From the editor’s playbook

Numbers never lie*


*But numbers can be deceiving.

I saw a stat over the weekend, after the Philadelphia Eagles’ upset victory over the Chicago Bears that made me go “wow.”

Scott Barrett of shared on Twitter that Nick Foles is first on the all-time leaders list in postseason passer rating (min. 150 attempts). Listed below him, in order, are Bart Starr, Kurt Warner, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. That’s an impressive group of individuals.

For those who don’t know, passer rating is a measure of the performance of passers. In the NFL, passer rating is on a scale from 0 to 158.3 using a complicated formula that I won’t bore you with. That is to say Foles, according to this stat, has had the best statistical performance for a quarterback all-time in the playoffs.

Except that’s not really the case. Note that “min. 150 attempts” line. That means when compiling the list of qualified candidates for this stat, Barret picked the arbitrary number of “150 attempts” to get the result he wants.

In fairness to Barrett, he admitted that indeed that’s what he did, but Foles would have been first in the list if the minimum requirement was 120 attempts and second in the list if the number was 75.

That is a prime example of a favorite line of mine: Numbers never lie, but they can be manipulated.

When you hear someone spout statistics and numbers at you, be wary of the parameters being used. For instance, if I were to say, “I’m the best sports reporter at the newspaper,” that may sound good to someone who doesn’t know the dynamics of the Gonzales Inquirer, but for those who do, you can call me out and say, “well yeah, you’re the only sports reporter there.”

Every so often I joke with my brother’s wife, telling her she’s my favorite sister-in-law I have. Should be noted, she’s my only sister-in-law.

Parameters matter. That’s why when you see a statistic, it’s important you understand where that number is coming from in order to get the full grasp of the message behind said number.

Let me reiterate, numbers themselves don’t lie. Two plus two should always equal four. But if I change the parameters, I can make it look as if two plus two equal 100.

*Numbers never lie, but they can be deceiving.