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.