Tag Archives: True Wins

Sour grapes

True Wins did okay over the weekend — predicting the 49ers and Patriots victories, but whiffing on the Ravens and Falcons. Picking the team with more True Wins so far has six correct and two wrong, while relying on actual wins to pick has just four right, two wrong, and makes no prediction on two games (same records for Pats-Texans and 49ers-Packers).

The True Wins king — Denver — is out! Over the last ten years, the top team in True Wins has won four Super Bowls, and the second ranked team has won two more. It’s up to the Patriots (#2) to carry on the tradition, even though the 13.5 True Win Broncos had the second highest total in the last ten years (behind another famous losing team that you may remember). That couldn’t save them from one very cold Manning flinching first in a stalemate and one very cold Champ Bailey getting toasted over and over again (not to mention one very cold referee blowing a couple video reviews and throwing a ton of flags on the Broncos). More on the playoffs later in the week, but for now, I want to go back to some old predictions and talk about this year’s playoff spectators.

The Sour Grapes Club

Last year, I broke the outsiders-looking-in into four groups (follow the link — the predictions are worth a read-through in their entirety):

  • The Michael Vick Division (pretty good teams that had some bad luck): Eagles, Bears, Chargers, Cowboys
  • The Cam Newton Division (mediocre teams with something to build on): Panthers, Titans, Seahawks, Dolphins, Vikings
  • The Rex Ryan Division (overconfident teams that need to reassess their approach): Jets, Cardinals, Bills, Raiders, Chiefs
  • The Sam Bradford Division (teams that need to start over completely): Redskins, Jaguars, Browns, Colts, Rams, Buccaneers

The first thing that has to change are the names. Cam Newton moves up a notch and replaces Vick, who unfortunately goes all the way around the horn to replace Bradford in the blow-it-up division. Rex Ryan, one of the most overconfident men in the world, is saved by Tony Romo and his buddy Troy Aikman — I can’t listen to Aikman defend Romo anymore. I’m sticking with my man Stafford and handing the “something to build on” division to him, even if my Lions regressed this year.

Here are the standings this year:

2012 non playoff standings

From the first group (I expected good things): Continue reading

Playoff Appetizer: True Wins Plus (Fumble Adjusted)

We might be halfway through the first quarter of the first NFL playoff game of 2013, but I’m still finishing up with baseball and just getting warmed up on football. Football month on the blog officially kicks off today — there’s lots of interest stuff to come, from innovative rule ideas and play calling to new prediction methods and game analysis. Today, I’m trying an addition to the measure of NFL team quality that I debuted last year: True Wins. True Wins are calculated as follows:

True Win = Blowout Wins + Close Wins/2 + Close Losses/2 + Ties/2

You may recognize the intuition from pythagorean expectations — you get full credit for blowout wins (I define this as more than 7 points), but no extra credit for winning by huge margins, and you get half credit for all close games, since those probably come down to luck more than skill. Last year, I showed that True Wins predicts a little better than pythagoreans, and it’s a whole lot more direct. Both measures are much better than using wins alone, which unfairly penalize (reward) teams that lose (win) a lot of close games.

What Else is Luck-Driven? Fumble Recoveries?

With the playoffs coming right up, I decided to try an improvement that adjusts for possible luck in fumble recoveries as well. Here’s the logic (from Football Outsiders):

Stripping the ball is a skill. Holding onto the ball is a skill. Pouncing on the ball as it is bouncing all over the place is not a skill. There is no correlation whatsoever between the percentage of fumbles recovered by a team in one year and the percentage they recover in the next year. The odds of recovery are based solely on the type of play involved, not the teams or any of their players . . . Fumble recovery is a major reason why the general public overestimates or underestimates certain teams. Fumbles are huge, turning-point plays that dramatically impact wins and losses in the past, while fumble recovery percentage says absolutely nothing about a team’s chances of winning games in the future. With this in mind, Football Outsiders stats treat all fumbles as equal, penalizing them based on the likelihood of each type of fumble (run, pass, sack, etc.) being recovered by the defense.

The keys are:

  1. Fumbles are huge turning points in games
  2. Teams don’t maintain high or low recovery rates over time

To quantify #1, I determined the point value of a recovery. A simple regression of point differential in each game on total fumbles and fumbles Continue reading

Predicting the Super Bowl winner

With the Super Bowl ten days away, I thought it would be fun to look at some statistics for the winners in the last 25 Super Bowls (excluding the strike year in 1987). For each winner and loser, I list their regular season True Wins, regular season actual wins, regular season wins the previous season, and the Super Bowl line for the winner (lines from Vegas Insider). In the previous season column — “Last Wins” — I also list each team’s playoff performance from the year before in parentheses: a number indicates the round that they exited, “n” indicates that they didn’t make the playoffs, and “!” indicates that they won the Super Bowl. Here are the data:

Continue reading

Rematch!

There were no True Wins handed out yesterday. The Ravens, Patriots, Giants, and 49ers treated us to two extremely close football games. Close games generally come down to luck to determine the winner; indeed, I thought both games would be close but was fortunate to pick both winners last week. Regular season True Wins and actual wins both predicted the Patriots victory but failed on the Giants, who are underrated by wins measures due to their ridiculous strength of schedule. For the first time since 2007 (and only the fourth time since 2002), actual wins is going to beat out True Wins in predicting playoff games. Both measures suggest the Patriots will win the Super Bowl, since they have far more wins and True Wins than the Giants, and actual wins are a half game up going into the final (5.5 games correct to 5 games correct):

The two championship games had some common themes, actually. The “offensive” teams (Patriots, Giants), playing against good defenses, did not have their usual panache. However, they both stacked the box Continue reading

Ravens – Patriots notes

I skimmed through Aaron Schatz’s Football Outsiders preview of the Ravens – Patriots game today. As usual, he gives a lot of interesting numbers. Football Outsiders has better data than anyone else. Just like everyone in the world, Schatz picks the Patriots as the clear favorites in the end; I agree, though I think the Patriots’ edge is subtle. The Patriots have home field and finished second to the Packers in True Wins with 12, but the Ravens played a harder schedule (7.8 average True Wins for Ravens opponents versus 7.3 for the Patriots, including a game against the Vick-less Eagles).

I often find that stats-based previews list a lot of numbers that don’t mean much. Here’s an example from Schatz’s piece: Continue reading

Goodnight Tebow, goodnight Texans, goodnight Saints, and goodnight PACKERS

Despite True Wins historical success, neither True Wins nor actual wins had a great weekend predicting playoff games. In the one game where the two measures gave a different prediction, the 11 True Win 49ers toppled the 11.5 True Win Saints, giving actual wins a half game lead (half credit given since actual wins were tied at 13 for each team). Both predictors got the Ravens and Patriots games right, and both Continue reading

Goodnight Lions, goodnight Falcons, goodnight Steelers, and goodnight Bengals

The Broncos – Steelers opening kickoff sailed through the thin air, doinked off the cross bar, and settled precisely on the 20 yard line: the perfect touchback. Perhaps the man upstairs was sending us a sign.

Last week, I picked the Giants, Saints, Steelers, and Bengals to advance. I got the NFC picks right, but the Texans defense/running game combination worked perfectly against the Bengals, and the Steelers were done in by numerous injuries and some beautiful deep balls from Tim Tebow. Perhaps this week I’ll try flipping a coin instead of choosing games, or maybe just pick home teams (all four home teams won; only the Broncos were challenged).

There are 11 playoff games total each year. Regular season True Wins and actual wins each predicted Continue reading