Aviva Premiership 2014-15 Preview Part Two: This Season

The last post looked at how tremendously mediocre (and that is being generous) last season’s predictions were. But in terms of assessing data for predictive purposes, one season does constitute a sufficient sample. Yes, I should have backtested the accuracy of at least the Pythagorean method to determine whether it is worthwhile, or what weighting it should be given, but – and here is the honesty – I forgot! I will try to do that during the season.

So for 2014-15 I have effectively repeated the process from last season, but with some amendments. Last season’s summary came at predicting a team within 2 places of its final position on average, but the variation was large at times, and in a league of only 12 teams it is hardly something to shout about. Nonetheless, let’s see what the components say.

Pythagorean

Unsurprisingly this reflects last season very closely, although the model does allow for Bath to pip Harlequins to 4th place. Given that this final play-off position was so close last season it is no real surprise. Mid table is still close, but rather worryingly Gloucester actually appear to have over-achieved last season, and now have a predicted points total of only 41 compared to the dismal 44 they had before. From a personal perspective, I am hoping that this will be countered by the dramatic changes in personnel at Kingsholm!

The bottom three provide a difficulty, as it is not possible to compare the data for the promoted London Welsh team. However, looking at last season’s data things don’t look good for Newcastle who ‘should’ have finished bottom on 19 points. The gap between them, Worcester (22 predicted) and London Irish (40 predicted) shows a clear gap, and no reason to assume that the relegation battle won’t be between Newcastle and London Welsh this year.

Bookmakers and Media

As before, these represent a combination of ‘market’ and ‘expert’ opinion. Creating a bookmaker summary leads to a top four of Saracens, Leicester, Northampton and Bath, which is the same teams as the media, but the press appear to favour a Northampton repeat. All predict the same bottom three of London Irish, London Welsh and Newcastle, with the latter two some way off the pace, but the media ‘favour’ Newcastle to finish bottom whilst the bookies have London Welsh sharing that dubious honour.

Gut Call

Of course, the gut call can’t differ dramatically from the other analysis above. However, in addition to Northampton, Saracens and Leicester I favour Harlequins (actually I placed them third, above Leicester). Two underperforming seasons are likely to see a fightback from that team. I actually placed Northampton at the top of the table; their performance in the final last year (which I was fortunate enough to see first hand) was excellent, and they just seem to have that little bit more in the tank.

Mid-table will be mid-table. My admitted personal bias sees a great improvement in Gloucester, heading up to fifth, whilst I feel that Bath’s results last season were more of an exception than a rule. The bottom three remain the same, with London Irish someway clear in 10th, but I am giving Newcastle the benefit of the doubt in terms of experience in the Premiership, and the difficulty London Welsh might experience in integrating all the player changes. But this will not be the case if Newcastle can’t score more tries – their total of 23 last season was dreadful, and scoring only 281 points was the worst in a decade.

Summary

So how was the data used? In this case, for the Pythagorean approach, the press and the gut call a simple points value was applied to the predicted final position; that is 1st place ‘scored’ 12 points, 2nd place 11 points etc. down to 1 place for 12th place. The exception to this rule was the ‘bookie’ predictions, whose scores were weighted to account for their increased accuracy last season (increased by 33%). Each team’s total score was then totaled, with higher scores better (range of 51.96 down to 4.33).

201415 RU Table

This would appear to indicate a safe bet for the top three, but this time Bath just edge out ‘Quins for the last play off position. And by ‘just’ I mean ‘just’, although my prediction of a good ‘Quins season may have distorted it. Although Gloucester should do better, it won’t be enough (yet) to break into post season action. The bottom two appear clearly adrift, but really too close to call.

Time will tell, but I will be surprised if any team is as far out as Gloucester was last season!

Next on the list is match betting (or match predictions if you prefer). I did try an Elo system for the football last season, but was overwhelmed by the maintenance. Perhaps with 12 teams (rather than 20) it might be easier to manage – at least until I work out how to automate the whole thing!

 

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Aviva Premiership 2014-15 Preview Part One: Last Season Assessment

Before the last season started I made a prediction of how the final regular season table would look. This post will revisit that to see how well things panned out.

First of all, a look at the predicted table compared to the final table. Note that the difference relates to the final position achieved by the team in the predicted table. And yes, it could have been laid out better.

2013_14 Rugby Tables

With the average being 1.83 places off where predicted, I can hardly call this a success. In fact, the sum of the positional differences for each method were:

  • Pythagorean – 24
  • Bookies – 16
  • Press – 22
  • Gut Call – 24
  • Overall – 22

But that belies some important considerations. The summary table did predict the play-off contenders correctly, which only the Bookies did in isolation. Similarly the bottom three were correctly identified, although that will be of scant consolation to fans of Worcester as they effectively swapped with London Irish. The mid-table is where the damage was really done, as no model predicted the calamitous season that Gloucester endured, whilst others such as Exeter, Bath and Sale all exceeded or failed to meet expectations.

What conclusions can come from this quick review? Well, not many unfortunately. This is my first attempt at applying various models to the Premiership, and there is a long way to go. It appears that for 2014-15 a degree of weighting (to favour the Bookies assessment) would be the best option, but this is something of a dark art for me and I am unsure as to how I should apply it. Comparing their success rate with the others, increasing their weight by 33% would appear to be logical – although applying that might be interesting.

Similarly even at the outset some elements looked wrong. I would like to claim great foresight when I said that I felt Worcester’s predicted 10th place was too generous, but that would be to ignore the other ‘feeling’ I had that Gloucester’s predicted 5th was too low – how wrong I was!

So for the next post we’ll repeat the process carried out before last season, but with a slight amendment to cater for Bookie weighting (if I can work it out). I am hoping to pay more attention to the season as it is underway, and in particular I am looking to identify any ‘rules’ that might offer an edge in match betting – calculating the home advantage figure might help.

F1 2014: Italy GP Preview

Despite the Monza circuit being one steeped in history and tradition, and the focal point of Ferrari worship since Grand Prix started, all eyes this weekend are likely to be on the Mercedes and the ongoing relationship between Rosberg and Hamilton. No matter what has been said, Nico clearly laid down a marker that he will not be bullied by the aggressive driving that Hamilton traditionally enjoys and ensured that Hamilton can no longer ‘slam the door’ assuming the other person will give way. For that matter, Nico needs to be aware the his actions have reflected badly on him and the team, and that he has probably used up his one ‘get out of jail’ card. Frankly I am just looking forward to the ‘double points’ race (the most asinine idea in sports history mind you) to see what happens – it might be time to have a punt on Ricciardo on the exchanges!

The only other conclusion from Belgium was the any attempt to apply logic to the concept of finishers and safety cars this season is a waste of time. There are just too many random elements, not just in terms of driver collisions, parts damage and track debris but also the stewards who determine just what is and what is not too hazardous. The predictions will continue, but only for the remainder of this season.

So on that note, what about Monza. Well, despite the incredibly fast nature of the track, it would appear that a safety car is not a common factor. Only 3 in the last 10 years (although the data isn’t completely reliable) would indicate a ‘No’. That said, consideration has to be made of the chances of Lewis and Nico smashing into each other approaching the first chicane! That would appear to be the thinking behind Bet365’s odds of 2.00 for no safety car period (compared to 1.72 for the SC being deployed). With the weather predicted as ideal, it would seem that backing no SC is the logical, and value, selection.

At the time of writing only Bet365 are offering odds on the number of finishers, at 2.00 for less than 17, 2.75 for 17/18 and 4.00 for over 18. The number of retirements at Monza isn’t as high as expected, running at an average of 15% over the last ten years – that would mean 3.38 retirements, rounded down to 3 meaning 19 finishers. With only two retirements in each of the last two years, not to mention the value in the odds, this is the selection we have to make. So, going on track record (no pun intended), we can be sure that we will see a race more like that of 2011 with 9 retirements!

With those aspects taken care of, what other options should be considered. As already inidicated, Monza is a very fast track – effectively a series of long straights that are interrupted with a few chicanes. 2014 has shown us that in these circumstances (and without any apparent weather conditions to allow for) it is foolish to look beyond the Mercedes engine. Realistically they should dominate the top positions, with the Mercedes team 1-2, Williams 3-4 and McLaren 5-6. The drivers here are generally odds-on, and the only value is in Button (3.00) and Magnusson (3.50) for a top 6 finish. With Magnusson’s highest finish 7th (other than the opening 2nd place) the odds are just too short.

The betting without Hamilton/Rosberg market offers some interesting options. Ricciardo is favourite here at 3.25, but I can’t see how that works out with the engine the Red Bull has to run. Following my assessment of a strong Mercedes engine track, the best option would appear to be the two Williams drivers with Bottas at 3.25 and Massa at 7.00. Bottas has a record of 3/2/2/8/3 over the last five races, and that goes a long way to explain his odds. Massa, on the other hand, has a comparable record of 4/R/R/5/13. I have to admit that the odds on offer for Massa are tempting, but those two Rs stand out and either as a matter of talent or luck, he is less reliable this season.

So the choice appears to be Bottas to win w/o LH/NR at 3.25, or Button to secure a top 6 at 3.00. Bottas for the win (personal bias may be here!), although I would fancy a small punt on Massa in the same market!

  • Selected Bet
    • Bottas to win without Hamilton/Rosberg (3.25 Bet365)
  • Other predicitons
    • Safety car to NOT be deployed (2.00 Bet365
    • Classified finishers: Over 18 (4.00 Bet365)

2014 Season Totals (based on level stakes of 1 unit)

  • Selected bets: 2 win, 8 lose for -5.12
  • Safety car: 3 win, 6 lose for -4.66
  • Finishers: 3 win, 6 lose for -2.95

F1 2014: Belgium GP Preview

This isn’t turning out to be a good season prediction wise. It would appear that the random elements are just too much to cope with when it comes to safety cars and classified finishers (although my minor loss was nothing compared to the loss that the safety car appeared to cause Rosberg in Hungary). That said, the more considered race bets aren’t really working either.

At least in Belgium we should have a good race. Without doubt this is my favourite track of the season, and it will be interesting to see how the cars handle it in their new configurations. And that is just in the dry – no matter what today’s forecast may say, you never know with Spa.

Looking at the two standard markets, without even checking the odds I will plump for a safety car being deployed. The fast track will almost certainly result in someone having an off, and as probably at a speed that will shower the track in carbon fibre. As such this will call out the car for half a dozen laps to sweep up! It would appear the bookies agree, with 1.50 the best out there for a safety car period (vs 2.62 for no such deployment).

The number of finishers is based around 17.5 again, with under the preferred option at 1.57. If Hungary can have fewer finishers then it has to be favoured, especially as there is a great opportunity to lose half a dozen at the first La Source corner.

There are a number of potential ‘race’ markets. The ‘not to be classified’ market looks interesting, with Vergne at 2.75 despite having retired five times this season, but Vettel at 4.50 has to be tempting with the troubles that have plagued him both this season, and in FP1 which resulted in him missing FP2. The market without Hamilton or Rosberg also looks interesting, with the odds favouring Bottas by some margin. However, Ricciardo is priced at 4.33 which seems generous for the Hungarian GP winner, but his FP performance wasn’t enough to make him a shoe-in for that position. Of course, the Hamilton/Rosberg dual forecast would appear to be the safest bet, but at 1.50 it hardly offers any value. At this stage I need a better return, and so I think the Vettel bet offers the best margin – pretty much nails him on for a podium then…

Summary:

  • Selected Bet
    • Vettel not to be classified (4.50 Ladbrokes)
  • Other predicitons
    • Safety car to be deployed (1.50 Ladbrokes)
    • Classified finishers: Under 17.5 (1.57 Ladbrokes)

2014 Season Totals (based on level stakes of 1 unit)

  • Selected bets: 2 win, 7 lose for -4.12
  • Safety car: 3 win, 5 lose for -3.66
  • Finishers: 3 win, 5 lose for -1.95

F1 2014: Hungary GP Preview

Well after the German GP predictions were blown apart thanks to Massa’s driving in the first corner of the race, I really need some help in this race. However, the fact that it is Hungary, one of the most tedious tracks in the F1 calendar, won’t help.

It is easier these days to start with the ‘standard’ bets. In terms of a safety car the last 10 years are split 8 No/2 Yes, and one of the deployments was in the rain which might be the case this weekend. At the moment the odds are 1.83 for either choice (representing a 109.1% book – that is where they make their money!). In this case, I am going to go for the ‘wait until the race day’ approach – if it is wet back Yes, and if it is dry back No.

The number of finishers market is <17 2.25, 17-18 2.75 and >18 3.25, I have been bitten by the three way split here too often, and so I am looking at the simpler market at 1.83 either side of 17.5 finishers. Going on average data the number of finishers should be 18, but that includes a disparity in the rain in 2006. Again, if wet go for >17.5, if dry go for <17.5.

As for the specific bet for the race, this is tricky. Hamilton is only at 1.53, mainly because of the car superiority and the fact that Hungary seems to something of a favourite track for this driver (4 wins out of the last 10). Ricciardo and Vettel share the odds of 3.50 for the non-Mercedes market, with Bottas at 4.50. Again, this seems fair as the circuit is not one that will really help the powerful Williams.

A bet on Maldonado not to actually be classified looks tempting at 2.37, given both the car and driver’s ability to blow up at any time, but in the end I think the Mercedes dominance and Hamilton’s history mean that a Grand Chelem is on the cards, and at 3.00 for the ‘Hat Trick’ (as Ladbrokes call it) of pole, fastest lap and win there is at least a little bit of value in it.

Summary:

  • Selected Bet
    • Hamilton to take pole, fastest lap and win (3.00 Ladbrokes)
    • Other predicitons
      • If dry:
        • Safety car to NOT be deployed (1.83 Bet365)
        • Classified finishers: Over 17.5 (1.83 Ladbrokes)
        • If wet:
          • Safety car to be deployed (1.83 Bet365)
          • Classified finishers: Under 17.5 (1.83 Ladbrokes)

2014 Season Totals (based on level stakes of 1 unit)

  • Selected bets: 2 win, 6 lose for -3.12
  • Safety car: 3 win, 4 lose for -2.66
  • Finishers: 3 win, 4 lose for -0.95

F1 2014: Germany GP Preview

After missing any predictions around the British GP due to other commitments, I am cutting it close to the wire in reference to the German GP. I’d like to claim that I would have had all my predictions come in at Silverstone, but I don’t think that I would have predicted Hamilton’s impressive charge, or the SC/finishers!

Moving to Germany, there is a certain German sporting momentum that may be hard to beat. Certainly Rosberg’s greatest threat – his teammate – didn’t have a good session crashing heavily in Q1. I do hope that elements of the Silverstone crowd noted the lack of cheers at that point, and the supportive applause as Hamilton got out of the car. There has also been a lot of talk about FRIC suspension systems, their ‘ban’, the potential impact, and yet little on the fact that it appears to have made absolutely no difference.

So, with little notice, where are we in predictions for the Hockenheimring? Going for the simple ‘regular’ bets an analysis of the previous seasons isn’t helped by the sharing of German GP duties with the Nurburgring. But in terms of a safety car, for such a high speed track it is nothing like as much of a car breaker as the old circuit design used to be. My dubious analysis of the data shows only one since 2004 (6 runnings). The concern over a wet race also appears to have abated over the day. The odds available, however, are mixed. A ‘Yes’ for safety car deployment is 1.72 at Bet365 but 1.90 at Ladbrokes, with No 2.00 at Bet365 and 1.80 at Ladbrokes. This probably reflects the potentially random nature, and the fact that Ladbrokes are aware that any incident is likely to result in a safety car in these overly cautious days. Nonetheless, 2.00 is too good to pass up based on the history of the race.

The number of classified finishers is predicted at 17-18, with the Bet365 odds of 2.10 (<17), 3.00 (17-18) and 3.25 (>18). In this case, I believe it is worth sticking with the predictions behind the safety car, and favour the >18 market. The last race at the Hockenheimring in 2012 saw only one retirement, and that is what I am looking for this year (as long as Guttierez and Maldonado can keep out of each other’s way!).

For the race bet, a lot will depend on Hamilton. In Britain he showed immense talent in fighting his way up from 6th on the grid, and was challenging for the win by right even before Rosberg’s car gave up. But from 15th place is another matter entirely. It is difficult to see how he can get into a position to challenge quickly enough, although if any driver could it would be him, and if any car could it would be the Mercedes. Many of the markets think that he might, but I think that there is something of a chink in the armour of that team at the moment. Neither the drivers nor the team appear to be running in the same slick fashion as earlier this year, and so my selected bet reflects that by favouring what is becoming the clear ‘Number Two’ team – Williams. I am no fan of Massa, but he is certainly doing the business, but I am an admirer of Bottas who seems to have done wonders this season. With a good car, good qualifying, and a very positive attitude in the team, I think betting on both team cars to finish on the podium (3.25 at Ladbrokes) seems a decent chance.

Summary:

  • Selected Bet
    • Both Williams cars to finish on the podium (3.25 Ladbrokes)
    • Other predicitons
      • Safety car to NOT be deployed (2.00 Bet365)
      • Classified finishers: Over 18 (3.25 Bet365)

2014 Season Totals (based on level stakes of 1 unit)

  • Selected bets: 2 win, 5 lose for -2.12
  • Safety car: 3 win, 3 lose for -1.66
  • Finishers: 3 win, 3 lose for +0.05

F1 2014: Austria GP Preview

The Austrian GP presents something of a problem in that it is the first running of the race since 2003. Given the changes in personnel, let alone cars in that time, it is just not possible to use historical evidence as a pointer to what may or may not happen in the race. Given that this seasons predictions for both safety cars and number of finishers are based on historical data, that leaves just an attempt to find a value bet for the race.

As this has been written after qualifying, the adverse result for Hamilton has to be looked at. The question here is whether it was a technical problem that may have an impact in the race, or just a one-off. Either way, Hamilton is down at 5.50 to win the race from 9th on the grid. That seems just a little too long for me. If the Williams get off to a good start, and hold up the other Mercedes of Rosberg, then Hamilton could easily get past the intervening runners to get himself into the mix. Clearly that is not what people expect, with Rosberg 1.90 for the win compared to 4.33 for Massa and a frankly insulting 9.00 for Bottas. With so little else on offer, I would have to go for Hamilton to surge back into the title contention with a win that would rival almost any other of his career.

Summary:

  • Selected Bet
    • Hamilton to win (5.50 with many)
  • No other predictions

2014 Season Totals (based on level stakes of 1 unit)

  • Selected bets: 2 win, 4 lose for -1.12
  • Safety car: 3 win, 3 lose for -1.66
  • Finishers: 3 win, 3 lose for +0.05

(I said it was depressing last time, it isn’t getting any better!)