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What do the meta-ratings tell us? Part 1

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Roar Guru
9th May, 2019
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It’s time for me to give you some context for the ups and downs of season 2019.

This article shares the collected evaluations from the following sources: plussixone, Massey, Footymaths, Wooden Finger, The Arc, Graft, Matter of Stats, our own Following Football, and the actual percentages from the AFL ladder.

Our “meta-rating” modulates those nine rating systems into matching mean-of-50 scoring where (mathphobics, look away!) the standard deviations line up with the standard bell-curve percentages. We’ll be sharing the meta-ratings from pre-season through the weekend just past by category:

Gold Coast and Carlton
The Suns, despite all the predictions placing them in the petrified wood(-en spoon) category, started the season above Carlton with a majority of sources (barely) and a meta-rating above the Blues as well (barely).

Even when Gold Coast went 3-1 to start the year, they couldn’t move up from 17th:

Week 0 – 17th: 0-0 Gold Coast (14.53), 18th: 0-0 Carlton (12.99)
Week 1 – 17th: 0-1 Gold Coast (21.52), 18th: 0-1 Carlton (15.20)
Week 2 – 17th: 1-1 Gold Coast (22.59), 18th: 0-2 Carlton (19.17)
Week 3 – 17th: 2-1 Gold Coast (26.77), 18th: 0-3 Carlton (18.90)
Week 4 – 17th: 3-1 Gold Coast (26.48), 18th: 0-4 Carlton (19.42)

Then Carlton found one win, and that’s all the rating systems needed to see:

Week 5 – 17th: 1-4 Carlton (27.02), 18th: 3-2 Gold Coast (22.97)
Week 6 – 17th: 1-5 Carlton (29.32), 18th: 3-3 Gold Coast (20.60)
Week 7 – 17th: 1-6 Carlton (26.43), 18th: 3-4 Gold Coast (22.50).

Today, only two of our systems have the 3-4 Suns out of their cellar – Massey and the actual ladder percentage – despite them still being above four other teams in record.

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Peter Wright

Peter Wright of the Suns (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Sydney Swans
The next team up in the current meta-ratings is Sydney, albeit a good distance above them at 40.37 after Week 7. Yet the story for the Swans isn’t that gap, but the gap from where they started the season.

Despite the predictions being dark for yet another trip into finals for the Bloods, no one expected to see them sharing the bottom of the ladder.

In the pre-season meta-rating, they scored over 60 – more than half a “standard deviation” above the average team score of 50. They were still seen as “significantly better than average”.

As the losses (and more tellingly, the evidence on the field) mounted, that number started dropping:
Week 1: 54.54 (10th place)
Week 2: 48.58 (12th)
Week 3: 49.71 (after their lone win)
Week 4: 46.68 (12th)
Week 5: 45.06 (14th)
Week 6: 42.50 (14th)
Week 7: 40.37 (16th).

Before the season, every marker had Longmire’s team above average among the league’s eighteen members; now, only FMI stubbornly hangs on to an above-the-mean rating, with all others dipping below the average by week four.

The four also rans that aren’t
The four clubs which sat on the pre-season meta-ratings sat in slots number 12, 14, 15, and 16 were almost universally placed in the bottom six with the Blues and Suns.

Despite the four teams’ combined records of 13-15 so far this season, despite two of the teams currently still in the top eight, those teams haven’t left the bottom seven in the meta-rankings. Not a single ranking of any of the four sits above tenth place (with one percentage exception).

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Frankly, we as fans apparently don’t believe they’re any good, and the mathematical systems don’t, either.

FREMANTLE – started at a low of 29.05, currently close to their Week 6 high of 48.33 at a meta-rating of 48.16, in 12th place.
BULLDOGS – started at a low of 36.70, high of 49.09 in week 2, currently back up to 44.04.
SAINT KILDA – started at 36.19, dropped to a low of 35.78 after the GCS game, reached a high of 48.75 in week 5, currently at 43.83.
NORTH MELBOURNE – started up at 53.88. returned to the 40s in week 1, bottomed out at 37.51 in week 5, currently at 43.58 in 15th.

What do these clubs have to do to climb above average? Go undefeated?

Nat Fyfe

Both Fyfe and Fremantle fell short of what they’re capable of in 2018 – is it happening again (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Brisbane and Melbourne
Two clubs going in opposite directions. The Lions started with a meta-ranking of 13th, about where many expected them to land.

The Demons were expected to challenge for the crown in 2019, and began at a lofty meta-rating of 74.85, well above a standard deviation above average, in third place overall. They were even first on the Wooden Finger ranking to start the season, with all the other lists rating them from second to fifth.

Since then?
Melbourne has fallen after every loss, and popped up a bit after every win. Here’s their meta-rating placements for each successive week of the season: 3rd (week 0), then 6th (0-1), 9th (0-2), 11th (0-3), 8th (1-3), 10th (1-4), 12th (1-5), and now 11th (2-5) after week 7, sitting a stone’s throw below the mean at 48.22.

Notice – they’re still above 4-3 Fremantle and St Kilda, despite their 2-5 record. FMI has them all the way up in 7th place, while MoSH and Following Football slot them 14th. (Their percentage, of course, is 18th.)

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Meanwhile, Brisbane at 5-2 has done the same type of thing – climbed after most of the wins, dropped following the two losses. Starting at 42.23 and in 13th, they went to 12th, 10th, and 8th (at 3-0 and 56.24) before dropping all the way back to 13th place and 46.36 in week 5. They’ve recovered over the last two weeks to be in 10th place again, with a middle of the road meta-rating of 50.40.

Four systems hedge them above their average; the Massey Ratings have them fifth, while MoSH places them eighth. Meanwhile, five systems still have them slightly below the mean, “led” by The Arc placing them in 12th, despite a fourth-place position on the ladder.

Mitch Robinson

Lincoln McCarthy of the Lions takes a mark during the round three AFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Port Adelaide Power at The Gabba on April 06, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Four through nine, in no particular order
Floating around with plenty of season left to strike are six teams our rating services calculate are worthy to move into September – although barring disasters above them, no more than five will. Probably fewer, possibly far fewer. Time will tell.

Those six, with their current records and meta-ratings, are 3-4 Essendon (60.72), 4-3 Richmond (59.32), 4-3 Adelaide (58.95), 4-3 Port Adelaide (58.44), 4-3 West Coast (57.92), and 3-4 Hawthorn (52.69).

To give you an idea about how solid this pack currently is, there are 54 positions/ratings involved in creating those six meta-ratings (nine for each team). Only five of those fall OUTSIDE of that place range – Port’s sitting 10th on the FMI chart, one measly point out of ninth; Richmond and West Coast both have sub-100 percentages on the ladder; and Hawthorn’s outside of the top 11 twice (Massey and MoSHBods). Otherwise, they’re all rock.

What have they done to reach this point? Depends on the storyline… which we’ll look at tomorrow, along with the three teams which according to every one of our metrics have dominated the 2019 Australian Football League season through the first third of the year.