For Love of Statistics

How does a person make people care about statistics? Add sports and Associate Professor of Statistics Michael Schuckers to the equation.

At first, Schuckers primarily focused on biometric authentication. When he realized he was surrounded by a community of ice hockey fans, he and his students started analyzing hockey data.

“Students are willing to do more in-depth work when it has to do with sports statistics,” he says. “They want to learn new stuff that is statistically really cool because we’re going to apply it to sports data.”

Dennis Lock ’08 worked with Schuckers evaluating professional players based on information from a game’s play-by-play as part of his senior thesis. “We’d use that information to give us an idea of what an individual player’s isolated impact on a game was, taking into account who they were playing with and against,” Schuckers explains.

After working with students over several years, Schuckers created Total Hockey Ranking (THoR), a comprehensive statistical rating of NHL forwards and defensemen based upon all on-ice events. Schuckers’ papers have been finalists at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, known as the “Super Bowl of Sports Analytics,” each of the last three years, drawing attention from professional teams and agents.

Chances that future students could work with Schuckers on THoR? Likely. “One of the best things about St. Lawrence is the close interactions students have with faculty,” he says. “I enjoy giving very individualized attention to students and moving them to a higher level of thinking.”