Friday, February 12, 2010

Why People Who Should Know Better are Complaining about Tim Thomas

Why? Because they don't know any better. I just watched this video and it would be funny if it weren't so wrong headed:

Was Tim Thomas's Contract a Mistake?

I make no secret of the fact that I'm a fan of Tim Thomas, and some people will no doubt assume that I'm biased by that. But that's not it. What I can't stand is when people are biased against Thomas, unfairly pointing out every soft goal yet only grudgingly giving him credit when he does well. You see that in the video when the guy on the left claims that Thomas is no Brodeur. That's what he thinks and nothing Timmy can do--even winning the Vezina--will change his opinion. The Vezina? That was merely Julien's defense-first approach at work. I mean, last year that guy could have suited up and won the Vezina! Yet of course this year the poor play of the team has absolutely nothing to do with it. Yeah, right. I have never seen a successful player so unreasonably maligned by the so-called "experts" in any sport (more on that in another post).

To put the idea to rest that I'm just as biased let me state unequivocally that Tim Thomas has not played well enough since the January 14th game against the Sharks. That's eight games that they lost--eight games that he was not able to steal. This was a period where the Bruins gave up 22 goals (2.75 goals per game). During that same period the Bruins managed only nine goals (1.13 goals per game). There should be no doubt that the low scoring was the real problem, but it is just as true that a Vezina-winning goalie should have been able to stand on his head and steal a few of them. Unlike earlier this year that didn't happen.

In the last five starts Rask has had one great game and four mediocre-to-good ones. He has allowed 12 goals (2.4 goals per game). In that same period the Bruins have scored 15 goals (3.0 goals per game). It's true that Rask had a terrific game against Montreal on February 2. But the same could be said about Thomas having helped steal the game against the Sharks. The main reason the Bruins are winning now is that they are scoring again. Had they scored 3 goals per game during Thomas's losing streak they would have won most of them.

So why are people claiming that Thomas is finished? It's simple. They don't actually watch the games. They just see some highlights from time to time and primarily look at the stats. Right now Thomas is 13-15-7 with a 2.52 GAA and a save percentage* of 0.915. Rask is 13-7-4 with a 2.09 GAA and a whopping 0.928 save percentage. Clearly Rask is by far the better of the two, right? By-the-way, in the 2005/2006 season Brodeur's GAA was 2.57 and his save percentage was 0.911. Does that mean he was no longer Martin Brodeur? Should the Devils have dumped him and his big contract?

But here's the thing: stats can lie. Take the last game against Tampa Bay--statistically Rask had a poor night, allowing 4 goals on 35 shots (a horrible 0.886 save percentage). So he stank right? No! In fact, watching the game we know that he was very sharp and didn't allow any soft goals. In a game where one team runs away with it early it is typical for the team to let down and allow some goals. But they did get the win and that's what counts. So here is a perfect example of how the stats alone lie. You have to watch the games. Those "sports guys" in the video have many other sports to be watching. There is just no way they watch every game. Having watched all but three games this season I can say that Tim Thomas has in fact played very well, often under extremely difficult circumstances. The stats alone don't begin to tell the story.

Look--all goaltenders have difficult periods. All of them. But it happens to Thomas and some small-minded fickle people are willing to give up on a good thing to satisfy their preconceived notions. Hey, if I'm just biased in favor of Thomas, then why have I won this same argument about how good Timmy is every single time since 2006? The fact is he has never let me down. As always, Timmy will be back and his detractors will shut their mouths, biding their time until they can once again show their unfounded disdain.

As for Timmy's contract, see my comments from the last post. Here are a few additional points to consider:
  1. Goaltenders have longer careers than players at other positions
  2. Not everyone hates Thomas--he could have signed for much more money as a free agent last summer. Some fans seem to have forgotten that goaltending is the foundation of a team.
  3. Thomas took a discount because he wanted to play for the B's and because they offered him the long-term contract.
  4. Thomas's cap-hit in his fifth year is very small.
  5. Five million per year for solid goaltending is a steal for a Vezina winning goaltender.

*Sports people are awful at math! A percentage, by definition, is where 100 is the maximum. The so-called "save percentage" isn't a percentage at all. It's a simple ratio. To make it a percentage you would need to multiply the number by 100. E.g. 0.915 becomes 91.5%. So for God's sake people, either multiply by 100 or stop calling it a percentage.


Chris said...

great post, esp about just eyeballing 2 goalies' stats as a way to compare them.
it's strange in this era of more highlights readily available i feel like a lot of pundits/fans are worse at context than ever before
we had a guy here in Toronto last year when the subject of Josh Harding came up say, "he's having a terrible year" obviously based on the fact his record was something like 2-10. But even a minute's worth of digging would have revealed he had a great save pctg (sorry) and that the Wild averaged about a goal a game when he played.

number4bobbyorr said...

Cris--that's a great point about the highlights. I watch "NHL On the Fly" on the NHL network all the time. Otherwise I'd never have the time to keep up with any of the other teams. But I'd never pretend to be an expert on any of them based on the highlights and stats alone...

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :)