Another View of All-Time AFL Team MARS Ratings Post the 2013 Season

Recently I'd been noticing some traffic to the site from the Big Footy website where the Forum members had been discussing the relative strengths of Bulldogs teams across VFL/AFL history. That, coupled with my continuing desire to become more proficient in the ggplot2 R package of Hadley Wickham, dragged me out of my off-season blog malaise to perform the analyses underpinning this current posting.
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How Good Are Hawthorn, How Poor GWS?

Without the benefit of emotional and chronological distance it's often difficult to rate the historical merit of recent sporting performances. MAFL's MARS Ratings, whilst by no means the definitive measure of a team's worth, provides one, objective basis on which to assess the teams that ran around in 2013.
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Current Teams' All-Time MARS Rankings

I've looked previously at the best and worst AFL teams of all time and, whilst none of the current crop of teams is vying for either of those honours as at the end of Round 11 in the 2013 season, two (GWS and Melbourne) are in the 30 lowest-rated teams ever and one (Hawthorn) is in the 50 highest-rated teams ever.
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Which Teams Fare Better as Favourites?

In this blog, the next is a series in which I've been exploring the all-time MARS Ratings I created for every game from the start of 1897 to the end of the 2012 season, I'll be looking at how well each team has performed depending on the relative strength of its opponent, as measured by their MARS Rating. So, for example, we'll consider how well Collingwood tends to do when playing a team it is assessed as being much stronger than, a little stronger than, about as capable as, and so on.
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The Greatest Upset Victories in VFL/AFL History (1897-2012)

The Suns' victory over the Saints in the first round of the 2013 season was heralded as an "upset win" for the Suns and one of the greatest in their short history. Undoubtedly their win was unexpected, but even the bookmakers rated the Suns as only $3.75 chances, so it was hardly a Halley's comet-like occurrence.
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Team MARS Ratings Performance By Decade and Overall: 1897 to 2012

In the previous blog on the topic of all-time MARS Ratings I explained the process I used to derive team Ratings across history and then identified those teams that had achieved the highest (Essendon) and lowest (Fitzroy) MARS Ratings ever. We know then which teams have burned brightest - and which flickered dimmest - across VFL/AFL history. In this blog I want to explore more extended bursts of talent or apparent lack of it.
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Underachieving and Overachieving Teams

A couple of blogs back I described some win production functions, which relate a team's winning percentage in the home-and-away season to characteristics of its scoring during that season, in particular to its rate of scoring shot production and its conversion of those scoring shots relative to its opponents'.
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Limning the Ladder

It's time to consider the grand sweep of football history once again.

This time I'm looking at the teams' finishing positions, in particular the number and proportion of times that they've each finished as Premiers, Wooden Spooners, Grand Finalists and Finalists, or that they've finished in the Top Quarter or Top Half of the draw.

Here's a table providing the All-Time data.


Note that the percentage columns are all as a percentage of opportunities. So, for a season to be included in the denominator for a team's percentage, that team needs to have played in that season and, in the case of the Grand Finalists and Finalists statistics, there needs to have been a Grand Final (which there wasn't in 1897 or 1924) or there needs to have been Finals (which, effectively, there weren't in 1898, 1899 or 1900).

Looking firstly at Premierships, in pure number terms Essendon and Carlton tie for the lead on 16, but Essendon missed the 1916 and 1917 seasons and so have the outright lead in terms of percentage. A Premiership for West Coast in any of the next 5 seasons (and none for the Dons) would see them overtake Essendon on this measure.

Moving then to Spoons, St Kilda's title of the Team Most Spooned looks safe for at least another half century as they sit 13 clear of the field, and University will surely never relinquish the less euphonius but at least equally as impressive title of the Team With the Greatest Percentage of Spooned Seasons. Adelaide, Port Adelaide and West Coast are the only teams yet to register a Spoon (once the Roos' record is merged with North Melbourne's).

Turning next to Grand Finals we find that Collingwood have participated in a remarkable 39 of them, which equates to a better than one season in three record and is almost 10 percentage points better than any other team. West Coast, in just 22 seasons, have played in as many Grand Finals as have St Kilda, though St Kilda have had an additional 81 opportunities.

The Pies also lead in terms of the number of seasons in which they've participated in the Finals, though West Coast heads them in terms of percentages for this same statistic, having missed the Finals less than one season in four across the span of their existence.

Finally, looking at finishing in the Top Half or Top Quarter of the draw we find the Pies leading on both of these measures in terms of number of seasons but finishing runner-up to the Eagles in terms of percentages.

The picture is quite different if we look just at the 1980 to 2008 period, the numbers for which appear below.


Hawthorn now dominates the Premiership, Grand Finalist and finishing in the Top Quarter statistics. St Kilda still own the Spoon market and the Dons lead in terms of being a Finalist most often and finishing in the Top Half of the draw most often.

West Coast is the team with the highest percentage of Finals appearances and highest percentage of times finishing in the Top Half of the draw.

Teams' Performances Revisited

In a comment on the previous posting, Mitch asked if we could take a look at each team's performance by era, his interest sparked by the strong all-time performance of the Blues and his recollection of their less than stellar recent seasons.

Here's the data:


So, as you can see, Carlton's performance in the most recent epoch is significantly below its all-time performance. In fact, the 1993-2008 epoch is the only one in which the Blues failed to return a better than 50% performance.

Collingwood, the only team with a better lifetime record than Carlton, have also had a well below par last epoch during which they too have registered their first sub-50% performance, continuing a downward trend which started back in Epoch 2.

Six current teams have performed significantly better in the 1993-2008 epoch than their all-time performance: Geelong (who registered their best ever epoch), Sydney (who cracked 50% for the first time in four epochs), Brisbane (who could hardly but improve), the Western Bulldogs (who are still yet to break 50% for an epoch, their 1945-1960 figure being actually 49.5%), North Melbourne (who also registered their best ever epoch),  and St Kilda (who still didn't manage 50% for the epoch, a feat they've achieved only once).

Just before we wind up I should note that the 0% for University in Epoch 2 is not an error. It's the consequence of two 0 and 18 performances by Uni in 1913 and 1914 which, given that these followed directly after successive 1 and 17 performances in 1911 and 1912, unsurprisingly heralded the club's demise. Given that Uni's sole triumph of 1912 came in the third round, by my calculations that means University lost its final 51 matches.