One fateful night
in October 1996 David Sabino, then an SI reporter, was at his desk
fact-checking an NBA scouting report when he was approached by an assistant
managing editor. "We want to rank all the players in the NBA," the
editor said, "and we need it by tomorrow morning. Can you do it?"
Sabino answered yes, and an institution was born. For every season preview
since then he has tackled the daunting task of assigning a player value ranking
(PVR) to every player in the NBA, the NFL and Major League Baseball.
Sabino began by
quickly coming up with a simple mathematical formula to rank players based on
statistics. Then, factoring in off-season developments that might affect
performance, such as getting a new coach (a plus or a minus, depending on the
coach) or being removed from the starting lineup, he moved players up or down
on the list. Ten years later Sabino, now an associate editor, takes the same
basic approach, albeit with more sophistication. He has refined his NBA
mathematical formula (below right) and, by following local papers, plying
online sources and quizzing SI's basketball writers, broadened his knowledge of
the players. "I can pretty much tell you every player's status right
now," says Sabino, who also compiles the lineup for each NBA team's
scouting report. "Back then, there was some guessing going on."
book Dominate Your Fantasy Baseball League was published last year, also brings
his skills to SI's Fantasy Plus section, which was launched in August. In
addition to providing PVRs for the section (page F12) and for SI.com/fantasy,
he makes weekly recommendations of players to start and sit, and he crunches
the numbers to determine which pieces of conventional wisdom are fact and which
are fiction. For instance, the standard thinking is that NFL kickers perform
best in domed stadiums, but Sabino found they have the highest field goal
conversion rates in Tampa, Baltimore and Miami. "Temperate outdoor weather
mattered," he says.
Sabino came to SI
in 1995 after earning an MBA from Miami. The statistics courses he took
obviously come in handy, but if he didn't also know how to scout players, he
couldn't handle the greatest challenge of the PVR: identifying players who will
do more this year than their past numbers might indicate. Thanks to his sharp
eye for talent, Sabino was an early booster of both the Suns' Amar� Stoudemire,
whose PVR improved from 151 in 2002 to 8 in '04, and the Raptors' Chris Bosh,
who went from 160 in '03 to 47 in '04. "I've been fooled a few times,"
Sabino says. "If I'm guilty of anything, it's predicting a breakout a
little early. I had Tracy McGrady high his second year, and he didn't break out
until his third." He pauses and then adds, "If you're in a keeper
league, you love me." A decade later Sabino's PVR has proved to be a