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Why James Sims shouldn't be a workhorse running back for KU in 2013

"Why is James Sims a good running back?"

James Sims.

James Sims. by Jesse Newell

If I asked the average Kansas football fan that question, my guess is that I would get two main responses.

• In only nine games in 2012, Sims was second in the Big 12 with 1,013 rushing yards.

• Sims led the Big 12 in 2012 with 112.6 rushing yards per game.

At face value, those feats are impressive. Still, we need to give them the proper context.

Though it is true that Sims only played nine games in 2012, did you know he was still second in the league in carries (218)? Sims averaged 24.2 rushes per game a year ago, while no other back in the league had more than 22.

This greatly impacts how we should look at his numbers.

Out of the Big 12 running backs who played in 75 percent of their team's games and had at least four carries per game, Sims ranked 18th out of 23 with a 4.65-yard-per-carry average last year.

Yards per carry doesn't tell us everything, though. My favorite running back stat is an advanced one called Adjusted Points Over Expected, or Adjusted POE for short. The number compares the production of a running back to an average back given the same carries against the same opponents with the same offensive line. A runner with a plus-6.0 Adjusted POE would have created a touchdown more for his team over that of an average back.

Here's how Sims compared to other Big 12 non-quarterbacks in Adjusted POE a year ago.

2012 Adjusted POE for Big 12 non-QBs.

2012 Adjusted POE for Big 12 non-QBs. by Jesse Newell

While the top of the list has names we'd expect (Lache Seastrunk, Tavon Austin, Tony Pierson), Sims is nowhere to be found, as he ranks 48th out of 50 Big 12 non-QBs a year ago.

To be fair, having so many carries probably allowed Sims to go further into the negative than some other backs. On the flip side, some of these players probably had their carries limited when they weren't giving better production.

Sims doesn't rank much better in Adjusted POE in his two previous years at KU.

KU's 2011 Adjusted POE leaders.

KU's 2011 Adjusted POE leaders. by Jesse Newell

2010 Adjusted POE leaders.

2010 Adjusted POE leaders. by Jesse Newell

His freshman year was his best in the measure, and even then, he produced below what would have been expected from an "average" back.

The biggest issue for Sims appears to be that his lack of speed keeps him from breaking off big runs.

Looking at the raw numbers, we might not see that from the number of "explosive" runs in 2012.

KU's explosive runs in 2012.

KU's explosive runs in 2012. by Jesse Newell

Again, those numbers above need more context. Remember, Sims had more opportunities for big runs (228 carries) compared to his teammates (Pierson had 117 carries; Cox had 91).

Breaking it down further, let's take a look at how many explosive runs each player had a season ago per 25 carries ... or roughly one game of being a workhorse back.

KU explosive runs per 25 carries.

KU explosive runs per 25 carries. by Jesse Newell

In this measure, Sims doesn't even appear to be as strong as Cox in explosive runs, especially in 10-plus-yard plays. Cox doesn't appear to be an explosive back either, but given the same opportunities, the numbers show he might be able to put up the same sort of line (or even slightly better) than Sims.

Ben Lindbergh wrote a great piece on Derek Jeter earlier this week, talking about how the eye test and defensive metrics don't agree on Jeter's defensive abilities. It's hinted in there that perhaps, because Jeter's a great player and his jump-throw from the hole at shortstop has become famous, that as humans we start to see what we want to see with his ability instead of what's actually there.

It made me wonder if we're doing the same thing with Sims. Are we noticing his great vision because we assume his high-yardage totals make him a great running back? Are we ignoring his lack of speed because he seems to move a pile a couple extra yards each game?

On a personal note, I like Sims. He's a nice guy and is respected by his teammates to the point that he was named a team captain.

He talked to me at Big 12 media days about working hard in the summer to improve his speed, and maybe we saw a glimpse of that when Sims had a 62-yard touchdown run in a team scrimmage a couple weeks ago. He also talked about how he likes to clip articles from people who doubt him next to his bed — and I'm sure I might be making an appearance soon.

The numbers are the numbers, though. Sims has lots of room to improve, and if he isn't going to break big runs, he needs to be even better at squeezing out extra yards on the shorter ones.

Either way, KU coach Charlie Weis shouldn't be looking to make Sims his workhorse back this year. With the talent he has at the running back position with Cox, Darrian Miller and Colin Spencer (and the versatility of Pierson), the coach shouldn't hesitate to get fresh legs into the game.

Given the opportunity, those backs have the potential to give KU better production than they've received from that spot the past few years.

More from Jesse Newell

  • Examining grips with KU's Jake Heaps, Michael Cummings
  • Charlie Weis should embrace risk with this year's Jayhawks
  • How does KU basketball rank compared to other blue bloods in terms of playing fast?
  • Ranking the top 10 dunks of 2012-13
  • How a fingertip, a late rotation and a great player contributed to Michigan's frantic comeback over KU
  • Comments

    B0B 1 year, 2 months ago

    where did you mention that he was getting his numbers against 8 or 9 in the box?

    Jesse Newell 1 year, 2 months ago

    If that was the case, wouldn't Pierson, Cox and Beshears' numbers be affected, too? They don't appear to be.

    Jesse Newell 1 year, 2 months ago

    You make a good point. In basketball, it's hard for a player to keep his efficiency up when he takes most of the team's shots. One would think football carries would be the same way with a tired player and additional carries.

    And you're right, that's part of the point I'm trying to make. KU didn't benefit last year from a tired James Sims on the field. Depending on how you choose to look at the numbers above (advanced or yards per carry), he was either an average or below-average back that received almost all the rushes. KU should be able to receive more production by sharing the load.

    B0B 1 year, 2 months ago

    How many carries did those guys get between the tackles? How many carries did those guys get when everybody in the stadium knew the ball was going to the RB?

    Numbers are cute and all, but sometimes its obvious when they don't mean squat.

    It's alright. You'll get the next one.

    TheBoHawk 1 year, 2 months ago

    Of all of the negative spins on the 2012-13 season you could have illuminated...you chose an obvious bright spot... Why not an expose on how ironic it is that Crist signed a contract in the NFL despite holding the current status as the worst (statistically) quarterback in college football. It's got to be the first time that has ever happened. Instead you pick on a dedicated talent that has been a workhorse. Your eye comparison blah blah blah only insults me. I watched every play last year. I can see shortcomings in Jeters game. James Sims is another story, bud. When opponents know your QB is as useful as a dead cow's fart, defenses act accordingly. Your stats are counterpointed by "real life". Cox should have taken a Redshirt. Bourbon deserves a shot. Maybe Miller has something to offer, I don't know. What I do know is that anyone who can carry Big XII defenders a 'few extra yards on the end of a run' is exactly the kind of back I'd be looking to start if I was as Head Coach.

    hawk316 1 year, 2 months ago

    I have to agree with many of the other responders...this appears to be a great example of when numbers do not tell the whole story.

    Darren McSweeney 1 year, 2 months ago

    How many times did Pierson have to run up the middle on 4th and 2? I love the article, and it makes a good point, but it in no way reduces my respect for Sim's talent. You may as well write an article comparing a Chevy truck to a Ferrari. Different vehicles, different roles.

    qringer 1 year, 2 months ago

    Oh ya - and thanks for nothing James...

    Darin Bradley 1 year, 2 months ago

    When you're a one dimensional team Jesse, what do you expect?? The box was stacked nearly every play. And to suggest Sims doesn't have speed.... why don't you load the Okie State game (see pic) and watch how many defenders he was running away from all game. This article is somewhat of a joke dude and I don't say that lightly as I usually enjoy your stuff. The "numbers" can be spun to say anything.

    TheBoHawk 1 year, 2 months ago

    I really have to agree...Defenses knew we were going to run, Jesse. This article should be about how awesome it was that Sims could be motivated to work so hard for our team despite he and his offensive teammates suffering through the worst QB in KU history. The fact that he averaged over 100 yards a game is damn near divine intervention.

    orbiter 1 year, 2 months ago

    d_bradley27-

    My, my, my, aren't you grouchy!

    It's just stats and analysis. Sims is fast, but he doesn't have world class breakaway speed, like Tavon Austin or Pierson. Sure, he has broken through defenses, but there is no need to pretend he has that type of speed. It doesn't take away the fact he is arguably the top RB in the Big 12.

    Projections aren't reality, by definition. Take a calming bath, "dude".

    TheBoHawk 1 year, 2 months ago

    World class speed??!?...Neither did Marshal Faulk, Jerome Bettis, LaDanian Tomlinson, Emmit Smith...need I go on? Projections are really just $*!t, by definition. Mark it, "Dude".

    Darin Bradley 1 year, 2 months ago

    Orbiter - Not grouchy at all. Just disagreeing (and I have plenty of company) with an article Jesse decided to throw out here without the proper context. He's set a decent bar for himself and this didn't meet it.

    Baths are for chicks. Enjoy!

    David Leathers 1 year, 2 months ago

    Yea I don't care what advanced statistics you pull up, Sims does things in games that you can't teach. His vision, toughness, and ability to run no matter how many defenders are in the box is uncanny. I hope Heaps can live up to expectations so that Sims can get his chance to run without the defense knowing what is coming.

    No matter how you put it, Sims is one good season away from being the all-time leading rusher at KU.

    Jesse Newell 1 year, 2 months ago

    I see what you're saying, but each back should have about the same percentage of situations in each. There might be a little noise there, but it shouldn't be much. None of those guys was strictly a goal-line back (Sims couldn't be if he had 200-plus carries). Pierson might have had fewer red zone carries, but I think however you slice that number, we can figure he's a pretty explosive player.

    The main thing I was pointing out is that Sims doesn't have much big-run ability. I think the explosive numbers above reflect that pretty well.

    TheBoHawk 1 year, 2 months ago

    I can't wait for him to prove you wrong. I usually like your articles, but you'll be enjoying crow this season, I'm afraid.

    Micky Baker 1 year, 2 months ago

    I don't agree. Sims should be. It was not his fault the team wasn't in scoring position enough times. I think this article misses reality in a big way.

    Chris Bailey 1 year, 2 months ago

    I agree. It just simply says to me that he gets tired carrying the ball 20 plus times a game. I don't think that means he isn't the starter because of that. But I also think that we did different things with Pierson out of the backfield. Tack this one up on your wall James Sims! It belongs there and at the end of the season you can rub Jesses's face in it. I'm sure he would oblige you that as well. Rock Chalk!

    Eliott Reeder 1 year, 2 months ago

    Tough crowd today, eh Jess? Thanks for the Friday afternoon read!!!

    mikehawk 1 year, 2 months ago

    They have a saying out in western Kansas...It goes something like..."you can ride a good horse to death."

    Doug Cramer 1 year, 2 months ago

    Darian Miller is the best running back on this team...and I think Bourbon is better than what folks think. Not to take anything away from Sims...because he's consistent and he never gets hurt. Sims is as durable as they come...but from a raw phyical talent standpoint...Miller has him beat.

    BayPark 1 year, 2 months ago

    He should be the workhorse because between the tackles--where you still need to be able to run to win in any football league--he's the best we got. If he were on any other Big-12 team last year, his stats would look a lot different. My gosh, James Sims was one of only a few legit D-1 players we had last year. Without him, we would have been blown out every game. It bothers me to disparage a really good player based on numbers that don't factor in all the variables.

    texashawk10 1 year, 2 months ago

    Jesse, do you have any kind of breakdown for what Sims numbers looked like as his carry attempts got higher because it usually seemed like he was a back that got better with more carries because he would wear defenses out.

    Jesse Newell 1 year, 2 months ago

    I don't, but if that is the case and his numbers became better toward the end of games, then to create the numbers above, he would have had to really struggle early in games.

    bville_hawk 1 year, 2 months ago

    Mark Twain once said that "Statistics are like ladies of the evening. Once you get them down you can do anything you want with them..."

    Kip_McSmithers 1 year, 2 months ago

    Also take into account which teams Sims played against vs which teams that Cox, Bourbon, and Beshears played against. And I'm not only talking about which games (SDSU <-- our one win, Rice, & TCU), but which string. James played against all of the oppositions first team defense. When in the game did Cox, Bourbon, and Beshears get their carries? Was it against Oklahoma's first team D or against their 3rd string D?

    Kip_McSmithers 1 year, 2 months ago

    The numbers have too many variables to be taken all that serious. Different personnel, formations, play calls, what down it is, where the ball is on the field, field conditions, weather, ect. can all play a part in why one guys numbers are greater than the other. Add in different personnel on D, D formations, play call, ect. and this just becomes harder to actually gauge.

    Glen Grunz 1 year, 2 months ago

    Goodness where did you learn statistical analysis. For instance your "POE" the key here is expected how was that number generated, what was the population, what parameters were set for inclusion in this population, and most significantly what is the standard deviation. There is quite a trend going in sports today promoting all these metrics (statistics) as the mecca of player evaluation. Since most of the general population has very little understanding of the statistical models and the underlying probability models these numbers can be quite compelling. Alas many of these metrics come under the heading of figures don't lie but liars figure. No I don't think you are a liar but you may well have been taken in by clever numbers comparisons that have no established validity or reliability. In short those tables you have put up may indeed hold significant information but lacking some very important information regarding these table they are essentially statistical blag-blah. G

    Jesse Newell 1 year, 2 months ago

    I linked to Adj. POE's explanation above for those who wanted to read further. Here it is again: http://www.footballstudyhall.com/2011/4/13/2102593/the-toolbox-adj-poe

    Here's a quick primer on Adj. POE since you were wondering: Every yard-line is worth a point value. If you have the ball on your own 20, the average team scores about 2 points per possession. If you advance that to your opponents' 1, the average team score about 6 points per possession. So for every run a back has, that number is subtracted. If Sims runs from his own 20 to the opponents' 1, then he gains about 4 points for his team. Then that number is compared to an average running back and adjusted for competition and one's offensive line.

    Yes, football is a tough sport to get reliable statistics for. There are 11 players and a lot of moving parts. But that doesn't mean we can't come up with more meaningful statistics.

    I'd put Adj. POE up against any current college rushing statistic out there. It's better than yards per game and even yards per carry, which is the standard that people use to judge most backs.

    And look at the list above. Like I said, the top of the Adj. POE list makes sense. It's not like Seastrunk and Pierson are ranking at the bottom of this list like Sims. Most of the top backs are where you'd expect them ... at the top.

    It's fine if you want to defend Sims. Yes, he faced teams trying to stop the run. But his numbers don't appear to be above average. With 87 more carries than Seastrunk last year, he gained exactly one more yard. With the same carries at KU last year, I think I'd be safe in saying Seastrunk would have been the better back.

    I understand people that don't trust numbers. But basically any one you look at says Sims might not be as good as we give him credit for. Adj. POE is one of the best metrics out there, and it's agreeing with yards per carry and explosive numbers and everything else.

    Maybe Sims improves this year. Maybe this is just a blip. I don't know.

    But I'm not going to dismiss numbers that says Sims might just be an average back simply because I have a preconceived notion about a player. Maybe others can and will, but that's not the way I look at the world or sports.

    Kip_McSmithers 1 year, 2 months ago

    Do KU and Baylor run the same offensive scheme with the same offensive lines? Variables make the numbers just what they are, variable. Is the POE better than the YPC, yea, probably so, but to compare RB1 to RB2 you have to factor in so many different things that the numbers shouldn't even be compared. You could also say that if Sims played for Baylor with their offensive scheme, line, ect that he'd be the better back. Comparing people in a TEAM sport without having the same everything, including TEAMS, is just one person telling another their opinion using numbers.

    Jim Roth 1 year, 2 months ago

    You are welcome to use numbers to validate your opinion.

    Sparko 1 year, 2 months ago

    This was one of the worst bits of analysis I have seen in some time. Sims also played the most downs against bowl teams of any RB, and was the only threat many days--especially after injuries to others.

    Mark Lindrud 1 year, 2 months ago

    Wouldn't it make a difference if we passed more? Jesse, I am curious how many times we passed compared to ran the ball last year. I am curious if the success of the running game improves with a better passing attack. I would expect that to be the case, which should lead to less situations with 8 men in the box.

    Also, with the variety of skill sets we will have this year I bet Sims will average less carries per game, but his yards per carry may increase because the pressure will be off of him. An improved offense is vital to the success of this season.

    Micky Baker 1 year, 2 months ago

    There is no doubt that Sims should be the work horse. Let's face it, if it had been 2007 when all phases of the offense were working, Sims would have had around 20 TDs and maybe on a few less carries and he would have a bigger yards per rush average. The running game was the only thing that worked consistently last year and he was up against a stacked box. This is quite simply a story that was written just to fill some space, and it shouldn't have been published.

    jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

    First, wrong, or right, it's great you're using QA on the problem.

    Second, it would be good for you next to take some game theory and some strategy classes.

    Strategic choice tendency sometimes explains QA statistical outliers better than ability.

    Sims likely was being given the ball a lot, because he was thought to be the back most likely to get a few yards between the tackles without a hole without fumbling. Weis would make this seeming sub optimizing running choice (relative to his other more explosive backs) for two reasons:

    1) because his offensive line can rarely open holes to get explosive backs room to run; and

    2) to maximize his chances of getting into passing mode, where he sees a better risk/return trade/off.

    Most coaches with a passing philosophy use the run to keep a defense from cheating toward stopping the pass, not to maximize running productivity in yards/carry.

    And when they have a weak offensive line and an immobile QB, then they run more than they like to shield their QB as much as possible. But running more with a weak line makes them put more emphasis on using a back that can take punishment, get a yard or two, and not fumble. The goal is still to use the run to create a passing situation from which to take risk.

    The strategic reason the more explosive backs on KU are hugely more explosive is that they are being used to explode situationally; I.e., used in situations where Weis thinks he can spring them, not for grind it out duty where they would fumble more and get him a couple yards the hard way less frequently, despite breaking a few that Sims won't.

    KU's explosive backs are also free riding a bit on the defense's tendency to scheme to stop the pound it out and pass tendency, which would change were Weiss to change to more explosive running plays and backs.

    If KU's line sharply improves, then a more explosive running game can be pursued.

    Talent is often the cause of strategy.

    Statistics are a cascade of the strategy chosen because of the talent.

    jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

    Jesse, I didn't mean for any of the above to sound critical, or condescending, though re-reading it I fear it does.

    Part 1

    I am a fan of what you are doing with QA in sports journalism (i.e., of taking what sports quants are doing with QA and trying to make it accessible for non sports quants) and of your Newell Post Live format. Both are sports journalism getting better.

    What I meant to convey was that you might add more to the meaning of the QA by filtering it through strategy/game theory analysis in your evaluations of sport.

    Some folks bridle at QA findings, often because of the absence of a strategic context to make sense of the statistics in.

    Over the years, I have had to learn a bit about both QA and strategy/game theory analysis, first, in order to analyze effectively, but, second, in order to communicate that analysis effectively.

    Its common knowledge that many people know little about QA. But I think fewer persons realize that among those familiar with QA, that many of them don't grasp strategy and game theory. I have found most persons with QA backgrounds often lack strategy/game theory analysis training (and vice versa), though the two are (or should be) joined at the hip in analytical application.

    The origins of the failure for many to lack both tools in their analytical tool box are several. One is that up through master's degrees, students across the many disciplines that can make use of these two kinds of tools in real life are often taught one, or the other, but not both, in college.

    Another is that persons predisposed to math and its formalizations may seek out and be comfortable with statistics and formal game theory, but not informal (dare I say traditional) strategy by heuristics. The first things mathematicians like to do with logic and strategy and probability are formalize them in order to achieve more explicitness. They tend to be willing to sacrifice the subtleties verbal language allows to escape its vagaries.

    Similarly, those most comfortable with language (usually those most uncomfortable early on with math and its formalizations) tend to think and talk about strategy in heuristics expressed informally, i.e., in word sentences, not in equations and symbolic algorithms. These folks tend to take the minimum math and statistics they must, and seek out what I like to call the Sun Tzu legacy of strategy, i.e., the epigramatic heuristic of experience. I was once among them.

    If you have the formal and informal backgrounds in statistics and strategy/game theory, perhaps your presentations would benefit from more supplementing with the informal, so you could help your readers better grasp the strategic context that your statistics act as indicators of.

    jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

    Part 2

    Inferential statistics are answers to calculations, but they are not answers to how to act. They are measures of activity that help us to think about how we are getting the results we want more, or less, off. Statistics are like dials and warning lights on your car's dashboard. They can tell us a lot about what we and our car are doing, but they are not an answer to where we are going and which path we ought to take to get there. For that we use our strategic conceptualizations about intended destination, size and quality of car we are driving, and opportunity set of paths, the knowledge about which we augment with landmarks, compasses and GPS.

    Please forgive me here for mastering the obvious for you on behalf of some others that may benefit from some helpful definition.

    Strategy is broadly speaking a subdiscipline of informal logic applied in a context of cooperation and competition within a game space (i.e, a battle field, a bureaucracy, a bargaining situation, a courtroom, a grid iron, a basketball court, a marriage, a friendship, etc. ). Strategy exists in snippets as far back as recorded history goes and over time has gotten to be a larger and larger cookbook of heuristics and recipes drawn from hard earned experience to be adapted as principles and heuristics to current state of the art technologies being applied in cooperation and competition. (Note: bad strategy inadequately takes into account, or outright ignores, technological innovations since the the strategic heuristic was formulated.)

    Game Theory is a formalized approach to simulating strategy in formal models that emerged in World War II. As with much formalization, it accepts some reduction (simplification of the messy complexities of reality) in pursuit of more clarity about primary drivers of complex processes.

    Still, the best book to read on informal strategy (and the most accessible) for starters is B.H. Lidell Hart's "Strategy" published 1954, and reprinted endlessly. Hart remains one of the most fascinating characters in the history of strategic military thinking, because of the breadth of his influential forensic contributions to military strategy (some listened to, some unwisely not listened to soon enough, some tragically ignored), and the actual effects they had on some, and failed to have on others. He wrote the definitive books on the strategic conduct of World War I and World War II. That he foresaw and wrote about the role of the tank's effect on strategy and tactics first, is just one small example of his brilliance. His proscription of indirect attack, which he tracked all the way back to Sun Tzu, will be his lasting positive contribution.

    jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

    Insert for the end of Part 2:

    His lasting critical contribution will probably be Allied leadership's error in demanding unconditional surrender in World War II. And his discussion of the positive role of retreat as strategic advance to the rear should be his most studied (and questioned) point, but so far seems not (though I am admittedly a layman on the topic of military strategy).

    jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

    Part 3

    Another book on informal strategy that any American ought to read is Alfred Thayer Mahan's "The Influence of Sea Power on History" published 1890. The book's reputation as being prophetic is hooey, because it was written largely to rationalize the robber barons pre-existing orders for the Navy to be hugely expanded to make their overseas contracts for kerosene illuminant and steel exports, and phosphate and tungsten imports enforceable at the barrel of a gun. The naval expansion was also necessary to open up colonial markets hitherto denied them by the navies of the Great Powers of Europe and the then increasing Japanese fleet. Hence, you have to look past Mahan's politically motivated mastery of the obvious that sea power was crucial to becoming a great power. Most great powers of history and credible strategic thinkers had understood for millennia the crucial role of naval power; that was why there had been so many great and decisive sea battles for Mahan to analyze. What one can drink deeply of from the book is Mahan's rich survey and thoughtful analysis of tactics in many decisive battles of history. No doubt the same material was available and long studied in, say, the British Admiralty's library and archives, but the Brit's were not big on sharing such things, since such insights was, as it were, their bread and butter as mostly a maritime power.

    Game theory exploration benefits from a good teacher. It seems simple at first, but it quickly grows bewildering in its complexities and modelling assumptions and interactions (and errors). Like all forms of algorithmic analysis it can quickly become untethered from reality and so misused stupidly, or abused deceptively. As usual those that first discover it often become fanatics about it being an be all and end all to thought, rather than viewing it as just another tool in the thinker's tool box. Game theory spent its youth after its mid-20th Century formalization by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern over focused on the competitive aspects of interplay. More recently it has tried (with considerable difficulty) to broaden to include cooperation's role in interplay. Von Neumann and Morgenstern left out the complication of cooperation for a reason. It makes game modelling very messy. But that doesn't stop thinkers from trying, nor from coining catchy new words like "co-opetion," to describe the inclusion of cooperation in modelling.

    jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

    Part 4

    In game modelling, as in all modelling, there is a constant tension between gaining insight through simplification that sheds irrelevant complexities, and complexification that allows the messy complexities of reality that may subtlely affect outcomes be included in. As with building a building, how much of the real world is included, and how much is excluded, depends on the needs of the user of the building. A warehouse firm usually wants all of external reality kept out except trucks, so the building is very simple, very highly rationalized, practically a polygon without windows even. But if it is a home owner that loves nature, and organic forms, then the building becomes something more like a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Modelling is (or should be) largely constrained by the feasibility of basic data available for the model and of confident assumptions required for the model. The more you complexity a game theory model, the trickier the matter of feasibility becomes, and the trickier understanding the interplay becomes. The biggest weakness of all formal game theory models is accuracy of assumptions about player's perceptions about costs and benefits of choices of action. Making assumptions about subjective perceptions of a small set of players may seem straightforward, but it often is not. Trying to figure out how perceptions filtered through different cultural value systems will trigger decisions regarding costs and benefits of even single choice opportunity sets can be dicey. When a menu of potential choices is introduced the chances for mistaken assumptions compounds. Hence, formal game theory ain't for QA sissies. And it often is just plain unwise to rely on. Still it works sometimes, if only to shame analysts into admitting what they don't know, and into looking for strategy heuristics instead of just blindly accepting statistics without any coherent recognition of strategic context.

    So: here is a helpful link with books and authors to consider, if one wants to read about game theory. There is a nifty video link on the page as well. But watch out. These books are, in their scholarly ways, attempts to promote game theory. So caveat emptor.

    http://www.gametheorystrategies.com/game-theory-books/

    Richard Benson 1 year, 2 months ago

    As a devoted reader of Journal-World Sports for a great many years, I cannot help but comment that the data Mr. Newell runs down here amount to a bunch of numbers full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Like others who go to games on Saturdays, I know what I have seen. And it's not about numbers. (Although the big picture is that Mr. Newell's seeing-eye tour through his cherry-picked obscure statistical matrixes is --after all-- on its face self-admittedly Mr. Newell's attempt to explain away Sims's huge numbers.)

    Like Mr. Newell, I hope Mr. Sims doesn't play much this year. That would mean someone else is having a year so historic as to erase Jayhawk memories of Gayle Sayers and John Riggins. Actually, I hope it is Mr. Sims that has that historic year.

    Chris Bailey 1 year, 2 months ago

    I don't have time to read a book on here Jaybate. Your stuff is good but just sum it up.

    The more I think about what Jesse wrote the more I'm seeing what he means. And I agree that Pierson, Cox and Bourbon all probably carry the ball in all different situations and their turn comes to run on each down. So thinking about that it's possible this is correct. But allowing Pierson, Cox or Bourbon to run it 25 times a game I'm not sure any could handle that workload either. No way Pierson or Bourbon could. So the best option is Sims. Hope they mix it up alot this year and with adding in Miller that should spell sims more and allow him to not get so tired.

    Micky Baker 1 year, 2 months ago

    There isn't a "suggest removal" button for the articles, but I'd suggest removal of this article.

    leonard 1 year, 2 months ago

    Good effort as usual, Jesse...but...

    This was a really labored attempt to create a situation and then find the numbers to back it up. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy statistics as much as anyone but many times they can lead you down a blind alley...irrationally leading to conclusions that defy reality.

    In all sports there are players who transcend the numbers and that's especially true in football. They're simply called "football players".

    Yep, just plain old ordinary football players...like Ben Heeney. Coach Kumbayah didn't like his numbers...too small, too slow, yada yada yada. When given his chance all he did was become one of the top tacklers in the conference.

    James Sims is a football player...period.

    TexiCaliHawk 1 year, 2 months ago

    As they say, there are 3 kinds of Lies: 1) Lies, 2) Damn Lies and . . . 3) 'Statistics!'

    Folks, there are simply WAAAY too many variables/moving parts to draw this type of definitive conclusion. Unfortunately, it's not a true 'scientific' exercise as many other posters have pointed out; rather it amounts to nothing more than mental masturbation that makes for an interesting read (at best).

    Those of us who watched most, if not all, of KU's games last year could clearly 'see' who the premier running back was . . . James Sims -- with the other backs mentioned playing roles suited to their respective skill sets and game situations.

    Yes, Jaybate is right . . . 'Strategy' plays a huge role in the outcome of events. 'Statistics' represent the results of those outcomes and, in some cases, can indeed help predict future events and outcomes; however, ONLY if the information collected is used properly.

    Otherwise, you might have an explorer who sets out to find India and ends up discovering . . . the Bahamas!

    Anxious to see how this season plays out as we ended up very one-dimensional last year -- with Heaps an upgrade at QB (Please!) and more/better Receivers to throw to (who can catch?), a stable of high quality RB's (inside/outside runners and pass catchers out of the backfield or slot) and more imaginative sets/play calls, we should be much more difficult to defend this year to where Mr. Sims doesn't HAVE to be a 'workhorse' -- I think that really is the whole point, right?

    F.O.E. > P.O.E.

    Jim Stauffer 1 year, 2 months ago

    I think this stat favors a player like Pierson who usually runs in situations where there is a greater element of surprise and greater opportunity to get into open space.

    Guys like Sims are often called on to get a yard to move the sticks. Put Pierson in the tailback position and have him run it 20 times per game and you will need another tailback by the time conference games roll around.

    There are things more valuable than just this stat. Sims is an excellent blocker as well. All around backs rarely have the yards per carry that specialists do.

    I think this stat is largely irrelevant. Even though it can be useful it should not be the be all end all in determining who should get the ball the majority of the time.

    Max Ledom 1 year, 2 months ago

    I find this article very annoying. Yes, discredit our only star player Jesse. Smart move.

    Dirk Medema 1 year, 2 months ago

    Thanks for the article Jesse. It is rather funny to see so many turning your observation of an advanced statistic into a personal attack - and a few (many?) doing it without even having a clue what the statistic is or taking the time to go to the link. The adjusting of the metric should even have taken into consideration the fact that Sims didn't play against the non-con, higher yardage foes. One of the "what-ifs" that would seem unfair is to say, "What if Pierson got as many carries as Sims?" That is a physical impossibility, because Tony doesn't have the physicality to handle the advance reps. Sims' strength and durability is part of his physical make-up. Tony's "what-if" is the ying to asking what if Sims had Tony's speed. Also unrealistic. Darrian Miller would seem to be one of the big variables this year. He was starting to steal reps as a true freshman. My guess is that a year off will require some time to shake off the rust. Thanks again for continuing to be an objective number-nerd, even if others look down on you for it.

    pizzashuttle 1 year, 2 months ago

    Well at least it's a more interesting article than the puff piece about long snapping. I prefer Weis analysis on Sims (from the LJW), “He can run inside and he can run outside and he can pick up the blitz,” “He can run and he can catch. I don’t know what he can’t do. Does he run sub-4.5 (second 40-yard dash time)? No. But he’s a really, really good player. And if you’re a really, really good player here, there’s a better than even chance that you’re going to have a chance to be a really good player (in the NFL). His football will not end next year when he finishes up his senior year. His football will continue.”

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