AFL Prediction & Analysis

The Quality and Quantity of Shots Created by Each Club

A super interesting and insightful article on shot generation and shot quality from Figuring Footy:

GWS have been the polar opposite of the Dees in regard to shot quality. The Giants have taken, on average, the toughest shots of any team this year. This is usually a high variance strategy, but the Giants have managed to get through some close games (relatively) unscathed, benefiting greatly from the sublime kicking skills of their young talent.

Source: The Quality and Quantity of Shots Created by Each Club – Figuring Footy

What Do Adelaide and Brisbane Have In Common?

Blowouts! They both get involved in a lot of blowouts. Matter of Stats takes a delightfully graphic look back over the decades to illustrate how 2017 compares in terms of scoring and evenness:

The 2017 season has been a close one, with any team a genuine chance of dominating and maybe even toppling any other team on a given day. More than once, a team near the foot of the competition ladder has defeated a team near the top, and we sit here at the end of Round 20 with the final 8 far

Source: How Close Has the 2017 Season Been? — Matter of Stats

Squiggle on Round 20

That was a big round of football!

Sometimes a round is full of crucial matches and they turn out to be close games, so, sure, they’re entertaining, but you don’t learn a whole lot about either team, other than that they’re evenly matched.

Then you have rounds like this one!

Adelaide firmed into a solid, erect position, thrusting firmly into the open, inviting premiership zone. That’s quite a trajectory you’ve made there, Adelaide. There’s a real cockiness about it. It came about after a graphic display against the Power, the Crows taking a liking to the wet, slippery conditions and dominating, especially the behinds (18.22 to 7.4).

Less phallically, Sydney demolished Geelong to move into that part of the chart I should really just go ahead and name THE SYDNEY AREA, because the last season they didn’t spend time there was 2010. No-one else wants to live there, Sydney. It’s really just you and whoever Ross Lyon was coaching at the time. But you keep coming back, year after year.

The week belonged to those two teams, who put a lot of space between them and the rest of the field.

But it was also terrific for Richmond! In fact, I now think Richmond is going to win the flag. This is not supported at all by squiggle. It’s more of a vibe. I’ll explain more below.

It was an interesting week if you’re on Scoring Shot Watch. Essendon’s victory over Carlton wasn’t so narrow (11.18 to 11.10), Collingwood’s over North wasn’t so great (16.15 to 7.15), and GWS really destroyed Melbourne (14.13 to 10.2). Fremantle put away Gold Coast pretty handily, too (12.18 to 10.7).

Gold Coast have had a pretty ordinary second half to the year after a promising start. So have North Melbourne, who were far more competitive a few months ago, even though they weren’t winning games.

And on the chart, Carlton and Freo became one. Think about that for a moment. It’s horrible, isn’t it. There is literally nothing good about that for anyone.

This time of year, the Season Predictor becomes less helpful, because with so few matches remaining, you can just about figure things out yourself. Also it averages out a team’s chances of winning each match, which works much better over the long-term than just three games.

But Tower of Power is always interesting! Lots of movement this week:

Most noticeable is Adelaide turning into a banner ad in the #1 spot. It would take an Adelaide-grade implosion for them to miss from here. Of course, if anyone can do an Adelaide-grade implosion, it’s Adelaide. But top spot is almost certainly theirs.

The trapdoor opened up beneath Geelong, but with games against Richmond (at Kardinia), North, and GWS, they still have a pretty good path to 2nd. And with a 1.5 win break over 5th, things would have to go horribly wrong for them to miss the top 4.

Since Geelong, GWS and Richmond play each other in the remaining three rounds, the effect of each result is magnified. So right now those three teams have a pretty even chance of finishing 2nd, and it will go to whichever of them manages to stand up.

The desolation of Port Adelaide left a lot of room for Sydney and Richmond to move into.

And the Bulldogs still have a remarkable array of plausible finishes! They have a 5% chance or better in every slot from 4th (where Geelong lose a lot) to 11th.

On Flagpole, it’s good night to the Hawks:

And otherwise the usual story. Adelaide are surrounded by premiership cups on the main chart; they are going to be 1st.

Now: Why Richmond will win the flag!

Obviously I’m 100% only writing this because I’m a Richmond supporter. Squiggle doesn’t foresee good things for Richmond in the finals. But this section applies to other teams as well.

It’s all about the killer bye. The bye is bad, for mysterious reasons, and has always been bad, going back decades. More specifically, it’s bad for teams that had a bye last week when their opponent didn’t. There is plenty of data on this: Those teams underperform.

The only mystery has been why the bye becomes good when you get one thanks to a qualifying final victory. In those cases, the bye works like it’s supposed to, and they win repeatedly and reliably.

Until last year, when we had a pre-finals bye for the first time, and after winning Qualifying Finals, Geelong and GWS both lost. Instead, the Bulldogs won the flag from 7th. Now we all know that had never been done before, which is remarkable enough in itself. But what makes it amazing, and a little suspicious, is that no-one came close before.

If the Final Eight system offers a reasonable chance for 7th to win the flag, you would expect, at some point this century, a team to have at least made the Grand Final from 5th or 6th. Not win the premiership; just make the GF. But nope.

For 16 years, we had a near-perfect statistical distribution where the team that finished 1st was most likely to make the GF and win the flag, then the team that finished 2nd was, then 3rd, and then 4th could make the GF sometimes but never win the flag. And 5th-8th never made the GF.

Then in 2016, 7th wins the flag!

It may well be that 2016 was just one of those years, and the Bulldogs one of those teams, and it’ll never happen again. But another explanation is that this answers the mystery of why the Qualifying Final winner bye was good: It was only because it came right at the very end of the year, when all teams were exhausted, which caused the restorative benefits to outweigh the usual negative effect. But since the AFL introduced a pre-finals bye last year, that benefit vanished, and all that’s left is the usual killer bye, where teams that had a week off do worse against teams that didn’t.

This makes me far less certain that it’s necessary to (a) finish top 4 and (b) win a qualifying final to take out the premiership. The fact that the Bulldogs did it last year makes it less certain, and the possibility that it’s due to the pre-finals bye makes it doubly uncertain. It may even be bad to finish top 4 and win a qualifying final.

If so, it’s a far more open race to the flag than anyone thinks. A team like Sydney, in fine form but up against it to make the top 4, has a perfect run to the flag. A team like Richmond, who might finish 4th but be unable to beat 1st in a Qualifying Final, has a much better shot at redemption than history would suggest. And a team like the Bulldogs, or Essendon, who in previous years would be dismissed as just making up the numbers, can actually go all the way if only they find form at the right time.

The only certainty of the finals campaign this year may be that the form team wins no matter where they placed on the ladder.

That aside, the other reason why I think Richmond will win the flag is that statistical analysis like squiggle is only about what’s most likely to happen. Unlikely things happen all the time. They happen all the time in football. I’ve followed the Tigers my whole life and I wasn’t paying much attention to football the last time we were anything like a flag threat, so I don’t want to spoil this one with an over-reliance on what stats say usually tends to happen. I’m going to roll with the fact that anything might.

Discuss on BigFooty!

Squiggle on Round 19

Honestly, Squiggle is no good this week. It was one of the greatest rounds of football in history; I can’t add anything to it with charts.

That’s the good stuff. Miracles happening right in front of your face.

But since we’re here:

Animated!

A good week for the Cats, who belted Carlton while the Crows, Swans, and Power struggled. It was just a little spoiled by the fact that Adelaide’s last-gasp draw against Collingwood was no good to the Crows for anything other than pride and finishing above Geelong, since now their percentage matters again. Assuming no more draws, that is. Of course, three weeks ago I said, “assuming no more draws,” and there were immediately two more. Teams are drawing all over the place. So who knows.

These 11-goal-wins-over-bad-teams are the kinds of games that squiggle rates and humans don’t. They’re easy to overlook, because you expect the better team to win comfortably. But it’s worth taking notice when the margin is 70-odd instead of 30.

It’s also worth looking at scoring shots. This year I’ve been trialling a new algorithm in the background that will probably take over from the venerable ISTATE-91:12 in powering squiggle next year. One of the main differences is that it pays attention to scoring shots, since teams don’t tend to remain unusually accurate (or inaccurate) for very long. Most weeks it doesn’t make a huge difference, but this week Squiggle 2.0 rates GWS much higher for their 13.20 to Fremantle’s 13.8, as well as Richmond for defeating Gold Coast 14.14 to 10.5. Geelong’s victory over Carlton becomes even more emphatic (18.15 to 8.10), and Essendon (13.19) look a lot more competitive against the Bulldogs (19.13). Also St Kilda get a technical victory against Port (8.13 to 9.9), as do Collingwood over Adelaide (15.13 to 16.7).

Meanwhile, after Adelaide’s slide, Sydney are now rated the #1 form team! Just. That’s based on their strength in home & away matches; finals will be a little different, both because Sydney are unlikely to finish high enough to get home finals, and because they’re more of a defensive specialist than most premiership teams.

A bit of separation has emerged after the top 2, with Adelaide and Geelong likely to claim those spots. Then Port, GWS, and Richmond form a tier, for the moment, being the most likely to take out 3rd to 5th. Sydney are the most likely to jump up alongside them.

On the Tower, the long, snake-like tendrils of Hawthorn are creeping upward:

That’s a pretty significant chance of a Hawks finals campaign for a team that’s spent most of the season eyeing off 17th.

But there’s a bit of a hard line below that, formed by Collingwood. Basically if you’re better than Collingwood, you might play finals, but if you’re worse than Collingwood, you can’t. Also you can’t if you’re Collingwood.

North’s continuation of their long-running curb stomp over Melbourne had the unfortunate side-effect of making a Round 23 SpoonBowl vs Brisbane less likely. But we can always hope.

This week’s adjusted Flagpole has the Swans slip below the Cats! On original Flagpole, as seen on https://live.squiggle.com.au, Sydney are still a clear 2nd. So I’m not sure about that. But we’ll go with it for now:

Discuss on BigFooty!

Squiggle on Round 18

Animated!

Every week I say, “It was Adelaide’s week,” and you know what? It’s Adelaide’s week. It has to be when they put away the 2nd team while a likely 3rd and 4th in GWS and Port Adelaide turn to water. Literally, in GWS’s case. I was at that game. Super wet. Adelaide missing the Top 2 from here would require something extraordinary, like when Adelaide missed Top 4 last year, or Adelaide failed to finish 1st in 2006. Actually, Adelaide does this a lot. But those are coincidences, probably.

Sydney are rolling on, too. In fact, let’s skip right ahead to the brand new Flagpole, which I redesigned due to popular whinging. This one builds in a penalty based on the team’s likelihood of making finals, so flags can no longer fly high on teams with no realistic chance of making the Top 8. More detail to come in another post sometime. The Swans still sit second even though they have more chance of missing finals altogether than their rivals:

There was an article by Rohan Connolly about how the pre-finals bye may mean it’s better than it used to be to finish 5th-8th, since you get to play more than a single game in a month of football, unlike the Qualifying Final winners, who have to sit around waiting for longer than is really ideal. That would be handy for the Swans, if the year that they get off to an 0-6 start, they don’t actually need to finish Top 4. Then again, if they keep up their current form, they’ll snag that anyway, because this is also the year when you won’t need many wins for 4th.

Speaking of 4th, that’s where Richmond now sits on the official ladder. Squiggle, however, probably won’t have any faith in Richmond until Trent Cotchin is on the dias holding the premiership cup. Oooh. That felt good to write. I mean, squiggle is so down on Richmond, it wouldn’t rate us if the team was jogging a victory lap of the MCG as “Yellow and Black” reverberates around and I cry hot salty tears of three decades of pent-up frustration while hugging the old guy in the seat next to me and it’s the best day of my life, it’s just the best day ever, oh God, oh God.

Squiggle can’t get past the fact that Richmond has the third-weakest attack in the league. To be sure, it’s hard to kick a lot of goals in a swimming pool. But the Tigers have been low-scoring all year, and low-scoring teams don’t win premierships. Sometimes, moderately-scoring teams with excellent defences do it. Not often. Not as often as you’d expect, given how many try. But sometimes. Richmond are far short even of that mark.

Hawthorn showed a lot in dispatching Fremantle away, but given that finals are probably out of reach, it doesn’t seem to mean a whole lot. Aside sticking it to St Kilda over that first round draft pick. That’s something.

I want to be hard on Port Adelaide, because it was another disappointing performance by a team that should be capable of more than this, but I actually watched some of the game and Melbourne were red hot. And losing by 23 points (23 scoring shots to 20) interstate to a team that’s challenging for Top 4 is not too shabby. The Inside 50 count was pretty lopsided. But still, it wasn’t exactly a capitulation, and isn’t reason to give up on the Power.

In fact, the ladder predictor still has Port for 4th. But it’s pretty ridiculous:

Thirteen wins for third place would be obscene and probably won’t happen, not unless we get a long-running repeat of that popular game show from last year, “Who Wants to Drop a Critical Game?”

But what it shows is that it’s wide open from 3rd down to 9th or 10th, and Top 4 spots are going cheap.

It was a brutal weekend for West Coast, who dropped a very winnable game while Sydney, Richmond, Melbourne, Essendon, and the Bulldogs all won. That’s knife-in-the-heart stuff.

St Kilda were up against it with Sydney away, and not really expected to win. But they didn’t look much like a finals team, either, and so also faded, partly because of new pressure from the Hawks from below.

But the Lions won! This raises the real possibility of a last-round spoonfight between Brisbane and North Melbourne. Now that’s entertainment.

Discuss on BigFooty!

Squiggle on Round 17

Round 17 already! The season’s nearly over. Before you know it, there will be nothing on TV and you’ll have to try to get excited about cricket. I just can’t do that any more. I was ruined by the golden age of Waugh, Gilchrist, McGrath, Warne et al. It’s just lucky I support Richmond, so I can follow footy for decades on end without ever being spoiled by success.

Things are getting messy in there. But look at Essendon go! Or even better, look at them on this chart, showing this year’s improvers:

That’s a mighty rise, especially considering how far back they were. And it’s come in fits and starts, with plenty of breakout wins (over Hawthorn, Geelong, West Coast, Port Adelaide, allllmost Sydney, and now St Kilda) and terrible losses (to Brisbane, Fremantle and Carlton). But when the Bombers are on, they’re on, and they’re on track to make the finals:

The other promising thing about Essendon is that they can score. They’re a balanced team, which is good, but they’re erring on the side of Attack rather than Defence, which is even better, because it’s the attacking sides that have proven the more effective flag collectors over the last few decades. Essendon still have a way to go, and can’t afford to take a two-steps-forward-one-step-back approach into September, if they make it at all, but it’s been a really promising year.

It was another good week for Adelaide, who were 7+ goals to the good of Melbourne. That combined with GWS’s loss to Sydney makes for a happy weekend, the only real downer being the increasing likelihood of sharing Top 4 with Port. Because that would mean no home ground advantage in a final, I mean. Not just because they hate them. But also that.

Richmond are tipped for 5th but there’s a big chance that Sydney will swallow up that spot, leaving 6th-9th to be fought out between the Tigers, Eagles, Demons, and Bombers, with the Saints and Bulldogs capable of sneaking in as well.

While the Dogs currently sit 11th on the ladder and are also tipped to finish there, that’s something of a hard floor for them. They’re currently a game and percentage clear of Fremantle, who won’t be overtaking anybody, and two games and percentage clear of Hawthorn, who otherwise might. So things probably won’t get worse for the Bulldogs, but might get significantly better.

It was a horrible result for St Kilda, who were the latest team to pull on the boots of Top Four Fancydom, take one step, and strangle to death on the laces. Not only did they get thrashed and give away the four premiership points to a fellow contender in Essendon, but every team around them except Melbourne won.

Brisbane lost, but not by as much as the squiggle expected, even though it already thought Richmond were filthy pretenders. With North Melbourne’s decreasing interest in playing football this year, the Lions are looking a little less like a sure thing for the wooden spoon each week.

Flagpole! You know how this goes.

Discuss on BigFooty!

Tip Leaderboard after Round 17

The Tip Leaderboard has developed a bit of spread over the last few weeks! PlusSixOne has pulled away to a whopping four tips lead over the next best model, and it’s leading in Bits as well:

Tips Bits
PlusSixOne

5 8 4 7 6 6 3 5 6 7 3 3 2 8 5 7 7

92 9.5796
Punters

4 8 4 7 7 6 3 5 5 7 4 4 3 7 5 5 7

91 8.0603

5 7 5 6 6 6 4 5 7 7 3 2 3 7 3 5 7

88 3.6086

3 8 5 6 7 7 4 5 4 7 4 1 3 6 4 6 8

88 2.7082

5 7 5 6 6 6 3 5 5 7 3 3 3 6 4 6 7

87 4.6444

5 9 4 6 7 6 3 5 4 7 4 3 2 6 5 5 6

87 4.0108
Aggregate

5 8 4 6 7 6 3 5 5 7 3 3 2 6 4 5 7

86 7.3906

5 8 5 5 5 6 3 5 5 8 4 2 2 7 3 6 7

86 4.1921

4 7 4 6 7 6 3 5 5 7 4 3 2 6 3 5 6

83 6.1518

“Bits” from Monash University Probabilistic Footy Tipping rewards tipsters for saying a win was likely and punishes them for saying it was unlikely.

New to Squiggle is Graft Ratings! Head on over for beautiful tips and projections of all kinds. Graft is having what appears to be a typical model year so far, sitting solidly in the 86-88 tip bracket.

And The Arc can be justifiably feeling a little screwed, with the worst tip numbers despite very respectable Bits and MAE (stats available on the main leaderboard page).