Friday, March 11, 2011

Projected English League Championship Winner: Queens Park Rangers

In yesterday's post I reviewed my projection methods for the Premier League.  Today I will apply the same to the League Championship which is one level down from the Premier in English football.  Each year 3 teams from this league move up to the Premier, switching places with the bottom 3 teams from that league.  The top 2 teams move up automatically.  The 3rd team is determined from a playoff involving the 4 teams that finish the season placed 3rd through 6th.  So doing a projection for this league requires projecting the outcome of the playoffs in addition to projecting the final league table.

First lets show the projected final standings:

1Queens Park Rangers462715474274796
2Cardiff City4624111171512083
3Swansea City4624101262412182
4Norwich City462019773561779
7Nottingham Forest461919859411876
8Leeds United461720986761071
11Hull City461519125147464
13Leicester City461712176970-163
14Ipswich Town461512196162-157
15Bristol City461415176065-557
18Coventry City461214205160-950
19Doncaster Rovers461214206382-1950
20Crystal Palace461310234370-2749
21Derby County461112235466-1245
22Scunthorpe United46108284379-3638
23Sheffield United46811274172-3135
24Preston North End46514274984-3529

I'm not exactly going out on a limb by predicting a title for Queens Park Rangers.  Through games of March 8th, they are leading by 7 points with 10 games left to play, a comfortable if not insurmountable lead.  QPR is the class of this league.  They are outscoring their opponents by an average of 0.972 goals per game.  Next best are Reading and Swansea City with an average margin of 0.472 goals per game.  More on these two teams later.

The playoffs for this league match up 3rd vs 6th and 4th vs 5th.  Each pairing plays 2 games, one at each team's home ground with the team scoring the most goals moving on to the playoff final.  The playoff final is a single game played at a neutral site, London's Wembley Stadium.  My method for projecting the 3/6 and 4/5 results is the same as I use for the regular season projections.  However, since the playoff final is at a neutral site I can't use home vs away comparisons.  Instead I take the total stats (home + away) for each team to project the final score.

Based on the projected standings above, these will be the first round matchups:

Swansea City vs Burnley and Norwich City vs Reading.

Here are my predictions for the games between these teams:

HomeProjected Goals AwayProjected   Goals 
Swansea City   1.078 Burnley   0.397
Burnley   1.742 Swansea City   1.266
Norwich City   1.500 Reading   1.661
Reading   1.475 Norwich City   1.345

Swansea City is the stingiest team in the league at home, only allowing 0.389 goals per game so I expect them to shut down Burnley in their first game.  Burnley should bounce back at home, but not by a large enough margin.  I have Swansea going to the final with a higher aggregate score:  2.344 - 2.139.

Norwich and Reading is a pretty close matchup on both ends of the playoff.    My rule of thumb is that a difference of less than 0.5 goals means that the two teams will most likely tie.  It comes down to the decimal points here so I have Reading moving on 3.136 - 2.845.

So the playoff final will be Swansea vs Reading.  Here is my projection:

Play-off FinalProjected Goals Projected Goals 
Swansea City   1.174 Reading   1.202
Playoff Champion

I give Reading a slight edge here.  As I mentioned earlier, these two teams both outscore their opponents by 0.472 goals per game.  So how do I break this deadlock?  I looked at the strength of schedule (SOS) for each team by taking the average margin of victory (MOV) of each team's opponents and adding it to the team's MOV to get an adjusted MOV.  This is a method known as the Simple Rating System (SRS) used to rank teams in other sports which I have decided to apply here.  Check out this site for a detailed description.

Reading's opponents have an average MOV of 0.033.  Swansea's have an average MOV of -0.023.  These averages are what I will refer to as SOS.  Reading's opponents have on average outscored their opponents while Swansea's have on average been outscored.  This means that Reading has played a tougher schedule than Swansea.  When we adjust each teams MOV by their SOS, Reading is now at 0.505 and Swansea at 0.449.  This difference will lead to a higher projected score for Reading.  Please note that the quality of these two teams is very comparable.  If I were to assign a probability I would say that I'm 51% certain that Reading would win this match.

In my next post I will be predicting the results of this weekend's matchups in the Championship.

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