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Fulham Weren't That Bad Before Sunday, And Aren't That Good On Monday

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The latest fad seems to be writing features using Moneyball, the recently released film based upon the book that chronicled Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletcis' sabermetric-based approach to player evaluation, as a pretext for some assertion. Here's where I give in to the fad, though hopefully I do it in a less-than-cheap way.

Also, fair warning, spoilers of a very mild nature lurk after this sentence for anyone who has not read the book, watched the movie or has little familiarity with the 2002 Major League Baseball season. You've been warned.

Early in the Athletics' cinematically-streamlined player evaluation experiment, Peter Brand, based primarily off of then-A's assistant general manager Paul DePodesta, and Beane go to speak with the owner about their team's rough start, mainly to defend themselves.

The team had lost a handful of its most influential players during the off-season, and expectations were lowered heading into 2002. Still, there were expectations, and losing wasn't one of them.

Brand told the owner that, despite the A's sitting well below .500, he still expected them to be within fighting distance of first place by the midway point of the season, and challenging for a playoff spot by the end of it.

He relied on data to say that, while the team was losing, statistical variation would eventually even out in the A's favor. Meaning they were a good team, but the bounces were going against them.

The bounces wouldn't always go against them, and once everything was said and done, the team's results would accurately reflect its quality.

Much like Fulham, and their rough start to the early Premier League season, a bit of smoke and mirrors made them seem worse-off than they truly were.

After Sunday's resounding 6-0 victory over Queen's Park Rangers, Fulham became the very last team to record a win in the Premiership. Before that, manager Martin Jol was taking heat from fans, stories of locker room disharmony were leaking, it was mass hysteria.

And then an emphatic derby victory. The clouds lifted. All was right in the world again.

The fact is that Fulham was a better team than their record indicated before they laid the hammer on QPR.

QPR is also better than the 6-0 scoreline would indicate, and Fulham, especially its offense, isn't that dominant (but it is good).

Individual games and scorelines are merely blips on the radar, small samples of data that will become much more complete by the end of the season. And when that time comes, it's hard to imagine the data showing Fulham as anything but a solid team.

Sunday's match was the Cottagers' 18th of the season in all competitions. It raises the club's record to 1-4-2 in Premiership play, but to 7-8-3 overall, with one shootout loss to Chelsea.

Not too shabby, especially when you've averaged one competitive match every 5.3 days since June 30, and a match every 4 days when including friendlies.

By what we do about the team, its acclimation to new tactics, fixture congestion, and the general run of play in matches so far, Fulham is a good team. It's not a threat to qualify for the Champions League, or maybe even a Europa League spot. But it is a good team with a wealth of attacking depth and experience.

The Whites will be nowhere near the relegation fray come February. You can bookmark this and rub it in my face if I'm wrong, but I don't expect crow to be on the menu in 2012.