Hollinger or hogwash?

I love America. You can invent the most random, useless thing in the history of man, and somebody will buy it. Just look at John Hollinger.

No, he’s not that creepy inventor who graces the airwaves at 3 a.m. He’s the “so-called” statistical juggernaut that has put APBRmetrics on the map. To put it simply, APBR (Association for Professional Basketball Research)metrics is a way to quantify basketball statistics into pieces of information that people can thereby use to make valuable comparisons.

Hollinger has developed systems such as NBA’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER), the Hollinger Power Rankings and the Hollinger Game Score.

I like to think of these mathematical formulas as tiny little machines, like something you’d see in a Dr. Seuss book. You put a little heap of garbage on the conveyer belt, and 30 seconds later, you get a beautifully formed box of refuse with a little bow on top. In actuality, the boxes are worthless, but some people will try to pass them off as really neat, little gifts.

Take two guys who are in a heated battle over who had a better game last night, Kobe or Kevin Garnett. To make it completely random, we’ll use generic names like Matt and Chris.

Matt, being the Laker homer that he is, thinks that the 35 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals Kobe Bryant had against the Utah Jazz was more impressive than Kevin Garnett’s 22 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks he had against the New Jersey Nets. Chris, being the bandwagon jumper he is, disagrees and goes with the Celtic forward’s line.

Both guys argue until one thing leads to another, and Matt kills Chris with a hockey stick. What a tragedy.

At Matt’s arraignment, the judge will say, “If only you had used Hollinger’s Game Score formula.”

According to that wonderful little invention, Bryant’s line would have yielded a Game Score of 25.9. Garnett’s only earned him a 20.21.

What Hollinger’s little Poop-O-Matic 9000 didn’t take into account is that Garnett had the game-saving block and then hit a buzzer-beating jump shot to give the Celtics the win. Bryant, on the other hand, didn’t take a single shot in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers got blown out in Salt Lake City.

Beside the fact that you can’t quantify intangibles like game-changing performances and huge shots, the problem with things like the Hollinger Game Score is that the formulas are based upon, and therefore appropriately weighted, by what statistics Hollinger thinks are most important.

Sure, Hollinger has tested his formulas against thousands of previous games, but when it comes down to making the formulas, it is still just a perfected opinion of what Hollinger values.

Lately, Hollinger has put down the calculator and actually tried to offer some analysis of the little boxes of crap his formulas produce.

Gem statements like when Hollinger wrote that Rashard Lewis (a 6-10, outside-shooting forward) makes Hedo Turkoglu (another 6-10, outside-shooting forward) “utterly redundant” (July 3 “Magic’s big splash in free agency raises big questions”) are as priceless as they are ridiculous. The Magic are 7-2, and Turkoglu is averaging 18.4 points per game despite the fact that Lewis is averaging 20.7 ppg. I guess some redundancy is good?

Eventually, when Hollinger’s basketball formulas fade into obscurity, Hollinger will probably try to jump subject matter and start evaluating humans on a more personal level. At that time, Hollinger will spend six months developing formulas like the CER and SER. This way men can properly quantify their wives’ Cooking Efficiency Rating, and women can evaluate their husbands’ Sexual Efficiency Rating. That is where I see Hollinger leaving his true mark.

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