Thursday, April 26, 2012

1 Penalty Shot = 65 Free Throws

AFP Photo

As I watched Lionel Messi’s Champions League penalty attempt careen off the Chelsea crossbar (and send Chelsea to the Final), I got to thinking about the significance of a referee issuing a penalty shot in a fútbol game as it seems to be the harshest handicap in all of professional sport. I needed a comparison to a familiar US penalty situation to give proper context to the enormous gift that is a free attempt from 12 yards.

Using 2011-12 English Premier League stats as of 4/25/2012……
  • There have been 2.78 goals scored per game this season
  • EPLers are converting about 71% of their penalty attempts, so on average every penalty issued during a game is the equivalent of giving a team 0.71 points (1 point for a goal x 0.71 rate of success)
  • 0.71 points is 25.5% of the expected 2.78 points scored per game
  • So on average, an awarded penalty is the equivalent of giving one team 25% of the expected total points scored for that game
Using the NBA as a comparison…..
  • The NBA is averaging 193 points per game this season with a league average 75.3% free throw percentage
  • 25.5% of 193 points is about 49 points
  • So, for an NBA ref to award a team  25.5% or 49 of the expected 192 points per game, taking into account the league average free throw percentage, they would have to give an NBAer 65 free throw attempts (65 x .753= 49)
I know this comparison is a bit of a stretch based on the fact that NBA shooting fouls are much, much more common than Premier League penalties. However a far more fair comparison would be NBA technical and flagrant fouls. EPL penalties occur at a rate of .27 per game. Technical fouls occurred this season at a rate of .65 per game and flagrant fouls come in at .09 per game, so the comparison is in the same ballpark.

Can you imagine if NBA referee’s enacted the same harshness as their Premier League counterparts for technical and flagrant fouls. What if the Laker’s opponent was awarded 65 free throws for the next Ron Artest elbow?? 2 shots and the ball seems very lenient by comparison.

Lets go Blues!

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