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.

EPL Matchday 36

What a difference a week makes!

With most Premier League teams now looking down three more games in the regular season, the weekly simulation that I’ve been running (not so weekly) sees the numbers solidifying more and more. It’s been well established which 6-7 teams will occupy the top spot (though not quite as firm which would be in the bottom three). But the ordering is still wide open. Recent runs of form – both good and bad – by the top teams have kept the title race alive.

Without further ado, here’s the summary of my simulation after Sunday’s games were complete. Remember, the number indicates the number of times (out of 10,000 runs) that a particular team ended the season in a particular ranking:

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EPL Matchday 35 – Simulation

Here we are with only four matches left for most teams (Tottenham and Man City being the exception, since their match was postponed until May due to the FA Cup). Even at this late stage, there is still ambiguity about who will end up where, and there are some massive games ahead.

As always, for some background on how these numbers are derived (and why, other than because your author is a big fat nerd), please check this backgrounder.

As of April 28 (up to and including Fulham’s 3-0 defeat of Bolton), the probabilities of each team achieving each position in the league table are as follows:

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EPL Matchday 33 – Simulation

the curse of teams whose names begin with W is holding strong

Here’s the results of my simulation run for the Barclay’s Premier League after the weekend matches. For some background information, please visit this backgrounder.

As of April 11 (including Liverpool’s 3-0 drubbing of Man City), the outcome of the simulation is as follows:

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Premier League Probabilities – Backgrounder

In 2009 I taught a course at the U of A’s School of Business on simulation – the application of quantitative techniques to answer business questions where there is uncertainty or risk. For example, if you run a retail store and are trying to manage inventory, you need to have an idea of your demand so you can decide how much to stock. But demand is unknown – so, by using random variables based on previous demand, then repeating the analysis many times over, you can understand the effects of changes to your bottom line. That’s the power of simulation.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Although you can buy eggnog in the grocery stores already it isn’t Christmas yet. No, the most wonderful time of the year for me is the start of another NHL season.

After having my hopes and dreams cruelly dashed in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals last year, I approach the new season with hope and optimism. We maintained a playoff spot for most of the year last season with AHL calibre goaltending. That problem is solved. Our forwards 1-12 could be the best in the NHL. The defense will be the question mark but there is tons of potential there. Also, given our last 4 cuts at forward all would make most other NHL teams, we have plenty of depth to deal for defensive help.

Another Cup run mostly comes down to luck, timing, injuries and chemistry. But looking at this team, you have to think they are in a good position to make some noise.

So some fearless predicitions Continue reading “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”

A tale of two city’s (sports teams)

I recently returned from a trip to Boston where I saw the Red Sox play in ancient Fenway and the Patriots play in nearly-brand new Gilette stadium. I was struck by the contrast between the two.

From all of the sports articles I have read, I had a pre-conceived notion that Fenway was a rough place. Tons of beer, brats and blue collar fans. Not a place for kids, especially if the wrong team was visiting. Now maybe it was because the Minnesota Twins were in town (baseball’s equivalent of Screech on Saved by the Bell) but I thought Fenway was wonderful. I was clearly a foreigner and there by myself. People struck up conversations with me at random numerous times. Seat numbers were merely a suggestion as people rotated in and out of my section and row all night. There were tons of beer, brats and blue collar fans but all in a good way. Odd thing, you can buy almost anything from guys wandering the stands. Crackerjack, popcorn, water, pop, cotton candy, even hotdogs will be brought right to your seat. But at Fenway, no one comes through the stands hawking beer. The stadium is old and the grandstand seats were not made for someone who is 6’5″. But it is beautiful and an experience unto itself. For instance the whole stadium broke into singing Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline in the middle of the 8th inning. Why? I have no idea.

Now let’s flip to Gilette Stadium. I believe Gilette was built in 2002. That stadium is freakin’ gorgeous. The “lighthouse” at the open end is a very cool feature. The concourses are wide and the concessions are excellent and plentiful. Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, built 7 years earlier, was glitzier but Gilette was the nicest stadium I have ever been in. Too bad the fans were total jerks. The Patriots have the highest average ticket price in the NFL and therefore attracts a more well-heeled, white collar crowd. At Fenway, there were very few Red Sox jersies, mostly Red Sox t-shirts. Not so at Gilette. Almost everyone had a $100 + Pats jersey on. And the fans were rude rude rude. I was sitting on the end of the aisle and I must have gotten up 70 or 80 times. People would leave during the play, wander in and out. Take cell phone calls in the stands. And the swearing was brutal. I am no shrinking violet but c’mon, the language was filthy and obnoxius. I tried to start a chat with the guy behind me but it went nowhere.

Perhaps the difference between the two was the “class” of the crowd. Maybe the Patriots attract an “in” crowd who really doesn’t care about football because of their recent success. I went to Oakland last year for a Raiders game. That is a scary building in a scary part of Oakland. I wouldn’t hesitate to take a 10 year old to the Raiders or to the Red Sox for that matter but I probably wouldn’t take them to the Patriots.

Jets Fever Hits Winnipeg

I should have been working this morning.

Instead I was reading story after story about the game last night in Winnipeg between the Oilers and Coyotes. When I was a kid, the Flames were the hated rivals. But the Jets weren’t far behind. They didn’t stir up the same kind of fervour, maybe because they just weren’t really competitive.

When I was a teenager, my dad and I went to game five of a playoff series against the Jets. If memory serves me, it was the last time the Oilers won the cup. The Oil was down 3-1 in the series, and it looked like that was maybe their year to finally prevail over Edmonton like they had in the WHA. That game is my favourite live sporting event. Ever. The building was loud, and much like this past year, I think the fans willed the Oilers to prevail.

Shortly after the Jets left, Chris and I attended a conference in Winnipeg. It seemed to be a city in disarray… it was like their heart had been torn out. At the same time, we were in serious risk of losing our Oilers, and I think that we maybe rubbed it in a little too much that the Winnipeggers had lost their team, but “we’re better, because we still have ours.” I think the bravado came from the fear of the same fate for E-town.

Since then, the loss of the Jets (and to a lesser extent, the Nordiques) has quite honestly left a small hole in my soul. I never made it to the Arena, but wish I could have. Every year around this time and particularly heading to the playoffs, I really miss the Jets. And I think it’s terribly sad that they aren’t around… Winnipeg deserves better. One common theme of many of the articles I read today was that the Coyotes wanted to wear Jets jerseys, but that someone nixed the idea. The NHL says it wasn’t them. The owner of the Moose says he didn’t say no. You might
want to ask who kept this from happening, after all the Avalanche wore the bleu et blanc when they played in Quebec City a year or two ago. My advice to those who are saddened by this not happening last night: don’t worry about it, and don’t look for blame. Keep the white, blue and red jerseys hanging in a special spot in your closet, or carefully folded in your dresser. I’m convinced the day will come when you can dust them off and wear them for real; not in an attempt to conjure up the feelings of the past that will leave you hoping for more.

Oilers Devour Hot Wings

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the cheesy Edmonton Sun-esque headline.

I was at last night’s game between the Oilers and the Wings. I was sitting in the Gold Seats, row 8 (thank you Jeff and Lorna) just behind the Wings’ bench. My mini-pack seats are up in row 32 so it was nice to see how the other half lives.

First of, the view from down there is amazing. You are so close to the ice, it is phenominal. You really gain an appreciation for how fast the players move and how hard they shoot the puck. With 11 goals scored, it was highly entertaining.

On the flip side, the seats down there are terrible! It was so cramped. With my jacket draped over my seat, there wasn’t enough leg room for me to get one of my feet flat on the floor. We were really jammed in like sardines. There is way more elbow and leg room up in row 33. But I will take the view any day of the week. It just high-lites the need for a new building with proper high-end seating.
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