Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What Has Happened To Richmond This Season?

Two years ago, after the Tigers’ poor start to the AFL season, I did a post on ‘what has happened to Richmond?’ They subsequently recovered and even made the finals that year, winning their last nine home-and-away matches.

Well, this season their drop off has been even more remarkable and more sustained. Based on my weekly AFL rankings as of Round 20 the Tigers are six goals per match worse than they were at the end of 2015, easily the biggest drop off of any side, Fremantle included. (The Dockers have dropped off more in terms of wins, but either way Richmond is clearly a lot worse than last season.)

In that 2014 post I suggested one should look for simple explanations first before getting into more wide-ranging, subjective explanations (e.g. they should replace the board). I compared how each player had performed in 2013 with their performance in 2014 up to that point, based on their SuperCoach scores from Champion Data. While SuperCoach scores are not the absolute final word on assessing a player’s performance I think they do help in uncovering some of the more obvious reasons a club has improved or declined.

In the case of Richmond one obvious explanation stands out: Brett Deledio, Bachar Houli, and Ivan Maric were all very productive in 2015, based on their SuperCoach scores, but all of them have played far less in 2016. 2015 Maric has been essentially replaced by 2016 Shaun Hampson, who may indeed be more productive than 2016 Maric, but does not look to be close to the player Maric was last season. Deledio and Houli would also have less productive replacements – whoever they are, they are clearly not from among Richmond’s better players (think of players like Rioli, Short, Corey Ellis, or Menadue). In my 2014 post I considered the absences of Deledio and Maric a main explanation for Richmond’s decline in the first half of 2014.

Kamdyn McIntosh and Troy Chaplin have also played a lot less than in 2015. If one considers Sam Lloyd as a kind of replacement for McIntosh that fairly much washes out. With Chaplin David Astbury could be considered the replacement, and that looks to fairly much wash out too.

On a smaller scale some other productive players have missed a couple of matches here and there. Trent Cotchin, Alex Rance, Anthony Miles, Shaun Grigg, and Nick Vlaustin all played every match or close to every match last season, but this year they have collectively missed a few more matches. Of the more productive players who have played every match Jack Riewoldt has performed about the same, Brandon Ellis has been worse, but Dustin Martin has been better.

The other striking thing is that Tyrone Vickery has fallen off a cliff in terms of performance. I don’t have a ready explanation for that one, as Vickery has not only been markedly worse compared to last season but also the few seasons before that. Given that Vickery has only played about two-thirds of matches the past couple of seasons it is not a huge deal, but it doesn’t help either.

In summary then: Richmond’s most productive players were on the ground a lot in 2015, and that helped the Tigers to 15 wins. This season they have not been as lucky. So if the cause is as simple as that (and I couldn’t say for sure it is) what’s the answer? Basically to replicate their 2015 performance Richmond either needs to hope that its good players can stay healthy, or get their other regular players to improve, or have better replacements waiting in the wings. Injury management aside they probably can’t do too much about hoping players stay healthy. Hence, once the Tigers work out how to address those other factors that may well go some way to addressing their slide.

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