The Roar
The Roar

Nick Croker

Roar Guru

Joined July 2013

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Quantitative analysis of the AFL.

Published

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My takeaway: Make sure you ask your GP if any medication they prescribe has a side-effect that makes you say racist things.

My takeaway: Let’s hope he doesn’t have any friends that are African-American rappers.

These are both genuinely funny lines. Really good stuff.

The thing with McGuire is interesting. Realistically none of those comments by themselves are offensive enough to warrant being sacked – well, I don’t personally think so.

But when you pile it up you’re talking about a guy who is at best a bit clumsy with his colloquialisms and at worst legitimately unrepentant for knowingly using language that could offend.

This is such a loaded topic in 2019 but I think common sense says in public facing roles covering a sport as widely followed as the AFL, you’re trying to appeal to the broadest possible market, you just can’t continue to take risks with someone who has been, and continues to have, potential to be an extremely polarizing figure.

Maybe a good test is like
a) what is he bringing to the table on the positive side these days that could even be deemed to mitigate the negatives?
b) if he was a new hire and he had to re-apply for his jobs would they employ him? Like if you imagined Eddie McGuire had said all of these things as a morning radio host not associated with the AFL and then he applied to be a commentator for Fox Footy would they take a punt on him?

I reckon he fails on both counts

McGuire and Folau: Sins and punishment

Nah I haven’t and that one thing could be the difference in making it more accurate. I didn’t incorporate it at this stage purely because I didn’t have time to quantify the players who moved with sufficient detail. I suppose it might be worthwhile simply giving players a value based on games played and quantifying the movement that way.

For injuries getting long term data is the difficult thing. The only I can get decent data for going far enough back is the number of players that played 5 or more games each season for each team. This seems a reasonable comp for injuries but also doesn’t bother to evaluate that quality of the players injured. In any case there is a moderately strong negative correlation between having more players play 5 games or greater and winning which is what you would basically expect. The correlation wasn’t as strong as I’d expected it will give me the basis to factor in an injury adjustment as the season goes on

The formula that reveals this season's AFL ladder

Yes that makes sense. Not an especially good model for tipping in the short term but seems to have some accuracy over the long term

The formula that reveals this season's AFL ladder

Sure, all makes sense – this isn’t my permanent job so going back to find the weather conditions of every match is not something I’ve had the time to do.

The accuracy and consistency of this model is pretty good for 3 simple variables.

The formula that reveals this season's AFL ladder

Yes I think you’re right – for a start I wanted to keep it simple as I could.

Over time I think a trig regression would make sense and you’d see teams following a peak’trough cycle but I haven’t made it that far

The other thing I like about this is that it suggests that improvement, even if not in terms of actual wins would make a difference going forward. For example if Gold Coast manages to not even win a game but we’re somehow simultaneously competitive and rarely got blown out, they could still improve their net points and trend up in terms of net point difference and have a better prognosis for 2020.

The idea being that every quarter, every game matters even if it doesn’t yield a seemingly positive short term result.i.e. Reducing the margin in a dead final quarter or pinching an end of season win in a game without finals implications, blowing a team out when their spirit has been broken etc

The formula that reveals this season's AFL ladder

It was beautiful and mesmerizing haha

Thursday's great game exposed the genius of Alex Rance

Weird comment – not sure if Griff Logue and and Alex Pearce are in Rance’s league.

nor Brad Reid for that matter….

Thursday's great game exposed the genius of Alex Rance

Froths them – made me laugh out loud

Yep between every candid Riewoldt interview, the praise of Jesus A Rance, not to mention little stuff like Bruce’s guttural semi inappropriate love for Dusty, every mention of little Jack Higgins and his infectious humour…

Please – they won a flag recently too – they’re going fine with the media

Thursday's great game exposed the genius of Alex Rance

For the record I think Rance is a great player – there, stated…

BUT!

Got to agree with ‘too much Rance love’ – for all the adulation he’s had in the last week or so you’d think he was turning water into wine

Thursday's great game exposed the genius of Alex Rance

I’m with you. I thought North would beat Freo basically because I don’t think Freo will be strong this year. The size of the loss concerns me a bit but I’m not sure all that much should change in my estimations. I had Freo winning 7 games and North winning 13. The model I use is out by less than 2.5 games 90% of the time. So if I’m a bit under on Freo and a bit over on North and Freo win 9 and North win 11 that is still a plausible outcome.

North’s games before the bye are where they can distinguish themselves. If you’re going with a basic approach like Should Lose, Should Win and 50/50 they have mostly should wins and 50/50 games. People will get excited about Brisbane over North this week but I’d stick fat with North – at Docklands think they should bounce back.

It's not all over for the Roos yet

Agree on Tyson – I think we’ve seen enough there. Surprised to see he’s played over 100 games.

It's not all over for the Roos yet

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?