EPL Matchday 37 – Simulation

With only two games left in the Premier League season, many of the questions that I’ve been tracking with this simulation have been resolved, or it’s at the point where simulation analysis seems like overkill. In addition, some of the assumptions I’ve made in the simulation study – including how goal differential changes – may start to get in the way of useful analysis.

This will be the last update for the season, though I might run the simulation one more time just to see what it says before May 22. So here we go:

As always, the table shows the results of 10,000 runs of my simulation of the Premier League (background info here). Man Utd has every right to call the trophy engravers and Maserati dealerships after its win against Chelsea last week; while it’s still not a mathematical lock until they take a point from BlackX (where X = {burn, pool}), the chances of Chelsea pipping them for the title is 0.63%, or about 157-1.

Peter “praying mantis” Crouch (and, let’s be honest, their recent form) sunk Spurs hopes of another year in the Champions League (thankfully, this mathematical certainty reflects in the simulation, evidence I’m doing something right).  But the reality is that since March, City has been ahead of Tottenham on probabilities even if the standings didn’t always reflect it.

On the other end of the table, the relegation picture is clearer and clearer, even though there are still 5 teams which were relegated in the simulation. West Ham’s 33 points give their chances of going down at 97%, and their game against Wigan this weekend, while not a “clinch” game, does make the path to the Championship much clearer. Blackpool was relegated 79% of the time, while in 35% of simulation runs Wolves went down.  The two other teams that were relegated in the simulation were Birmingham (3%) and Blackburn (6%).

This is a useful example of how the simulation doesn’t predict every outcome. I have assumed that a win or loss changes each involved team’s goal differential by 1. This is a reasonable assumption when there are many games left, since blowout wins get offset by tight losses, and because when I update the stats every week the *actual* goal differential is brought to bear. However, with only a couple of games left, changes of +/- 1 to goal differential can overlook possibilities that might play out.  My simulation did not have any runs where Villa was relegated. However, their survival is not guaranteed. Granted, to be relegated they would have to lose both of their games while 5 teams below them win at least one, which is unlikely. But more importantly for the simulation, Villa’s -13 goal differential is a lot better than the teams below them. In a tie on points they would win every time even though it’s possible that a blowout by Arsenal or Liverpool could erode their goal differential if things go sideways for Gerard Houlier’s side.

Here’s a chart summarizing the outcomes of each simulation I’ve run since the end of March:

This chart shows the results for the 6 simulations I ran beginning on 28 March, and graphs how each team’s expected finishing position has changed as the season has progressed. It uses a ranking based on the weighted average of each team’s position (for example, this week Man Utd’s weighted average rank is 1.006, which is obviously the #1 ranking). So even though Man City and Tottenham fought for that 4th spot, Man City was consistently more likely to get there in the end. It also shows Everton consistenly ranked over Bolton, though in reality the teams were hard fought right up to the last couple of weeks. Things below the top 8 were decidely more mixed. West Brom had a wild ride, as did Newcastle. And two of the three teams most likely to be relegated way back in March are still expected to go down.

Just one game-based analysis this week, and it’s the critical Wigan-West Ham battle. Here’s how the numbers play out:

The numbers show how critical this match is for both teams. West Ham will come out of the game with a high likelihood of going down regardless of what happens; even a win only improves their chances from “almost completely certain” to “somewhat less certain.” But a home win for Wigan lowers their chances of relegation from 80% to 60%, and sets up a chance to clear the drop in their last game in Stoke. The loser of the match is almost certainly relegated.

Okay, one more game analysis. Wolves have a chance to virtually book a place in the Premier League next season if they win against Sunderland this weekend. Even a draw slightly improves their chances.  But a loss gives them essentially a 50-50 chance going into their final game against Blackburn Rovers.

As always, I would love to hear comments, questions, or rampant criticisms. Please feel free to drop me a line.

The Cluster-F**k that is Voting in the Alberta Election

My wife forgot that it was election day in Alberta today. I must admit, I almost forgot myself and realized this past weekend that I needed to vote today.

So on my way home from attending a ceremony celebrating my employer’s $500,000 gift to the UofA I stopped at the usual polling station in my neighbourhood. Or at least, what I thought was the normal polling station. I do live in a new area, but for the civic election I voted at the Summerside Community Centre… seems like a reasonable place to vote in one’s community. When I got there, there was a sign that said that there was no polling place there. So I went home, assuming that the polling place would be a few blocks away at the Ellerslie Elementary School where I voted in the last federal election… (I think… I’ve voted in three different places for the last five elections at various levels, so I might have lost track). Alternatively, I thought that it might be at one of the elementary schools in Millwoods… which becomes a pain, especially in the weather today. But that’s where I voted in the second-to-last federal election, so maybe that’s where I needed to go.

Turns out that even though I live in a presumably urban centre, I need to go from 79th Street south of Ellerslie Rd (9th Ave SW) to J. Percy Page High School, which is 5.4 KM away according to google maps and is very tenuously connected by public transit. (I do drive, as would most voters in my ‘hood, but still!)

I’ll be interested to see what voter turnout ends up being in my riding. Well, and in several others. In trying to find out where the polling stations are in my riding (couldn’t find it unless I randomly input addresses), I came across information that the Windsor Park polling place has been moved away from the UofA campus… doesn’t Elections Alberta work for all of the people, not just those in power?

The thing that ticks me off is that with the rural domination that is Alberta politics, we’re just in for another four to five years of the same old, same old anyway.

Got Wake?

I read a lot of business magazines and blogs, mostly interested in articles on investing and finance, but I also try to sample articles that will help me work better or become a better leader. This particular article: “The Professional Organizer”, Fortune, September 3, 2007 about Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store was mostly forgettable, except for one particular nugget:

“Mind your wake. Someone made me a bumper sticker that reads GOT WAKE? and I keep it with me all the time. I have this theory that your wake, just like a boat’s, is much bigger than you realize. Everything you do — and what you don’t do — impacts the people around you a lot more than you think.”

Why are we waiting?

So last Friday I was checking out the weekend schedule and I thought, “Great, Saturday in May must mean playoff hockey on Saturday night”.

Oops, no. The 2,000,000 or so perceived hockey fans in the US say the 20,000,000 fans in Canada had to watch hockey on Saturday afternoon. Ok, it’s the third round, whatever. Good game, nice OT, Ottawa wins.

Oh, you missed that in the US? Ottawa won on a seeing eye shot during a one one three rush. How did you miss it? It was right there on TV. Oh right. Well hey, Curlin’ was named after the another Canadian sport right?

So now it is Friday again. This time its the finals. There HAS to be hockey on Saturday night! I mean, there is a Canadian team in the finals and everything.

Ah but no. Denied again. Apparently after having hockey non-stop for 8 months we have to stretch it out a little longer. All so we can have that pivotal, heart-wrenching, fan-appealing game 7 on that oh so traditional hockey night of Monday.

Nice work people. Start the series tomorrow and you get 3 Saturday evening games including game 7.

Who is running this show anyway?

Green Party not so smart

I do not get the decision by the Green Party to run its leader, Elizabeth May, against Peter Mackay. Sure, with the Liberals not fielding a candidate, it might help consolidate the left vote, but this is a riding that Mackay won fairly easily last time.

Slaying the giant and getting the Green Party’s first Commons seat would be a massive step forward for the party. But if you had to choose between a high profile loss, or getting May elected in a no-name riding, wouldn’t you take the latter?

Perhaps the Liberals and Greens have more information that what has been reported in terms of poll numbers. And  an election is a ways off. But the limited data I have seen says May would have very little chance.

To me, getting Dion to give up a safe “green” Liberal seat somewhere so the Green party can chuck a bunch of money at getting her elected is a better plan. Losing to Mackay, in my opinion, doesn’t really do the Greens any good.

Smyth dealt to Islanders

I’m not sure how many ways I can say that I am completely choked by this. It wasn’t supposed to be like this anymore. I put up with a year without hockey, a 23% increase in ticket prices, cold $4 fries, dried out $4 hotdogs and $7 beers that are half foam. I put up with all of this so that Oilers could be competitive in the new NHL and could keep its stars.

This is freakin’ abysmal. It just isn’t right. The Oiler organization has some serious fences to mend with its fans. I think they grossly underestimate the fan backlash that is coming.

Sign Ryan Smyth

Sometimes it is tough being an Oiler fan. As glorious as 1980 to 1992 was, 1993 to now has been gruelling. Yes, we came within a goal of winning it all last year but that appears to be the exception rather than the rule.

So, playoffs are here again and we seem destined to miss them. And, once again, our best player will be out of contract come July 1. And, once again, it looks like we might lose him to a team willing to open the bank.

Now, this is different than the Doug Weight scenario where we couldn’t afford $9M per year. This is the cap era. Smyth is going to get $6M tops and that is doable. Hell, our infamous former stud defenseman was making $6.25M.

This time the issue is budget. Does a $6M a year winger fit into what Oiler management is trying to do? I say, “who cares, sign him”.

I’ve had plenty of debate with friends about this and I came to a realization, Smyth needs to be an Oiler. Yes, we could get a boatload for him tomorrow at the deadline (look at the Tkachuk deal). Yes, $6M is a lot for a guy who has never scored 40 goals and is leading his team to a 9th place finish. And yes, Smyth wants 5 years at the end of which he could be a shadow of his current self.

But you know what? I am sick of losing players. I am sick of seeing Oiler stars in other uniforms. I am sick of players leaving for more money (Weight, Joseph), more sun (Pronger), more parties (Anson Carter), more anything.

The realization I came to is that I would rather lose with Ryan Smyth than win without him. Lowe needs to draw a line and say, the Oilers are finished being a farm team for the league’s elite. It ends now, we keep our best players.

Paris is the Suckiest City on Earth

(Disclaimer: after a couple of comments by people without senses of humour, I don’t think Paris sucks. I don’t think Istanbul/Turkey is the greatest place in the world. I wrote this piece because of Aaron’s gushing account below of his recent trip to France. I have never been to France, and spent only parts of three days in Istanbul. I am not a travel/history/political expert. Please don’t fire-bomb my house.)

Paris sucks. Go to Istanbul; there’s a real cosmopolitan city for you. Cruising into the city from the water with the skyline of modern, Western towers and the ornate minarets and domes of their mosques… amazing. Looking out over 10,000,000 souls from the top floor of the Inter-continental while sipping Turkish coffee is unbelievable (as opposed to Paris’ measly 2mm – according to Wikipedia). When Paris was a Roman outpost full of cavemen, Constantinople was the capital of the world. I stood in the middle of a building with a dome over 100 feet across and over 50 metres high… that was built 1500 years ago! They were still living in mud huts in Paris. And, the Turks don’t mind if you don’t speak French (or Turkish, as the case may be)… English is just fine – no one will spit in your food or give you attitude if you don’t speak their language.

(By the way, I don’t know much of Paris’ history, so I’ve taken some liberties 🙂 )