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A Game of Numbers

Coaches utilize statistics to set their lineups and game plan

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Behind all the matchups, split second decisions and bravado of sports, there is another game at work.

A game that values numbers over a player’s flashiness.

A game that could be the difference between a win and a loss.

This is the game of statistics, formulas and numbers that can tell more about a player’s respective performances.

“I develop my lineup a lot of the time on statistics,” said Cosumnes River College softball head coach Kristy Schroeder.

Since the early 2000s, advanced statistics have taken a forefront in sports. Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane was one of the first to look deeper into a player’s numbers. A move that has now come to be known as “Moneyball.”

Beane’s ideas have slowly trickled their way down to college sports and even more recently, community college sports.

Pullquote Photo

It’s kind of a way to read between the lines and maximize efficiency”

— Nicholas Podesta

While Cosumnes River College may not harbor the next Beane, it does boast an assistant basketball coach who sees the value of advanced statistics.

Nicholas Podesta, also the school’s sports information officer, has collected a reasonable sample size over the last four years and has started to work what he has found into the men’s basketball team.

“It’s kind of a way to read between the lines and maximize efficiency,”Podesta said. “It can find the value [of a player] that’s a little bit hidden.”

In order to implement this Moneyball-like style, Podesta said he spends about four to five hours per contest, watching film and pulling data.

Coming into a game, these advanced metrics can help CRC see what player groupings work for the other team and find a way to attack that group, Podesta said.

In regards to CRC, these numbers can see “how well the guys are doing on a per possession basis,” he said.

“You want the best five guys on the floor at any given time and we do that by maximizing a player’s value,” Podesta said. “Value isn’t necessarily the guy that scores the most points, it can be a particular guy that mixes well with another group of players.”

While statistics can measure many things, women’s basketball coach Coral Sage admits she is more “old school” in her approach.

“As a player I was that ‘gonna give you everything I got’ kind of player,” she said. “I tell my girls you got to bring effort and attitude every day to practice.”

However, Sage said she still looks at some numbers when she game plans for a contest.

“The big ones I look at are scoring, rebounding and turnovers,” she said. “Whoever is scoring and rebounding for us is probably going to play.”

While Podesta and Sage seem to have opposite approaches, Schroeder may be that coach that is somewhere in between.

Softball is a sport that lends itself to statistics more, so she follows that sort of classic approach to setting her lineup, she said.

“The player with the highest on base percentage is usually going to be my first hitter, the player with high RBIs will hit third,” she said.

However, she does add a wrinkle that seems to add more potency to her team’s offense.

“I pair my kids with more speed together, so that they’re going to be able to complement each other,” she said.

In a world where there seems to be a million and one ways to shape a team, statistics may have earned its spot to be that last one on that million.

But, all three CRC coaches said that effort cannot be measured and that is the one quality they want to see in all their players.

“You need to bring 100 percent effort and the right attitude,” Sage said. “If you do that, stats are going to follow.”

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A Game of Numbers