Sunday, November 28, 2010

College Football Top 25 11/28

Boise State lost their first game of the season, throwing the rankings for a loop (we're not gonna talk about Iowa). On the other end though, Stanford dominated a good Oregon State team. What's the payoff? Take a look.

Rank Team W L Rating SOS
1 Stanford 11 1 661.75 80.31
2 Oregon 11 0 568.29 57.06
3 Boise St 10 1 549.55 36.42
4 TCU 12 0 481.89 26.21
5 Ohio State 11 1 418.07 39.43
6 Alabama 9 3 344.51 55.54
7 Oklahoma 10 2 281.27 74.29
8 Missouri 10 2 245.19 53.65
9 Auburn 12 0 221.93 61.89
10 Nebraska 10 2 221.1 46.44
11 South Carolina 9 3 213.89 63.61
12 Arkansas 10 2 213.52 55.75
13 Oklahoma St 10 2 210.48 50.59
14 Virginia Tech 10 2 210.14 42.9
15 Texas A&M 9 3 199.78 72.04
16 Florida St 9 3 199.09 53.78
17 Wisconsin 11 1 181.14 34.47
18 Arizona 7 4 174.44 72.56
19 LSU 10 2 163.74 59.33
20 Iowa 7 5 157.77 44.34
21 Arizona St 5 6 154.18 77.87
22 Nevada 11 1 150.54 26.7
23 Southern Cal 7 5 139.44 104.72
24 West Virginia 8 3 137.5 35.3
25 Florida 7 5 135.75 67.95

That's right, Stanford is now the best team in the nation. After a couple of dominating wins against pretty good teams the Cardinal have established themselves at the top of the rankings. There's a lot of excitement about being #4 in the BCS, but Stanford may be sold short by that. Should a team ranked that high, well higher than Auburn, get a shot at the championship game? To look at that we have to take a look at the no MoV rankings, which aren't for predicting, but instead evaluate what a team has accomplished.

Rank Team W L Rating SOS
1 Auburn 12 0 27.65 6.91
2 Oregon 11 0 25.63 6.4
3 Oklahoma 10 2 25.24 10.01
4 Stanford 11 1 23.96 7.54
5 Missouri 10 2 23.37 9.27
6 TCU 12 0 22.46 5.61
7 Texas A&M 9 3 21.03 10.51
8 Oklahoma St 10 2 20.05 7.95
9 LSU 10 2 19.49 7.73
10 Arkansas 10 2 19.09 7.57

Stanford now sits at 4 (sounds familiar), but the number 1 and 2 are Auburn and Oregon, just like the BCS. Maybe there'll be some upsets next week, but if not the nation's best college football team will have proved it all too late.

Friday, November 26, 2010

BCS Week- If We Had Playoffs

What would the playoffs look like if my proposal was in place today?
Because all 4 undefeated teams are in the BCS top 6, the 6 teams selected for the playoffs are just the BCS's top 6, in order.
4-Boise State

Oregon and Auburn would get first round byes, then TCU would play Stanford and Boise State LSU in the first round. Here are the odds of each team making it to various rounds:
Into Semis Into Finals Champion
Oregon 1 0.514 0.29
Auburn 1 0.295 0.085
TCU 0.503 0.355 0.174
Boise St 0.784 0.431 0.263
LSU 0.216 0.054 0.017
Stanford 0.497 0.349 0.17

Oregon would be the favorite thanks to the bye, with Boise St. right behind them. TCU and Stanford are fairly equal, and Auburn would have an outside shot. LSU would just enjoy getting to the playoffs.
This post wraps up BCS week, and it's time to move on and figure out how Auburn keeps winning. Plus, it's time for some basketball. Anyways, I hope everybody has enjoyed a full week of posts.

Games of November 26th/27th

It's still the end of BCS Week, and the middle of Thanksgiving weekend, but it's time to predict the games that are happening this weekend. Seeing as I'm home in Iowa, I'm also including my dad's predictions (in italics).

Iowa 33 Minnesota 14
Iowa 29 Minnesota 9
The Hawkeyes should finally be able to safely win a game.

Stanford 37 Oregon St 21
Stanford 44 Oregon St 17
There won't be any home fans because we're all on turkey break, but the Cardinal will still take care of business.

Alabama 32 Auburn 25
Alabama 21 Auburn 17
This is the game I've been looking forward to for a month. The game where Boise St. makes it to the championship.

Oklahoma St 34 Oklahoma 33
Oklahoma 36 Oklahoma St 30
These two Big 12 juggernauts are battling for the state and conference title. With a good win, Ok St could thrust itself into the BCS spot light.

Arkansas 30 LSU 25
Arkansas 28 LSU 24
I don't like picking two SEC teams, but this is another great game that will likely have an upset.

Wisconsin 34 Northwestern 16
Wisconsin 42 Northwestern 21
In a way this is the 7th game this week because I was busy picking so many close ones. It probably won't be close, but maybe Northwestern can pull an Iowa on them.

East Carolina 38 SMU 36
SMU 38 East Carolina 28
Replacing the Georgetown game, this one is for my uncle Mark. SMU, his alma mater will have a shootout today at East Carolina.

Last Week: 5-1 (A return to normalcy)
This Season: 37-18

Thursday, November 25, 2010

BCS Week- Playoff Proposal

So I've criticized the BCS, talked about the computers, and even done some research on playoff systems. If we're gonna get rid of the BCS though, we need a solid system to replace it. Here is what I think would be the best playoff system:

A Six Team Playoff
This is good in that it often selects the best team (yesterday's post). It also is small enough that other bowl games could exist around it, with it's five games being the same the BCS currently has. Most importantly though, it maintains the importance of every game in college football. Even the best team in the nation can't afford to lose a game and drop it's bye.

All Undefeateds Get In
If a team wins all of it's games, they've done all they can. All undefeated teams deserve a shot at the national championship. This doesn't disrupt the six team part normally, the most undefeated teams ever before was five. If there are more than seven undefeated teams though, the playoffs should be expanded.

A BCS Style Ranking Fills In The Rest
The BCS isn't perfect, but it's pretty good. Swapping out the computers will help make it better too. Usually there will be few undefeated teams, so the top 6 teams in the nation should get it, as determined by the BCS. The ranking system should also select the top two teams to get byes. There will be argument over this, but unlike the BCS angered teams will have a chance to put their money where their mouth is.

No Automatic Conferences
All teams are FBS teams already, all of them deserve to be treated equally at this point. Sorry SEC, I know you're whining. You're not one of the two best this year anyways.

That's it. It's not an overly complex system, it's basically just the NFL conference playoffs. Fingers crossed that someone from the BCS reads this and agrees. Unfortunately though, it looks like we might be stuck for the time being.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

BCS Week- Which type of playoff is the best?

One of the goals of a playoff should be to reward the best team. This is why 1 seeds get to play 8 seeds, and why higher ranked reams get byes. Is there a way to maximize the chance the best team wins? With a couple reasonable approximations, I think there is.

Approximation 1: I'm going to assume the best teams wins at a constant percentage (X) of the time. This is not true, it depends on the strength of various teams, but it's a serviceable estimate.
Approximation 2: To do this I need to know where the "best team" is in the BCS standings. I'm going to assume that the likelihood drops off geometrically with each spot. So if the 1st team has a .5 chance of being the best, the second will have .25, the third will have .125, the fourth will have .0625. Of course, this has to be adjusted so that the sum equals 1, so the first team's chance is 1-R where R is the rate of drop off. Here's another example: 1st= .333, 2nd is .222, 3rd is .148, etc.

The chance that the best team wins in an N team is easy to calculate (using normal playoff systems and giving byes to the best teams). But instead of putting in tables with too much numbers like I normally do, I've broken out the markers and done a graph. If you can do this with software please let me know, it'd clearly be way better.
For the mathematically inclined there's a whole family of interesting curves that serve as many of the boundaries, all with the formula R=(1/X-1)^(1/odd).

So the more often the better team wins (farther right) and the less accurate BCS rankings are
(farther down) the more teams the optimal playoff has. Interestingly, at no point is the traditional playoff structure (powers of 2 like 2, 4, 8, etc.) the most efficient. Odd ones like 3, 5, and 6 swipe up large areas on the graph. What's important though are which values college football has for constants.
Using the Massey Ratings number 1 as the true "best" team, the drop off constant is .667. Using my ratings to find the true "best" team the best match is a constant of .429, and an average of the two gives a constant of .579 (yeah, that's not the arithmetic average, but it works).
Based off the calculations earlier in the week the better team wins about .85 of the time. That seems high though for a tournament with all the best teams in the nation. You could use my ratings to find a ratio between teams like Boise St and Auburn, and then you'd often get winning percentages around .7 or .75 (this year it's a little lower, the top teams are kinda bunched).
Using .85 and .579 as constants the most effective playoff system is a 6 team playoff.
Using .7 and .579 as constants the most effective playoff system is a 3 team playoff.
In general, 3, 5, and 6 team playoffs are the most effective for college football (hint for the BCS- NOT A 2 TEAM PLAYOFF). 3 and 6 are probably better than 5 because of the wide range of constants they cover. Which one of those two should be the playoff system in college football is a question for tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

BCS Week- BCS Computers

As part of it's rankings the BCS includes 6 computer rankings (all without margin of victory). Here's a breakdown of all 6, with some thoughts on they're accuracy. For those of you looking for dirt on the BCS, look at the last 3.

Sagarin Elo Ratings
Jeff Sagarin is THE big name in sports rankings systems, and without including him the BCS would be making a serious mistake. His Elo system is not his primary ranking, but it is the one that fits BCS requirements (the other is predictive). The Elo system is based off the rankings used by chess players, which has worked well over the years, but he doesn't give details.

Peter Wolfe's Ratings
Peter Wolfe is another big name, and he also has some very good rankings. His are probably the most mathematically sound, he uses the Bradley-Terry method to find the ratings that maximize the probability that the results of the real world happened. It's a great basis, but the one problem is that under that method all undefeated teams should have infinitely high ratings. Since this doesn't happen he presumably includes some limiting factor, but it's likely sort of arbitrary, reducing the mathematical rigorousness.

Ken Massey Ratings
Ken Massey doesn't give many details on his BCS ranking system, but it gives good results and his other ratings are documented as being mathematically solid. I'm guessing actually that his ratings are similar to mine, but I'm not sure. Even if they stunk though he'd deserve to be included for all his contributions to the rating community.

Anderson Hester Ratings
There is very little description for these ratings, but from what there is I see two problems.
1. They only include opponents record and opponents opponents record. This does not look deep enough into strength of schedule, and over rewards teams in weaker conferences (all conferences will have roughly .500 for both records, regardless of strength).
2. They include a conference rating as part of strength of schedule. Should New Mexico's losses reflect negatively on playing TCU? I don't think so.
Fortunately for the AH ratings the two flaws kind of cancel each other out. There are still better ways to rank teams though.

Colley Matrix Ratings
The Colley Matrix Ratings are great because they are mathematically sound and he even gives details on how the ratings work. They are not so good though, because they don't rank teams very well. He uses FBS games (and FCS vs FBS games in a weird way) only, but I've programmed his system and here's how the top 10 looks with all 730 teams:
1. Auburn
2. LSU
3. TCU
4. North Central
5. Boise St
6. Oregon
7. Stanford
8. St Thomas
9. Missouri
10. Wesley
Not only is LSU now ahead of TCU, but there are suddenly teams from other divisions like D3 St. Thomas up there. Does North Central deserve to be there? No, and this flaw severely limits the Colley Matrix method.

Richard Billingsly Rankings
Billingsly's rankings are by his own admission the least mathematically complex of the BCS rankings. They were also created through a process of his own tinkering. While it's neat that he was able to just mess with the games until it works, that involves way too much personal bias to be a part of deciding the national championship. The other, more glaring problem is that he uses the previous year's final rankings as part of his formula. While it's true that teams don't change too much between years, each season should be completely separate if you're evaluating the national champion of that year. He admits that the preseason rankings have an effect on undefeated teams. In week 8 of the BCS this year Missouri averaged 6th in the computer polls and was in the top 10 in all but Billingsley's, where they were unranked because they didn't play well last season. A system like that definitely should not be a part of the BCS.

So 3 systems (Anderson/Hester, Colley, Billingsly) should not be included in the BCS, who replaces them? Here are three of my favorites:
Pugh Ratings- These have great math behind them, and the work too.
Doktor Entropy Ratings-These are commonly cited as a good set of rankings, although they'd have to be adjusted to join the BCS.
Random Walker Rankings-Randomly ranking monkeys is a cool premise, with some neat theory behind it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

BCS Week- Philosophy

College football has always occupied an odd spot in the sporting landscape. Unlike pro football, players can't commit all their time to football (some do actually go to school), and unlike college basketball players can't play 40 times a season, or multiple times a week. Because of a limited schedule, it's traditionally been impossible to have a true champion. High school sports deal with this by having state champions, but as a nationwide sport college football had to settle on the "mythical national championship" selected by polls. Sometimes the MNC worked well, but occasionally it would result in multiple champions from various different polls. The BCS was established to help solve that problem, but who's satisfied with a 2 team playoff? Aren't there other qualified teams? How can a team win every single game they play, but still not win a championship? How to pick a championship team is a difficult task, but that's what I'm going to look at over the next week starting here.

What Do Championships Reward?
Many people would say that the best team in a league wins the championship. I would contend though that this isn't true. They actually reward the most successful team, and they should. A team that beats Washington by 30 points is probably better than a team that beats them by 5. Even when one team loses to another, they can often actually be better. 9-2 Virgina Tech lost to 6-5 James Madison, from the FCS. The Hokies are absolutely better, but they had an off day and an unlucky game. How much of a role does luck play? Here's a look at how often the better team wins in the 6 best conferences in football over the last couple years, using this method.
2008 2009
ACC 0.76 0.5
Big 12 0.86 0.93
Big Ten 0.82 0.84
MWC 0.98 1
Pac-10 0.83 0.91
SEC 0.87 0.84
Average 0.85 0.84
So while luck plays a smaller role in college football than other sports, it still changes the result in 15% of top level games. That's where the difference between the best teams and the most successful teams enters. You can't reward Virginia Tech for being the best team, you have reward James Madison for winning.

What Ranking System To Use
The goal of playing a game though is just to win, not to win by any given amount. Take the example from earlier, where Team A beats Washington by 30, and Team B beats them by only 5. If you are predicting who wins games, you should pick Team A, but if you want to reward a champion you should rate both teams equally. Because of this, I think the BCS is right not to include margin of victory, and when selecting a champion I'll use my No MoV rankings. I'm going to criticize the BCS plenty this week but I'll credit them here, they do a pretty good job of focusing on the goal: winning football games.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

College Football Top 25 11/21

It's the start of BCS Week here at Kobe, Tell Me How My Stats Taste, and in honor of a Big Game victory/mostly because I have free time over Thanksgiving break there will be a post each day on the BCS and NCAA football's championship system. We're going to start off the week the same way as always though, with the top 25.

Rank Team W L Rating SOS
1 Boise St 10 0 663.2 32.73
2 Oregon 10 0 542.71 50
3 TCU 11 0 538.56 32.02
4 Stanford 10 1 531.33 75.83
5 Ohio State 10 1 397.1 39.95
6 Alabama 9 2 377.12 51.12
7 Oklahoma 9 2 287.72 69.93
8 Missouri 9 2 255.31 63.23
9 Auburn 11 0 224.18 56.08
10 Oklahoma St 10 1 222.03 45.13
11 Arkansas 9 2 221.07 54.33
12 Texas A&M 8 3 218.67 76.28
13 Nebraska 9 2 218.63 49.7
14 South Carolina 8 3 206.24 67.75
15 Iowa 7 4 199.57 48.81
16 Virginia Tech 9 2 194.33 45.4
17 Arizona 7 3 187.57 61.9
18 LSU 10 1 182.9 56.82
19 Florida 7 4 174.02 65.18
20 Oregon St 5 5 164.47 121.77
21 Florida St 8 3 160.52 48.31
22 Wisconsin 10 1 153.42 35.3
23 Arizona St 4 6 148.57 81.44
24 Southern Cal 7 4 146.51 103.48
25 Miami FL 7 4 132.74 56.64

That's right, with a dominating victory over a good Fresno State team the Boise State Broncos have moved into the top ranking slot. Other than that, the rankings have remained pretty steady, except for USC's drop. At this point in the season, there's been enough games played that only surprising games really alter the rankings very much. Even teams further back in the pack stayed pretty steady. Here's a look:
48 Texas 5 6 60.79 55.63
57 Washington 4 6 49.98 142.52
61 Iowa St 5 7 45.36 78.66
66 Northwestern 7 4 41.21 31.41
415 Georgetown DC 4 7 0.5 0.77

No MoV rankings can change a lot though still, because they are further from the true rankings. Here's a look at the top 10:
Rank Team W L Rating SOS
1 Auburn 11 0 26.46 6.61
2 Oregon 10 0 24.27 6.06
3 TCU 11 0 24.11 6.02
4 Missouri 9 2 23.61 9.77
5 Stanford 10 1 23.29 7.49
6 LSU 10 1 23 7.4
7 Oklahoma 9 2 22.78 9.42
8 Boise St 10 0 22.59 5.64
9 Oklahoma St 10 1 21.91 7.04
10 Texas A&M 8 3 20.13 10.72
The big news here is that both TCU and Boise St. moved up in the rankings (which is true in the BCS too). At this point, they are shooting to do two things with the rankings: stay ahead of the one loss teams, and pass Auburn if they lose. Right now, I think they'll stay ahead of LSU, and I'm guessing one of them would pass Auburn but it will be very close. I also am convinced that Boise State will finish ahead of TCU in the BCS standings as long as they win out. Why that's true will be covered more in the upcoming BCS week.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Games of November 20th

The end of the season is approaching, and there are some big games surrounding the teams followed at K,TMHMST. How's this week's slate gonna look? Here are the predictions, which hopefully do better than last week.

Ohio State 25 Iowa 21
A promising season may turn into a very mediocre one for the Hawks at Kinnick today.

Stanford 27 Cal 22
This game is dangerous though because as highlighted earlier this week, Cal is a very strong home team.

Illinois 28 Northwestern 21
The game will be close, but thanks to safety issues the game at Wrigley will still be a one sided affair.

Texas A&M 28 Nebraska 24
With home field advantage the rising Aggies will take down the Cornhuskers.

USC 32 Oregon State 30
Both these Pac-10 teams are stronger than their records.

Georgetown 26 Marist 20
Can the Hoya's end the season with a win? Sounds good to me.

Last Week: 2-4 (disaster)
This Season: 32-17

Friday, November 19, 2010

New NFL and NBA rankings

Each week I have a chance to go over the college football rankings, but I haven't had a chance recently to look at the professionals. What's up in the NBA and NFL (besides me being embarrassed by the Detroit Lions)?
Here's four trends to look at going ahead:
1. The NFC West sucks.
Anybody who follows football already knew this, but having 24th ranked St. Louis as their best team is almost unbelievable. Ishan stands a chance at winning his bet that the 49ers make the playoffs (made when they were 0-5) but I think the winner is goint to be the Rams. That's right Masta' P, your St. Louis Rams will beat Seattle on January second for their 7th win of the season, clinching the division by tiebreaker over the Seahawks.
2. The Bears aren't just lucky.
Yeah, the Bears have won some close games this season. They've lost some too though, and updating the rankings through today they'd project to have 6.23 wins at this point, not too far from the 7 they actually have. They have a touch finishing schedule (average opponent rating of 1.67, right in between the Colts and Patriots) but with the parity in the NFL this year they are still predicted to have 2.73 wins. A 10-6 Chicago Bears team? That could make the playoffs.
3. The Heat will "get better".
Yeah, they're 7-4, but they're atop the power rankings and should be 9-2 (9.09 wins exactly). As the season goes on those mistakes will iron out, and I project them to finish at 67-15 at their current pace. They'll probably regress to the mean some, but the MiAmigos are still a very good team, probably the best in the NBA.
4. The Hornets are for real.
Chris Paul's return (not "CP3" a terrible excuse for a nickname) and the new focus on defense are a big deal. They boast the best record in the NBA at 9-1, and THEY'VE PLAYED THE TOUGHEST SCHEDULE. Once the easier teams roll in, they'll kick even more butt. At this rate, they'll finish the season 70-12! Don't expect that, but do expect them to stick around as a legitimate dark horse contender.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Most Dangerous (Big) Game

It's Big Game week here at Stanford, and in honor of getting my ticket earlier today I'm going to post on one of the most bizarre patterns so far this year, Cal's home and away difference this year. While being just 5-5 and playing terribly in all of their road games, the Golden Bears have managed to run train against opponents at home, even holding the Oregon offense in check last Saturday when they almost stunned the Ducks. Using Points Line Rating (it's easier to calculate on a game by game basis) here's a look at how Cal has preformed at home:
Overall rating: 54.6
49 point win over UC-Davis (16.1)- 65.1 game rating
45 point win over Colorado (39.1)- 84.1
28 point win over UCLA (44.4)- 72.4
33 point win over Arizona St (52.9)- 85.9
2 point loss to Oregon (70.5)- 68.5
Cal has averaged a rating of 75.2 at home this season. Even factoring out usual home field advantage (4 points) that would make them the best team in college football. So sure, Stanford's playing a 5-5 team this week, but even without considering the rivalry, it'll be a dangerous game for the Cardinal.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

College Football Top 25 11/14

A terrible football weekend involved many disappointments, from Iowa's terrible loss, to poor predictions (2-4?!), to IM flag football teams being eliminated by the Baby Seal Clubbers. To add to the disappointment, there were no big upsets on top. So presumably the standings don't change? They did. Here's the top 25:

Rank Team W L Rating SOS
1 Oregon 10 0 581.37 53.56
2 Boise St 9 0 520.31 28.33
3 TCU 11 0 494.14 29.38
4 Stanford 9 1 464.13 74.07
5 Alabama 8 2 430.04 70.44
6 Ohio State 9 1 394.25 32.45
7 Oklahoma 8 2 244.99 65
8 Missouri 8 2 239.03 62.03
9 Auburn 11 0 232.93 58.27
10 Arkansas 8 2 220.89 49.78
11 Oklahoma St 9 1 218.98 51.57
12 Nebraska 9 1 210.08 39.67
13 LSU 9 1 208.43 60.61
14 Texas A&M 7 3 201.75 65.75
15 Southern Cal 7 3 192.46 97.52
16 Iowa 7 3 192.07 39.65
17 South Carolina 7 3 187.85 78.68
18 Arizona 7 3 180.97 59.72
19 Virginia Tech 8 2 180.48 41.36
20 Florida St 7 3 159.27 48.33
21 Florida 6 4 158.05 77.18
22 California 5 5 155.82 82.18
23 Arizona St 4 6 148.01 81.13
24 Miami FL 7 3 145.88 50.39
25 Wisconsin 9 1 140.27 32.46

TCU played terrible against San Diego State, and through that has lost their hold on the number one spot. Boise State has continued to dominate, and Oregon beat a pretty good Cal team. Iowa, after a terrible loss, has now dropped to the middle of a pack of 7-3 teams, while 9-1 Wisconsin has finally snuck in. Why is Wisconsin ranked so low still? Poor strength of schedule is the main culprit, along with lucky wins over Arizona St. and Iowa. They remind me a lot of the 12-1 Iowa team last year that still ended up ranked about 20th.
Here's some other relevant teams:
56 Texas 4 6 51.43 62.52
61 Iowa St 5 6 42.97 66.14
64 Northwestern 7 3 41.57 26.23
66 Washington 3 6 40.14 157.5
421 Georgetown DC 3 7 0.51 0.89

These teams, except Northwestern, are not playing for much anymore, but they do have a chance to wreck havoc on the upper level teams, just as Northwestern did to Iowa. At this point in the season, that's what it's about for many teams, and the only hope for teams like TCU and Boise State looking to move into the championship game.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Games of November 13th

There are many possible upsets this week, but there are few big time match-ups. Oregon-Cal and Auburn-Georgia both line up as possible upsets, but neither is likely. Because I don't want to just pad my stats, they're good enough anyways, this week we'll be going with what should be even games.

Iowa 29 Northwestern 12
This one shouldn't be close, but it does make me nervous. If the Hawks lose again it'll be a lost season, and I'm on the record as saying the Wildcats get no more wins this season.

Stanford 34 Arizona St 25
I heard the line for this game is 5 points? Somebody should call Uncle Leo and go make some money on it.

Florida 28 South Carolina 20
The Gators? In The Swamp? SEC East champions.

Arizona 32 USC 27
At least with 6 wins the Trojans are bowl eligible. Oh wait...

Utah 29 Notre Dame 23
Nobody cares about Notre Dame anymore.

Lehigh 29 Georgetown 13
Sorry Al. Hoya Saxa?

Last Week: 5-1
This Season: 30-13

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Random Chance in Sports

This post is a followup to Random Chance in the NFL which highlighted the lowered competition in the NFL this year. It showed that the best teams win 62% of the time this year, far less than previous years. How often the better team won in previous years and in other sports were still left unknown though. Until now. Here, using the same methodology focusing on variance, here are the data on the last three full seasons in the four major american sports:

2008 2009 2010
MLB 0.59 0.6 0.59
NBA 0.77 0.77 0.75
NHL 0.56 0.61 0.61
NFL 0.8 0.8 0.78

On average the better team wins 60% of the time in MLB, 77% in the NBA, 60% in the NHL, and 79% in the NFL. But how about this year? How often does the best team win in the NFL this year? It's gotten better since the last look, so far this year in the NFL the better team wins 70% of the time. While this is still an unprecedented increase in parity, it is also slowly getting closer to the norm we'd expect, thanks largely to big losers like the Bills and Panthers. So while this NFL season may have some crazy outcomes, it's still less random than sports like Hockey.

This article originally ran with a bug in the program used to calculate variance. While the effect on previous season results was minimal, it messed with the current season results a lot. The NFL is not actually just random chance this year, although going with just home field advantage would still be pretty good.

The Detroit Lions?

Am I really trying to tell you that the Detroit Lions are the 8th best team in football, even though they're 2-6? I am, and I'll tell you why.
First, they have a positive point differential from barely losing most games, but winning large in their two wins. They've scored 15 points more than their opponents, only two less than the 5-3 Eagles.
Second, they've played one of the hardest schedules in the entire NFL, with only 1 of their 8 opponents having a record below .500 (the Minnesota Vikings). In fact, with an average opponent strength of 1.32 (about the New Orleans Saints) they have played the hardest schedule in the NFL.
Still, with their rating and schedule the Lions should have 4.4 wins. They're easy to see too: one bad call against the Bears, Ndamukong Suh making an extra point against the Jets, and maybe punching in one of the final red zone trips against Green Bay. With 8 game left though, expect the Lions to "suddenly improve" because they'll get better luck eventually.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

College Football Top 25 11/7

Many teams with high rankings went down on Saturday (from the Big 12 largely), and there's bound to be some BCS turnover tomorrow. By counting each game equally however, there's less movement in the computer system. Some shifting has happened though, and more notably those on top have widened their gap over the field. Here's this week's top 25:

3Boise St80580.0133.61
6Ohio State81371.9529.62
10Oklahoma St81239.0656.87
15Texas A&M6320264.34
17Oregon St44186.47152.26
19Southern Cal63182.3988.3
21Florida St63168.0846.25
22Virginia Tech72166.3638.74
25South Carolina63142.5667.9

TCU has made it clear that they are the nation's number one team, and they've been joined by Oregon and Boise St. in the top three for three consecutive weeks now. Auburn still sits at 12, but will have a chance to show over the next two weeks whether it belongs in the top tier or not. The Stanford Cardinal have also made an impressive showing recently and are again a top 5 team after dominating a good Arizona team.
Other teams of interest:
48 Texas 4 5 62.17 65.09
51 Iowa St 5 5 59.48 79.42
63 Washington 3 6 43.6 171.06
70 Northwestern 6 3 33.93 21.22
415 Georgetown DC 3 6 0.54 0.82

I'm starting to feel bad for Jimmy and his Wildcats. Northwestern had a big lead over Penn State before reality came crashing down on them. They might not win again this year.

How will the BCS look later today? Here's the No MoV top 10:
Rank Team W L Rating SOS
1 Auburn 10 0 30.19 7.54
2 LSU 8 1 28.35 9.64
3 TCU 10 0 25.28 6.32
4 Oregon 9 0 24.54 6.13
5 Oklahoma St 8 1 24.16 8.21
6 Boise St 8 0 23.62 5.9
7 Nebraska 8 1 23.25 7.91
8 Stanford 8 1 23.25 7.9
9 Missouri 7 2 21.72 10.05
10 Oklahoma 7 2 19.73 9.13

Auburn will still be atop all of the computer polls, but Oregon has enough of a lead in the human polls to still be number 1. Then it should be TCU, then Boise St. especially with the new voter polls today (somehow TCU's win benefitted Auburn. Voters are way too biased against small conferences). After those top 4, things start to get tricky. LSU should be next, and could actually be in a position to leap frog the two non-AQ teams. Then Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Stanford should be next, but only Nebraska has a real shot of going to the national championship game (it ranks highly in the computer polls, and has could win a high profile Big 12 championship). Once again though, if the season were to end today the best team in the nation would be on the outside looking in.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Games of November 6th

After a spectacular week to finish off October (6-0!!) brought the system's prediction percentage way up on the year. This week brings equally important games though with only a few regular season games left. Here's your winners for this week:

Stanford 30 Arizona 23
One of the nation's best offenses against one of the nation's best defenses. And I'll be sitting in the front row.

Iowa 39 Indiana 15
Iniana still has no D. The Hawks should kick butt, even at Indiana.

TCU 29 Utah 24
I've been saying for a while that TCU's the best team in the country. This is their time to show it.

Penn State 24 Northwestern 11
Northwestern has struggled recently in the Big Ten, and it appears it may continue tomorrow.

Alabama 22 LSU 15
Both of these teams are legitimate title contenders. One of them will go down. It will be LSU.

Oregon 50 Washington 17
This is just to make Stan feel sad.

No Georgetown game this week! Finally I don't have to pick them to lose!
Last week: 6-0
This season: 25-12

Friday, November 5, 2010

NBA Rankings Debut!

Since baseball season is over, I suppose it's time to move on. To the NBA!! Here are the first rankings of the season:

Rank Team W L Rating SOS
1 Miami 4 1 9.203 0.872
2 LA Lakers 5 0 6.845 1.17
3 Denver 2 2 5.997 2.12
4 New Orleans 4 0 4.012 1.583
5 Orlando 2 1 3.58 0.978
6 Dallas 3 1 3.055 0.89
7 Boston 4 1 2.023 0.791
8 Houston 0 4 1.668 3.907
9 Atlanta 5 0 1.611 0.491
10 Phoenix 1 3 1.554 1.97
11 Portland 4 2 1.509 0.634
12 San Antonio 3 1 1.476 0.953
13 Golden State 3 1 1.414 1.504
14 New York 2 2 1.234 1.116
15 Memphis 2 3 1.181 1.637
16 Utah 2 2 0.988 1.225
17 Philadelphia 1 4 0.917 0.942
18 Toronto 1 3 0.765 0.684
19 Chicago 2 2 0.664 0.571
20 Sacramento 3 2 0.506 0.676
21 Milwaukee 1 4 0.425 0.932
22 Washington 1 2 0.411 1.742
23 LA Clippers 1 4 0.379 1.248
24 Cleveland 1 3 0.354 1.06
25 Indiana 2 2 0.348 0.733
26 Oklahoma City 3 2 0.315 0.584
27 New Jersey 2 2 0.308 0.666
28 Minnesota 1 4 0.247 1.53
29 Charlotte 1 3 0.233 0.611
30 Detroit 0 5 0.181 0.732

What stands out about these rankings?
First, the ever intriguing Lakers Heat battle starts off actually in favor of the Heat. If they manage to keep this pace up (they won't) it gives them a winning percentage of .913, or 75 wins. Not quite the 78 Hollinger's pythagorean said, but close. The Three MiAmigos (thanks Andy) have done well.
Second, the surprisingly 0-4 Rockets have actually not played terribly, they just had an incredibly hard schedule. It appears Yao could still lead them to the playoffs this year.
Finally, the struggles of the OKC Zombie Sonics should be watched. Maybe all of the hype for such a young team was too much? As with all things this season, only time will tell. And I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Does the best team win the World Series?

Congratulations to the World Champion San Francisco Giants! Here at Kobe, Tell Me How My Stats Taste we've been following the Giants all year, and while we're disappointed that our game 7 tickets now have no value (joining game 5 against the Braves) we're still excited by the outcome.
Some people though (Philllies fans) have expressed doubt that the Giants really were the best team. How often does the best team in baseball win the world series? Let's check it out.
Let's assume that the best team gets to the playoffs (a pretty good assumption).
Next let's assume that there's no home field advantage, because it'd be a pretty even chance that the best team would have the advantage (world series determined by all star game).
As a result, I've created a table, based off the likelihood that the better team wins (calculated similar to the Random Chance in the NFL article).

Chance of Better Winning Best as Champs
0.55 0.212
0.57 0.257
0.59 0.306
0.61 0.359
0.63 0.415
0.65 0.473
Just a small change makes a big difference, but from the past we've learned that the better team usually wins 60% of the time. That means that the best team wins the world series about 1/3 of the time. So are the Giants really the best team in baseball? Maybe not, but they are World Champions.

Can someone also explain why Renteria and not Lincecum was World Series MVP?