Archive for June, 2008

Something Silly Part II

June 26, 2008

So, it’s a few years old, but in baseball, there is this thing called the Win Expectancy Finder. Basically, at any given point during a game, you can plug in the numbers and find out the expected probability of a win by either team.

So, the home team is up by one in the bottom of the sixth with men on first and second and two outs?

Historically, the home team will win 77% of the time

This leads to all kinds of fun (including graphs!). But the best part is this: using these numbers, we can find Win Probability Added, which determines exactly what any action taken on the baseball field added to a team’s probability of success. There’s a good explanation here. To sum up:

Let’s say our batter in the bottom of the ninth hits a single to put runners on first and third with no outs. This increases the Win Probability from 71% to 87%, for a gain of 16%. So, in a WPA system you credit the batter +.16 and debit the pitcher/fielder -.16. If you add up every positive and negative event from the beginning to the end of a game, you wind up with a total for the winning team of .5, and a total for the losing team of -.5. And the player with the most points will have contributed the most to his team’s win.

Now doesn’t this sound like something that could work for soccer?  How, exactly, this would work I have no idea. Maybe someone is already doing it. Colin has probably been doing it for years. But if not, let’s get on it people.

Long live our Soviet motherland…. built by the people’s mighty hand

June 26, 2008

It’s obviously a bit cheap to keep making Soviet jokes as the Russian’s progress in this tournament, but hey, I do this shit part time.

So here are two video’s that will, I hope, inspire and amaze you:

First, the mighty Paul Robeson. I defy you to not sing this in the shower.

Bonus knowledge: I’m pretty sure Paul Robeson is the only man to be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, and win a Stalin Peace Prize. This was a man.

Next, the big one. Be patient, because this is the most amazing thing ever.

Are you ready?

Are you sure?

Ready now?


I’m sorry, did I just blow your mind?

Bet to win

June 20, 2008

I’ve been on a little bit of a baseball kick for the last few days and I came across this very interesting article from The Hardball Times.

Some money quotes (some of which are quotes themselves, within the article):

“Information that is available only after a decision is made is irrelevant to the quality of the decision.”

“A good decision cannot guarantee a good outcome. All real decisions are made under uncertainty. A decision is therefore a bet, and evaluating it as good or not must depend on the stakes and the odds, not on the outcome.”

So a decision to buy, say, Chris Baird, can’t really be judged on whether or not he performed for Fulham. It can, theoretically, be judged only on whether the odds of him performing were good enough to justify the cost of buying him.

Attention decrement and the law of small numbers suggest that when attempting to evaluate decision-making expertise, if the first few decisions associated with the decision-maker turn out right, we apply the label “expert.” But if they turn out badly, the decider might well be called “inept.” And our opinion gets cast in stone simply because we are too busy or too lazy to examine the entire width and breadth of decision-making. Often times it is the exception that proves the rule, which is to say it is unreasonable to say that we should ignore the results of a single decision when trying to infer a decider’s expertise.

This is especially the case for the football supporter, since we are judging the decision makers based on limited information. Staying with Chris Baird, we don’t know the process that went in to buying him (although we have guessed, perhaps correctly, that it had a lot to do with Northern Ireland). But more than that, we don’t know the ins and outs of the negotiations, or what other options Lawrie Sanchez had, etc. etc. etc. Not to say that Chris Baird was a good buy, just that perhaps it’s more difficult to write the book on Lawrie Sanchez as a decision maker than previously thought.

This hiring and firing practice also has the potential to enslave all major-league organizations to the principle embodied in the Kelly criterion, that in the end it is the teams with the largest bankrolls that will have the greatest success. Simply because over time and repeated hiring and firing of the same bodies, the continual exchange of bodies by organizations within the MLB domain creates a commonality of personnel expertise. And in so doing, organizational cultures and practices will blend together within the entire MLB domain to produce a homogeneous distribution of expertise such that all organizations within the MLB domain will have essentially the same probability of winning “p” and probability of losing “q.” [emphasis his]

My cursory interpretation of this is that Roy Hodgson is made particularly valuable because he had spent so long away from English football. On the other hand, there’s a logical limit: I don’t think Fulham would be better served hiring say, Terry Francona, rather than Paul Ince.

Lot’s of other good stuff here. Obviously, the baseball marketplace is a bit different than the football marketplace, due to the socialistic aspects of the organization. On the other hand, the transfer system values players much more efficiently I suspect. Either way, some interesting stuff.

P.S. If any of my readers like a bet, I’d suggest betting on the A’s to win the AL West. The Angels would appear to have been extremely lucky so far.

I want one of…

June 20, 2008



Something silly

June 17, 2008

Player performance in international tournaments is weighted more heavily than the same player’s performance in a midweek game against, say, Wigan.

This is fair enough. The opposition is tougher etc. etc. etc.

But international tournaments are basically the definition of small sample size. So, if managers scout the Euros, and a big tournament can add pounds to the price tag of a player, might a savvy manager deliberately scout players who perform extremely badly? After all, just because a player is rank against, say, the Netherlands, doesn’t mean he can’t do a job in that midweek fixture at Wigan. And if you can buy that player at a discount, while his horrifying failure is still fresh in the minds of the public, then hey, hey! Right?

Like for Like

June 17, 2008

[ed. – Ramble starts….. now!]

Brian McBride is gone. Long Live Brian McBride.

Now we need to find a replacement.

McBride played for Fulham for five seasons. His record in all competitions:

03/04 – GS (8), SB (11), G (5), A (1) — Goals Per Appearance – (0.26)

04/05 – GS (17), SB (20), G (9), A (4) — Goals Per Appearance – (0.24)

05/06 – GS (36), SB (5), G (11), A (3) — Goals Per Appearance – (0.27)

06/07 – GS (38), SB (4), G (12), A (4) — Goals Per Appearance – (0.29)

07/08 – GS (14), SB (3), G (4), A (0) — Goals Per Appearance – (0.24)

Now this is a rough tool since I don’t have the minute numbers at hand. Goals per 90 would be more accurate. But still, it gives us a rough idea what we’re looking to replace.

And what we’re looking to replace is a very consistent 1 in 4 striker.

McBride was more than the sum of his parts. His intangibles are legion, but by definition unmeasurable. But if other players take up the mantle of his leadership (and I’m looking at you Danny Murphy), then from an admittedly simplistic numbers perspective, the production should be attainable.

Just for comparison like, here are the 07/08 numbers for “Player X.”

07/08 – GS (1), SB (22), G (5), A (0) — Goals Per Appearance – (0.22)

Who is Player X? Why, it’s the oft-scorned Marlon Harewood, who did almost all of his work from the substitutes bench. He did play for a much better team, tis true.

Now, this might be a textbook example of the way statistics can be misleading (at least the way I’m using them). But it could also mean that, well, if Roy only tries to replace McBride’s numbers and not McBride himself, he might not find the task so impossible. Of course Roy might try to upgrade the numbers from that position, which is a whole other kettle of fish.

One last line. Clint Dempsey last season

07/08 – GS (31), SB (7), G (6), A (2) — Goals Per Appearance – (0.16)

Not fantastic, but when you consider that he played almost the whole season in midfield, nothing to sneeze at either.

The more I close my eyes and think hard about Clint Dempsey (which I do way to frequently), the more I can see him as a striker. Out on the wing, he is too slow to get by people, and not a good enough crosser to be a truly dangerous threat. Where he does significant damage is by arriving late into the box when the play is on the other side of the pitch, which suggests good spacial awareness. And the more I think about it, last season he was more or less a target man transposed out on the wing. He would get the ball and hold it up long enough for the full back to overlap, or Bullard or Murphy to get position, or one of the strikers to show for it. He’s pretty decent in the air. So here’s what I’m thinking: If Roy is looking for a like for like replacement of Brian McBride, he could do worse than Clint Dempsey.

[ed. – Ramble complete.]

Soccernet watch

June 10, 2008

Better than a lifetime of free beer in a day, I guess..


June 10, 2008

Spain – Russia is about to start, but I just wanted to say a) how much I like Russia’s soviet style national anthem, and b) how much I like those huge portraits of the Russian players that fans waved around.

Plus, they sang! I always like teams that sing along. Russia, your my new team for the tournament.

New York

June 9, 2008

Justice demands that I spend just as much time talking about the positive play of the US in their nil nil draw against Argentina as I did slating them for their second half collapse against Spain, but, screw justice. It’s my party etc. etc. etc.

I will say that I was encouraged by the first half play of Clint Dempsey and Heath Pearce.

Additionally, it’s good to see play generally improving over the three games. This is to be expected with the squad staying together and players getting more comfortable in their roles, but it is still good to see.

So what do we know after these three games? Well, we’re not as bad as we looked against England. And thank heavens for that.


June 5, 2008

I support this transfer rumor.

Hell of a player. Hell of a ponytail.