Matt Cowgill of The Arc has been publishing fantastic analysis on his own site for ages. This year he’s been picked up by ESPN. I feel like every major newspaper and sports site will have their own legit stats person pretty soon. But for now it’s this:
Everyone knows the AFL ladder is a filthy liar until at least the halfway mark of the season, but right now it has its own alt-right web show advertising male vitality pills. The official ladder is so full of crap, it could and should be dumped outside Punt Road as a warning for the Richmond coach.
More on that later. It was a great week for Sydney, who came to Melbourne to face a red hot St Kilda, and played like they just remembered they were a pre-season flag favourite.
It was also an excellent week for Essendon, who put the Eagles down by 10 goals.
Adelaide returned to the winners’ list, although an 80-point victory over Brisbane was only par. Maybe even below par, if you consider the number of Lions scoring shots. Still, that was better than GWS, who managed to extract a win from their game against the Tigers only after a twist of fate so heinous, DVDs of the game should only be allowed to be sold under the counter in Canberra. I just want to say, it goes to show that the Geneva Convention has a long way to go before the world can be truly free of acts of horrific torture and abuse. Also that when you think you’ve been hurt so badly you can never feel anything again, you actually can. You can.
I’m going to the Dreamtime game this weekend and I already feel twitchy and fragile, like I’m coming home to an abusive husband, and the house is dark, and I’m pushing open the door and I just know he’s in there somewhere, sitting in his chair, smoking. I just hope this time he’ll be good to me.
Anyway. After three wins by minuscule margins, the Giants are flattered by their ladder position. They’re also suffering through an injury blight, so it may all even out. But Squiggle thinks close wins are only a little better than close losses, at least in terms of rating team strength. There’s quite a lot of good evidence that the result of close games is a coin toss, with teams winning close ones due to luck more than skill.
Some will inevitably string together a series of close wins or close losses, the same way that if you toss a coin many times, you’ll eventually get a run of heads or tails. But it’s not reflective of an ability to keep doing so, so when this happens, the team’s ladder position becomes deceptive.
Fremantle notably did this in 2015, becoming an incredibly unlikely minor premier, and duly crashed down the ladder the following year. But here they are again in 2017! They’re sitting 5th with a percentage that would make a 14th placed team blush. Certainly a lot of that is because of one terrible game, when they lost by 89 to Port Adelaide. But with victories by 2, 5, and 2 points, and no close losses, they could very easily be bottom 6.
So the official ladder is lying. We’re more likely to wind up with something like this:
And believe it or not, Brisbane are also flattered by their ladder position, with their sole win so far this year coming by 2 points at home against Gold Coast in Round 1. None of their 8 losses have been close.
Port come off the killer bye this week, so that will be interesting. They managed to improve their standing during their off-week, mainly thanks to the Eagles sliding.
We’ve had a super-likely wooden spooner for quite a while, but the race for 17th is coming down to just three teams: Gold Coast, Hawthorn, and Carlton, and most likely one of the latter two.
Flagpole! It’s Crow favouritism, as usual. Flagpole still loves you, Adelaide.
Pray for me.
A tumultuous week for tipsters, with the two leading models in Figuring Footy and Matter of Stats taking a stand against the pack and getting whacked for it. Meanwhile FMI collected 7 tips and shot all the way to the top!
5 7 5 6 6 6 4 5 7
5 8 4 7 6 6 3 5 6
4 8 4 7 7 6 3 5 5
5 8 4 6 7 6 3 5 5
3 8 5 6 7 7 4 5 4
5 9 4 6 7 6 3 5 4
4 7 4 6 7 6 3 5 5
5 8 5 5 5 6 3 5 5
This puts the bookies back above the aggregate. Booo.
Still, that’s not bad. It’s a tall order to beat the market odds, especially in a simple head-to-head contest of tipping every game. The market knows more and can react quickly; a couple of times this season, it’s swung the right way just before a game’s kick-off.
Also worth noting, of course, that 2017 has been a shocker for tipping. The aggregate (and the market) are both running at 61.25%, which is well below par, even for those years before the AFL included expansion teams you could count on to get regularly beaten.
Figuring Footy has another excellent analysis based on shot quality, this time examining the Saints in particular:
The Saints have created better quality chances (xScore) than their opponents 6 times this year. In all 5 of their wins and also in their loss to an incredibly accurate West Coast. If this result went the other way, they’d be sitting equal first heading into round 9.
Matter of Stats has a pretty table in this week’s wrap-up showing the #1 ranked team after every round since 1990:
Squiggle is very excited about Port Adelaide this week, because keeping an interstate team to 38 points in one of their home games is a big deal, normally. It may be less so when the game is played in China, and the nominal home team has a whinge beforehand about how they don’t even want to be there. Nevertheless: An excellent defensive performance by the Power, timed for maximum gloating value with Adelaide losing at home.
Adelaide have fallen swiftly for two reasons. Firstly, both weeks they’ve lost by a lot, which is never good. You don’t want that. Secondly, they’ve been held to low scores, when high-scoring was the main thing they were good at. It’s concerning because unbalanced teams (as Adelaide are, being an attack specialist) are fragile: They often win a lot of home & away games, or run close, but come unstuck when it counts. So the task for Adelaide now is to prove that they’re more than a one-trick pony with a trick that’s been worked out.
Melbourne are the other big winner, and Essendon and Sydney had positive weeks. In the Swans’ case, it was the first time all year they outperformed expectations. Lowered expectations, that is. If you keep sucking often enough, eventually the bar gets so low you can’t help but clear it. And clear it they did! So that’s something. In fact, it’s enough to make finals more likely than not:
That’s Richmond sliding out of the top 8, despite their excellent comeback win over the Dockers. Honestly, at three-quarter time, when we were down 35-65, I didn’t think we could win it. Then we kicked 5 goals unanswered goals to hit the lead with only 21 seconds left on the lock – an unloseable position! I leaped up in the stands and cheered my lungs out, thinking, “Wow, this is so un-Richmond-like!”
Oh, but then it was. Suddenly it was all very, very Richmond-like.
Fortunately, at this point, my heart is already about 99% scar tissue. I mean, you can only stab me there so many times before I cease to feel anything.
Adelaide’s grip on top spot loosened considerably this week, and a bunch of teams benefited, because someone has to finish top 4, even if right now no-one seems like they want to. Essendon’s win over Geelong opened up some bottom-2 real estate, with Hawthorn, Carlton, and Gold Coast the most likely buyers.
Fortunately in these turbulent times Brisbane provide some reliability. To Brisbane fans, all this talk of 2017’s unpredictability is probably pretty grating, because every week the Lions are getting beaten by exactly as much as you’d expect.
Speaking of the Lions’ next opponent, Adelaide are still #1 on Flagpole, even if the Season Predictor is tipping them out of the top two.
The AFL’s arrangement with Champion Data means that only basic stats are released to the public, which is a real barrier to those of us who’d like to do interesting things with it. For example, with shot position data, you can compile an awesome list like this one from Figuring Footy:
Since 2012 there were 28,530 goals kicked, but only around 150 of them were kicked from further out than 60m. And a fair chunk of these were kicks to full-forward which somehow slipped through the contest and over the goal line without taking a touch.
There are probably only about 40 odd examples over the last 6 years of a player backing themselves in from outside 60m and then actually delivering. These are 6 of my favourites.
Matter of Stats on just how weird Round 7 was:
Last weekend’s results were certainly, in the colloquial sense, “surprising”, with all nine contests won by the team that was lower on the ladder at the start of the round than were their opponents. But, quantitatively, how surprising were they, and how much more surprising were they than other home and away rounds from other seasons?
Squiggle has always found Round 7 hard to tip, for some reason. Last week I played with the idea of adding a cap to the declared probability of Round 7 tips just because they’ve always been harder than normal:
But of course I decided, “No, it’s just random noise, there’s no reason why Rounds 1, 4, and 7 should be harder to tip.”
LO AND BEHOLD
5, 5, and 3 from those weeks.
I mean, it probably is just random noise. I think.