersey shot prevention, not in New Jersey goaltending success.

6 comments:

sunnymehta.com said...

I agree with you that GAA is poor evidence for proving "consistency." The stat in general is simply too team-biased to be a good goaltending stat.

However, having said that, I don't think that really proves that Marty ISN'T consistent. It depends on how we define the word.

I personally think Marty playing the number of games he does on a year-to-year ("consistent") basis is extremely noteworthy. The Devils have basically never had to rely on a backup or replacement goalie for any significant stretch of time over the past 15 years.

Also, while you sometimes criticize Brodeur for his "goaltending" stats, his actual career Save Percentage is pretty freakin' fantastic, particularly given his very large sample size.

WRT consistency, it seems like an accurate way to truly measure it would be to compare the variance or standard deviation of Marty's year-to-year SQN save percentages to other goalies' variance or SD.

Zarathustra said...

You are silly.

First off, in "Count the Rings... Or Not" you seem to suggest that Grant Fuhr's success was the result of being on a team with Wayne Gretzky. As if Fuhr was not so great.

"If I had to play in one game where I put up everything I owned, I would want Grant Fuhr to be my goaltender." -Wayne Gretzky

-Are you disagreeing with Wayne Gretzky about hockey? I'll assume this is where you admit you don't know what you're doing.

If you were starting a franchise and could choose any goaltender from all of history as he was at age 20 or so, would you not consider Brodeur at all? If no, are we talking about the same person? You are a fraud.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Sunny, I don't believe Brodeur to be inconsistent either, just that he gets way too much credit for consistency. For example, nobody ever calls Dominik Hasek consistent, yet he led the league in save percentage 6 years in a row, and in 5 of those years his save percentage was between .930 and .937. That is far more consistent than any comparable stretch for Brodeur.

I still see games played as a management decision, rather than something to credit or discredit a goalie. Some teams platoon goalies, some teams ride their starter. It isn't all about performance. For example, since he became the starter, Brodeur's two seasons with the fewest starts came in his best and 3rd best save percentage years. Why? Because his backup was Mike Dunham, a decent goalie. Any team could cheap out on their backup and play their starter more. In my view, the fact that most of them choose not to doesn't make Brodeur any better than he is.

Finally, I disagree strongly that Brodeur's career save percentage is fantastic. Check out my latest post for more on era effects and save percentage.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Are you disagreeing with Wayne Gretzky about hockey? I'll assume this is where you admit you don't know what you're doing.

Am I disagreeing with Wayne? Most definitely. I know it's shocking to suggest that someone with an 80-98-10 career coaching record who managed Team Canada to a 7th place finish at the last Olympics doesn't know everything there is to know about hockey, especially about performance at a position he never played in his career. I guess that's why they call me contrarian.

If you have another good reason why Fuhr's win/loss records fell off a cliff without Gretzky in front of him, I'd love to hear it, but otherwise I'm inclined to conclude that his success was mostly because he played for great teams.

If you were starting a franchise and could choose any goaltender from all of history as he was at age 20 or so, would you not consider Brodeur at all?

I'd probably consider him, but only briefly, as I see there being at least 10-15 goalies ahead of him, as well as 2 peers (Roy, Hasek) who are clearly better. Even with placing more weight on longevity and durability, I'd take Hasek.

Anonymous said...

Gretzky was Great as a player... but as an assessor of personnel he has made some huge blunders... I recall his later days as a King when he persuaded the Kings to trade young talent for rapidly aging ex-Oilers.

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