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Nick Croker

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Joined July 2013

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Quantitative analysis of the AFL.

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I should add that I have them cratering hard in the second half and just making the finals

My 23 crazy, fearless predictions for the 2019 AFL season

Hey I actually am willing to be really optimistic about North – my spiciest of hot takes is that they will be on top at the bye.

Now, stay with me – mostly people are down on North, down to middling. I reckon they’ll win 13 games.

If you look at their draw:
Rd 1 – Freo over there, good litmus test. They should beat Freo on talent but Rd1 in Perth is no guarantee, still W.
Rd2 – Bris @ Docklands W
Rd3 – Haw L
Rd 4 – Adel @ Docklands W
Rd 5 – Ess @ Docklands W
Rd 6 – @ Port Adelaide L
Rd 7 – Carlton W
Rd 8 – Geelong @ Docklands W
Rd 9 – Sydney in Tas W
Rd 10 – Bulldogs W
Rd 11 – Rich @ Docklands W
Rd 12 – @ Gold Coast W
Rd 13 – GWS in Tas

Right so maybe I’m being a touch optimistic but I think there will be a lot of parity between 4th and 12th on the ladder. It depends what you think of some of these teams but I think Adel, Ess, Syd and GWS will be in that group and North get these teams at Docklands or Tassie which is somewhat favourable.

I have them dropping to Haw and Port in Adelaide. This might look silly when I have them beating Rich and Geelong but I think these are the types of anomalies that occur. Get Tigers with no Rance at Docklands and have their best win of the year, on the flip side they go interstate and drop to Port who are beatable. Gold Coast, Bulldogs, Brisbane (in melb), Carlton should be locks.

It’s not THAT crazy.

My 23 crazy, fearless predictions for the 2019 AFL season

That’s from a fair while ago I wouldn’t read much into any of that

I don’t think about Adelaide one way or another. Just happen to think Geelong won this trade

Response: Are Adelaide winning the Dangerfield trade?

Almost the one specific thing you said in that article was that ‘Kayle Kirby could be Collingwood’s X Factor’ !!!

What are we talking about, seriously.

Response: Are Adelaide winning the Dangerfield trade?

What does that prove? You’re a Collingwood fan (so am I before you leap out of your chair) and you ‘predicted’ the rise of the consensus best young ruck in the league, DeGoey, Hoskin-Elliot and Crisp who came 3rd in our best and fairest. How is this evidence of your insight?

All your statements are relatively broad and non specific
– Will make top and 8 and threaten top 4: so an 8th place finish and first round finals win, you still claim victory even the word ‘threaten’ is a hedge – all you really say is ‘i think they’ll make finals’ If they’d finish 10th with 11 wins and good percentage you’d still say ‘pretty close but’
– Players will take a huge step forward: could mean almost anything, could use any metric to prove your point – maybe Grundy gets better in the ruck but drops off around the ground, you can still say ‘he took a huge step forward with his ruck work’

And so on the basis of your sweeping generalisations becoming partly true you’re abandoning… math?

I didn’t mean to get on my high horse but while I’m up here this is the problem with AFL commentary and reporting. Making sweeping generalisations is not only pointless its a hedge for the predictor because you can attenuate your statement after the fact.

Now my article here is counterfactual so sure no one can prove right or wrong. But if I made a prediction I’d do so with evidence and state my level of confidence.

I shouldn’t care so much but when you referred to me as ‘one of those stat reliant guys’ it really got under my skin. I rely on stats because it’s the evidence that shows what happened. Now there are ways to dig into that which will make your point with more or less validity but the idea that it’s ‘numbers bods’ who don’t understand the multitude of variables is just wrong. It’s numbers guys like me who try and factor in those things in the extreme. You are the one who goes ‘umm I’ve watched a bit of footy so I reckon this thing might happen maybe’ and then if it comes close go ‘see i was right!’

When someone comes along and says ‘I reckon a middle of the road team with young players will improve’

What am I supposed to praise Peter/Nostradamus ?

I’m sorry I wouldn’t care – the irony is you don’t even disagree with me that Adelaide lost the trade we were initially talking about – but your willful dismissal of any mathematically based attempt to quantify value seems deliberately ignorant. ‘I take algorithms and stats with a grain of salt’ – do tell, what do you base your predictions on then? Just ‘feel’ ?

Response: Are Adelaide winning the Dangerfield trade?

Yes I’m sure Gold Coast and StKilda will both only win one game each and one team will only play 21 games

The Peter calculator wins again

Response: Are Adelaide winning the Dangerfield trade?

If all those figures were open to the public like in other sports you could make more precise evaluations of this type of thing. As it is some salaries are open secrets but otherwise nothing is known for certain.

That and making free agency actually free i.e. removing the 7 year restriction, would be my personal ammendments

Response: Are Adelaide winning the Dangerfield trade?

Didn’t you write an article trying to predict the entire win loss record and ladder position of every team? Certainly a few variables there.

But I’m sure your gut feel is much more reliable than any silly old algorithm….

Response: Are Adelaide winning the Dangerfield trade?

Yeh fair enough I wasn’t considering the overall effect of the cap. I mean, I still think the analysis holds true in terms of what value is bought in versus what value goes out. And although I think the salary cap pressures is worthy of consideration they wouldn’t have lost anyone in the immediate proceeding season so I think you could still say 2016 and maybe 2017 the team would’ve remained the same but with Danger added and that might have been the difference between winning a flag.

As I understand it part of the reason a trade occurred as opposed to letting Dangerfield walk in free agency was that Geelong was able to pay Dangerfield lower than the price he would’ve cost in a bidding war – my understanding is that his starting salary was like 800k increasing probably to 1 million but I don’t know that for sure.

Now this is just some rough numbers but I’d argue Danger is at least 10% of his teams output so 10% of a cap of over 11 million makes him worth at least 1.1 mil I’d say – probably a bit more. He wouldn’t have been on that type of money yet before he left Adelaide but I don’t have a good sense for what his salary would’ve been – 500-600 ?

So if we go low by that rough logic if Adelaide kept him they’d have had to pay his legit market price or maybe more. You could argue it would’ve been as much as 700k difference. So as you say that’s one other top line player or two average ones (I think I read recently the average player salary has jumped to 350k? Could be wrong)

More or less, keeping him (at his proper market rate anyway) would’ve likely squeezed out Sloane or someone else – probably not all of them because as their contracts renewed drip feeding a portion of the shortfall as a 100k increase on each contract wouldn’t satisfy each of them. But yeh point being if Danger stayed Sloane probably leaves in free agency in 2018 so definitely makes a difference. Danger for Sloane probably makes them basically the same team though or at least same overall quality.

Good thought though – I hadn’t considered that

Response: Are Adelaide winning the Dangerfield trade?

At the risk of prolonging a discussion that probably has been exhausted I still don’t think you understand my point. I’ll put it this way:
All your examples are true in the sense that those players had defining moments within those games
But
– You are saying it had to be that guy. I.e. without him they lose therefore his value is greater than anything else.
– What I’m saying is – the alternative could have been better and it is possible to quantify that with some degree of confidence.
So in the case of Danger for Milera it seems that what you would believe basically, is that if the Crows make a grand final this year and Milera kicked a goal after the siren Milera > Dangerfield until such time as Dangerfield kicks his own grand final winning goal.
What I’m putting to you – is that if Dangerfield adds greater value as a player then maybe Adelaide never have to worry about being down in the last seconds of that imaginary game.
So it is with Tom Boyd. His ’16 GF was great but what if (bear in mind I’m not actually saying Griffen was for certain better) – if Griffen had a great season maybe his overall value helps the Bulldogs finish 4th instead of 7th – maybe it means they play one less final, maybe that leads to an even more comfortable grand final victory.
I feel like your position rests on the idea that ‘if x didn’t do what he did then his team loses because that thing would never have happened’ – but the alternative doesn’t have to be worse, it could be better. So for every example that you’re rattling off as if to say ‘see this guy made all the difference’ the whole point of quantifying the alternatives is to get an idea if it would have been better or worse?
I don’t that I’m making sense to you – but that’s as good as I can put it. In the article I go over how 8-9 points extra per game for Adelaide would’ve put them into the top 4. So that alters the whole future timeline you see? In the ’16 Bulldogs case some alternative to Boyd may have changed the whole trajectory of the season, like 10 extra points a game wouldn’t necessarily just shift them up a spot or two and hold everything else equal – it could’ve meant they don’t play Sydney in the flag, or they play Sydney earlier – maybe Boyd has a less suitable match up.
See that I’m not debating that all those players you mention were the difference in those games in reality, I’m simply saying that those moments are functions of 1000s of factors that occur within the season and that those singular moments therefore are products of value generated long before. As such there is scope to quantify alternatives that could be better or worse and also that those moments in and of themselves do not justify or make up for entire careers.

Response: Are Adelaide winning the Dangerfield trade?

Well that’s the thing though ‘the Swans would not have got to the 2012 flag (actually think you mean 2005) without him on their list’ – the whole point of what I’m saying is that we can quantify the alternatives and then say with whatever degree of confidence that . So you can actually say – what would be the likely result if:
The Bulldogs had Griffen and not Boyd,
Danger instead of Milera

and so on

Response: Are Adelaide winning the Dangerfield trade?

It’s not that you said explicitly ‘Tom Boyd is more valuable than Nathan Buckley was’ but the implication is that because a player can redeem years of underperformance in a quarter because the game was high stakes suggests a framework that almost all that matters is how you play in ‘big games’

This belies the fact that such underperforming players only get the chance to randomly perform in big moments through the hard work of their actually valuable teammates.

So let me pose the inverse to you – if an average or poor player can absolve an entire career through a match winning quarter in a flag can an outstanding player ruin a career worth of excellence with a poor quarter in a flag?

So for example if the statement that a player can ‘earn their money (5 years worth) in a quarter of a final’ is true then wouldn’t the inverse ‘a players entire contract is a waste with one poor quarter of a final’ be true too ? And as such aren’t we more or less saying – all that matters is how you go in finals?

You mentioned Darren Jarman but don’t forget the real star of that game

By that logic Shane Ellen > Wayne Carey

I’m being a tiny bit facetious but I do think that’s the result of your logic here and I really can’t agree that it’s the correct way to measure or compare the value of players

Response: Are Adelaide winning the Dangerfield trade?

I don’t think recruitment should be evaluated retrospectively necessarily. You can easily go – look this pick made sense based on what we knew but it didn’t play out as anticipated. I’d be much more inclined to criticize the process or flawed criteria than the fact that the player didn’t materialize.

I actually disagree with your premise entirely. I don’t agree that success should be measured only in flags. By your measure are the Bulldogs happier with Tom Boyd than Fremantle are with Matthew Pavlich’s career? In fact by that logic anyone who played in a winning flag (or at least contributed positively in a grand final winning side) is greater value than any number of excellent players that never won a flag – Bob Skilton, Rob Flower, Nathan Buckley – the list must be pretty extensive.

Don’t get me wrong it’s great that Boyd helped them win in 2016 and that certainly gives him a special place in Bulldog history, but you won’t convince me that his solitary grand final performance outweighs what is otherwise a pretty underwhelming career.

And to your specific quote ‘Boyd retires tomorrow, the Dogs got one of the greatest deals of all time’ – again I think I believe virtually the exact opposite. He costs them about 1 million a year? He’s given them 52 games and it looks like that could be it. Champion Data describes him as pretty much well below average on every meaningful measure for his position. But because he had a career best game on grad final day, a game the team gets to despite him not because of him – you think that one game outweighs that pitiful career?

I’ll tell you what though Peter – you’ve given me an idea for another article. Who would you compare Tom Boyd to out of interest? Because my succinct appraisal before looking too hard at any numbers is – he’s terrible.

Response: Are Adelaide winning the Dangerfield trade?

Hahaha – that’s good

Response: Are Adelaide winning the Dangerfield trade?

I mean McLeod though – that’s a lofty ceiling! This is what I think happens in lots of sports. A guy reminds you stylistically of another guy and everyone goes – ‘he’ll be him!’

If he has as long a career as Andrew McLeod I’ll abandon my attempts to quantify player value.

I agree he’s quick and he has nice skills. I just don’t think he’s moving the needle as much as people might think. In fact I think a quick half back with a nice kick and some evasive skills is pretty replaceable in the league at the moment.

Having said that if he plays 150 above average games – that’s still very good. I just feel like on the back of even a few good games it’s easy to get carried away with comparisons and expectations.

He might end up being a good half back with a 10 year career – I don’t think that’s disparaging to expect that, but because people have him pegged as a) greater value than Dangerfield b) a potential Norm Smith Medalist c) possibly as good as Andrew McLeod – so saying he’s anything less than the most damaging half back in the history of the club seems like a knock somehow.

Let me ask how much better is he really than Paul Seedsman or pick any other running half back in the league – Saad for example, or whoever. Do you think he’s obviously better than those players?

Response: Are Adelaide winning the Dangerfield trade?

But Tom Boyd isn’t a better player say than Tom Lynch – so if you’re trying to answer the question ‘who is more value’ you couldn’t honestly say Boyd is better or makes his team better than Lynch would.

But the peculiarities of form swings game to game mean that one player might have his best all time game in a grand final. Doesn’t mean he’s better. And from a recruiting point of view you couldn’t say ‘lets get the inferior player on the off chance he has a ridiculous finals series out of nowhere’.

So with this example if Milera has his all time game in a finals game you still couldn’t truthfully argue that he’s more value than Dangerfield – that’s just a bit of chance – IF it happens – feels like Crow supporters have Milera penciled in for greater things than I would personally predict

Response: Are Adelaide winning the Dangerfield trade?

Boo. Boring. Over analysing it is the fun part.

Response: Are Adelaide winning the Dangerfield trade?

Look you’ve outlasted me – I don’t have the time or wherewithal to go through all the ways I disagree.

I do still think you’ve missed my point a little. Only to say that in any situation if a player (or any employee) is granted a greater portion of the salary cap and the over allocation of resources is harmful to the success of the team my point is only that I feel the language used to describe these situations imputes blame onto the player. That’s what I object to – the terminology I think denigrates the player and for me that’s unfair. The people who should be held to account here are primarily executives and ownership and I think the way we talk about contracts helps that class to skate through quietly while players cop the brunt of public scrutiny.

But you disagree. Thats ok. Glad you engaged even if you didn’t love the read.

What is a bad contract?

Ok fair enough – I mean i don’t want to belabor it more because I’m sure you’re over it. BUT I just get irritated – you often hear that small market teams ‘HAD to offer that money’. But they didn’t have to – I reckon anyone clued into the team might have had an idea that Wall wasn’t a good leader prior to this season. He’s untouchable at least partly because he makes so so much. If his contract was even 10% cheaper over it’s life they could’ve traded him by now. In fact a team like the Lakers, LeBron seemingly prefers veteran players, and Wall at his best could be a good secondary playmaker next to LeBron – they would’ve taken him for sure. Prior to the injury anyway.

But there’s a lot in that so I don’t mean to re-litigate. Do you support a particular team?

What is a bad contract?

I mean sure – I didn’t pose an alternative. I wasn’t really proposing to have the solution. You think the phrase ‘bad contract’ is semantic. I disagree. I think the subtle nature of linguistic customs reveals a lot about accepted social and political paradigms. I don’t really have the time to unpack a good example but there are numerous examples. Bad contract as you say is a term that designates value from the owners perspective i.e. it reinforces top-down power dynamics.

I don’t disagree that part of the reason these terms are used is expediency but that doesn’t mean that the alternative has to be such a mouthful. Just avoid calling a contract bad – you could just as easily say ‘big contract’ and it doesn’t connote value one way or the other.

The fact that you point out that it can be difficult to convey all of these things accurately in a tweet is exactly the point. The media discourse around these types of things is brief and reactionary. I think that’s bad – you seem to say ‘well that’s just the way it is, plus you have no alternative so who cares’

I’d say you are more or less right in terms of how you characterized my positions and perhaps my ‘strawmen’ are not the best way to make a thorough argument. But you haven’t really disagreed or made a persuasive argument in opposition to my position. Ironically you seem to want to debate the semantics at the periphery – (I used Kuzma as an off cuff example, no one is expecting them to give their money back etc.) The essential point is
a) Calling a contract ‘bad’ values the contract through the lens of ownership, not the player. You don’t even seem to disagree you just think it’s not important
b) Trying to be clear and accurate about the balance of player empowerment sounds a bit clunky to you. A bit too much effort. Better to spit out something inaccurate, false or misleading as long as you can tweet it out quickly.

The last thing you say where you say ‘bad contracts are the go to source for GM denigration’ – you’re missing the point. Calling it ‘bad’ preferences a certain power dynamic. What you call ‘a misguided lesson in semantics’ is not semantic at all. If you were paid obscenely over market rate for whatever job you do mushi would you think the contract was ‘bad’ – I reckon you’d think the contract was pretty good. But if everyone at your workplace was like ‘yeh mushi is on a bad contract’ – do you think that would have any sort of long term impact on you personally? On the culture of your workplace? On the way other people viewed you? And what if you said ‘but hey they offered me the money I just took it?’ Would you feel a little aggrieved that no one seemed bothered by the incompetence of the person who actually made the decision to give you that contract?

And I was pretty clear about what would appease me – stop referring to those contracts as bad….

What is a bad contract?

On John Wall – I just think you’re characterizing his situation as getting his money and giving up and that seems to imply fault on his end. I completely agree with you, with what it seems we know about him and that team, that he’s not perhaps doing everything in his power to maximize his abilities and help his team win. I suppose I just think that accountability needs to start with management. His contract was always deemed to be pretty over the top. Just seems to me that giving him that sort of money was reckless and to then have the narrative be ‘greedy, lazy John Wall taking the cash and running’ gives the person who decided to hinge the entire teams future on a borderline All-Star a free pass.

And you’re probably right – in the scheme of ‘all society’ you’d be hard pressed to find any NBA players joining the IWW. Their problems to the extent there are any – are obviously first word and perhaps in my drawing real world comparisons I have implied their situations are equivalent to ‘everyday people’.

At the end of the day my article came about mostly in response to listening to and reading a lot of NBA coverage and especially the stuff around the potential Davis trade. And I just felt that the blithe references to ‘bad contracts’ and ‘player empowerment’ gives the impression that the players can do whatever they please, they’re all spoiled millionaires anyway and guys who make more than their production warrants are somehow responsible for being paid a lot.

To me they are mostly just employees. Well paid employees no doubt but employees nonetheless. So when it comes to being paid ‘overs’ so to speak I just can’t help but think if my boss offered me silly money what would you expect me to do? I’d take the money obviously and if I never turned into the star they expected I just honestly believe that’s on them for being reckless with their money. It seems to me that with athletes somehow we hold them to a higher standard or perceive them to have greater agency than a typical employee. To that end i sort of don’t blame the likes of John Wall for falling in a heap – I would find it pretty hard to stay motivated if I new I was guaranteed that type of money.

What is a bad contract?

Why is is distasteful to evaluate the decision making of clubs? That’s a strange comment to me – not trying to be rude but can you explain what you mean by that?

Saying that a team made or good or bad decision is off limits? Beyond the bounds of taste? I’m confused

Are the Adelaide Crows winning the Patrick Dangerfield trade?

I take your point that there is a degree of responsibility on the player to perform, but short of out and out negligence I’m always going to side with the player on these type of issues. Wall for example isn’t that much different from what he was at his peak. The interpersonal stuff would not even rate a mention if he was still explosive. You could argue he hasn’t kept himself in shape but I think he’s just entered a natural decline which has been punctuated by the fact that his teammates don’t like him. Any team offering someone a deal that will be worth close to 50 million in his final season only has themselves to blame as far as I’m concerned.

To be fair I concede that my two points are a bit disjointed. I really only meant to focus on the notion of a ‘bad contract’ but got a bit carried away.

Your view re: Kuzma (just a random example you could pick any non superstar I think) is true in the absolute sense. Relative to every day people Kuz is going just fine. But I am talking specifically about the power dynamics within his industry and the fact is if Kuzma rolled into Magic Johnson’s office and said ‘I need LBJ outta here and I want Anthony Davis instead’ – he’d be laughed out of the room.

Undermining his livelihood is obviously not true in the sense that one solitary season in the NBA will organise a normal person’s livelihood for some time if they manage their money with any sort of care. But these player’s only have a small window to make that serious money and the idea that Kuzma is equally as empowered to do that, in the way he wants, as LeBron – is fundamentally not true. The salient point that I am making here in relation to ‘player empowerment’ is that the traditional power dynamic i.e. the richest are in control and the rest are dictated to – is still true. The only difference is that some of the best paid players are now absorbed into that ruling class with owners and executives.

Honestly this argument mirrors that of capitalism in society more broadly. In capitalist countries – especially where capitalism has recently been introduced – the average standard of living often rises. However the disparity between the high and low often gets exacerbated and more than that it often doesn’t bring a meaningful change, in fact often the opposite is true, in terms of who control the levers of power, production and capital.

So your point is along the lines of ‘well everyone is richer than ever on average, so they should all be happy. But that doesn’t really speak to the dynamics of power and control. So Kuzma makes good money. Better than if he’d been born in any other time, sure. But how do you contend that he’s equal to LeBron in terms of control over the destiny of his career? He simply is not. LeBron can lobby to have him moved across the country Kuz can’t do the same to LeBron.

I think you’re falling into the trap that the media has also – there is an absent minded acceptance of the term ‘player empowerment’ as though it applies equally and across the board. It simply does not and for you to assume that player’s are empowered because they get paid more reveals a misunderstanding of the concept altogether.

I would love for you to provide an example of ‘player empowerment’ for a non superstar player. Using that catchphrase uncritically because you’ve heard it in the media a bit is um…. a bit clumsy.

What is a bad contract?

I actually heard recently that consulting economists for the NBA also believe that replacing the draft with a sort of junior free agency wouldn’t hurt competitive balance either.

I’m skeptical about this to some degree – intuitively I feel like the draft gives under performing teams hope and optimism and improves competitive balance but I’d listen to arguments to the contrary.

There certainly seems to be some poorly run teams in the NBA and it feels wrong to continually reward those teams by giving them elite young talent. I wonder for example what someone like DeAndre Ayton would look like if he’d been drafted to San Antonio instead of Phoenix

What is a bad contract?

We probably won’t need the full investment if we go after the Pacers

This site – https://www.statista.com/statistics/193696/franchise-value-of-national-basketball-association-teams-in-2010/

Values the Pacers at 1.4 million – I reckon if we walked into Herb Simon’s office and offered 2 million straight up we’d have it

The declaration of Knickdependence