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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Approximate Value

Posted by Neil on May 22, 2012

We get a lot of questions about our Approximate Value system, so I thought it might be a good idea to re-run this explanatory post from December 2010...

Created by PFR founder Doug Drinen, the Approximate Value (AV) method is an attempt to put a single number on the seasonal value of a player at any position from any year (since 1950). The following links will help explain the theory behind the AV system:

Introductory Blog Posts:

  • Part I - this is where Doug explained, in very broad general terms, what his goal was in creating this metric, and what his strategy would be for building it.
  • Part II - this is where Doug explained, in fairly gruesome detail, how the system works for offensive players.
  • Parts III and IV were posted while Doug was fine-tuning the system for defensive players. He invited readers to give opinions on the results.
  • Here are a couple of examples of uses for the method. Studies like these would be hard to do without an AV-like method.

Doug's Brief AV Explanation:

"AV is not meant to be a be-all end-all metric. Football stat lines just do not come close to capturing all the contributions of a player the way they do in baseball and basketball. If one player is a 16 and another is a 14, we can't be very confident that the 16AV player actually had a better season than the 14AV player. But I am pretty confident that the collection of all players with 16AV played better, as an entire group, than the collection of all players with 14AV."

"Essentially, AV is a substitute for --- and a significant improvement upon, in my opinion --- metrics like 'number of seasons as a starter' or 'number of times making the pro bowl' or the like. You should think of it as being essentially like those two metrics, but with interpolation in between. That is, 'number of seasons as a starter' is a reasonable starting point if you're trying to measure, say, how good a particular draft class is, or what kind of player you can expect to get with the #13 pick in the draft. But obviously some starters are better than others. Starters on good teams are, as a group, better than starters on bad teams. Starting WRs who had lots of receiving yards are, as a group, better than starting WRs who did not have many receiving yards. Starters who made the pro bowl are, as a group, better than starters who didn't, and so on. And non-starters aren't worthless, so they get some points too."

Weighted Career Approximate Value

At the top of every player's PFR page, you will see "Weighted Career AV" and a ranking since 1950. This is Doug's way of balancing peak production against raw career totals; for each player, he computes the following weighted sum of seasonal AV scores:

100% of the player's best season, plus 95% of his 2nd-best season, plus 90% of his 3rd-best season, plus 85% of his 4th-best season, ....

And so on. You can read a more detailed explanation of this metric here.

(Note: "Weighted Career AV" should not be confused with "career AV", which is just the unweighted sum of a player's AV scores.)

Similar Players by AV

On a player's page, you may see a table marked "Similar Players". This uses a method Doug invented to find other players who were similar in terms of the quality and shape of their AV career arcs. You can read more about this process here and here.

Where to Find AV on the Site:

4 Comments | Posted in Advanced Stats, Announcement, Features,

Find Interleague Records and Head-to-Head Histories Using the Play Index

Posted by Neil on May 14, 2012

Did you know that you can use the B-R Play Index to search for information regarding interleague play? With games between leagues starting later this week, here are a handful of PI tricks:

* Search for great single-game or multigame player/team performances using the Game Finders. This lets you find trivia like the all-time winningest career pitchers in interleague play.

* Use the Streak Finders to look for long streaks in interleague games.

* Query franchise head-to-head records using the Head to Head Finder. This allows you to search for lists like the Mets' records vs. each opponent since 1997, which includes all of their interleague games.

* The Situational Finder can search teams' records in interleague games and find items like the teams who had the best interleague records in a single season.

Give them a try, and learn something new about interleague play.

Comments Off | Posted in Announcement,, Features

NBA Player Twitter Feeds

Posted by Neil on April 23, 2012

A quick feature note: just like we recently added player Twitter links to Baseball-Reference, we also have added about 500 players' Twitter links to their Basketball-Reference pages. (For example.)

As always, please let us know if we're missing anybody.

1 Comment | Posted in Announcement,, Features

NFL Draft Section

Posted by Neil on April 23, 2012

With the NFL Draft coming up this week, here's a reminder that you can check out the event's history in our Draft Section. You can also learn what kind of production your team can expect from each pick using the Draft Preview, and be sure to visit S-R's College Football site to view the college stats of this year's prospects.

Comments Off | Posted in Announcement, Draft, Features,

NHL Playoffs Section

Posted by Neil on April 18, 2012

To keep up with this year's playoffs, or review those of past years, be sure to check out H-R's Playoffs Section.

Comments Off | Posted in Announcement, Features,

BBR: Two Feature Updates

Posted by Justin Kubatko on April 17, 2012

This morning I updated a couple of things on

First, you can now select rows to sum on the player game logs. For example, go to Michael Jordan's 1986-87 Game Log. Suppose you want to see Jordan's statistics for his first five games that season. To do this, click on the row for his first game of the season (the row should now be highlighted in blue), then click on the row for his fifth game of the season. A pop-up will appear with Jordan's per game averages for those games.

Second, I added an option to the Player Game Finder that will allow you to search by the player's game number rather than just the team game number. For example, here are the highest scoring debuts of the last 10 seasons.

2 Comments | Posted in Announcement,, Features, Play Index

B-R Features: 2012 Box Scores

Posted by Neil on April 6, 2012

2012 Box Scores and Play by Play -

Just a reminder that you can access this season's boxscores in calendar form using the 2012 boxscores page.

1 Comment | Posted in Announcement,, Features

Free Play Index Trial & 34 PI Searches You Need to Know

Posted by Neil on April 3, 2012

We gave this to people as a promotion at the SABR Analytics Convention, and now we're offering it to you -- a free Play Index trial subscription that works through April 15! Just visit to create an account, and enter the coupon code "Analytics" to redeem the free trial.

As you're doing that, also check out this list of 34 example Play Index searches, the types of queries you can run yourself using the trial subscription:

5 Comments | Posted in Announcement,, Features, HowTo, Play Index

Happy Opening Day 2012!

Posted by Neil on April 3, 2012

With baseball triumphantly returning for the 2012 season, here are some Opening Day features we have here at B-R:

Give them a try, and enjoy the games this week.

Comments Off | Posted in Announcement, Features, Play Index

BBR: Play-By-Play, Shot Charts, and Plus/Minus Reports

Posted by Justin Kubatko on March 31, 2012

Just a quick note to let you know that I have added play-by-play summaries, shot charts, and plus/minus reports to the Box Scores section for all of the games in our database that have play-by-play data.

I hope you enjoy these new additions, and please let us know if you find anything amiss.

6 Comments | Posted in Announcement,, Features

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