West Bromwich Albion won a 4-2 decision at Sunderland Saturday to move into third place in the Premier League. Given that "the Baggies"—a nickname dating to 1905, most likely linked to the ample shorts that were popular back then—have not finished in the top four since the 1980-81 season, there is little question that the club from suburban Birmingham in central England is this year's surprise package in the Premier League.
Much has been made of soccer's so-called analytics revolution, in the sense that clubs are spending more on services that collect game data and eggheads who process and interpret it. But, as with baseball a decade ago, there are plenty of old school "eye test" types who view it with suspicion or outright loathing. What's interesting about West Brom's run this season is that it's so difficult to pinpoint just why it's taking place, at least with cold, hard numbers.