2012 Fixture Study
Over the course of the pre-season I have seen comments like “Team X has a great fixture, hence I’m going to pick up Player Y”, with no real evidence. So what determines a great draw? I examine the 2012 AFL fixtures and find out which teams to jump on and which teams to avoid in your quest for DT value.
The following article is a little long-winded, but it has a lot of interesting information. It’s a bit hard to visualize and I’ve only really touched the surface here, so I’ve included the Excel file (here: fixture study) that I used to rank the teams (as you see below). I recommend downloading it and checking it out – Please note that I’ve made it so that you can edit the values given to each team how you see fit, and it will automatically edit the dependent values for you.
Over the course of the pre-season I have seen comments like “Team X has a great fixture, hence I’m going to pick up Player Y”, with no real evidence. What determines a great fixture? Is it the number of games against weak opponents, or is it avoiding strong opponents, or maybe less travel? For me, it’s primarily a combination of the former two; a strong draw over the whole sample size, however small or large that may be.
So, I decided to find out who really does have the best 2012 fixture. To do this, I assigned each opponent a value based on which block of 3 they finished on the ladder in 2011, as shown below. It’s important to note that the values are just arbitrary and are intended to be thought of relatively.
I then went through each team’s fixtures, assigned the values to each team, and then summed them to give a Seasonal Value. I simply ranked the teams from lowest to highest, which reflects the ease of a club’s fixture.
The above information is useful for picking a between two similar players that you just can’t split. For instance, if I was 50-50 between Scott Thompson and Jack Redden (almost identically priced, both Mid eligible and both played 22 games last year) then I would probably side with Thompson given Adelaide’s favourable draw (The Crows actually have an incredible draw. They are one of only two teams to play both expansion clubs twice, and only play one team twice that made the finals in 2011. I’d be asking some serious questions if I were Port, who only play each expansion club once, and both away from home, even though they finished lower on the ladder).
Conversely, will a tough draw turn you off a player? Collingwood, as expected, boasts the toughest draw coming into the season. Will that affect whether you choose Swan, Pendlebury and Co.? That’s one for you to decide, although I would suggest Collingwood are used to it – I would be much more worried about players from West Coast, Bulldogs and Sydney.
What about when we look for upgrades/downgrades when the dreaded Multi-Bye Rounds (MBRs) are upon us? Given that this is when most of us will be executing a heap of trades, I thought it would be useful to examine each club’s Pre-Bye and Post-Bye splits. The value in the below table is an average value, to counter the fact that each club plays a different amount of games prior to their bye.
As we can see, St. Kilda, Essendon, Sydney and Collingwood have great pre-bye fixtures, while Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Richmond and Melbourne have a tougher start to the year.
This data is useful for examining both Gun and Rookie selections. Picking Cash-Cows from a team with a favourable pre-bye draw means that they will fatten up considerably more by the time you want to cash them in – the MBRs. Similarly, if you are stuck picking between two guns, for instance Sylvia & N. Riewoldt, you would take the player with the best pre-bye draw, and leave the other for consideration as an upgrade target. Given Melbourne’s horrible early fixture, and St. Kilda’s dream start to the year, I know who I’d be going with first up.
What about after the bye? Which players should we be looking at for upgrades, and which team’s rookies might make great downgrade options around the MBRs?
Here, we see that in complete contrast to the first half of the season, Melbourne has a great finish. Same goes for Fremantle and Richmond, who also had tough starts to the year. Conversely, Sydney, Essendon and Collingwood have a tough run home after enjoying early starts.
Upgrades & Downgrades
This got me thinking… which teams’ players are the best to upgrade to around the MBRs? To calculate this, I assigned each team a value of 18 – 1 based on their pre-bye draws, and added this to their post-bye rating, numbered 1 – 18. The way to read this is, the lower the value, to better the team is for upgrading to it’s players. On the flip side, the higher the value, the better it is for upgrading from players from this team.
From this, we can see that Melbourne, Richmond, Fremantle and Adelaide are the teams whose players we want to be upgrading to. The idea here is that their Premos, having endured a tough early draw, should be undervalued – especially as they are expected to perform better against weaker opposition after their bye. This concept is given even more weight if you combine it in a trade with one of your starting Cash-Cows from Essendon, Collingwood, St. Kilda and Sydney. These Rookies belong to teams who enjoy a cruisy start to the year, so we would expect them to have the opportunity to fatten up more than other Rookies and be hitting their peak price around the MBRs, just before they hit the tough part of their fixtures.
Still following? How about we look at a real situation with real players.
An ideal scenario here would be to identify 2 Rookies from a team with a good pre-bye draw and a Premo-Rookie combo with good post-bye draws, for upgrading purposes. For example, you start the season with Ahmed Saad (St. Kilda) in your forward line and Elliot Kavanagh (Essendon) in the midfield. Then, in between Round 11 and 12, you trade them both out at (hopefully close to) their peak price (remember, Essendon has the R12Bye and St. Kilda has the R13Bye) and trade in two players who just completed their R11Bye and have good runs home. This might be, say, Sam Kerridge, a M/F Rookie from Adelaide, and a Gun from Brisbane like Tom Rockliff. Not only have you taken into account the byes, but you’ve also maximised your return by considering the fixturing and executed a bona-fide double trade.
Lastly, what about the DT Finals? Which teams have that ‘Dream Run’ as we coaches rely on their members to get us over the line?
As you can see, be wary of Sydney, West Coast and Essendon Guns for late-season upgrades, while looking closely at Adelaide Premiums like Thompson or Van Berlo for a DT Finals boost.
As you can see, using this method, Hawthorn has one of the more favourable DT Finals draws. But closer inspection shows it could be fool’s gold. They play Port, Gold Coast, Sydney and West Coast over their last 4 matches. But remember Round 24 last year? Coaches everywhere were jumping over one another to get their hands on Suckling or Mitchell or Franklin, because of that dream Finals run home which culminated in the Gold Coast match. Hawthorn rested 8 guns, back-firing on all of us who were dazzled by that season closer.
This year, watch for the Hawthorn guns to be rested in Round 20 or 21 against either Port or the Suns. The same idea applies to the other Top 5 or 6 teams gearing up for the actual Finals series – teams like Carlton, Collingwood, and Geelong who are expected to be around there at the pointy end of the season.
So, what do you think? Will soft or hard draws affect which players you pick? Will quirks in the fixturing dictate when you trade a player in, or if at all? Will you stay away from Hawks due to their unpredictability come DT Finals time? Let us know in the comments!
Follow me on Twitter: @tbetta9