Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bringing back some Australian Oscar pride

Hugh Jackman's musical theatre last night, just awful.
Someone had to say it.

Next year, to restore some Aussie pride at the Oscars, I recommend giving the hosting job to this guy (who is unemployed anyway!) 

Welcome back to the Oscars, for the second time today...

Any other Aussie that you would like to see hosting the Oscars? Just something to think about while you consider the follies of horse racing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Handicapping the Super 14 race

First, lets have a look at how the teams finished last year. In the table below, we've used a pythagorean winning % formula to determine how many wins each franchise "should" have won last year. The pythagorean formula uses a teams for and against statistics to generate an expected number of wins.

The Crusaders were the class of last years competition, and were possibly unlucky to win only 11 of their 13 matches! Looking at expected wins, the Hurricanes and Blues at the top end could be considered unlucky. Toward the lower end of the table, Reds and Cheetahs fans can maybe expect some improvement as they were also quite unlucky.

The outliers in terms of lucky teams were the Force and to a lesser extent the Sharks and Chiefs.

Looking at last years expected totals gives us a "leg up" on other punters. However we also need to consider the events of the last offseason before we lay down some serious $$$!

Let's start with the Crusaders:

Crusaders ($4.50)

Key Losses: Greg Somerville, Reuben Thorne, Ali Williams, Mose Tuiali'i, Scott Hamilton, Caleb Ralph.

The Crusaders will as always replenish their playing stocks from within, and over time the transition will be seamless. Add Dan Carter and coach Deans to that experienced playing core and the $4.50 is extremely tight.

The first two weeks have seen a decidedly uninspiring look about the Crusaders, eking out a narrow win against the Chiefs and a narrow away loss to the Brumbies. The Crusaders were light on personnel against the Brumbies, missing McCaw, Thorn and MacDonald so that result probably tells us more about the Brumbies than it does about the Crusaders.

Sharks ($5.50)

Key Losses: BJ Botha, Frederic Michalak

Key Gains: Internal...

Botha is a loss that the Sharks can handle, given the depth inherent in the South African frontrow ranks. The Michalak experiment is thankfully over. Were a 9 win team last year and have a deep squad that should win 9-10 games again. Combine excellent players in the halves (Steyn, Kockott) with a deep backrow and solid scrum.

The first two weeks have seen good solid wins against the Stormers and Lions. Two teams that could be much improved this year. A tough four week road trip awaits with the Chiefs, Blues, Reds and Force on tap. Winning 3 of these games would frank the Sharks as deserved competition favourites.

Hurricanes ($7.50)

Key Losses: Jimmy Gopperth, Jerry Collins

Our pythag calculations peg the 'canes as a team that could easily improve with some even luck this year. Losing the under-appreciated Jimmy Gopperth and the steadying presence of Jerry Collins is an issue, however noises out of Wellington are that Dan Kirkpatrick was more than ready to fill Gops' shoes (hence the decision to let Gop walk).

The issue as always in Wellington will be consistency. And the first two weeks have shown anything but. A last gasp win against Otago and dropping their home opener against the Waratahs demonstrates why you should never back the Canes. The schedule suggests that a round three loss to the Crusaders could make things very difficult going forward. The $7.50 is under what you should want right now.
Waratahs ($7.50)

Key Losses: Dan Vickerman, Rocky Elsom, David Lyons, Josh Valentine
Key Gains: Scott Fava

One of the limitations of the pythag calculations is that they don't necessarily reward teams for consistency. The Waratahs were perhaps the most consistent franchise in last years competition built on their league leading defense.

What is clearly superior about this version of the Waratahs is their scrummaging. Perhaps the weakest scrummaging unit in years past has evolved to be amongst the leagues best.

The problems: 1) Depth. Benn Robinson has no place playing 80 minutes two weeks running. Phil Waugh is a 60 minute player playing 80 minutes.
2) The style of football that is being played by Lote Tuqiri is one that he is just awful at. The Waratahs didn't spend the GDP of Andorra on this guy to dink around. Lote Tuqiri needs to spend a long time watching videos of this guy.
3) Kurtley Beale is not a Super 14 number 10. I'll write a whole post on why at some point.

The Waratahs can make the finals this year, no doubt. By the time they roll around, Matt Dunning should be back on deck to take some of the load off of big Benn. What good that's going to be if the man can barely move by then is another story.

With home games against the Highlanders and Reds and a trip to Canberra in their next three weeks, there is no reason why the Tahs can't start 5-0 and let the rest of the field do the chasing.

That's a lot to digest, I'll cover the next group a little later.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

AFL 2009

In 2009, this is a FOUR week ban. Yep, four (4) weeks. Even though the tribunal acknowledged that the contact to the head was actually due to a head clash. Just keeping our readers up to date with the '09 rules of the GAYFL.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Open Socceroos discussion thread...

Some stuff for you to debate in the comments below. I'm too hungover to post anything too serious today. $4 Golden Ale schooners will do that to you.

Maybe Socceroo jesus would get more respect from the pimp if he was South American... Like this jesus.
10-15 minutes for Kennedy? Not nearly enough. The team actually looked threatening with him on the pitch.

Brett Holman: Runs all day. Generally poor first touches. If having a good motor is all it takes to be an international footballer, then why aren't these guys world champions? 
An equal contribution, free Centrum and an awesome moustache might come from this guy:
Other stuff that I can't be bothered to post cool pics about...
1) I love Scott Chipperfield. However, if he has really lost a step or two in the last year, can he be counted on in South Africa?
2) Assuming we are pretty much in the cup, who is in your dream group? Mine is the "group of douche." Teams that I would love to beat; The US and England. Have to find a seed.... Italy!
3) Should the Socceroos have played for a draw last night? I have sympathy for both sides of this debate. Yes, guarantee your cup place. No, we need to be able to score goals against better teams that Japan in more threatening environments than Yokohama.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Improving the Wisden Cricket ranking systems

Wisden cricket have done much to polarise the cricket watching community with the release of its various ranking systems. First, let me make it clear that this is great for cricket. Nothing sparks more debate than lists. Nothing helps revenue more than debate. 

There are, however some significant criticisms of the systems in which these lists are generated. Whilst many of the criticisms have been covered elsewhere, the one that I wish to pursue is the significant lack of transparency. In the information age, simply creating a statistic and publishing the results is not enough. Without access to the formulas used in determining the "worlds best batsman," one cannot have faith that the statistic is going to give an accurate ranking. Further, one is unable to modify the formula and thereby improve it. 

Certainly, Wisden may feel that formulas used to construct its rankings are proprietary information. Whilst this is a valid concern, it reduces the public faith in the statistic. For example, if I was to say that Ricky Ponting scored 9.3 on the CaptainTron and Steve Waugh scored 6.1, whilst it would be debate worthy (and wrong) without knowing what determined the CaptainTron scores it would be hollow.

Wisden could learn from the baseball community (decades ahead in the use of statistics), in which the best statistical methodologies are made freely available to the public. Anyone who is interested in the process whereby some of the fantastic statistics are created would be well served to have a look at the freely available work at Fangraphs or TangoTiger

So where does this leave us? Over the next couple of months, this blog is going to have a bowl at constructing a tool for player valuation. What's more, each step of the modeling procedure will be posted in stages. As a guy with a fairly solid metric background I am quietly confident that we will come up with something that is not only more useful than the Wisden stuff, but you will be able to see what goes into it rather than the Wisden Black Box.

This doesn't mean that my summer/autumn/winter of Ponting Baiting is at an end. There is always time for that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Going too far?

Whenever a personality leaves "community" radio or television and moves to "commercial" radio or television people (read: douchetards) like to prattle on about how that personality has "sold out."

People have to look after themselves and their families. Hating the Telegraph as I do, if they offer me a heap of cash to write about sport, I'd likely take it. Even if it meant a moratorium on the Glen Boss bashing. Even if it meant having to see Phil Gould and his dickface in lunch room every day. 

However, when I see the ads for Roy and HG on Triple M I just vomit in my mouth a little. Leave, by all means. Take the money. DON'T pretend that hanging out with "Ugly Phil and Sammy" fills you with anything but revulsion. 
Roy: "What are you doing Sammy?"
Sammy: "I'm playing music that rocks..."
Professor: "Really, you still have Khe Sanh on fucking high rotation. Khe Sanh! Is it 1983? Seriously? Next you'll try to tell me that you are engaging in a discussion about Schrodingers Cat." 
Ugly Phil: "Listen, I don't know what's wrong with your cat but I have a double shot of Good Charlotte to play...."

Lipstick on a pig...

After another comprehensive spanking at the hands of the Jaapies in the first leg of the One Day series and dropping the first two matches against New Zealand, Australian selectors should will begin to breathe easier after the sides form turned a corner on Sunday. Even if the Australian side wins today and on Friday there are cracks that shouldn't be ignored.

Lets have a quick look at the last 12+ months of results for the Australian one-day side.

Australia since the start of 2008 are 15-10. Pretty good, right? Not so much.. In that period, the Aussies are a paltry 6-8 against teams with a pulse. Padding the Australian baseline - 5 wins against the ever-declining West Indies (Chanderpaul, Gayle and 9 guys who should play for Scotland!) and 3 wins against the Bangers. Worse still, against the yardstick teams: India and South Africa Australia have managed to go 4-7! More worrying, all of these 11 games have occurred at home!

Even more alarming? In matches where Australia have batted first this year their average total is 244. We only look at games where Australia bat first, as their score is unbounded. Also taken out are games with any rain interruptions. 244 is okay on face value, however considering that 8 of those games came against B grade bowling it is somewhat less flattering. Also worth noting, in a day in age where the 9 team expect Australia to set 300+ every match, Australia managed this thrice, and in 19 games in Australia only twice.

In the modern game where scores are trending upwards, the 2008/9 performance of Australia's batsmen is alarming. With a largely inexperienced attack still reeling from the loss of McGrath and the lack of a spinner with a pulse (let alone the ability to turn the ball), putting 244 on the board on a regular basis will get spanked by teams like South Africa, India and England.

The Selectors likely response?

Beat New Zealand 3-2 and then declare the summer an unqualified success! Forget that the middle order is a disaster. Forget that D Hussey looks like a deer in headlights. Forget that Cameron White (*Token Allrounder) bowls less than Dave Hussey and has contributed nothing with the bat. At this stage, the best idea might be to pick another specialist batsman and given that Hussey is bowling a lot, treat him as the *token allrounder* and bat him at 7. This may free the guy to do what he does best which is play some shots. Otherwise, if you are gung-ho about filling the allrounder position, one must ask what is wrong with the two guys who are going to play tests in South Africa? Marcus "Pete" North and Andrew McDonald. Anyway, to the selectors, I respond to this with the above video of a fat guy throwing a hotpocket.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Captain Clarke Gives Us Hope For the Future

Well the 2nd ODI gives us a sample of the Aussie cricket team under Michael Clarke. Given that Clarke has "learnt everything he can about being a captain from Ricky Ponting" and judging by his selfish pursuit of a 4th ODI century, as captain of his country, in which he forgot that 225 is an absolute rubbish ODI score, even against a crappy NZ outfit, our national cricket team appears doomed for a long time. I want to re-iterate here...NZ are very average. But they look comfortable chasing scores that they would more likely be set by Zimbabwe. I am calling for an entire overhaul of the team. Warner...well it was fun for a while there. The Hussey brothers...there may be a Test series around the corner for you guys. White...White??? Can anyone tell me why the fuck he's still in the side??? Bowling; shite. Batting; shite. Fielding; pretty shite too. Johnson's penchant for rubbish wide bowling doesn't attract nearly as many rash shots as in the Test forum, instead we have to settle for a ridiculous number of wides/leg byes down leg side. Hilfenhaus can swing the ball...er, yeah that's great, just wish he didn't go for 60 off his ten every game...except when NZ are only chasing scores low enough to be set by the UAE. A clue usually helps when you're bowling at the death. Luckily for Hauritz, he didn't roll his piss-weak arm over tonight or there'd be a 50,000 word diatribe on his shiteness. And Punter captaincy clone Clarke, if there is one thing I'll say about the captain, it's that he would have put his team before a moderately paced ODI hundred. Opening the batting and still being short of a century in the 48th over is not cool. You should at least be hovering near 140 by that stage. I'm disgusted with you M. Clarke...obviously the most over-rated woman on the planet is distracting you from all things cricket. That M. Hussey/M. Clarke bore-fest epitomises everything that has gone wrong for this once proud cricketing nation. My heart is heavy watching this crap. The bell is tolling for you, suckful Aussie cricketers...Just re-iterating; this NZ side is fucking useless and they are 2-0 up somehow! Get ya fucking shit together!

Sunday, February 1, 2009


After one of the best tennis matches of all time in Nadal's epic 5 hour 14 min victory over Verdasco, we're just a few hours away from another Federer vs Nadal final. Their last meeting in a Grand Slam produced another of the best matches in history, with Nadal trumping Federer in the fifth at Wimbledon. The media have beaten up how tired Nadal will be, and how Federer has had an extra day off, but have completetly overlooked two things. The first is Nadal's 12-6 record over Federer. The second is that they have spent pretty much the same amount of time on court throughout the tournament. I actually think that the extra day off is a disadvantage for Federer; he's a touch player and needs to be playing regularly. I'm tipping him to start slow and Nadal to come out of the blocks aggressively. I like Nadal to win in four sets. He is the best player in the world without question and I find it hard to fathom how Federer is a warm favourite with the bookies. Hopefully we'll see a fantastic finish to what has been a great tournament except for Channel 7's sloppy coverage. I was half expecting to get another one hour delay into Brisbane tonight, with some Today Tonight or Deal Or No Deal re-runs prior but thank God it's live. Enjoy.


Strategically placed day off work...check. Watery American beer...check. Ingredients for nachos...check. I'm all set then for Superbowl XLIII featuring the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers, a classic offense vs defense matchup. I'll always take the defense in a Superbowl, and thus, am tipping a Steelers victory. It will be interesting to see just how the Cards offense goes against the #1 defense in the NFL. I'm tipping another big game from Troy Polamalu. The guy makes defense fun to watch and is at $18 for the MVP, so get on that people. If you want to be boring and take a QB for MVP, the rewards just aren't there, with Roethlisberger at $2.50 and Warner at $4. Looking deeper in the market, Australia's first ever Superbowl starter Ben Graham has also been backed off the map, into $101. This would have to be the shortest price ever for a punter to win a Superbowl MVP! My advice would be to buy a packet of beer nuts rather than burn a fiver on Graham. The chances of him winning a Superbowl MVP are as good as mine!

Anyway, should be a great game, quite a few points scored and some big plays from guys like Warner, Big Ben, Larry Fitzgerald and hopefully Troy Polamalu to fatten the wallet. Pittsburgh to be belting out "We Are The Champions" for mine.