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What do the meta-ratings tell us? Part 2

Sydney Stack of the Tigers tackles Connor Rozee of Port Adelaide during the round four AFL match between the Port Adelaide Power and the Richmond Tigers at Adelaide Oval on April 13, 2019 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
10th May, 2019
3

Yesterday, oh delightful readers, I began to tell you all about the meta-ratings and their meanings for the eighteen clubs in our Australian Football League, and how they’ve helped us lay out what the likelihood of success is for the teams we barrack for.

The Meta-Ratings are the modulated combined ratings of nine mathematical systems of evaluation of the AFL clubs – the explanation’s linked, and if you need a refresher course, take a pause to remind yourself of any details you need to keep this from going over your head.

(I’m not smart enough to make it too far over your head, but nevertheless… consider it a mental seat belt, I suppose.)

Four to nine, in no particular order
We left off midstream, looking at the six clubs in the peloton behind our three front-runners, and explaining the roads they’ve travelled so far.

Of the fourth through ninth place teams on our list, Hawthorn has separated itself most definitively from the rest – in a bad way.

They sit in ninth place, further from eighth than eighth sits from fourth. Every input has them either in eighth or ninth this week, except for the two we mentioned yesterday that have them 12th and 13th.

And it’s not like there are any signs they’ll shoot up the ladder any time soon, either – while they sat a heady fourth following their upset at Adelaide Oval in week one, they’ve gone from that 69.01 rating down to sixth (60 and change), fifth (still 60), seventh (57.89), ninth, ninth, and ninth, dropping slightly every single week.

The Eagles are eighth. That’s where they were after their week one “humiliation” at Brisbane’s hands (they were second in pre-season) on the meta-ratings board, and then they were able to climb back to a high of 72.34, back to second in week 3, before beginning their slow re-descent, Eagles flying after Hawks, through 3rd, 4th, and 7th en route to their current 8th place at 57.92.

Massey has them fourth; FMI and the Arc tag them fifth, and they’ve got two ninths and the 13th place on the flip side of the card.

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Then we get to Port in seventh place (at 58.44), with inputs ranging from fourth (plussixone) to tenth (Footymaths). Although they started at eleventh, they’ve hovered right at seventh throughout the season following the opening no-longer-seems-like-an-upset over Melbourne – down to ninth once, up to sixth once, but sitting very consistently at seventh.

Which is tremendously odd, considering how erratic their results have seemed on the surface. But when they lost to the Tigers, these systems hadn’t downgraded Richmond all that much despite their injuries; when they upset the Eagles, these systems weren’t describing West Coast as the threat everyone else did at that juncture. So their own numbers never moved all that much.

Their crosstown nemesis Adelaide sits in sixth, barely a half-point above the Power. Four of the nine systems favour the Crows over Port; five prefer the Power.

A tenth system that we’re considering adding to the meta-ratings, Stattraction, also favours Adelaide, which would bring the list to a tie. The Crows sport three fifth places (ELO-FF, plus61, and the AFL percentile), three sevenths, two eighths, and a ninth among the nine rating systems.

After starting in seventh before the season, the Crows’ slow start had cast them into the 8th-10th range throughout the season on the meta-rating hierarchy.

Bryce Gibbs

Bryce Gibbs of the Crows (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Richmond, of course, started out the pre-season first on most lists, at 78.98 on the very first meta-rating sheet, close to four points above the Eagles, and because of that separation hasn’t fallen as far as they have in the eyes of the humans when injuries hit.

The losses to strong teams from Collingwood and GWS didn’t hurt them too badly in R2 and R3, and thus their lowest placement of the season thus far was sixth place.

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Their current 59.32 is as low a rating as they’ve had all season, pulled down by their 12th place ladder percentage and their eighth place here at Following Football. But the rest of their placements are still currently in that fourth – seventh place range.

They were passed by Essendon last week on this list. Though the Bombers were a popular finals’ pick for 2019, they were only ninth in the computers’ collective opinions going into the season, and two bad losses plunked them down to 11th and then 13th before they began to right the ship.

Dylan Shiel

Dylan Shiel of the Bombers marks (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

At their lowest, with a rating of 48.5, the Wooden Finger charts had them still up in 8th place, while plussixone marked them down to 14th. They leapt back up into sixth place overall with their first two wins, and now sit in fourth despite going only 1-2 since then.

Strangely, nobody ranks the Dons or any other team we’ve named higher than fourth on their list.

Gold, silver and bronze
That’s because the top three teams are utterly entrenched at this point, on every single system and metric.

GWS is third on literally all nine lists (ten counting Stattraction); Collingwood is second and Geelong first everywhere except on Matter of Stats, which flips the top two teams on its MoSHBods ratings list.

Curiously, the consensus positions of those three dominant teams to start 2019 were in the same order – Cats, Magpies, Giants – except that they were sitting fourth, fifth, and sixth behind the three favourites Richmond, West Coast, and Melbourne. Each of those teams dropped away, as documented earlier.

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The Cats passed Melbourne after week one, and then took over the top spot once Richmond lost in week two. Even their one loss (to GWS in R4) failed to knock them off the pedestal, and currently they have the highest meta-rating of the season at 81.42.

Collingwood’s lack of a fall from starting 1-2 came from the recognition of the difficulty their early fixture presented: they have not faced a team with a losing record, at least until they play Carlton Saturday. Going 5-2 against that schedule is worthy of a #2 ranking!

And the Giants have held up their position with both a depth that most observers didn’t recognise in advance and some literal and figurative leaps in performance from folks like Tim Taranto, Jeremy Finlayson, and the overwhelming leader for the Coleman Medal, Jeremy Cameron.

(Stat of the week – the 13-goal GAP between Jeremy Cameron and those tied for second in the goal-scoring race, were it a person, would rank equal THIRTEENTH in the league for goals itself! He’s THAT far ahead of the field after seven games.)

Jeremy Cameron

Jeremy Cameron of the Giants (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos/Getty Images)

The Giants sit less than four points behind the Magpies for second – and about NINE full points ahead of fourth-place Essendon. Speaking of “gaps”, that gap back to fourth place is larger than the distance between fourth and NINTH on the meta-rating scoreboard.

So, are the top three already determined? They’ve not only held steady for three weeks now, but they’ve pulled away from the pack behind them. Is that a sign that someone need to hurry up and make a move to join them soon, or else all will be left behind?

Not necessarily. Sixteen rounds is a long time, and while it’s possible we’re already looking at not just a top three but a top eight with four or more wins, there have already been so many twists from what we thought we knew two months ago that it’s irrational to expect them to stop cold turkey now.

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But it sure seems like these three teams are the ones to beat.