Monday, October 31, 2011

Alert: Peyton Manning does play defense

A lot of people are saying Peyton Manning doesn't play defense and the Colts defense is to blame for the decline in their performance (0-8 after going 10-6).

But at least someone at ESPN understands why the QB does influence the defensive statistics:
Brady managed only 198 yards passing, and Roethlisberger deserved some credit in containing the two-time NFL Most Valuable Player. Roethlisberger wasn't just the best offensive player at Heinz Field. He might have been the best defense. 

Roethlisberger's efficient effort allowed the Steelers to convert eight of their first 10 third downs. That kept Brady on the sideline as Pittsburgh dominated time of possession (39:22 to 20:38). In fact, Roethlisberger threw as many passes (50) as the Patriots had plays. 
The Colts have always had a better offense and worse defense than people realize. The fact that the Colts have been able to drive the ball so well and Peyton has thrown so few interceptions has given the Colts defense time to breath and rest, good field position, and limited the number of possessions per game. That last effect is the easiest to quantify as we can compare how good the Colts defense has been since 2003 in scoring defense and scoring defense per possession.

Per Posession
Rank Gap

From the last column you can see that every single year during the Colt's run of success the defense had a higher scoring defense rank than it's per possession rank, thanks apparently to the Colts offense keeping them off the field. It's harder to quantify (or demonstrate) the benefits from fresh legs, "playing with a lead," and good field position. We can try to estimate these effects by doing some statistical estimates of how, on average, an offense not turning the ball over as much and having more success with drives (in yards) will influence a defense and then seeing how the Colts compare to other teams after these factors have been eliminated.

That would take a lot of work but I might come back and do that if I have time.

Update: Bill Barnwell notices that QBs have an impact on defense:

The only thing that's really kept them afloat in 2011 has been the long fields provided to them by the New England offense; even when Tom Brady turns the ball over, it's usually been deep inside opposition territory. The 73 possessions the Patriots have faced have started with an average of 76 yards to go for a touchdown, the deepest starting field position in football. 

Since he is a Patriots fan he seems unlikely to acknowledge that this observation applies to the Colts during their run of success. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jeff Sachs jumps the shark

Jeff Sachs on TV. The metaphor in the title is clearly apt.

I love Jeff Sachs, he is probably the most influential academic of our time. His writing isn't bad either and he gives a great speech. You can donate to his anti-malaria NGO here.

Better late than never

I meant to blog this link a year ago. It got lost in the bookmarks toolbar and was discovered, barely breathing earlier today.

The best line is in the comments, by the original author:
What is striking is how much emphasis we put on causal identification and other statistical issues, and then how imprecise and casual we are about the process, the reasons, or the mechanism. It’s a striking contrast.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why I try not to read op-ed columnists

This column is a good example of the kind of writing that made me, for the most part, stop reading op-ed columnists (even Paul Krugman). I still read op-eds like the ones on Project Syndicate, though.

Let me quote some things:

"Half the country isn't speaking to the other half," . . . [L]iberals . . . know little of the South and who don't wish to know of it, who write it off as apart from them, maybe beneath them. [. . .] Occupy Wall Street makes an economic critique that echoes the president's, though more bluntly: the rich are bad, down with the elites. It's all ad hoc, more poetry slam than platform.
Peggy Noonan thinks we have a problem in that some people aren't listening. But she obviously didn't listen to many people at OWS if she thinks you can talk about "the" argument OWS makes.

There is also this "zinger."
Where is the president in all this? He doesn't seem to be as worried about his country's continuance as his own.
I mean I don't know what to make of this column. It doesn't have a point beyond "Obama bad, Ryan good." It's not funny. It's a waste of my time. And that's why I stopped reading op-eds.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The 53%

Some people who think "the 99%" Occupy Wall Street protesters are spending too much time begging for government handouts and not enough time fixing their own problems are calling themselves "the 53%." CNN has the story.

The irony is that this is the example they use of someone not wanting government handouts:
A public school teacher in Vancouver, Wash., Decker and his wife lived below the poverty line until they decided to go back to school to become educators. 
I think there are plenty of people in America who are lazy, although when you're talking about policy the solutions are going to come from asking why so many people are lazy. For example, Asian kids spend a lot more time on homework than black kids do. Why? It's not because all black people just chose to be lazy. It probably has something to do with how their parents are raising them and how their teachers instruct them.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The 1%

Whenever I hear people say that they want the 1% (the richest 1% of people) to pay more and give their fair share I think wonder how many of them are .... well, in the top 1%.

I think you need an income of $40,000 per person in your household to be in the top 1% of people. Isn't that a pretty big minority of the people complaining?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

China and the Death Penalty

This is a sick world we live in. (HT: Marginal Revolution)

A few thoughts on this story. First, my girlfriend was talking to me about this yesterday and her comment is that it's appearently very common for people who try to help to get blamed. They mention some anecdotes in the piece but I think this explanation is undersold, esp. since diffusion of responsibility can't explain the Kitty Genovese episode much less what I will dub Chinese Kitty Genovese.

Second, I hate it when people comment on this story and say things like

A rational, forward-thinking individual trying to maximize his own utility…so mustn’t this be the efficient outcome that maximizes social welfare?

Extra points to those who can set up and solve this cost-minimization problem
Yes, it's true that some idiots don't believe in externalities, behavioral biases, or any kind of market failure. They are crazy. But they are few and far between. The externality from murder is so obvious you don't need to know the concept of externality to see it.

Third, I like extreme examples where price theory is the (apparent) explanation for some otherwise completely implausible behavior. This is the main reason I'm pro death penalty. The statistical evidence is, as far as I can tell, not going to answer the question, but the fact that 1 person is willing to murder someone to avoid paying a fine suggests to me that at least a couple people are willing to not murder to avoid getting executed. And I'd vote to kill at least 10 murderers and 1 innocent person to save 2 innocent person.

I hope the Chinese government executes the fucker that ran over that girl.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cain Pain or Cain Gain

The Tax Policy Center released this table with information on how much in federal taxes (implicit or explicit) people would pay under the current policy and under 9-9-9.

The vast majority of people, as you would expect, would pay more under the plan. I call the net increase in money you give to Uncle Sam your Cain Pain and, for the handful of people out there where its relevant, the amount you would save the Cain Gain.

My Cain Pain would be around $2500. What's yours?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cassidy on 9-9-9

John Cassidy has a good explanation of why most people should see the Cain 9-9-9 plan as, basically, a 27% income tax. That's a bit of an exaggeration because not all of the corporate tax would be passed on to workers and the 9% sales tax is really an 8.2% tax. But even at 25%, that's a big tax hike for most people.

One thing he wrote, however, annoys me so I'm just going to point it out:
There’d be no way around [the sales tax] either, unless you choose to save some of your income, which many poor and middle-income families can’t afford to do.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Quote of the Day: Steve Jobs Edition

Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?
Thus spoke the late Steve Jobs to John Sculley, then CEO of Pepsi, in the 1980s.

Steve died at 56 but he lived had more than a few lifetimes worth of experiences in business. This isn't the most famous Jobs quote ("one more thing..." and "insanely great" come to mind) but I think it's the one that's most worth remembering.