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Margin of Victory and You

Niall poses an interesting question over at the 247: what "is" a blowout? 15 points? 20 points? 10 points against a really good team? 40 against a really bad one? In my mind, it's a terribly subjective thing, a you say tomato, I say tomato sort of deal. But the whole "margin of victory" issue makes me think of something I saw a while ago.

Football Outsiders, a football analysis website, once came up with a sort of classification of games. Here are the 4 ways they categorize wins:

  • GUTS: A win by 1-8 points over a winning team
  • STOMPS: A win by 14+ points over a losing team
  • SKATES: A win by 1-8 points over a losing team
  • DOMINATIONS: A win by 14+ points over a winning team

Now, obviously those are football numbers. 1-8 points would qualify as a point total that could be made up in a single possession, etc. I don't think a straight possession translation from NFL to NBA makes much sense in this case. I'd hardly call a 6+ point victory over a winning team a "domination" even though a 2 possession win might warrant that title in the NFL. Nor would I call a 6+ win over a team like the Grizzlies a "stomp." That's not why I bring up Football Outsiders' method though. The interesting part is the conclusions FO drew from their categories. In essence, they discovered that huge wins over poor opponents ("stomps" from above) are far better at predicting future success than are close wins over good opponents ("guts"). A team that consistently destroys bad opponents is likely to be better than a team that "guts" out wins over good teams. Roll that over in your brain a few times, and see if it makes sense intuitively. What's that? It doesn't? Well, too bad, the numbers prove it.

Last year, the Hornets' had some serious beat downs on the low life scum of the league. We started off with some crazy record like 18-3 against teams with losing records, almost all of them of the "stomp" variety. The thing that strikes me about this year is how few (relatively) games we've played against the NBA's dirt slugs. We lost to both Charlotte and Sacramento. However, I think most of you would agree with me that the Hornets were in a "will Peja play? how about Chandler? wait, you mean I have to guard somebody?" style funk that they've since emerged from. We beat OKC a couple times. Other than that, we've had close-ish losses versus the Lakers (7), Rockets (9), and Hawks (8), all great teams. What's my point here? This is yet another positive way to view the first 16 games. We've played somewhat poorly, but we've played poorly the "good" way, if that makes any sense.