by Dean Oliver
The concept of teammates whose skills “fit” together is explored through frescoball, the beach paddleball game with two people hitting a ball back and forth trying to keep it in the air. This simple game can be analyzed through Markov Chains to obtain the expected number of hits between the two players as a function of two skills, which we label as “athleticism” and “consistency”. Using this theoretical model and conceptual values of parameters, we examine various combinations where the complementarity of skills between teammates enhances the performance of the team. Given the conceptual model of team performance commonly used in sports analysis – that the sum of player ability equals team performance – we look at how such a conceptual model mismatches team performance, leaving the difference as “fit” of teammates. We choose three examples to illustrate characteristics of fit, particularly where player marginal value varies depending on who they are paired with. Further, simulating 50-player leagues where player movement is simulated by keeping players together if the team is successful and moving them if not, we show how estimates of “fit” and player ability can be confounded. Ultimately, we seek to frame the discussion on teammate “fit”, for which there is no attempt to quantify in sports literature.
Dean Oliver has been a leader of the movement to apply analytics in basketball (APBRmetrics). Oliver's work began in the 1980s and was initially published on his website, The Journal of Basketball Studies, in the 1990s, then published with his book, Basketball on Paper, in 2003. Oliver worked with the Seattle Supersonics for two seasons before obtaining a front office position with the Denver Nuggets in 2006. His work has helped establish a framework for analyzing basketball, including player value, strategy, and how to consider situational elements.