Looking at the Flagpole at the moment: why is Geelong ranked so much higher than Richmond despite Richmond being ranked ahead of them in both offence and defence?
Because Richmond is in an area of the chart where good teams go to not win premierships.
Over the last twenty years, only three teams have done it from there: Bulldogs 2016, Sydney 2012 and Sydney 2005. All were upsets. Two were huge upsets, part of a series of other upsets.
Meanwhile, it’s been a graveyard for otherwise strong teams who failed to go all the way: Sydney 2016, Sydney 2015, Richmond 2015, Fremantle 2015, Sydney 2014, Fremantle 2014, Fremantle 2013, Sydney 2013, Fremantle 2012, St Kilda 2011, St Kilda 2010, Adelaide 2010, St Kilda 2009, Adelaide 2009, Sydney 2006, Adelaide 2006, Adelaide 2005, Sydney 2004, Geelong 2004, and Carlton 2001. I suppose I should add Sydney 2017 now, too.
Flagpole is different to the regular squiggle algorithm because it’s slanted to favour teams that look like past premiership winners, and not like teams that win games but not flags. That basically means it prefers teams with a strong attack, and dislikes teams that look like they’re being coached by Ross Lyon.
This is all done without any special reasoning; i.e. squiggle offers no theory on why, exactly, defensive specialist teams have done poorly in finals after successful regular-season campaigns. It just notes that they have, and expects the trend to continue. The landscape today may look very different if St Kilda had snagged a couple of flags in 2009 and 2010 and if Fremantle had managed it in 2013. But they didn’t, so this is the historical reality, which Richmond need to overcome.