Rugby Metrics -- The Time Has Come -- The Future of Rugby

It's not often that I post about my own putative contributions to futurism, and my endeavours, but this time I will. This is about creating new knowledge about the sport of rugby using advanced technology and mathematics.

Moneyball. It all began when Michael Lewis, a statistics nerd and financial journalist, met up with Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s baseball club, and Bill James, the team statistician. Beane had been given the task of turning the club around and making it competitive. He was disadvantaged in many ways but his primary disadvantage was a lack of money. In professional sports, money fuels the competitiveness of a team by providing the
means to bid and compete for top players coming into the game or for those coming up for free agency. Beane ran a team with total salaries of approximately $40 million while teams like the New York Yankees spent $125 million per annum on salaries alone. Unable to compete in such a disadvantaged revenue situation, Beane, with the help of Lewis and James, decided to try another approach.

The trio postulated that the collective wisdom of game insiders (including players, managers, coaches, scouts, and the front office) was subjective and often flawed. This body of information had been used to develop baseball statistics and the trio considered the content of the statistics and the methodology of determining them to be relics of a 19th century view of the game. So, Lewis, Beane, and James decided to radically dispense with subjectivity in favour
of objectivity, and in doing so, spawned the concept of Sabermetrics.

Sabermetrics is now a feature of every professional team in North America. Sabermetrics involves taking all of the statistics in the sport and using data mining and statistical analysis, one determines the exact factors in a winning team.

For example, conventional wisdom said that a young pitcher with a blistering fastball was the key to winning baseball games. As it turns out, any pitcher with a higher than average number of ground-outs is worth more than a 100 mph fastball pitcher who throws a lot of home runs.

Advanced statistical analysis and information theory allows one to determine what is really a significant statistic for success. It is about time that this happened for the sport of rugby, and I am the person doing it.

I was in discussion with one of the owners of a premiership rugby team in the UK, and both of us agreed that the sport of rugby was ready to "tip" worldwide. We used the word tip in the sense of Malcolm Gladwell's "Tipping Point" where rugby would become the rage, in vogue and very popular. Rugby metrics will contribute to that tipping point. That and the fact that in civilised society, the last venue for warfare and blood and guts, is on the rugby field.

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