How Costly Were Alex Barron's 43 False Starts?

Peter King noted yesterday that former first-rounder Alex Barron, who is being traded from the Rams to the Cowboys this week, was flagged for 43 false starts in his five NFL seasons. To put that in perspective I crunched some numbers.

In terms of Expected Points (EP), Barron's false starts were responsible for the loss of 24.4 potential points for the Rams, or about 5 points per season. In terms of Win Probability (WP), his false starts cost 0.62 wins, or about 0.12 wins per season.

Barron's numbers are in line with league-wide averages in terms of cost per false start. Since 2000 there have been 7,478 false starts costing a total of 3,880 EP, for an average of about half a point per flag. In terms of WP, false starts cost a total 97.4 wins for an average of 0.013 WP per flag.

During the 5-year span of Barron's career, the Rams committed a total of 171 false starts, which means he was responsible for a full quarter of them. By far his worst season was 2006 in which his false starts cost about 9 EP. Barron has improved, as his last two seasons have been his best (or 'least worst' I suppose). His flinches have cost about 3 EP in both 2008 and 2009.

There's no doubt that's very costly, but even the most focused offensive lineman can be expected to have at least an occasional false start. Still, 43 must be some kind of record!

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10 Responses to “How Costly Were Alex Barron's 43 False Starts?”

  1. James says:

    Yeah well, what do you expect for a linebacker who ranks around the bottom 5 in all of your defender stats?

  2. Alchemist says:

    Alex Barron is an offensive lineman. Linebackers cannot commit false start penalties. Barron was traded to the Cowboys in return for a linebacker.

  3. nddmc says:

    On a relative basis, how much worst is Alex Barron than Flozell Adams? Over the last four years, Barron has 34 false starts, Flozell had 29.

  4. Brian Burke says:

    In general, false starts (-5 yds, no loss of down) are worth .5 EP each. So the difference between Adams and Barron would be very small, about 4 points over 4 yrs.

  5. Ian says:

    I wonder if this can help with understanding home-field advantage. The Seahawks always talk about their 12th man - is there any evidence to suggest that away teams tend to false start more than home teams?

  6. Buzz says:

    Thats a good question that I have been curious about as well.

    Here are some quick numbers for 2008 only (so it is possible it could be an anomoly) using the play by play data Brian provided -

    There were 671 false starts in the NFL (including the playoffs)- 327 of them were on the home team and 344 were on the road team. This is a net difference of 17.

    Over 267 games that is a difference of .06 per game. Multiply that by the .5 that EP and only .03 of the home field advantage would appear to be explained by false starts.

    I looked at Sea for your example. In 2008 while they were on defense a team committed a false start 22 times. 10 of these were at home and 12 on the road. Note from above that the road teams committed false starts on 344 false starts in 267 games or 1.288 per game. Sea opponents committed 1.25 (10/8) per game. Very little difference.

    You could probably splice the data and look at only the red zone or backed up against their own goalline to see if those plays are more apt to false starts on the road since those are thought to be the loudest parts of the field. Or only on 3rd down when the crowd is really fired up, etc.

    Some extra notes
    If we look at all penalty yards that were called there was 3,352 called - of that 1,681 were on the home team and 1,671 were on the road team. The yards enforced on these penalties (some were declined) were split 11,984 on the home team and 11,424 on the road team.

    It doesn't look like to me that refs are any of the cause for the home field advantage or crowd noise for false starts.

    I will double check my numbers tonight as i put the formula together really quick but thought i would throw the numbers out there.

  7. Dan Schlauch says:

    It's tough to put this into perspective without knowing how many false starts should we expect from an average lineman playing an equivalent number of snaps? I have no idea.

    Do you have this information?

  8. Bracken says:

    I'm wondering if Barron's 0.57 pts/FS is significantly different from the 0.52 pts/FS in the league overall. I'd imagine that the Rams spend more snaps in low-leverage areas of the field than the league as a whole, so if anything, I would've expected Barron's average to be lower than league average.

    Barron has a reputation for getting penalties at crucial times; I'm just wondering if there's any support for that in the data shown here.

  9. James says:

    @Alchemist - Yes, I know Barron is an offensive linemen and that he was traded for Carpenter. I should have clarified that.

    Still though, the false starts might have something to do with why he was traded for essentially the worse linebacker in the league.

  10. weinsteinium says:

    @buzz - Nice use of the play-by-play data!

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