Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas

Category: Sport (page 2 of 24)

Winter Olympics: it’s the cost, not the climate

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It is tempting to bemoan the Winter Olympics going to Beijing as another example of unsuitable regimes being awarded the big sporting jamborees. Russia and Qatar are the next two World Cup hosts. After lots of European countries pulled out, Beijing was left with Alamaty of Kazakhstan to bid for the 2020 Winter Games. Urgh, all these dictators.

But it was ever thus. Continue reading

Sport Geek #7: wither the leftie, speedy nags, awkward rider

You may have noticed that Wimbledon is ON. But there are some other great sporting stories out there too. Here’s this week’s Geek take: Continue reading

Sport Geek #6: Slam dreams, bollards, Hackball

GOLF
Leave aside talk of Serena getting the Grand Slam – what about Jordan? With the Masters and now US Open in the bag, Speith is halfway there. What’s in store at the Open?

Don’t forget how fine the margins are in golf: Dustin Johnson had a put to win at Chambers Bay. Continue reading

Sport Geek #5: money talks, the N Korea of golf, racing’s dirty secret

CORRUPTION ETC
We noticed before that Sepp Blatter didn’t actually use the word ‘resign’. So let’s not be surprised that – oh look – he might carry on after all.

Get real 1) Don’t call the Olympics out as a model for Fifa to follow. The IOC is happy to suck up to dictators. Hello Baku!
Get real 2) It might be a fun devils-advocate position to take, but Blatter hasn’t actually helped the poorer football nations at all.

Don’t call it the beautiful game. Try “the zero-sum game that deepens the poverty of the poor“. Continue reading

What can Fifa learn from other voting systems?

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Everyone agrees that Fifa needs to change. But what about the tricky question of members’ votes? In general, the argument seems to go like this: Continue reading

PSG: liberty, fraternity, inequality

473809032Sport is inherently unequal. Talent and skills are not distributed fairly, and it would be a far more boring world if they were.

But when it comes to the wages that are paid to players, some leagues prefer a fairer system – especially in the US – and some are content with a less equal system. Some are downright ridiculous.

The data provided each year by Sporting Intelligence highlights the haves and have-nots by comparing average team wages in 333 teams across many major leagues. As ever, the American sports leagues are notable by their evenness. In the NFL, for example, the top paying team, the Miami Dolphins, pay an average annual salary of £1.37m per player. The lowest payers are the New York Jets, with £1.01m per player. That’s across 32 teams. The difference top to bottom is just £357,000.

Let’s look at some of the major European football leagues by way of comparison. The contrast and variation is astonishing. Continue reading

Should KP be recalled to the England team?

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Update (May 15): Adam Lyth has now been called into the England Test squad and will probably make his debut against New Zealand.

—–

When a player hits 300-plus for their county, it’s hard not to take notice. But should Kevin Pietersen’s massive innings for Surrey get him back in the team?

He thinks so. He said afterwards:

“All I’ve been asked to do by the chairman-elect is to get a county and get runs,” said Pietersen.

“I’ve got runs, I’ve got a county and I do believe I’m good enough to play for England.

“All I can do is score runs, that’s it.

KP has been misguided and is confused, and here’s why.

This is nothing to do with that book (the one that trashed the ECB, former and current coaches and captains). It is quite simply that one innings isn’t enough.

If it was, then here are a list of people who would have been picked for England in the last 5 years:

Alex Gidman
Alex Lees
James Hildreth
Andrew Gale
Adam Lyth

All of the above players have hit 250-plus in county cricket. None have been picked for England’s senior Test side.

But if you look at the players who have scored the highest total runs in a county season, or had the highest average over a season (excluding overseas players and retired England players), there is a better chance of picked for the Test side. Adam Lyth would seem to have a better claim for a Test place then KP.

Highest averages
Year Player Mat Inns NO Runs Ave 100 50 Notes
2014 Adam Lyth 17 24 1 1,619 70.39 7 6 No England place
2013 Gary Ballance 15 22 1 1,363 64.9 6 6 Test debut Jan 2014
2012 Nick Compton 14 21 6 1,494 99.6 5 7 Test debut Nov 2012
2011 Nick Compton 14 23 4 1,098 57.78 2 6 See above
2010 James Hildreth 16 23 1 1,440 65.45 7 5 No England place

 

Most runs
Year Player Mat Inns NO Runs Ave 100 50 Notes
2014 Adam Lyth 17 24 1 1,619 70.39 7 6 No England place
2013 Moeen Ali 17 29 5 1,420 59.16 4 8 Test debut June 2014
2012 Nick Compton 14 21 6 1,494 99.6 5 7 Test debut Nov 2012
2011 James Taylor 17 32 3 1,602 55.24 3 10 Test debut Aug 2012
2010 Adam Lyth 16 29 0 1,509 52.03 3 9 No England place

(In 2011 Marcus Trescothick was the leading run scorer and had the highest average in county cricket, but had retired from the England team. In 2010 the most runs were scored by Mark Ramprakash – again, retired from the England team.)

Highest innings in season
Year Player Runs Team Match Date Notes
2014 Alex Gidman 264 Gloucs 09-Sep-14 No England place
2013 Alex Lees 275* Yorkshire 17-Jul-13 No England place
2012 James Hildreth 268 Somerset 31-Mar-12 No England place
2011 Michael Carberry 300* Hampshire 02-Aug-11 Test debut Mar 2010 (1 test), recalled Nov 2013, more than 2 years later
2010 James Taylor 206* Leics 29-May-10 Test debut Aug 2012 (after 2011 season, see above)

The selectors have been very clear in their methods – they reward consistency, not single innings. As it turns out, a recall isn’t going to happen, however many runs KP scores. Colin Graves (incoming ECB chairman) said the wrong thing (about KP having any recall chance), which was then taken the wrong way (regarding single innings).

But the KP recall bandwagon will get mightily awkward if he does keep getting runs and topping the average charts. Until he retires completely from the game, there will always be a question mark over Pietersen’s England inclusion.

(Data from ESPN Cricinfo)

James Anderson’s record highlights England’s weakness

470122776Amid all the articles congratulating James Anderson for surpassing Ian Botham as England’s all-time Test wicket taker, I’ve not seen one to put the numbers in perspective. It’s a fine achievement, certainly, but compared to other countries, it’s pretty small beer.

Just like the centuries record that three years ago fell to Alastair Cook, the England Test wickets record was abnormally low.

For starters, England still is the only major Test nation (bar Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) to have its leading all-time Test wickets record below 400.

Put another way, if Anderson was from India or South Africa, he would be just 4th on that country’s list of all-time wicket-takers. His mark of 384 would put him third in Australia and the West Indies too.

Essentially, Botham’s record has been there for the taking for a long time. England play a lot of Test cricket, so there’s no excuse in terms of matches played. There just hasn’t been a bowler of the class and longevity required to take the record.

Botham was top of the whole world for a while, with a test record that stood for a couple of years. But then the record was pushed up over 400 by two other all rounders, Richard Hadlee and Kapil Dev; and and then 500 by Courtney Walsh.

Subsequently, the two spinners Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan took the record out of sight, over 600, then 700, with Murali on exactly 800 at the end of his career. The all-time list is below the break.

test-wicket-progression-1

Anderson is a fine bowler, but I would be surprised if he gets over 500 wickets when he’s finished. He may well end up around 6th on the all time list if he can stay healthy and get to 450+ wickets. But Dale Steyn of South Africa is ahead of him already, despite playing 22 fewer tests. (A bit old now, but a superb Steyn-Anderson comparison is here that shows how far superior Steyn really is.)

England have not had a world-class consistent bowling attack for a generation. When the team has done well, the bowlers have flourished, but have then faded – such as Steve Harmison and Simon Jones, who had the potential to become a combination as good as any. Great test teams have needed bowlers who work as a unit, and stick around. Anderson has too often carried the attack alone, and while he has earned the record, it is a figure born of hard work and persistence, rather than from blowing teams away.

Continue reading

6 Nations finale: saving the tries to last

467172764I’m still reeling from the 6 Nations final weekend. I was lucky enough to be at Twickenham, and rugby matches like that are remarkable. But the stats from the weekend are remarkable too.

For starters, the England-France match equalled the highest total number of tries in a 6N match (12) and was the second highest points total with 90. The only match that surpasses it in points (and equals it in tries) is the England-Italy match from 2001, but that was an 81-23 thrashing, mid-tournament.

Part of the reason it the last day was so dramatic was how each team in the previous match had set the bar higher. Wales did their best with eight tries vs Italy; Ireland scored 40 points against Scotland, winning by 30. And so the England-France match was set up perfectly, and it delivered right to the last moment.

And while the numbers can’t convey the excitement, they do back up idea that it was the most dramatic finish ever.

In total, 27 tries were scored on the last day of the 2015 6N. That’s 44 per cent of the tries scored in the whole competition. Compare that to 2012, when just four tries were scored on the last day.

The only other years that come close are 2005, 2007 and 2014, which also saw 20 or more tries on the last day (also all above 30 per cent of the total tries).

6N tries and last round

In those years, the outcome of the tournament was also in the balance on the final weekend. Wales won in 2005, securing the Grand Slam, although France had racked up seven tries against Italy to keep their title hopes alive. In 2007, France scored a last-minute try to take the title over Ireland by just 4 points. And in 2014, Ireland’s narrow 2-point victory over France (again with last-minute drama) gave them the title on points difference over England.

Recent advocates of changing the scoring system to include bonus points might be right in the long run, but with the last two competitions being decided right at the last, it might be a while before anyone signs up to a new set of rules.

Chelsea’s lack of penalties is completely normal – here’s why

466393940Chelsea took the unusual step of publishing an official moan about their lack of penalties this season. It has been widely reported (Guardian, BBC), but without anyone really taking them to task on the data. But a little statistical digging might have shown that they have nothing to complain about.

The Chelsea article said:

It is in our 28 Premier League games this season where we have been awarded just two penalties. Both were for infringements on the league’s most-fouled player, Eden Hazard, and both were in home London derbies, against Arsenal and QPR respectively. The most recent was four-and-a-half months ago.

Historically, this figure seems abnormally low.

In the Double-winning 2009/10 campaign, when we were the country’s outstanding attacking team, we were awarded 12 league penalties.

So let’s look at the evidence. The numbers that Chelsea point to only look at their own penalties awarded. Statistically, it’s known as sampling bias, but you don’t need to know that to see that it is a bunch of numbers out of context.

What we really care about is a few things: how many penalties should a team expect over a season? Are better teams given more penalties? And how do the league winners compare? The only way to know this is to (with apologies to Peter Moores) look at the data.

Chelsea did indeed get 12 penalties in 2009-10. But this is an outlier – in fact, for all the penalties data I could get from the 1998-99 season onwards, it is the highest number given to one team in a single season.

Two other teams have also been awarded 12 penalties in one campaign. Can you guess which teams they are? Have a go. Other league winners? Nope. In fact, it was Liverpool, in 2013-14 when they finished second; and Crystal Palace, in 2004-05, finishing in 18th place!

That might give a clue as to whether league position and penalties are connected. Basically, they are not. They are very weakly correlated, by a score of -0.28. *

Over a season, the average penalties per team per season has varied between two and six. And in the 16 years of available data, the Premier League winners have had a lower penalty count than the average team five times. That leaves 11 times when it has been higher (see chart below). Yes, you would expect the league winners to play attacking football and get a more penalties than the league average, as Chelsea suggest – but for Chelsea to get less than the average this season is hardly unprecedented.

EPL penalties

Put another way: only four times in the sixteen years of data have the team winning the league also been awarded the most penalties (Arsenal 2001-02, Manchester United 2002-03, 2007-08 and Chelsea 2009-10). Penalties are not some divine right of the best team. History shows that a team can be given a lot of penalties and still finish low down the league. Just ask Palace. Or Sunderland (6 penalties, 14th place last year). Or Blackpool (8 penalties, 19th place in 2010-11). Or West Ham (9 penalties, 17th place in 2009-10).

In other words: Chelsea’s current lack of penalties is nothing strange. It’s just… football.

* A negative number should be expected here, as a better league position is a lower number. For penalties and league position to be correlated, a score closer to -1 would be needed. For those wondering, it is very weakly positively correlated to the points a team gets over a season, with a score of 0.32.

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