Football Outsiders Almanac 2010 and the San Francisco 49ers

One of the biggest highlights of the football offseason for me is during the summer when Football Outsiders annual prospectus (now called an almanac) is published. After distributing primarily a print version, the last two years has seen them switch over to a PDF version, with a printed option also available for those who need it. I'm putting all discussion after the jump because I'm sure some people want to wait and read the Almanac for themselves, rather than have me ruin it for them. Accordingly, consider this your warning of spoilers after the jump.

Opinions about Football Outsiders are incredibly diverse with some swearing by them and some practically despising what they do. It always makes for spirited debate. I lean towards the former group, but I also recognize they are fallible. Their 2009 mean projection for the 49ers was 5.7 wins, which the team obviously exceeded. Of course, FO also gave them a 22% chance to get 7-8 wins, so we can't say they were completely wrong. They provide a broad range of information and we can slice and dice it as we see fit.

If you have any interest in purchasing this Almanac, it's available to download for $12 over at FO's store. This year's almanac includes the team and player projections, as well as fantasy football projections from their KUBIAK forecasting system, breakdowns of 75 college teams and win-loss projections for all 120 D-1A teams and research on projecting college pass rushers into the NFL, the historical impact of college conference realignment, and whether or not certain running backs truly are better at the goal line. So, head over to their store to purchase it if you're interested.

For the purposes of Niners Nation, I'll be providing glimpses into some of the 49ers-specific information over the course of the next month and a half as we make our way to the 2010 regular season. I'll get a few posts on it over the next week or so, and then get back to it after the bar exam in a couple weeks. After that bar I'll have nothing but free time, which means I'll be back in the saddle full-time here in a couple weeks!

Final Disclaimer: After the jump I'll be looking at some of the FO projections for the 49ers, so if you want to read the Almanac first, turn away now. We'll have plenty of posts on this material going forward.

After a projection of 5.7 wins in 2009, Football Outsiders came back with an equally weak mean projection of 6.1 wins in 2010. Here's their breakdown of the percentage chance for different win totals:

On the Clock (0-3): 12%
Loserville (4-6): 45%
Mediocrity (7-8): 28%
Playoff Contender (9-10): 10%
Super Bowl Contender (11+): 3%
Projected Average Opponent: -3.4% (25th)

So basically, you're looking at a mere 13% chance of finishing over .500. That is a slight improvement from last year's 12% chance, but clearly not enough for some of us that are a bit more excited about the team.

I emailed Florida Danny to get some preliminary thoughts on the report and he'll hopefully be putting together a critique of it, much like he did last year. He's working on a 3-part post related to the addition of high draft pick offensive linemen, and this year's 49ers write-up went into that area a bit. After emailing Danny, he got back to me with a few areas with which he already takes issue. I thought I'd post these now so as to whet everybody's appetite for his upcoming posts.

The breakdown of the 49ers first questioning whether Dashon Goldson's turnover numbers were legit or if it was a spiky year that came out of nowhere:

Florida Danny: Dashon Goldson being unable to repeat his forced fumbles and interceptions performance from 2009 because he might have "Walt Harris" syndrome. WTF? It was his first year as a starter, not a 50-year old seeing one last day of glory. If anything, Goldson's 2009 season is a baseline for the rest of his career.

The second issue was similar in discussing Ahmad Brooks and whether his jump in forced fumbles was a fluke:

Florida Danny: Ditto for what they say about Ahmad Brooks repeating his out-of-nowhere forced fumbles performance in 2009. To say that last year's 5 vs. his prior career's 1 is some kind of statistical anomaly is ridiculous. 2009 was the first time since his rookie year (emphasis on rookie) that he had meaningful reps.

The final preliminary issue was the question of whether drafting two offensive linemen so high would lead to disruption in OL continuity:

Florida Danny: Saying that drafting 2 OLs is disruptive in the short-term because of the importance of OL continuity is contradicted by what I've found in my OL draft post. I looked specifically at this continuity variable, and it doesn't seem to hold water in the context of teams who draft OLs. Maybe teams that don't draft OLs benefit from OL continuity from year to year, but that situation obviously doesn't apply to this year's Niners.

Just to give folks an idea of where they have the 49ers sitting, here are the rest of the division projections. Just to give some context to some of their predictions, their mean projection for the Kansas City Chiefs is 8.9 wins and a surprise playoff contender. Certainly an interesting prediction:

Arizona Cardinals mean projection: 9.4 wins

On the Clock (0-3): 1%
Loserville (4-6): 11%
Mediocrity (7-8): 21%
Playoff Contender (9-10): 36%
Super Bowl Contender (11+): 32%
Projected Average Opponent: -6.1% (29th)

Seattle Seahawks mean projection: 7.3 wins

On the Clock (0-3): 4%
Loserville (4-6): 32%
Mediocrity (7-8): 33%
Playoff Contender (9-10): 22%
Super Bowl Contender (11+): 8%
Projected Average Opponent: -3.9% (27th)

St. Louis Rams mean projection: 6.2 wins

On the Clock (0-3): 9%
Loserville (4-6): 49%
Mediocrity (7-8): 28%
Playoff Contender (9-10): 11%
Super Bowl Contender (11+): 3%
Projected Average Opponent: -6.6% (30th)

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