A League 2 blog with an overwhelmingly pro-Torquay United bias
You may remember my surprisingly popular fixture visualisations, which coloured every club’s matches by relative difficulty. Blackpool fan @onedavebamber built on it admirably to produce this excellent preview of his club’s season, so I thought I’d at least have a stab at doing the same, albeit more briefly, for Torquay.
A quick recap: the greener the fixture, the relatively easier it is, with redder games being relatively harder, at least on paper. Difficulty is calculated from a combination of the opponent’s promotion odds and the ratio between their home and away records last season. I’ve reproduced the original explanation at the bottom of this post.
Without further ado, here’s Torquay’s season in ‘heat map’ form:
Our opening game of the season is pretty much our easiest of the season: at home to one of the relegation favourites who didn’t do too well away from home last season. The rest of August looks pretty nasty though, so getting off to a good start on day one could be crucial. We don’t really have anything qualifying as an ‘easy run’ until late October, which then peters out in early December. The run-up to Christmas then looks quite tricky, but things pick up considerably in January with a run of 4 relatively winnable fixtures, so we should start the second half of the season brightly. March is a mixed bag, with a couple of massive games to navigate, but our final-run in is pretty benign, which will make a nice change after our tough end to 2010/11 and might see us make a late surge into the play-off picture.
Something I really liked from the Blackpool post (and will therefore be stealing) was the table extrapolating the number of points the team would need to have accrued by the end of each month to stay on course for a final total befitting a play-off place. This graph I made a while back suggests that 70 points is a pretty representative total for 7th place, so let’s scale this against our season to derive a cumulative month-on-month target:
To illustrate this with an example, if we end 2011 with less than 35 points on the board, then you could argue that we’d underachieved and would need to work harder to have a realistic shot at making the play-offs. Start January with more than 35 though and we’d be ahead of plan and could justifiably feel optimistic about achieving promotion. What I like about this approach is that it goes some way towards correcting for the distribution of fixtures – every team’s version of this table would look subtly different. Notice how, unlike our Blackpool-supporting friend, I’m not even bothering with the survival scenario: that’s how confident / lazy I am (delete as appropriate).
How it works (warning: boring technical stuff)
The algorithm that calculates the probable outcome of each match based on:
1) The ratio between the two teams’ promotion odds, which serves as the best readily-available proxy for their relative strength
2) The proportion of points each team gained at home last season, which provides an indication of how the venue will affect a team’s chances of victory
(1) is weighted more highly than (2), so there’s no way that, say, Crewe racking up almost 70% of their points tally from home matches last season will cause the algorithm to conclude that facing Crawley at home is easier than a trip to Macclesfield.
A club’s greenest fixtures are their (theoretically) easiest and their reddest the hardest, relative to their other games. Yellow is the midpoint of the colour range, so fixtures of this hue are of relatively average difficulty.