Pre-season predictions often describe each of the 20 Premier League teams in one of the following terms: ‘title contenders’, ‘competing for Europe’, ‘mid-table team’ and ‘relegation candidates’. Three of the four are relatively tangible, and teams can eventually be assessed on whether they won the league, qualified for Europe or avoided relegation.
A mid-table position is slightly harder to define. In theory, this should be anywhere between 9th and 12th in the table, but the reality is that teams in these positions needn’t necessarily have been safe from relegation, nor out of the running for Europe.
Thanks in part to television graphics, a batsman’s average in cricket is one of the key benchmarks for evaluating his ability. It is, in effect, the number of runs he brings on average to his team every time he comes to the crease.
However, we rarely see how much a batsman brings once he’s already been at the crease for a certain period of time. When a batsman is ‘in’ – having scored 10, 20 or 30 runs – how many runs do we expect him to score?
With the start of another Ashes series imminent, I’ve looked at four of England’s key batsman – Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell – and examined how their averages change over the course of an innings.
The relative age effect is a widely-acknowledged phenomenon in sport; whereby participants born soon after an age cut-off date are disproportionately represented compared to those born nearly 12 months later.
To what extent does this effect exist in the European Under-21 Championships, and what are some of the implications?
The cut-off for the Championships is on 1st January, 23 and a half years before the competition*. The theory argues that players born in December are less likely to be picked, having been left behind by their older, stronger peers.
This is somewhat borne out in the data, though there appears to be an effect through the academic year cut-off, which is 1st September in most European countries. Read more…
The European Under-21 Championships is billed as a competition designed to give the stars of the future an opportunity represent their national team in front of a significant audience.
But how good are the Championships as a predictor of future success? How many players go on to represent the senior team, if they haven’t done so already? 75%? 50%? Less?
Looking at European Under-21 squads between 1994 and 2006 – a sample of 941 outfield players* – it turns out that 61% of players did eventually win a full international cap. Members of squads in the 2006 Championships are at least 30 now, and therefore are unlikely to be making international debuts in the upcoming years.
The absurd unpredictability of the Championship last season can be summarised by the difference between 6th and 22nd; the play offs and relegation. Just 14 points separated these teams – 0.30 points per game – effectively equal to the gap between Arsenal (4th) and Liverpool (7th) in the Premier League.
Fans of Championship clubs often talk about preferring to be in the tiers below the top flight for the sake of enjoyment, and the bookmakers’ odds for the upcoming season help us understand this argument. The table below tells us the probability of each team in the Premier League, Championship and League One have of finishing in their league’s top six next season.
If there’s a list of phrases and terms used universally across all sports, it would probably feature ‘form’. Always discussed but never formally defined, it’s often a starting point for debate on a range of topics.
This post is inspired by this debate, and also the techniques used by sports bloggers* to quantify regression to the mean. In short, what is a better predictor of an athlete’s next performance: his most recent performance(s) or his average performance?
The former would support the view that players go through peaks and troughs of form, the latter that results randomly fluctuate around a specific skill level. This may vary from sport to sport, but I’ve focused on cricket’s Sachin Tendulkar as a case study.
The Premier League often markets itself as the world’s strongest league, and certainly the Champions League performance of its elite teams between 2005 and 2012 testifies to that.
The fantastic Club Elo website keeps a historical rating of European clubs, dating back to the 1960s. Using this database, I was interested to see how the current level of English clubs relates to how the nation’s teams have performed historically.