Saturday, 14 November 2015

FIXTURE - FIXED AGAIN

With the 2016 fixture released last week. the season has come for pundits to assess which team got a good deal or not. Others already have, so its also fitting the FMI also join in the (alleged) fun of draw analysis.

Its all part of the FMI experience, with draw assessments now into their fifth fabulous season.
(See also assessments for seasons 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012).




AFL RULING

As per last year, the AFL Fixture [PDF] was release under their 6 / 6 / 6 rule of having (as best as possible*) the top 6 play each other home and away, with the bottom six and middle six also playing amongst themselves as well.

And while they choose to call the draw fairer, and in a way they are right**, its handicapped. As per last year, if Stevo gets it, then 99% of the footy world should too.

Last year, under the weighted ruling, and referencing the FMI rankings of teams, the AFL basically got the balance right according to its system.
Doesn't make it 'fair' of course, unless you consider handicapping teams fair.


* Where 'as best as possible' means the AFL can still wriggle out of locking themselves into positions where derbys and showdowns could only happen once.

** Handicapping makes things fairer to a point, by drawing better athletes (etc) back to a level of competition with others less skilled. But that is not what is in play here. Hawthorn dont get to play for only three quarters while Carlton get four. This is handicapping by setting harder bars for some, and not others.
The other logic behind the 'fair' argument is teams from each group with similar abilities playing against each other will make for better games on the day. Which is right, but also code for 'a better product on game day / on TV' but it could be argued not 'fair' across the whole competition.

What is fair competition wide is for each team to have the opportunity at playing other teams at similar levels to others, as proposed in this blog post.
Fair is giving the little guy a crack at the best, an opportunity to promote themselves in prime time, on the big stages.
This fixture remains everything but fair.




OTHER ASSESSMENTS

As always, there are other assessments of the draw out there, with other approaches to determining balance or otherwise.

As per last year, this years analysis by Troy Wheatley and based on his Power Rankings warrants discussion. Firstly as his principles are grounded to the same logic as the FMI analysis, with the measures based on his own independent rankings system

And also because of the outcomes. In a table that lists easiest draws at the top, he has only three of the AFL's bottom six having the easiest draws. Further curiosity comes from finding West Coast deemed the 7th best draw, just behind the Western Bulldogs. The Grand Finalists would be delighted with that outcome!
At the other end of the scale, Melbourne and Brisbane both are determined to have had the top five hardest draws.

With those oddities bobbing up, those results are counter to the effect the AFL was after.


Also weighing in with a fixture assessment for 2016 are the team over at "Hurling People Now" with various methods to determine the so called 'strength of schedule'.
Over several iterations of measures, they determine the AFL has, on the whole, achieved the objective of splitting the fixture into its three constituent levels by the 6 / 6 / 6 weighting rule.

What they do find of not though is some consistent anomalies, such as a mid ranked GWS being allocated one of the tougher draws over various measures. Also there is a few instances of the defeated Grand finalist faring well from the draw as well.

All in all though, a degree of confirmation that the AFL has achieved its objective.




THE CONNOLLY METHOD

As regular as night divides the day, Rohan Connolly runs his slide rule* over the fixture and lists who got what from Santa Gillon.

The Connolly method is an interesting one, given the detail below. Weightings are applied either by points allocated by ladder position, or 'arbitrarily', such as the points around 6 day breaks etc. It is odd to use reverse ladder points so simply as has been done, given that the 2015 was clearly fractured. The nett difference between Collingwood (12th) and Melbourne (13th) is a single point, yet the Pies won three more games than Melbourne and the trailing other 6 clubs.
This makes the pure ladder position for points a bit of a skewed starting position.

The detail around the points system is below, and Rohan's final analysis lies in this link, because this year the punkhawallahs down at Age Central decided to make the results table soo big that it couldnt be screen-capped effectively.


The fall-out from Rohan's analysis is that there are 7 of last years top 8 teams listed with the worst draws, headed by North Melbourne just ahead of Hawthorn.

The bottom six fare worse though, as some of them get pushed up the scale of hard draws by the encroachment of Geelong and Port Adelaide, who nudge in ahead of Brisbane and Melbourne.

No excuses though for Carlton and Essendon though by the Connolly Method, with both former 'powerhouses' handed a nice bunk-up. A quick return to finals action may not be the right thing to help these relics of the old VFL way reform themselves for the ruthless business of this AFL system.

Geelong also get a decent crack at 2016 by this method, which is a point well documented in the article.

Effectively the Connolly Method suggests the AFL went quite close to achieving its objective with the fixture... top 6 teams in the hard basket, and bottom 6 teams with an easier run, but not exactly organised properly to achieve that.


* wiki will tell you young people what a slide rule is... and no, there is no inference to Mr Connolly 'being old'.




FOOTYMATHS ASSESSMENTS

Last years assessment of the 2015 draw using the FMI rankings produced a real parity between the AFL's objectives of lower teams and higher teams playing against each other respectively. LAst seasons draw had the top 6 of 2014 listed in the top 6 hardest draw slots, and of the bottom 6, only Brisbane did not slot into the 6 easiest draw positions.

The assessment was that the handicapping worked...
"...all in all, it looks like the AFL have achieved their outcome, so ... well done!"

So to look at the 2016 draw, its  a matter of applying the FMI rankings to the fixture and calcualting the Tough Draw Index based on looking at the following inputs.
- the opposition strength,
- any home/away bias, and
- expectations of a 'win' for each game,
- an expected end of year rank
- an expected end of season ranking for a perfectly even draw, and the
- difference between those two ranking weights.
Working through the calculations yields the table below;
FIXTURE BALANCE - 2016
RNKTEAMLAD POSFMI RANK PTSSUM OPP'N PTSHOME / AWAY BONUSTOUGH DRAW INDEX
1West Coast2141623401-1004.37
2Adelaide612202480303.66
3Richmond71253232431003.53
4North Melbourne41245245361003.00
5Hawthorn1151324297-2002.81
6Sydney/SMFC51282243061002.42
7Fremantle31215243741002.38
8W Bulldogs/FFC81149229701001.17
9GWS111001232342001.11
10Collingwood121102241341000.24
11Geelong10115323659-300-2.19
12Port Adelaide9122122380-200-2.38
13Melbourne1384323296-100-2.48
14Brisbane Lions1778323378-100-2.66
15Essendon1588823778200-3.19
16Carlton18804229810-3.27
17St Kilda1484723854100-3.50
18Gold Coast16837236640-4.53

And what do you know... hey presto, objective achieved (bar one outlier).
Richmond, who finished 5th after the Home and Away season, but get shuffled down to 7th after off-season shenanigans, draw the short straw and land up with the 3rd toughest draw.

Otherwise its a fixture to the script, concocted well in a masterpiece of fitting the teams into a handicapped format according to the FMI rankings.
KPI met, go and get yourselves a milkshake.
(PS, thanks for following the blog and studying the numbers, guys... *nudge wink*).

Other than Richmond, who are ranked 3rd after finishing 7th (+4), and Adelaide who have the 2nd hardest draw after a 6th placed finish (also +4), a few teams should feel lucky to benefit from the Fixture. Such as Fremantle, (minor Premiers and 3rd place after 2015), record the 7th hardest fixture (-4).
Hawthorn also. the three-peaters are slotted into the 5th hardest fixture (-4). Set up for another tilt? Look out Collingwood... Hodgey and co are gunning for your record.


Now, also your attention should be drawn to 2 other clubs who should be happy as Larry with the outcome. There are two mid-6 teams with easier draws than the others in the same pool, and easier by a long way.
Port Adelaide and Geelong (as also identified by the Conolly Method) are more closely aligned to the bottom 6 teams' fixture than any in their cohort.
No excuses now Power, Cats.


As per last year, the KPI seems to have been met and met well this year. A few exceptions to the rule, but a decent synergy between the objectives and the outcomes.

Which is all well and good... but its not strictly 'fair'.

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