Sabermetrics Declares Columbia As MCHC Playoff Favorite
3rd floor, Bank of America Building—New York City
To the untrained hockey eye, Columbia’s last week of hockey may have been disappointing. With an 8-5 loss in the first annual Winter Classic against STAC and then finishing their regular season off with a critical 7-6 OT loss vs. Kings Point, Columbia fell to number two in the MCHC standings giving STAC their first ever MCHC conference championship, in which their twitter account celebrated like the Nashville Predators.
After the Winter Classic, some STAC fans even took to twitter to gloat about the win, begging Columbia to post about the loss. Columbia’s official team twitter responded with a half-truth saying they had no respondents available to help this STAC fan. As someone on the inside, I knew exactly what was going on behind the scenes. Columbia Hockey Writers, Quant Corp executives, and head coach Bruce Baker (in a freshly dry-cleaned three-piece suede suit) were too busy watching the game film looking for underlying analytics and sabermetrics to explain what had happened that night. STAC fans seemed displeased at the length of this process and seemed to only care about the most basic stat there was: STAC 8 Columbia 5. After filling out the police reports dealing with the kidnapping of Columbia’s Marching Band, the Columbia Sabermetric Association made an astonishing discovery: if you were to take out the fan interference coefficient factor, Columbia’s odds to win that game increased nearly tenfold. This shocking discovery obviously caused some distress throughout the office, so Head Sabermetrician Jeremy “Quant” Coste sent everyone home for the rest of the week for some much-needed recovery time.
By the time the bandages were taken off, and the internal wounds had recovered, Columbia had another game to play. Quant, staring out his top floor office window looking across the street at the 3rd floor of the building next door, decided to follow this game not by watching the scoreboard, but, for the first time ever, conducting live sabermetrical analysis of the game as it happened. I must warn you; the results of this analysis are so shocking that the rest of this article is rated PG-13.
After the first intermission the score was 1-0 for King’s Point. It was very naïve of me to not think anything of it. Columbia was playing alright, and Justin Paik was making his highlight reel saves look routine, per usual. Quant facetimed to tell me the underlying numbers showed that Columbia had a better chance to win the game than it previously seemed:
Weston Goodman’s Impact Zone Rating was already projected to hit 98.452, which obviously would set a league record.
Arieh Soferr had a pinpoint skater factor per 60 minutes of 102.4
Ben “Astro” Vermette already had a career high 9 changes on the back-check
During the second period, you could see the play was shifting in Columbia’s favour. The score was tied at 3 in the second intermission so we knew that the underlying numbers would make a huge difference in the game. Quant updated me with some more underlying numbers:
Dean Foskett had set a new career high in the Insults through 40-minute category with 74.
Michael Casserly’s adjusted Pennyson ratio was 8:5
Andy Dunn’s shifts per 60(sixty) was projected to reach 42(fourty)(two)
Chris Mendell reportedly had eight (8)(!) motivational speeches
Bruce Baker had a career low Contemplations of Sending Franklin to Bahanhd.
Columbia’s team Family Unity Factor score was projected to reach new levels.
While most of those categories are straight forward, I had to ask Quant to further explain the Family Unity Factor score, and when he did, I knew Columbia was in for a big third period.
The Family Unity Factor score goes way back into the origins of hockey. Long before twitter rivalries and advanced analytics the one sabermetric that was taken was the Family Unity Factor score. This score associates a feeling of family amongst people in a group or community and when added to a sporting event can prove almost without fail which team is projected to win the game. Normally this would not impact the game too much because most teams have very similar scores. But because the game was played on Sunday February 16th, the day before Family day in Canada, Columbia’s two Canadian players had an increase in their feeling of family. This increase vastly improved Columbia’s Family Unity Factor score, and therefore Columbia’s chance to win. This was evident in their third period play.
Columbia started the third on fire, receiving offense from unusual suspects. Arieh Soferr striped the puck at the defensive blueline and went on a breakaway to put Columbia ahead 5-3. Before the puck even crossed the goalline, Columbia’s bench could be heard audibly throughout the Tri-State area. Some say their excitement for Sofferchek to even have a chance to score his first of the season played a role in Soferr actually doing it. I’m not so sure, I only believe in sabermetrics, not voodoo. Either way, Soferrchek put a blazing wrist shot past the King’s Point goalie to extend the lead. Soon after, Eitan Hoffman decided it was his turn as he put in a rebound to extend Columbia’s lead to 3 with 10 minutes remaining. The play away from the puck could also be attributed to an increased Family Unity Factor score. Astro voted to not change on the backcheck for once and was seen making great defensive plays on the penalty kill. Weston Goodman had one of the largest clean hits in MCHC history. Justin Paik continued to make highlight reel saves look routine.
This was all the evidence I needed to place Columbia as the favourite to win the MCHC in their playoffs next weekend. Columbia’s turn around season can be attributed to many things, but at the end of the day, like most things in hockey, the turnaround was caused by a group of players becoming a team. Look for this team to do special things in the upcoming playoffs.
Columbia went on to blow a three-goal lead late in the third and eventually lose the game in overtime, dropping them to #2 rank in the MCHC and ultimately giving them a much harder playoff opponent in Suffolk.
Mark Rassell is a Junior Reporter for the Columbia University Men’s Hockey Lions. His love of statistics and analytics has led him to start the Church of the Sabermetrician’s, which is a group of people who come together and look at numbers from 6:30-7:30 on Tuesday evenings at the local community center, provided the gym isn’t being used for rec basketball.