Just the Stats: Putting the Team on Their Back

The following statistics are completely true pieces of information. Use them at your own risk. Results may vary.

Russell Westbrook is Playing Like a Madman
Kevin who? After three games, Russell Westbrook has 116 points, 37 rebounds, and 35 assists, totals that no player in NBA history has reached in the opening trio of games. Sure, his 38.7 PPG, 12.3 RPG, and 11.7 APG are likely unsustainable, but if there’s one thing I love, it’s fun with on-pace-for statistics in small sample sizes. Westbrook’s usage rate is 40.2%, second in the league among players averaging 20+ minutes per game. He has assisted on 59.3% of his teammate’s field goals (tops in the NBA). He is the most involved player in the league right now, with a Player Impact Estimate rating of 28.7%. Without Durant by his side, Westbrook is now The Man in Oklahoma City, and his thunder is louder than ever (pun absolutely intended).

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Hockey Has Advanced Stats, Too
It is true that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take (h/t to Wayne Gretzky (or Michael Scott) for that quote). However, it is not necessarily true that 100% of your shots will lead to victory. After one-tenth of the NHL season, the correlation between team shot attempts and points percentage is 0.021. That’s as meaningless as it gets, and you can thank the Toronto Maple Leafs (1st in shot attempts, 27th in points percentage), Los Angeles Kings (3rd, 22nd), and Minnesota Wild (26th, 4th) for that. If you’re looking for a stronger predictor of team performance, turn your TV off once the first goal is scored. Teams who open the scoring win 62% of games, led by the Montréal Canadiens and their 7-0-0 record when putting up the first goal (8-0-1 overall).

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Jon Lester Saves the Cubs’ Season (For Now)
The Chicago Cubs needed a win to keep their season alive and turned to Jon Lester for six solid innings in a Game 5 win. Lester is the only active pitcher besides Madison Bumgarner who can stake claim to a spot on the list of all-time postseason pitching greats, and it’s because as Lester goes, so do his teams. In the two postseasons that Lester has pitched in all three rounds (2013, 2016), he has thrown 67.1 innings and allowed 13 earned runs, good for a 1.74 ERA. Lester has a 7-2 record in those two years, and he can thank strand rates of 94.2% in 2013 and 89.2% this season. Some might say it’s luck, and some might say that Lester has what it takes to get through high-leverage, postseason innings. Whatever the case may be, he and his teammates get to put on a uniform for at least one more game.

 

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