Was Laurinaitis jobbed in the ROY vote?

Nerd alert. Nerd alert. I've been diving head long into a whole mess of updated stats over at Advanced NFL Stats, so expect some numbers-y posts coming in the near future. Today, let's start with jilted defensive rookie of the year James Laurinaitis, the St. Louis Rams shining star on defense. 

As you know, Brian Cushing won the re-vote, and JL got a single vote cast in his favor. Those kind of awards are highly subjective so I thought I'd take a look at the players getting votes in the re-vote based on a couple of telling indicators at Advance NFL Stats.

1. Brian Cushing
2. Jairus Byrd
3. Clay Matthews
4. 
Brian Orakpo
5. 
James Laurinaitis

The order listed above is consistent with the voting results this time around. Let's start with Win Probability Added (WPA). I highly recommend that you read the full discussion of WPA over at Advance NFL Stats, for the sake of your reading time here, I'll sum it up as a loosely, the measure of a player's playmaking ability. It's not a measurement of his every down contributions, like a defensive tackle tying up two blockers; however, it does provide insight into the more mundane but necessary aspects of a player's game. As Brian Burke, the site's author, says, "The big point is that the performance we can't see and measure correlates tightly with the performance we can see and measure. " Obviously, positive numbers are better. (Note, Byrd played some CB, and they have his stats broken out that way. I combined them in the first two categories).

WPA
Cushing  1.47
Byrd 1.17
Matthews 1.38
Orakpo 0.65
Laurinaitis 1.06

I've already got some comments to make, but let's take a look at two more stats first. Estimated Points Added (EPA) is similar to WPA, except that it measures points a player contributes over the course of a season rather than the win probability. 

EPA
Cushing 74.8
Byrd 30.6
Matthews 64.7
Orakpo 34.9
Laurinaitis 45.1

Oh, I'm dying to make a comment, but I'll wait just one more minute. 

The next stat is Tackle Factor (TF), which takes the players tackle totals (solo and assists) and quantifies it in such a way as to measure his value to the team. Here's the short definition:

The ratio of a player’s proportion of his team’s tackles compared to what is expected at his position.

But I recommend you read the full post. TF is a ratio, so the higher the number the better, above 1.00, roughly, and it tells us that a player is contributing more tackles than the average for his position. In part, that says that the player is ditching blockers to find the ball carrier. But it's not a perfect number, just an indicator. 

TF
Cushing 0.87
Byrd 0.38 and 0.49 as a CB
Matthews 0.35
Orakpo 0.71
Laurinaitis 1.01

NOW, let me make a few comments. Like wins in baseball's Cy Young race, voters award sexier stats like sacks and interceptions. However, that's not entirely wrong. Matthews' 11 sacks are reflected in his play making numbers. He also had 21 QB hits, 2 forced fumbles and 17 tackles for a loss. Cushing didn't have those kind of sack totals, but he did have impressive numbers in those other areas as well as 4 interceptions and 87 tackles, reflected in the fact that he has the second highest TF number. So in Cushing's case, voters got it right in terms of the stats...now on the other issue around Cushing, well, that's for another time. 

You see that sexy play bias more for Orakpo versus Laurinaitis. The Rams' rookie MLB contributed more, but he didn't have seven sacks. Even if you gave JL Orakpo's votes, he'd still have just 4 votes in the ROY race. 

Awards on the shelf or not, what the numbers do tell us is that the Rams have a guy who might legitimately be called the cornerstone of their defense. Think how much worse the season could have been without him.

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