FJM Style: KC Joyner on Revis

We really want to like KC Joyner, we really do, but his latest piece on ESPN Insider about why Darrelle Revis is expendable leaves us wondering again why we want to.

Let’s fire it up, FJM style.

One of the most surprising results Bill James found early in his research of professional baseball is the lack of impact individual players have on the success of their ballclubs.

It’s true!!! Having good baseball players on your team is no indication of success, just ask the Pirates!   They are fantastic without any talent on their roster whatsoever!

James was so shocked, he eventually created more than a dozen different ways to analyze individual player impact on team performance.

Bill James: “Hmm … I better create buttressing arguments to my initial stupid conclusion … “

Every one of the studies came to the same conclusion: Most star players in their prime add an impact of no more than three wins a season. It takes a team effort to post wins and not even the best players can do much to change that.

Correct, team effort.  I think we’re all aware that fielding one player against nine in baseball is a pretty sure-fire way to get yourself pwned, but to entirely discount how much effect one player can have on a team is ludicrous.  I know it’s a terrible example, but think back to Barry Bonds when he was in prime juicehead mode.  No one would pitch to him and when they did … lookout.  It changed everything for the Giants, one player did greatly impact his team.  That’s one cartoonish example, but there are others we can all recite out of hand that at least on the surface seem to disprove that having impact players basically has *no* positive impact.  It might work statistically, but c’mon that’s just stupid.

The reason this message resonates is that there are two NFL stars — Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets and Vincent Jackson of the San Diego Chargers — whose recent OTA attendance status indicates they may believe they could be exceptions to this rule.

Yes, a one-day holdout means he thinks he is the exception to a metric that some Eggbert created regarding baseball.  No.  It means he was pissed that Tannenbaum lowballed him with an insulting offer last week.

If that is their mindset, the metrics certainly don’t back up the claim.

Right, “if.” Do you know something we don’t?  We don’t know that’s his mindset, now based on what he told reporters yesterday, he does consider himself the best and wants to be paid the best … but KC is just assigning it to him blindly for the sake of making a point here.  Revis has never said anything like that anyway.  On a con call before camp during the summer of 2008, he didn’t even consider himself safe at his position as a starter.  Dave Hutchinson of the Star-Ledger had to tell him he’d be the starter …to which everyone laughed.

Now as far as the metrics, I love Moneyball … I really do.  I love Football Outsiders … I love that there are people looking at sports through a new statistical lens.  I love looking at the numbers and coming to a better understanding of what happened, will happen, or are areas of concern in a matchup,

Where I see Joyner and his stats fall down, is he too often tries to take his stats, often based on his own subjective analysis based off DirecTV feeds (not coach’s tape, or with the benefit of knowing what the play design was) and places arbitrary value of his metrics over it.  It’s pseudo-statistical … statistics are great when they’re founded in actual concrete fact … not in subjective calls like “QB bad decisions” in that case, we have polling data.  I have the same problem with ProFootballFocus’s approach.

Let’s start with Revis. He is absolutely — beyond a shadow of a doubt — the best cornerback in the league, something backed up by his No. 1 ranking in the cornerback yards-per-attempt (YPA) numbers from the KC Joyner Metricmania section of ESPN’s Fantasy Football Magazine.

Oh good!  KC Joyner’s Metricmania in an ESPN branded fantasy magazine (out on newsshelves now!!) tells us that yes, Darrelle is in fact a very good player.  You know what else told me that?  MY —-ING EYES. Hey look!  I just saved myself $7.95 and a trip to Barnes & Noble!

With that being said, it should also be noted which cornerback ranked No. 2 in YPA — that was Revis’ teammate, Dwight Lowery. The Jets also placed a third cornerback, Lito Sheppard, in the top 20 in that category last year ….

So the Jets had three top twenty YPA ranked corners.  Using Joyner’s own stat Revis’ YPA numbers are gaudy, and my cursory check of the internet showed that his 3.6 YPA is extremely low compared to the normal leading CB in any given year Joyner has compiled that stat.

… making them the only team in the league to reach that statistical distinction.

Alarm bells should be going off for Joyner at this point, but no.  He procceds.  Logically to me, this is Joyner crossing the street and not looking both ways.

That alone indicates just how much head coach Rex Ryan’s scheme helps cornerbacks, but Sheppard’s case is even more notable when looking at his coverage history prior to coming to New York. In the three years before joining Ryan’s defense, Sheppard posted YPA marks of 13.0 (2008), 8.1 (2007) and 8.2 (2006).

SPLAT.

Since Lowery and Sheppard split starts during the season, for sake of argument, let’s combine them into one player and say that combined they were in the low teens.  Still pretty good for one set of corners, right?  Sure!

But how can you discount the fact that locking down one side of the field for coverage and the cause and effect that has on how you run the rest of your defense?  If Revis is alone, then the safety is rolling the other way, something we saw Ryan do again and again, and which caused Kerry Rhodes to get pissy during the season and led to him getting shipped off, he hated playing bait/safety net.  So basically providing Cover-One help away from Revis much of the time, guess who’s numbers would get a bump?

OH RIGHT.

Now contrast that to his New York YPA mark of 6.0. He went from posting one of the worst YPA totals in the league to one of the best, yet the Jets sat him down in the playoffs and let him go after the season. That almost certainly means they realize it was the scheme more than his physical skills that accounted for Sheppard’s improvement.

Or it could be that they didn’t want to pay him a ridiculously overpriced bonus he had coming this offseason.

So if Ryan’s scheme is the sole reason for those high rankings … then … oh I don’t know … why did they draft a corner in the first round?  Why did they trade for Antonio Cromartie?  If they could go to war with just anybody, then why not sign Corey Ivy?  Hank Poteat?

If that is the case, the Jets’ management also has to realize the type of impact this scheme could have on Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie posted a 7.4 YPA in San Diego last season, in what was widely acknowledged as an off year for him. Playing up to his talent level could shave a yard off of that total, and if the Jets’ scheme does its usual magic and cuts it down by 1 or 2 additional yards, Cromartie could end up with a YPA fairly close to Revis’ 3.6 mark.

… but the individual impact of a player like Revis or Cromartie doesn’t have any real difference anyway like you said right? Wait … why should we read this article then?

That means, in the worst-case scenario of a long-term Revis holdout, New York could place Lowery on the field opposite Cromartie and start first-round draft pick Kyle Wilson at the nickel cornerback position. That would still give the Jets one of the best secondaries in the league despite the absence of Revis Island.

WRONG! Of course they could do this, but it doesn’t mean the defense doesn’t skip a beat.  Where Joyner gives all the credit to the scheme, I think it’s the scheme and Revis’s play that makes everyone else so effective.  Revis is the high tide that floats all boats.   Sure, Rex is helping matters, but it’s the two together that make Revis such a compelling player and that helps them across the whole secondary.  Rex Ryan never had a corner of Revis’s caliber in Baltimore, and now that he’s had a taste for elite CB blood, he can’t be sated with anything less.