Before each season starts the fixture is analysed by the FMI method to try to determine and understand which team has the toughest draw. The 2018 fixture analysis here was the seventh iteration of this analysis.
What this analysis has shown is that the League has not only been very good at scheduling according to its own handicap, but in recent years has also narrowed the discrepancy between teams.
The table below was this years pre-season fixture analysis, for reference. Of immediate note is the neat groups of ladder positions. Last years top 6 get the 8 hardest fixtures, and the worst 6 from last year the easiest fixtures. Handicapped.
And the two eventual grand finalists? Well based on 2017 results, West Coast received a reasonable schedule all things considered, and got a bit of a bunk up to get their season rolling.
And after posting that analysis, and at the end of every season, this blog/twitter gets comments about how some teams seen to have 'easy fixtures' but in that commenters opinion really had hard schedules. And vice-versa, and combinations in between.
In making assumptions about the coming season, anyone, including the FMI system, can only use the information in front of it at the time.
These typically involve the relative strengths and weaknesses of a team and the opposition, and the fixture that determines how many times they meet and the circumstances of that meeting.
For predicting the finishing positions on the ladder as per this annual post, then additional assumptions on performance are made
Back to looking at the fixture strength though, the data is rooted in the past, and applied to the near future of the seasons fixture only.
And at the end of the season, there are also advocates that 'my club did really well since they had the toughest fixture' by retro-applying the draw and looking at how many finalists they played etc.
And all of that is workable and calculate-able, and its all 'after the fact.
And in the table below all this waffle it has been calculated out under the column header 'post season calculated tough draw index'. The same FMI draw analysis was run using the end of season ratings per team, and then tabled.
But putting teams performances through the retroscope and assessing the toughness of a schedule at one the year has played out is still making approximations. Was that team a top 8 team when your team played them? Or were they languishing?
The better way to run the analysis is to review each team against the other at the time of the match-up. This way you can genuinely compare
In the table below, this analysis is listed as the 'in season calculated tough draw index'
Of course, this is also a 'live' and in season analysis so it precludes any assessments in November, as we will soon see published. For those, you revert back to applying old data to new schedules and hoping for the best.
From the above, and again concentrating on the grand finalists, the West Coast schedule index shifts from 1.38 pre-season to an even harder 2.83 in 'real time'.
And for Collingwood, it moves from an easy schedule (-2.18) to that lightly shaded zone of the relatively neutral schedule, with the index returning 0.69.
You can review your respective teams and fire comments away all you like.
This month, Max over at the Squiggle website posted a worthy read on how St Kilda was stiffed by the fixture. When looking at this analysis, the first reaction was to go back to the table above and find that the Saints had the 5th hardest schedule, even though they finished 11th.
But go ahead and read deeper into Max's post for more analysis better written and presented here.