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Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract 2014 Paperback – 7 Aug 2014

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About the Author

Rob Vollman, Tom Awad, and Iain Fyffe are three of the most well-known and longest-serving names in the world of hockey analytics. Working together since 2000, they have since co-authored nine books, developed dozens of key innovations, and published countless articles. While modern advanced statistical hockey analysis stands on a mountain of complexity, their work is best known for being expressed in clear, focused and applicable terms, and often presented in a humourous and entertaining way. Whether you're arguing about who should be in the Hall of Fame or which team made the best free agent signing, their objective approach will add clear, cold facts to the discussion in a style that is undeniably engaging — and convincing! Rob's most popular innovations include Player Usage Charts, Quality Starts for goaltenders, measuring a player's cap value with Goals Versus Salary (GVS) and advances in the field of NHL Translations and League Equivalencies (NHLe), to understand how well players coming from other leagues will perform. Tom is best known for the field's leading catch-all statistic, Goals Versus Threshold (GVT), the VUKOTA projection system, the shot-based Delta statistic, and advances in the field of shot quality. Iain's credentials include the Inductinator for predicting who will be in the Hall of Fame, the Projectinator for projecting the careers of prospects, his Point Allocations system, the Disciplined Aggression Proxy, and his key contributions to our historical records, such as Dan Bain's career statistics. Their analysis can be found regularly at sites and publications such as Hockey Prospectus, ESPN Insider, the Hockey Research Journal, Bleacher Report, Arctic Ice Hockey and Montreal's Journal Metro, and has been featured in the Hockey News, the Globe and Mail, the Washington Post, McKeen's magazine, Hockey Night in Canada, and radio programs in over a dozen cities.

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Amazon.com: 16 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Advanced stats have flaws and limitations - no reputable analyst claims otherwise - but awareness of these analytics and of an a 16 Aug 2014
By Jaime Eisner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
**Full review here - http://www.fiveforhowling.com/2014/8/16/6007945/hockey-abstract-2014

The world of advanced stats in hockey has changed dramatically. Gone are the days where advanced analytics are widely laughed at and gone (to work for NHL teams) are some of the pioneers who helped bring #FancyStats out of the dark ages.

The fight for awareness, not blind acceptance, continues.

Advanced stats have flaws and limitations - no reputable analyst claims otherwise - but awareness of these analytics and of an alternative way to view the sport we all love is something everyone should at least give a chance.

For those interested in why things happen on the ice and the process that leads to the end result, there is no better way to dive head-first into exploring this new frontier than Rob Vollman's new book: Hockey Abstract 2014.

Whether you consider yourself an expert or beginner in the world of advanced stats, Vollman's new book acts as a Rosetta Stone, of sorts, written in language that satiates the desires of stats nerds and novices alike.

New to this year's version is the addition of noted advanced stats gurus in Tom Awad and Iain Fyffe, who bring new perspectives to topics such as score effects, shot quality and the value of enforcers. Hockey Abstract 2014's broad appeal is not limited to just the authors.

What makes this book special is the crossover appeal it has with its various sections. Even the most anti-stats person can find enjoyment in Fyffe's Hall of Fame standards section which walks the reader through implicit patterns Hockey Hall of Fame voters have based on previous inductions. Each subsection (goaltenders, defensemen, forward, pre-expansion, post-expansion, pre-war, post-war) boils down all the math into a simple "Inductinator Score" with 100 being the baseline for Hall of Fame induction. Fyffe then uses those same numbers to projected potential future Hall of Famers. All the math is explained, but it is simplified enough to place in just a couple paragraphs while still explaining where and why the statistical emphasis lies in the chosen categories.

**Full review here - http://www.fiveforhowling.com/2014/8/16/6007945/hockey-abstract-2014
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
While Vollman did a great job last year (and another great job in this ... 20 Aug 2014
By J.J. from Kansas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Excerpt from review at Winging It In Motown - Full review here:

New to this year's version are contributors Tom Awad and Iain Fyffe. While both were mentioned heavily in last year's version, this time around they're full contributors and each have written several sections of the new book. This creates several positives for the book. For one, it makes the project feel more open and approachable. While Vollman did a great job last year (and another great job in this version) of referencing existing expertise to bolster the analysis, having extra contributors takes it away from feeling like just one gatekeeper presenting the overall state of hockey analytics. Additionally, the differences in each author's voice adds a bit of refreshing variety.

The separation of the voices to give the book a bit more of a community feel also helps in how Hockey Abstract is laid out. Where last year's book had the feel of a "fun" part and a separate technically heavy part, the way this one is laid out mixes the two ideas extremely well.

Returning are attempts to find the best skaters and goalies in the league at various specialties and the team usage charts I've come to love. These already-strong staples have been bolstered by additional considerations which I feel have added value, especially the team-by-team section which factors in the usage charts, additional context, and even rates each team on 13 categories identified as important to success. Additionally, the new contributions include interesting discussion pieces such as Fyffe's study on what factors lead to a player's induction into the Hall of Fame from different eras. I was also extremely satisfied to see he took the time to show the scores for not-yet-eligible players because I found myself constantly wondering where Nicklas Lidstrom stands by his measures (because any measure that wouldn't have him as a stone-cold lock is one I'd easily dismiss).

Probably one of my favorite parts is the section dedicated to shot quality which takes a very serious look at trying to account for how much more dangerous one shot can be compared to another, which has long been a contentious issue in discussions which include possession metrics used in attempts to quantify player contribution.

The technical stuff has survived the new layout, but instead of being pushed down in the book where it was necessary to anchor the analysis while staying out of the way of the fun, it's now mixed into each section where the conversation would naturally call for such study. I found that the logical progression of the analyses are easy to follow while answering the questions which popped up over the normal course of each section.

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An excellent resource for casual fans and stat-heads alike. 21 Aug 2014
By M. Wagner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Fans of the advanced stats community for hockey have seen a lot of resources "go dark" this summer as people like Tyler Dellow, Cam Charron, and Darryl Metcalf have taken jobs with NHL organizations, but there are still resources out there for the fan interested in using these tools to understand the game.

One of the most interesting over the past few years have been the Player Usage Charts pioneered by Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract, and much like last year, he's collected his work from the previous season to make it one easily accessible reference. Unlike last year, though, Vollman has been joined by two co-authors, Tom Awad and Iain Fyffe,

If those names sound familiar, there's a reason. Awad is the inventor of the GVT stat (Goals Versus Threshold), which attempts to provide something like baseball's VORP rankings for players, while Fyffe is a hockey fan and historian who has spent the last several years exploring the strange and wonderful history of this game over at his own site, Hockey Historysis.

The book is essentially divided into two halves. In one, Vollman, Awad, and Fyffe spend time asking questions (What seems to be the "Standards" for making it into the Hall of Fame? What are we talking about when we try to determine shot quality? What makes a good player, well, good?), then walk readers through stats and analysis as they search for answers not just in the current NHL, but previous eras all the way back to the founding of the NHL.

This year also features some expanded analysis of goaltending, which was something the previous volume was a bit light on. One of the first major areas they break down is "Quality Starts" for goaltenders over the past three seasons - and it's interesting to see where Sergei Bobrovsky shows up versus, say, Steve Mason. (For the record, Bob is at 11th overall with 60.8% QS, just behind Jimmy Howard and Jaroslav Halak, while Mason appears on the second page of the chart at 40th overall, with a 49.2%)

There;s also some neat work looking at the quality of shots that goalies face, including tracking what they call "Home Plate Save Percentage" that goes something like this:

"If you draw lines from the goal posts to the two defensive zone faceoff dots, and then straight up to the top of the faceoff circles, a straight line connecting them both will create a zone where the most dangerous shots generally occur."

There's a breakdown of shots faced both inside and outside that "Home Plate", and while I won't spoil where Bob lands on this one, how about the fact that he's faced about 1500 "HP" shots in the years measured, and stopped 1300 of them? (1302, if we're being exact.) . Vollman even takes a crack at adapting the Player Usage Chart model to goalies, looking at the shooting percentage of opponents vs. the average distance of shots, and makes a compelling case for who some of the best goalies in the league are based on these metrics.

One weakness, though, is that these numbers don't show the impact of a player changing teams. I'd love to know how much Bob's move from Philly to Columbus changed his home plate numbers, for example, or if his shot distances changed.

The second half of the book deals with team by team analysis and breakdowns, comparisons, and rankings. One thing that leapt out at me when going over the book for this review was a year by year progression chart of Corsi ratings for each team, which then ranks them by the overall average. Columbus doesn't look too great overall right now, at an average of of 48.3, but when you consider that they made a leap from a 46.3 in 2012-2013 to a 50.9 rating in 2013-2014, it shows a dramatic change that will hopefully continue to pay major dividends on the ice as the club continues to develop under head coach Todd Richards and his assistants.

In the specific breakdowns for the Jackets, Vollman has some good things to say about the arrival of Scott Hartnell, and I have to admit to getting a laugh out of his grumbling suggestion that the coaching staff keeps Jack Johnson on the top pairing just to annoy the advanced stats crowd.

He still sees some weaknesses for the team (in particular the shootout), but identifies quite a few strengths, and predicts they'll be in the mix for a playoff spot in the Metro once again.

I appreciate advanced stats, though I admit I'm not the hardest number cruncher out there, and found Hockey Abstract to be a valuable resource last year. This year's edition looks equally promising, and I suspect that a lot of fans will find the work that the authors have put in to be interesting and useful. I strongly recommend the book to anyone interested in using it as a "foot in the door" or a chance to peek into some of the attempts to create better ways to understand the game at every position.

(Disclosure: I was provided a copy to review for my blog, The Cannon (www.jacketscannon.com) )
Best #fancystats primer you'll find 20 Aug 2014
By Kevin B - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Excerpt from my full review (found here http://blueseatblogs.com/2014/08/20/reviewing-rob-vollmans-hockey-abstract-2014/):

Vollman’s greatest strength is in putting what appear to be complicated formulas, graphs and figures into words that anyone can understand, whether they’re good at math or not. In fact, I’ll readily admit that I glossed over many of the charts in the book, because the real value is in Vollman’s translation. I’m much more concerned with what the numbers mean than how they’re reached, so I enjoyed Vollman’s thought process and conclusions most of all.

Many fans that have been slow to embrace these new statistics are probably turned off by blog posts that feature dozens of graphs and impossible to understand math language, but Vollman manages to keep things fun while covering a pretty complicated subject. In addition to informative team by team breakdowns, Vollman tackles questions like “What value do enforcers have in today’s NHL?” and “Who is the best power play (and penalty kill) specialist?” Meanwhile, Fyffe offers an extremely interesting study on the Hall of Fame committee’s statistical standards.
A must read for our followers: Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract 2014 22 Sep 2014
By Mike Burse - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This review was originally posted at www.mikesmumbles.com

The original inspiration and statistics that were brought into the world of Women's Hockey by Mike's Mumbles were largely based on the work of Hockey Statistics guru Rob Vollman. Between Value Over Replacement Player and Quality Starts, both were pioneered at Hockey Abstract.

Granted the book itself is more closely linked to NHL hockey than Women's hockey at this point. However many if not all the concepts can be transferred to the Women's game. This book is a must read for any Hockey fan that has even a passing interest in statistics.

Rob Vollman's methods of breaking down the numbers help to "make the numbers make sense" as we like to say here at Mike's Mumbles.
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