Since He's Clearly A Masochist ...
Posted by Derek
Over at MTC, Sheil's decided to review the performance of every single player on the Eagles roster. Since such behavior indicates a strong tendency towards masochism, he clearly won't mind if we rough him up a bit on yesterday's Akers post.
Last I checked, kickers did two things: attempted field goals and kicked off. A complete picture of Akers' work last year requires an evaluation of both things.
Sheil covered the FG part of things, but I liked this chart from last summer, so I wanted to update it:
So that's all good. Nice to see Akers cementing the re-acquisition of his old form. Too bad he'll probably go off the rails again this year once we cut Sav, but it was a nice two-year run.
Unfortunately, the kickoffs part of the story is a bit more complicated:
As I mentioned last year, STATS Inc. doesn't correct its kickoff stats to account for on-side kicks, so you have to do that part manually. Otherwise you'd look at Akers' average KO distance and think it went down this year, as opposed to up. That's the good news.
The bad news is that after a terrific 2008, his adjusted touchback percentage plunged in 2009. Given how close his number this year was to his career average, I think we can officially consider this an excellent example of mean regression.
So how does a guy kick the ball further, but get fewer touchbacks? There are a few possibilities, but the likeliest concern is hang time. Too bad nobody tra--- oh wait, what about our new best friends at Pro Football Focus? Surely they couldn't be completely awesome enough to track such things too?
Oh yeah, they are.
The presentation is a little wonky. I'd much rather seem some average numbers, rather than just maximums, but if you sort on the "Max. HT" column you'll Akers drop pretty far down the list. And if you go to his player page and compare his weekly numbers to, say, the Incredible Hulk down in Dallas, you can see a real difference in terms of hang time.
Of course, the odd thing is that Akers' 2008 hang time numbers aren't better. So I'm not really sure that's the explanation.
It also doesn't seem to be a weather effect. If you look at this situational stats, you'll see more cold weather kicks and no dome field goals in 2008.
Last possibility I can think of: The Eagles' special teams coverage units were so bad that other teams didn't fear taking the ball out of the end zone against them. Seems plausible, but untestable without some sort of measure of just how many kicks ended up in the end zone.
Something for next year, PFF?
Lastly, Sheil, keep stalling a bit and you might be able to cross off one more guy.