English Premier League 2013-14: Should we bother playing, or just see who can open their wallet widest?

Twenty teams kicked off in the English Premier League’s 22nd season last weekend, but only a handful of them have a realistic chance of finishing on top of the pile next May. The reason? In a league without a salary cap, some clubs have piles of Russian / American / Emarati cash to spend on players. Others get headlines like this.

In the race to keep up with the foreign big spenders, smaller clubs made some risky choices and ended up trying to overcome their debts by taking leftover merchandise to Cash Converters. The upshot of it all is a whole range of new restrictions on club spending.

These mechanisms appear intended to prevent teams from going out of business rather than produce competitive parity; if they end up doing a little of both, that would be just fine with UEFA – and many might share UEFA’s feelings, given the strong correlation between wage spending and accumulation of premiership points in the EPL. Continue reading

Knockout fun with an Excel widget

In an earlier post, I talked about knockout phases in sports competitions.

It seems a shame that I’m the only one to get to manipulate a set of team strengths and see the probability of the favourite, the underdog, and everyone in between winning the cricket World Cup (or tennis trophy, soccer comp, video game marathon etc etc.)

So, be my guest and download the tool to do it yourself —> knockout widget – instructions included. Enjoy. (And let me know if you had fun.)

Oh Duckworth-Lewis, you loveable rogue – why are you treated like the creepy cardiologist uncle of the stats family?

Duckworth and Lewis don’t get a lot of love for their invention, a fact which seems to point to a collectively short memory for cricket fans. Without DL’s clever method for resolving rain-interrupted (or abandoned) matches, we had to put up with a steady stream of one-day international controversies, including the the 1992 world cup semi final (full video horror from the 20 minute mark here). The results were – to describe them just one way – weird, disappointing and counter intuitive. (Another way is, they were bullshit.)

And yet, whenever rain falls or darkness moves in, officials have a heart attack and have to turn to the creepy uncle to fix it all and prevent yet another controversy (or, at least, prevent a statistically indefensible one). Continue reading

The best team(s) in the world

With the current Ashes series already decided, the redux in November will already be uppermost in the minds of most supporters of the Australian team (assuming they’re not in the nets, with a plan to play some sub-district cricket and hopefully make a run at the Ashes squad).

But if they’re excited about the Ashes, I’m sure they’re thrilled at the prospect of the Generic Beer One Day series, starting in January (fixtures weirdly hidden in the margin of the Cricket Australia website). Who could forget previous winners of this comp, like… ? (frantic Google tapping noises)… like just about everyone at some point or another.

It wasn’t that long ago that the series had three teams and the finals apparently meant something. Listen to the crowd going off here, with Gordon Greenidge at the crease in 1989 (and watch the reaction of the winners – I won’t give away the ending).

Whereas now you more often see articles – with depressing photographic accompaniment – like this. Continue reading