Sunday, June 16, 2019

AFL Power Rankings: Round 13 2019

If my rankings' predictions were being used on Squiggle, I'd be at the top of the leaderboard. Just saying guys. :)

(Of course, if they were near the bottom, I'd be dead quiet about that...)

Monday, June 10, 2019

AFL Power Rankings: Round 12 2019

Nothing will ever diminish the West Coast Eagles’ 2018 premiership triumph, but they are far from the most fearsome ‘reigning premier’ we have had.

The reigning premier is clearly not the best team so far

The title of ‘reigning premier’ deservedly carries a lot of weight. Like a boxing heavyweight champion, the team that won the premiership last season is often season as the ‘team to beat’, up until the point that they are eliminated from the current season’s finals race.

In 2019 the title of reigning premier belongs to the West Coast Eagles. Halfway through the season the Eagles are hardly looking like the fearsome ‘team to beat’. They sit fourth, with eight wins out of 12 matches, three wins behind pace-setters Geelong.

More worryingly, they have a percentage of only 103.0. The Eagles have been well-beaten three times this season by teams that are merely around average: by Brisbane in the opening round by 44 points, by Port Adelaide at home by 58 points, and this weekend by Sydney by 45 points. (They were also beaten by Geelong by 42 points.)

West Coast’s average net margin this season, adjusted for estimated home ground advantage and opponent strength, is only +3 points (see chart below). Clearly, the Eagles to date in 2019 are not the most dominant reigning champion we’ve had.

The Eagles were not a dominant premiership team

A premiership is a premiership, and always deserved. West Coast was fantastic in last year’s finals series, with an average adjusted margin of +37 points (see chart above). The Eagles beat Collingwood twice – including once at the MCG – and destroyed Melbourne in the preliminary final. When fully fit, they may have been the best team for the year.

As far as premiership teams go, the 2018 Eagles were hardly the most dominant (see table below). They were probably similar to the 2017 Tigers, and slightly better than the 2016 Bulldogs. According to the rankings however, every other premiership team this decade was considerably better.

Further, last year’s West Coast team may not have even been the strongest Eagles team this decade (see table below). I’d say that was the 2015 Grand Final team, that had a percentage (after finals) of 142.8, but who ran into the triple-premiership winning Hawthorn side. Arguably the 2011 and 2012 sides were about as good as last year’s premiership team as well – their ranking points and percentages were similar.

The 2018 Eagles team benefitted from not having a ‘great’ opponent, or even too many ‘very good’ sides, in its way. (Richmond was possibly great early in the season, but had fallen off somewhat by the finals series.)

The low-rated midfield

Champion Data somewhat controversially rated West Coast’s playing list as only the eleventh strongest heading into the season, and its midfield way down in fifteenth. That may seem laughable to some who saw Luke Shuey and Dom Sheed tearing it up on Grand Final day.

As highlighted by HPN a few weeks back though, the Eagles are pretty low down in terms of their inside 50 differential with their opponents this season (currently fifteenth). They also rank low in differentials for disposals (sixteenth), and centre clearances (last). They’re not exactly lighting it up on the main midfield indicators.

Champion Data rated Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo, and Andrew Gaff as above average midfielders. However, it rated Dom Sheed, Mark Hutchings and Chris Masten as below average (that rating may have changed for Sheed this season). In other words, Champion Data rated the Eagles as having little midfield depth, and no player among the very best midfielders – not even Gaff, who gets a lot of possessions, but who also has a low average number of metres gained per disposal for a wingman. (Shuey, last year’s Norm Smith Medallist, was of course ‘elite’ on the day that mattered most.)

West Coast is still a good side. After each of their three premierships the Eagles have been a finals side the next season, but not a huge premiership threat. This year – on their form – doesn’t look like changing that pattern.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

AFL Power Rankings: Round 11 2019

Fremantle is the most improved team this season, having once again become a hard team to score against.

Based on each team’s change in ranking points so far in 2019, the Fremantle Dockers are the most improved team this season (see table below). Their ranking points have improved by about four goals, and they have gone from being considered one of the worst teams to around average. Excluding Carlton and Gold Coast – both of whom had hardly anywhere to go but up – no other team has improved by more than seven rankings points this season, not even Brisbane (the big improvers on the ladder).

Fremantle has been better than average this season though. Their current ranking is dragged down by having an average net margin, adjusted for estimated home ground advantage and opponent strength, of -28 points over the second half of 2018 (see chart below). In the first half of 2019, it is +8 points.

The Dockers’ rise in ranking however has largely been driven by their performances in three of those 11 matches. They are: their opening round smashing of North Melbourne, and their impressive wins away against top teams GWS and Collingwood. Outside of those three matches the Dockers have been slightly below average (which is still a large improvement on last season’s performances)

After generally leaking goals since their 2015 Grand Final appearance Fremantle has once again become a hard team to score against, having conceded the second-least points this season. The Dockers are conceding on average 70 points a game, way down from 93 points a game in 2018.

This is despite none of their defenders being particularly highly rated or ranking particularly highly in any category, apart from Luke Ryan and his ability to intercept. Collectively though, while players such as Alex Pearce barely impact the stats sheet, Fremantle has conceded the least marks inside 50 and the least goal assists.

I still wouldn’t be racing to put money on the Dockers to finish highly (if I raced to put money on anything at all). They are looking a lot closer to it though than I would have thought at the start of the season.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

AFL Power Rankings: Round 10 2019

Without Tom Mitchell, Hawthorn appears to be a decent but middle-of-the-pack side.

The Hawks haven't been quite as good this year

Hawthorn – the most successful team of the 2010s – finished fourth on the ladder last year after the home and away season, though there were probably a couple of teams below the Hawks that were better. This year one could have predicted the Hawks to finish anywhere from fourth to twelfth, and probably got a fair amount of agreement either way. Where is Hawthorn actually at?

Hawthorn did finish off last year’s home and away season well, winning ten of their last twelve matches. Even accounting for some weak opposition, the Hawks’ results were pretty good (see chart below). Their finals series was not good though, with Richmond and Melbourne eliminating them fairly comfortably.

This year, the Hawks have been slightly above average, and sit about in the middle of both the ladder and the rankings. They’ve had some impressive wins against Adelaide away, GWS, and Port Adelaide (the latter over this past weekend). They’ve also had some bad losses against the Bulldogs and St. Kilda, and a narrow win against Carlton.

Missing Tom Mitchell

In 2018 Brownlow Medal-winning midfielder Tom Mitchell set a season record for disposals, and also recorded the second-highest ever number of clearances. Unfortunately Mitchell will miss the entire 2019 season with a broken leg. How much are the Hawks missing Mitchell?

Quite a bit. No one player is going to significantly make or break a football side of twenty-two players. Hawthorn is down a bit though in some of the main statistics that rely heavily on midfield performance (see table below). The Hawks rank last this year in clearance differential with their opponents, and are no longer among the top teams for inside 50 differential as they were last year.

Some of Mitchell’s production has been picked up others, in particular Jaegar O’Meara and James Worpel. It’s tough though to completely replace Mitchell’s 35 disposals, eight clearances, and five inside 50s per game, and the increases in output from O’Meara and Worpel compared to last season haven’t done it. Both are doing more, but neither would be considered among the best ‘inside’ midfielders. Ricky Henderson’s improvement – at over 30 years of age – has been more significant, but while he replaces some of Mitchell’s work in terms of gaining possessions and metres, he doesn’t replace Mitchell’s work in contests.

The Hawks may still finish as a top six side, particularly if they play like they did against Port. Or they may still finish twelfth. As impressive as they’ve been at times though, they’re probably not challenging for a premiership until they at least see the return of their star midfielder, and more besides.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

AFL Power Rankings: Round 8 2019

Through the first third of the season, the good teams seem to be Geelong, Collingwood, maybe GWS … and not much else.

We are eight rounds – or one-third of the way – into the 2019 season, and each team has played almost half the competition. We should therefore have a fair idea who is playing well this year and who is not.
Nevertheless, some teams have had significantly easier fixtures than others so far (see table below). Therefore, there are a few things about the current ladder where the rankings agree and others where the rankings think the ladder is misleading us a little.

Geelong, who is one win clear on top of the ladder, has been clearly the most impressive team in 2019 to date. Not only do the Cats have the highest average net margin, they have done it with the hardest fixture. Among Geelong’s opponents have been Collingwood, GWS, Essendon, Adelaide, West Coast, and Hawthorn, giving the Cats an eight point disadvantage per game compared to an average fixture. Adjusting for estimated opponent strength (and home ground advantage) gives Geelong an average net margin of +38 per game, which is right up there with many premiership teams.
Collingwood sits second on both the ladder and the rankings. The rankings do not think the Magpies are a great side yet, but at least they’re good, which makes them the Cats’ main challengers almost by default. Their fixture is rated as having been about average so far (although they have struggled to beat their weaker opponents such as Carlton), suggesting that where they currently sit is a reasonable indication of where they are at.
Adelaide and GWS sit third and fourth on the ladder, with the same number of wins and similar percentages. The rankings though think the Giants are the more impressive team, having had the harder fixture. GWS has played Geelong and West Coast away, Richmond, Essendon, and Hawthorn. Adelaide has played Geelong and Hawthorn, but otherwise Port Adelaide has probably been its only decent opponent.
There are ten sides that have between three and five wins, and which the rankings think have performed fairly similarly. Their average adjusted net margins in 2019 have been between about plus one goal and minus one goal per match. Essendon is considered to have had a relatively tough fixture so far, having played the top three ranked sides, and therefore it may potentially be better than their ladder position suggests (though the Bombers’ loss on the weekend to Sydney was hardly impressive). The Western Bulldogs, in contrast, have had a relatively easy fixture, having played (and lost to) both Gold Coast and Carlton.   
Finally, there are five teams that the ladder and the rankings both rate as having by far the worst seasons. These are: Gold Coast, Melbourne, Sydney, North Melbourne, and Carlton. All of these teams have a percentage of 85 or under; no other team has a percentage of less than 93. The rankings still rate Melbourne, Sydney, and North Melbourne as not too bad overall, because of their 2018 performances. On 2019 form alone though they are a long way back from the rest of the pack.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

AFL Power Rankings: Round 7 2019

Adelaide or Port Adelaide – who is the better South Australian team heading into next round’s Showdown?

Both are rated just above average
Both Adelaide and Port Adelaide are around the middle of the rankings, and rated slightly above average. Adelaide currently has a few more ranking points – 7.2 points compared to 3.9 points.
Both have performed slightly above average so far in 2019. Adelaide’s average net margin adjusted for estimated home ground advantage and opponent strength is +4 (see chart below). Port Adelaide’s is a bit higher, at +8, boosted by its big win against reigning premiers West Coast in Perth.

Both have been among the most consistently ‘average’ teams over their past 22 matches. Port has had only five matches out of their past 22 where its adjusted net margin is either greater than 25 points or less than -25 points – the least of any side (see chart below). Adelaide has had the second least, with seven matches in those categories.

Adelaide: not yet back to 2017 levels
Adelaide was the best team for most of 2017, and very good in 2016 as well, but injuries hit the Crows hard last season. With more of their top players available they were a semi-popular pick to shoot back up the ladder this year.
The Crows are fairly well-placed so far in 2019, with four wins and three losses. They have been somewhat helped by a friendly fixture though, beating Sydney, St. Kilda, Fremantle, and Gold Coast. They lost at home to Hawthorn, and to a North Melbourne team that has dropped in standing.
Champion Data rated Adelaide’s list highly coming into the season: rating it second overall, and strong in attack, the midfield, and defence. That rating could be seen as a hangover from the 2017 season, with forwards Taylor Walker and Eddie Betts arguably past their peak. Injuries have also hit the Crows again – though nowhere near the extent of last season – with the team losing wing Paul Seedsman, and defender Tom Doedee.
Adelaide seems to have most of its midfield back and firing, but not quite to the same effect as the peak days of 2016-17. That 2017 team ranked highly in terms of contested possessions, clearances, and inside 50s. This year’s team ranks highly in disposals, but not in those other statistics. Instead, it’s the Crows’ cross-town rivals that seem to so far have taken their place among the top midfields.  
Port Adelaide: the resurgence of Travis Boak
At the end of Round 7, Port Adelaide leads the league in contested possessions, clearances, and inside 50s, and is third in disposals. Ex-captain and two-time All-Australian Travis Boak has returned to the midfield, and is in probably the best form of his career. Boak ranks sixth for contested possessions per game in 2019, ninth in clearances, tenth in inside 50s, and fifth in disposals. Boak’s resurgence, and that of Tom Rockliff, has helped the Power more than overcome the loss of Chad Wingard and Jared Polec to other clubs.
Not that the Power have significantly set the world on fire yet either, despite their four wins. As mentioned above, their best win for the season was easily beating West Coast in Perth. They also easily beat last year’s preliminary finalists Melbourne, but it’s not as impressive beating the Demons in 2019. Port beat Carlton and North Melbourne at home by relatively small margins, and lost to a depleted Richmond. 
Port’s defence – which was one of the stingiest in 2018 – has been merely average so far this season. Dougal Howard has performed well, but Tom Jonas had probably a career-best season last year, and he has dropped off a bit (and been injured).
The Power also haven’t been able to score efficiently from their weight of inside 50s, with Charlie Dixon out, Justin Westhoff not upping his points total as a more permanent forward, and star Robbie Gray having possibly his worst season to date in terms of effectively disposing of the ball. On the bright side, Robbie’s namesake Sam Gray has found some form. (Port’s also been a goldmine for fantasy football teams, with first-year players Zak Butters, Willem Drew, Xavier Duursma, Connor Rozee being permanent fixtures in the line-up. I had them all.)      
Who has the better outlook this year?
Other systems, on average, seem to think Port’s outlook is slightly better, and rate them slightly higher – see, for example, Matter of Stats and The Arc. That could be because other systems adjust to the new season a little quicker than mine, and/or because Port’s scoring shot differential is better.
I like Adelaide’s a little better, even before Port recently got hit by injuries. I think they’re a bit deeper, and have been a bit more consistent in their performances.
The rankings are tipping Adelaide by 3 points. Hopefully this week’s game is at great as the two Showdowns last year.

My Ranking Of The 22 Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies Up To 'Avengers: Endgame'

Still Finding Their Feet

22. The Incredible Hulk
21. Iron Man 2

Of Lesser Consequence

20. Ant-Man
19. Thor
18. Captain America: The First Avenger
17. Thor: The Dark World
16. Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Solid Entertainment

15. Ant-Man And The Wasp
14. Captain Marvel
13. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

The Movies That Made Mine Marvel

12. Iron Man
11. Spider-Man: Homecoming
10. Guardians Of The Galaxy
9. Iron Man 3
8. Doctor Strange
7. Avengers
6. Black Panther
5. Thor: Ragnarok

The Russo Brothers

4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
3. Avengers: Endgame
2. Captain America: Civil War
1. Avengers: Infinity War