Ten games into the 2019 season, last year’s National League West tiebreaker — in which the Rockies were nine innings from undoing Los Angeles’ vice grip on the division — feels like a long time ago.
The Dodgers underscored that gap between then and now again Sunday, embarrassing Colorado on national television with a 12-6 win to top the Rockies for the eighth straight time dating back to last season.
“This series, they beat us,” manager Bud Black acknowledged. “They came in hot, swinging the bats really well, and we couldn’t cool them down … We couldn’t stop them because we couldn’t make pitches over the three-game series, and we couldn’t mount anything consistently (offensively) to stay up with them.”
Adding insult to the sweep was an oblique tweak to outfielder David Dahl, who was lifted from the game in the third inning after noticeably grimacing following a strikeout.
Dahl entered Sunday as Colorado’s best hitter (.353) on a mightily underperforming offense, and his exit epitomized Colorado’s sour start to the season on a night where Chad Bettis got blasted for six runs and Charlie Blackmon made two ugly errors in right field that directly led to the Dodgers scoring.
Los Angeles got things going in the second behind Cody Bellinger, the hottest of its red-hot hitters, as the outfielder mashed a leadoff double. That was followed by Austin Barnes’ two-out walk and Julio Urias’ seeing-eye single, which scored Bellinger and then Barnes, too, after Urias’ groundball got by Blackmon in right.
“He made a bad pitch to the pitcher,” Black said. “The (fastball) was a little bit up, and got too much of the middle part of the plate where he could pull it … Chad couldn’t regroup and get anything going after that.”
The wheels then fell fully off for Bettis in the third. David Freese and Kiki Hernandez both had RBI doubles before Austin Barnes’ single scored another, and suddenly Los Angeles was up 6-0 and Coors Field got really quiet minus the “Let’s go Dodgers” chants breaking out from pockets of blue.
“I hoped tonight was going to be the night we turned our (early slide) around,” Bettis said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t do my part of the mound.”
Blackmon did his part to help bring some spark to the doom-and-gloom of the series, leading off the third with a double. Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado and Ian Desmond followed with RBI knocks to cut the score to 6-3; Desmond’s grounder was likely going to be an inning-ending double play, but Kiki Hernandez lost track of outs and neglected to make the turn from second.
But after that miscue, the Dodgers kept piling on.
First it was Bellinger’s moon-high pop-up that Blackmon misplayed to gift a run right back with two outs in the fourth. Then, two more runs in the fifth by the hand of Yency Almonte preceded Max Muncy’s two-run homer off Carlos Estevez in the sixth to make it 11-3.
After Urias pitched 3⅔ innings, and the Rockies managed four more runs off the bullpen. Bellinger put a cap on the rout with a 428-foot bomb to right off Bryan Shaw in the eighth, his MLB-leading seventh homer.
The teams meet 16 more times this season. Meanwhile, Dahl will be re-evaluated Monday and will likely miss at least a few games; an MRI may be necessary as the Rockies continue to look to role players in the wake of other recent injuries to Daniel Murphy, Ryan McMahon, Tyler Anderson and Jake McGee.
“We’re going to need something from somebody,” Black said.
If there is a clear takeaway from the NHL’s regular season it is that not much separates a number of this year’s playoff teams. And even the one team that’s clearly head and shoulders above the rest should not be considered the most likely to lift the Stanley Cup when the playoffs end.
The team everyone will be talking about is the Tampa Bay Lightning. Jon Cooper, a surefire Jack Adams finalist as the NHL’s best coach, guided his team to a 62-16-4 record, earning them the Presidents’ Trophy and tying the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most victories during the regular season. Their top scorer, forward Nikita Kucherov, a slam-dunk most valuable player candidate, had 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists), the most by any skater since 1995-96. Andrei Vasilevskiy should also be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league’s top goaltender.
Yet being the top team doesn’t mean it will be a cake walk to the Stanley Cup finals. Since 2005-06 — the start of the league’s salary cap era — just two out of 13 Presidents’ Trophy winners have hoisted the Cup. Four teams with the best regular-season record have lost in the first round and four more have lost in the second. Three of those have occurred in the last three years.
This isn’t to say the Lightning aren’t one of the most likely teams to win it all this year — they are — but the numbers aren’t overwhelmingly in their favor. In fact, due to the quality of competition in both conferences, the Calgary Flames should be considered the Stanley Cup favorites.
Shocking? Maybe, but consider the field in the Eastern Conference. The Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup last year. The Boston Bruins put up 107 points, tied with the Flames for the most of any team not named the Lightning. Columbus was very aggressive at the trade deadline adding two high-profile pieces in Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel. The Islanders had a historic turnaround defensively. Pittsburgh, despite injuries, still boasts Sidney Crosby. And Toronto’s roster carries seven players with at least 20 goals, including star center John Tavares, who had 47 in his first season with the Maple Leafs.
Our postseason probabilities take into account a team’s actual win-loss record with more weight given toward the end of the season after the trade deadline; its expected win-loss record based on goals scored and allowed — also known as its Pythagorean winning percentage; and its expected win-loss record based on expected goals for and against, a metric created by the now defunct hockey website Corsica. The latter stat takes into account the likelihood a shot becomes a goal based on distance, angle and whether the attempt was a rebound, on the rush or generated on the power play.
Here is a first-round preview — and the teams most likely to move on to the second round.
Tampa Bay Lightning (No. 1 Atlantic Division) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (No. 2 Wild Card)
Prediction: Lightning win the series, 4-1
In addition to Duchene and Dzingel, Columbus also added defenseman Adam McQuaid and goalie Keith Kinkaid. More significantly in terms of how the franchise is approaching the playoffs — in which the Blue Jackets have never advanced past Round 1 — Columbus held on to top-line forward Artemi Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, two unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. In terms of the playoffs, their strengths line up well to neutralize Tampa Bay.
Columbus was the least penalized team in the league this season, limiting the opportunities for Tampa’s league-leading power play. The Blue Jackets are also stingy with the scoring chances they allow (seventh-best). And the team’s top line of Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson has been more productive than Tampa’s best line featuring Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Brayden Point.
However, the edge still belongs with Tampa Bay, especially in net. Vasilevskiy was 26 goals better than an average netminder facing the same number of shot attempts. Bobrovsky, by comparison, was five goals better than an average netminder.
Boston Bruins (No. 2 Atlantic) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (No. 3 Atlantic)
Prediction: Bruins win the series, 4-3
A first-round rematch from last year between two Original Six teams, the Bruins should get the better of the Maple Leafs again this year.
Boston’s regular-season success was fueled largely by a defense that allowed the third-fewest high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength. And when those chances did get through, Boston’s netminders stopped 445 of 518 (86 percent) of them. League average is 83 percent.
Plus, the Bruins might ice the most complete forward trio in the NHL. Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron combined to score 34 even-strength goals over 484 minutes as a line this year and Bergeron, a four-time Selke winner as the league’s best defensive forward, might add a fifth award to his trophy case.
Toronto, meanwhile, brought in Tavares to try to push the team to the next level. The Mississauga native set career highs in goals (47) and points (88) during his first year with the club and generated more scoring chances at even strength than anyone in the league aside from Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher. Tavares’s teammate, Austin Matthews, was fourth.
Washington Capitals (No. 1 Metropolitan) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (No. 1 Wild Card)
Prediction: Capitals win the series, 4-3
The defending champions got a tough draw with the Hurricanes. Carolina generates the most high-danger chances in the NHL this season at even strength (14 per 60 minutes) and the seventh-most on the power play (23 per 60 minutes). They are also good at suppressing their opponents from doing the same: sixth-fewest scoring chances allowed (25 per 60 minutes) at even strength and the lowest rate allowed on the penalty kill (39 per 60).
The Hurricanes also have four 20-goal scorers with two, Sebastian Aho and former Capital Justin Williams, sharing time with Nino Niederreiter. That line outscores opponents 13 to 9 with a 148 to 90 edge in scoring chances over 254 even-strength minutes.
But the Capitals have Alex Ovechkin, fresh off his record eighth Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL goal-scoring leader (51). He, along with linemates Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson combined for 15 even-strength goals as a trio in 218 minutes during the regular season. Washington’s second line of Jakub Vrana, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie outscored opponents 14 to 8 this season over 212 minutes, with half of those goals coming from the slot or crease.
New York Islanders (No. 2 Metropolitan) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (No. 3 Metropolitan)
Prediction: Islanders win the series, 4-2
During last year’s Stanley Cup run with the Capitals, Coach Barry Trotz found a way to neutralize Pittsburgh’s most-potent weapons. Sure, Sidney Crosby’s line scored three even-strength goals against Washington in the playoffs, but they allowed five goals against, too. Evgeni Malkin was limited to one power-play goal and Phil Kessel had none, allowing the Capitals to win the series in six games.
New York’s defensive improvement this season suggest’s Trotz’s team could do the same again this year. In 2017-18, the Islanders allowed 293 goals, the most any squad gave up since the Philadelphia Flyers permitted 297 in 2006-07, with 174 of those originating from high-danger areas such as the slot and the crease. This year, the Islanders have allowed a league-low 191 goals against, with just 110 coming from high-danger areas.
Nashville Predators (No. 1 Central) vs. Dallas Stars (No. 2 Wild Card)
Prediction: Stars win the series, 4-2
Dallas deserves more consideration as a contender. Their netminder, Ben Bishop, leads the NHL in save percentage (.933) and his high-danger save percentage at even strength (.881) is also the highest among goaltenders facing at least as many shots. Plus, Bishop turned away 34 of 38 high-danger shots against on the penalty kill (.895 save rate), the second-best performance after the Philadelphia Flyers’ Carter Hart.
Nashville, meanwhile, relies on contributions from its defensemen to score goals, a tactic that might not pay off against a goaltender like Bishop. The Predators’ blueliners combined for 43 goals this season with 34 of those coming at even strength. Roman Josi leads the team’s defensemen with 13. However, those defensemen still convert only one out of every 22 shot attempts (5 percent) they take, leaving them vulnerable to a good defensive team like Dallas that not only limits high-quality chances (sixth-best in 2018-19) but also blocks a lot of shots (1,291, fifth-most in the NHL this year).
Winnipeg Jets (No. 2 Central) vs. St. Louis Blues (No. 3 Central)
Prediction: Blues win the series, 4-2
The Blues are coming in hot. Heading into the All-Star Game, they sat sixth in the Central Division (22-22-5, 49 points) yet finished the season 23-6-4 (50 points), earning the third-place spot in the Central Division. Goaltender Jordan Binnington finished with a 24-5-1 record, .927 overall save percentage and NHL-leading 1.89 goals against average. The team made Binnington’s job easier with just 2,345 shots allowed across the whole season, fourth fewest in the NHL. But Binnington did his part, too, stopping 181 of 212 high-danger chances faced overall (.854 save rate).
And good luck to the Jets, who will need to stop St. Louis’s top line of Brayden Schenn, Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko, a trio that outscored opponents 23 to 14 with a 104 to 66 edge in high-danger chances over 322 even-strength minutes this season. Winnipeg allowed an above-average rate of high-danger chances and their netminder, Connor Hellebuyck, faced 498 total shots from the slot and the crease this year, the fifth-most among goaltenders, stopping 398 of them for a .799 save percentage. League average was .819 during the 2018-19 regular season.
Calgary Flames (No. 1 Pacific) vs. Colorado Avalanche (No. 1 Wild Card)
Prediction: Flames win the series, 4-1
Mark Giordano, a Norris Trophy hopeful who finished second in the NHL in scoring among defensemen with 74 points (17 goals, 57 assists), skates over 24 minutes per night, and is one of five players on the team with at least 70 points: Johnny Gaudreau (99), Sean Monahan (82), Elias Lindholm (78) and Matthew Tkachuk (77) are the others. No other team has more than four.
Three of those players — Gaudreau, Monahan and Lindholm — form Calgary’s top line and when on the ice with Giordano have outscored opponents 31 to 19 this year, with more than half of those goals scored (19) coming from the high-danger areas such as the slot or crease.
That kind of ability will tax Colorado’s defensive pairings. Samuel Girard and Erik Johnson shared 938 even-strength minutes together this season and were out-chanced 182 to 143 in the high-danger areas. Nikita Zadorov and Tyson Barrie broke even, 49 to 48, and Ian Cole and Patrik Nemeth were slightly underwater at 22 to 25.
San Jose Sharks (No. 2 Pacific) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (No. 3 Pacific)
Prediction: Golden Knights win the series, 4-2
Vegas is a different team with Mark Stone, acquired from the Ottawa Senators in February. The Golden Knights went on a 10-1-1 tear after he unpacked his bags and his fixture on the second line gives Vegas a steady group of top-six forwards. The top line, Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith, scored 39 goals as a group this season with 19 coming from high-danger areas and the second line of Stone, Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny have nine goals (six from the slot or crease) over 13 games.
Marc-Andre Fleury had a down year in terms of save percentage but he was still worth five goals more than an average goaltender during the regular season. His performance on the penalty kill, stopping 59 of 76 high-danger chances in 2018-19, is also encouraging considering San Jose’s power play is one of the most-efficient in the NHL this year (24 percent, sixth-best) with the second-most scoring chances created per 60 minutes (58).
However, the Sharks can’t get opportunities without drawing penalties, and the Golden knights are among the least-penalized teams of 2018-19 (short handed 230 times, tied for eighth fewest).
The Athletic polled 127 players (more than 25% of the NBA) on a variety of topics, ranging from MVP to best defender to the toughest.
Kyrie Irving and Brad Stevens were the only Celtics to get significant recognition.
3. Who’s the best ballhandler? (127 votes)
- Kyrie Irving (77.1%)
- Steph Curry (7.4%)
10. Which coach, aside from your own, would you want to play for? (121 votes)
- Gregg Popovich (40.9%)
- Brad Stevens (10%)
It’s refreshing to see love for Stevens after such a disappointing regular season.
It appears Marcus Smart doesn’t have much respect from his peers. Marcus placed 8th in the best defender and toughest player categories.
Jayson Tatum drew a few votes in which player would you sign first when building a team and most overrated.
There are some odd responses. For example, Semi Ojeleye received a vote for most overrated.
And if you needed more proof that today’s players lack a historical grasp of the game, Kobe Bryant ranked 3rd in the best player of all-time category.
You don’t have to be a Golden State Warriors fan to know who Draymond Green is.
A three-time NBA all-star playing his seventh season in the league, Green is almost impossible to miss considering the demonstrative nature of an on- and off-court personality that not coincidentally landed him in the middle of the most reported – and overanalyzed – story of the 2018-19 season: the verbal altercation between him and teammate Kevin Durant during a November 12 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The mainstream sports media’s overblown coverage of what was a brief, verbal spat between teammates was made all the more astonishing considering the fact that the NBA’s league office was in no way immediately involved in the controversy.
Such was not the case last Tuesday, when the NBA announced it had fined Green, Durant and Stephen Curry for their involvement in incidents related to Golden State’s March 29 overtime loss to Minnesota while releasing the following statement:
“Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green has been fined $35,000 for making statements on social media which impugned the integrity of NBA officiating; Warriors guard Stephen Curry has been fined $25,000 for his actions and public statements impugning the integrity of NBA officiating; and Warriors forward Kevin Durant has been fined $15,000 for public criticism of the officiating, it was announced Tuesday by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.
“The NBA’s investigation into this matter included the review of player conduct that took place through Sunday, March 31, and the ultimate findings were determined after verifying all available information.
“The actions of all three players occurred at various points during and following the Warriors’ 131-130 overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 29 at Target Center.”
This last sequence in OT 😶 pic.twitter.com/IoZdmpFUkd
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) March 30, 2019
For Durant, who was fined $25,000 and Curry, who was docked $15,000, those incidents involved varying forms of criticism of NBA referee Marat Kogut – from Curry openly mocking Kogut during the game, to both voicing their displeasure after the game, to subsequent, somewhat subtle digs from both on social media.
— warriorsworld (@warriorsworld) March 30, 2019
Unlike Durant and Curry, Green didn’t breathe a word to the media about Kogut nor lodge any overt, on-court protests of the referee before, during or after the game.
The NBA has fined three Golden State Warriors: Draymond Green, $35,000 for social media comments on officiating; Stephen Curry, $25,000 for statements on officiating; and Kevin Durant, $15,000 for criticism of officiating.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 2, 2019
Yet Green was fined $35,000 – more than Durant and Curry each – solely because of something he did on social media.
Something that not only reflected on Kogut but also the league itself.
After the game in question, Green sent out from his official, verified Twitter account two Tweets.
The first Tweet read, “TD,” and remains live on Twitter:
— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) March 30, 2019
The second Tweet, sent out one minute later, read, “MK, ” and remains live on Twitter:
— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) March 30, 2019
The first, “TD,” Tweet was a reference to notorious former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who has admitted to betting on games while working as a league official.
— Ruben Ibarra (@chicitybulls09) March 30, 2019
The second, “MK,” Tweet was a reference to Kogut and designed to link Kogut’s officiating to that of the disgraced Donaghy.
— Steph Blurry (@all_gravity) March 30, 2019
The same mainstream sports media that spent weeks covering a single, seconds-long disagreement between Green and Durant that went completely undetected by most, if not all fans sitting a few feet away clearly chose to willfully ignore Green when it came to him doing something much more serious.
That is, publicly accusing an NBA official of fixing a game in a Tweet that remains live on Green’s official Twitter account as we speak.
By its refusal to even entertain the possibility that NBA games are being fixed, even when the league itself acknowledges the accusation by an active player about a specific game, the mainstream sports media is creating a bubble which, when it inevitably bursts, will damage the credibility of the nascent, legalized sports gambling industry so severely as to be unfixable.
The post MAINSTREAM SPORTS MEDIA FIXED NBA’S OFFICIATING PROBLEM appeared first on Sports by Brooks.
On a night when ace Kyle Freeland was uncharacteristically bad, yielding seven runs, the stumbling Rockies needed their underperforming offense to answer the bell.
Colorado’s bats nearly did that, but a six-run, fifth-inning rally Monday night at Coors Field wasn’t enough as the Atlanta Braves took the series opener 8-6 and extended the Rockies’ losing streak to four games.
Fresh off a demoralizing sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Rockies had gotten walloped by an alarming average margin of 4.57 runs per defeat in their 10 losses coming into Monday. It appeared the uncompetitive trend would continue against right-hander Julio Teheran and Atlanta.
Freeland, a tactical southpaw who thrives off weak contact, wasn’t sharp from the outset. The first three balls the Braves put in play all came off the bat at 105 mph or greater, the highlight of which was 2018 National League rookie of the year Ronald Acuna Jr.’s 111 mph, two-run homer to put Atlanta up 2-0.
Two more runs in the third inning, plus a fifth inning that featured Dansby Swanson’s two-run triple before the shortstop scored on a wild pitch, ended Freeland’s rough evening.
But the Rockies, who were getting no-hit by Teheran at that point, responded in the bottom of the fifth inning with their biggest inning of the season so far.
Josh Fuentes’ leadoff single got Colorado going. And after Garrett Hampson‘s sacrifice fly brought Fuentes home and put the Rockies on the board, Mark Reynolds blasted a two-run homer. Trevor Story followed with a three-run shot, his fourth on the year, to cut the score to 7-6.
DJ Johnson, Colorado’s other feel-good big-league story along with Fuentes, allowed one run in one-plus inning of relief, and was followed by two scoreless innings by Scott Oberg and a three-strikeout ninth by Wade Davis.
In the meantime, Colorado’s offense couldn’t rise up again — the closest the Rockies came was when Nolan Arenado flied out to the warning track with one on and two outs in the seventh inning — as the Braves bullpen blanked them for the final four frames.
Braves LHP Max Fried (1-0, 0.00 ERA) at Rockies RHP German Marquez (1-0, 0.69), 6:40 p.m., ATTRM
TV: ATTRM Radio: 850 AM/94.1 FM
Fried, a 25-year-old southpaw, has been an asset for the Braves in the rotation and out of the bullpen over the past couple of seasons. He’s coming off his first start of 2019 in a six-inning, one-hit shutout performance against the Cubs on April 4 and has faced the Rockies only once in his career, as a rookie in 2017, in which he was hit for three runs in two-plus innings of relief at Coors Field. Meanwhile, Marquez has looked practically untouchable so far with 14 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched. Atlanta is hitting .250 with a homer in 36 at-bats against the right-hander.
Trending: With still time to make something out of the opening homestand against Atlanta, Colorado already found itself in dark statistical territory coming into the series. The club’s seven losses within the first 10 games of the season were the second-most in franchise history, behind dropping eight of the first 10 in 2005.
At issue: Kyle Freeland posted a 3.00 ERA in 33 opening innings last year, the best of any regular in the Rockies rotation, but 2019 has been a different story so far. Through three starts (including Monday), Freeland has allowed five runs (four earned) for a 12.00 ERA.
Upcoming pitching matchups
Wednesday: Braves RHP Kevin Gausman (1-0, 0.0) at Rockies TBA, 1:10 p.m., ATTRM
Thursday: Rockies Jon Gray (0-2, 5.68) at Giants LHP Jeff Samardzija (0-0, 2.79), 7:45 p.m., ATTRM
Friday: Rockies RHP Chad Bettis (0-2, 11.88) at Giants LHP Drew Pomeranz (0-1, 4.00), 8:15 p.m., ATTRM
This weekend marks the 3rd Round of the Football Association Cup, the oldest and most prestigious domestic cup competition in the entire world. Every year, amateur and professional teams from across England compete to lift this coveted trophy at London’s Wembley Stadium in May. The third round is when teams from the Premier League enter the competition, and there are quite a few “David vs Goliath” matchups involving Premier League teams, including Tottenham Hotspur’s trip tomorrow night to 4th tier Tranmere Rovers, Arsenal’s journey to 3rd division Blackpool Saturday lunchtime in a rematch of their League Cup 4th round tie and Watford’s visit to 6th tier Woking (who are coached by legendary commentator Martin Tyler) on Sunday afternoon. Each of the 64 teams still remaining in this competition will have dreams of either knocking off a top side or to reach the semifinals and finals at Wembley.
Throughout the 20th century, Tottenham Hotspur were considered to be the “specialists” of the FA Cup, having won the competition 8 times between 1901 and 1991 (including 5 times when the year ended in one) but only the top division title twice. However, their claim on the crown has been challenged by their two biggest London rivals in recent years as Spurs haven’t won In the early 2000’s, current holders Chelsea went on to become the cup kings, as they won twice in the late nineties and then four times in six years between 2007 and 2012. However, in recent years the competition has begun to be dominated by Arsenal, who won the cup 3 times in 4 years despite not winning the league title since 2004.
This begs the question, which team are the true FA Cup specialists? In other words, which team has historically performed better on average than expectation?
To answer this question, I decided to fit an ELO model (based on the results of league matches only) to come up with a relative proxy for a team’s strength, and calculated this value for each team in all four tiers of English football on January 1 of the relevant season (as the 3rd round is traditionally held the first weekend in January). For each season from 1960/61 to 2016/17, I calculated how far each team in the dataset went in the competition. These values ranged from 1 (a 3rd or 4th division team being eliminated in the 1st round) to 9 (winning the whole tournament). Using the ELO values as a predictor, I fit an ordered logit model (R output at end of model for all you stats nerds) to estimate a probability distribution for how far a team should have gone in the tournament given their performance in the league. I then used this distribution to determine how likely it was that the team went as far as they did in the competition, and the probability that a team was knocked out at that round or further.
In order to understand how these probabilities work and how we are applying them to solve this problem, consider the possibility where the ordered logit model tells us that Manchester United had a 20% chance of reaching the quarterfinal and losing, a 40% chance of reaching the semifinal and losing, a 30% chance of reaching the final and losing and a 10% chance of winning the entire tournament. If they were knocked out in the final, then the probability of them reaching at least the final is 40%, and the probability of them being knocked out in the final or earlier is 90%.
After compiling these statistics for all teams in all seasons, we then calculated the geometric mean of each teams probabilities to try to determine which team are the true “FA Cup specialists.” The geometric mean was chosen because it is similar to computing the log-likelihood of all these FA Cup finishes, but adjusts for the fact that not all teams have competed for 59 seasons. A lower geometric mean means that it is less likely that the team performed as well as they did, and provides more evidence to that team being a cup specialist.
We end up with all three London clubs that we mentioned earlier, as well as Manchester United. Fans who have only recently watched English football will be surprised by this as United have won the league 13 times between 1993 and 2013, but the pre Alex Ferguson United were not world beaters, but had considerable success in the cup (relative to the league), winning the cup in 1977, 1983, 1985 and 1990. Watford are an interesting team to see on this list, as they were beaten finalists in 1984 against Everton (another feature on this list), as well as beaten semifinalists in 1970, 1987, 2003, 2007 and 2016.
However, seeing Peterborough United at the top of this list was incredibly shocking, as they are a team that have historically bounced between the third and fourth tiers (and a few seasons in the second tier). In fact, any people associate Peterborough by their nickname “the Posh” and the resulting lawsuit with David Beckham’s wife over the clubs decision to trademark the term “Posh” after Victoria’s rise to fame. Their appearance at the top of this list compelled me to take a deeper look into their FA Cup history, which includes a run to the quarterfinals in 1965, and an appearance in the 5th round in 1975, 1981 and 1986. This history is underwhelming, but they have constantly found themselves qualifying for the 3rd or 4th round in most seasons, something that is not a given for teams in the bottom two tiers of the Football League.
Now, we’ll take a look at the ten teams who have performed most poorly compared to what their league form would suggest.
This list includes some of the teams we might have expected from this. Newcastle United are notorious for performing badly in the cup competitions, and despite their size and success in the league, they have not won the FA Cup since 1955 (and have reached three finals since) and were famously knocked out by non league Hereford United in 1972 (it’s impossible to write an article about the 3rd round of the FA Cup without finding some way of sneaking that Ronnie Radford goal in there). Liverpool are also a surprising feature on this list, given that they’ve won the cup seven times in the 57 years that we used to test this data, but have relatively underperformed in recent years and have suffered many unexpected early round exits. Aston Villa are another classic example on this list, as they’ve won almost as many European Cups (1) as they have FA Cup semi-final appearances (2).
Overall, it was very interesting to see which teams can be considered cup specialists by our methodology, and our results were somewhat in line with our expectation, with certain teams appearing high up both lists that were relatively unexpected.
Special thanks to James Curley for compiling and sharing the R package engsoccerdata, which was used for both the league matches to build the ELO scores and the FA Cup data that we used to build the ordered logit model.
Ordered Logit Model Output: