Friday, 10 July 2020

Conference Only

I mentioned College Football yesterday and the decision of one Conference (the Ivy League) to suspend all sports, including football, until at least 2021.

While the decision was significant, the Ivy League isn't one of the Power Five (P5) or Group of Five (G5) conferences, but the Big Ten is, and yesterday they announced that they would only play conference games. There are actually 14 teams in the Big Ten, but teams usually play games against teams from outside their own conferences. It comes a day after Big Ten school Ohio State announced that it was...

...pausing all voluntary athletic workouts, football included, after receiving the results of COVID-19 testing of its student-athletes, the school announced Wednesday. The university did not release how many of its athletes tested positive for the virus, citing privacy concerns.
The question now is will other big conferences follow the lead of the Big Ten? 

It seems quite likely, with the ACC and the Pac-12 already rumoured to be following suit, and poor old Notre Dame, who compete in college football as an Independent school, potentially left without anyone to play! Following on from the terrible fire last year, this hasn't been a good year for them. Oh wait, that was a different Notre Dame.  

It seems likely that they will join the ACC to avoid this fate, as most of their sports teams are already in this conference, but because of money, they have remained independent for Football.

Conference teams share revenue but like other religious institutions, the more money Notre Dame (a Catholic college) can get and keep for themselves, the better. From May 2018
Notre Dame makes a reported $15 million annually with NBC to televise home football games in an agreement that was extended in 2013. The deal runs through 2025.
If Notre Dame were to join a conference, a certain amount of money would have to be spread through the conference, something that already happens in basketball and other conference sports.
Basically, if Florida State vs Notre Dame is televised on ESPN, Boston College gets part of that money.
Well perhaps now, Boston College will get some of that money, but there remains more than a slim possibility that there won't be any College Football this season anyway. 

The NFL's COVID-19 protocol banning jersey swaps at the end of games has come in for a lot of ridicule. As this Boston CBS article puts it:
These football players will have just completed a 60-minute athletic competition in which 10-14 people will be wrestling and colliding at the line of scrimmage.

Receivers and defensive backs will engage in man-to-man battles on the perimeter. Quarterbacks will get sacked. Running backs will get gang tackled. Safeties will jump into piles.

Refs and officials will dig through those piles looking to identify who has possession of the football.
There will also be huddles before every play. This will happen quite often.

Oh, and don’t forget the huddles. And what about those pump-up circles? Pregame prayers? Or post-play celebrations? Will that all be banned?
It does seem a little pointless, and personally I'd prefer it if they banned the pregame prayers.

Just a few days after releasing the shortened 2020 schedule, MLB released its 2021 162 game regular season schedule yesterday, which seems a little premature and perhaps overly optimistic.

I've added a couple of blogs to my blog roll. I wasn't aware of it until last night, but the Secret Betting Club, which I always thought was a rather silly name, changed its name to the Smart Betting Club (which is much more mature) and has some posts that some of you may be interested in. A little over six years ago I had a post about them which included this paragraph:
With a name like “Secret Betting Club”, it will be no surprise when I say I have no idea who the brains are behind it, but what I do know is that they have not taken a law class.
The topic was their campaign for "Bookie Fairplay" which seemed to me to be an exercise in futility. The claim that they a "defender of punters rights" still seems silly, 

The second addition is Plus EV Analytics which looks like it may have some interesting content. It's well written and very readable, and the writer has a sense of humour as well as coming across as being honest. In response to one comment asking where he'd got some numbers from, he answered:
To be honest I don’t remember where I got it, and I can’t vouch for its 100% accuracy
Can't beat that! He also seems to like NFL so one to watch. If anyone has other suggestions for additions to the blog roll, let me know. 

Thursday, 9 July 2020

NFL Facemask Rule Update - Wear One

With the American Football seasons (College and pro) getting closer by the day, and the number of new cases in the US continuing to climb every day, the question of if and how the seasons will be played out continues to be uncertain.

At the College level, one Division 1 Conference (read this post for a primer on how College Football is structured) - the Ivy League - has said there will be no sports played by any of its members until at least 2021.

Most readers might not care too much, but College Football is the only sport that generates profits at most universities, and so the knock-on effect to other sports teams of losing a season is likely to be significant. 

As for the NFL, it's still not certain whether fans will be allowed to attend, but it seems certain that if they are, the number will be significantly reduced. The Green Bay Packers announced last week that face masks would be mandatory, and that the stadium's seating capacity would be significantly reduced, while the Baltimore Ravens announced yesterday that fewer than 20% of seats would be filled with the limit set to 14,000. 

Crowd noise used to be considered a key factor in the home advantage in the NFL, which behind the NBA, is the second strongest in US sports, but studies have proven this not to be the case. Last season, a record low 52% of regular season games were won by the Home side, which as readers will know, helped to boost the profits from the Small Road Dogs System.
Reduced crowds or empty stadiums will probably result in less value on the Road teams so this long-term cash generator may be in for a tough season, if indeed any season actually takes place.

The most common line for a Road team is +3 points, but strangely while this has been profitable long-term (55% ATS since the current league format was established in 2002), this specific line hasn't been profitable since 2014. 
Pre-season games are only five weeks away, and only a few days after the EFL Championship Play-off game, presumably at Wembley but with no fans allowed it seems like any neutral venue would suffice. 

Meanwhile the top two flights of English football click off their remaining games one at a time, as they do in Spain and Italy. The Championship relegation battle has been made a little more interesting with the possible 12 point deduction facing Wigan Athletic, but with matches against teams in 21st, 22nd and 23rd place to come (Charlton Athletic, Hull City and Barnsley) they can save themselves, although that might not be what the new owners want with rumours flying that they have had a sizable bet on the team being relegated.

From 200%:
In the video, a covertly videoed Rick Parry, the chair of the EFL, seems to be recorded saying that there is a rumour that this is happening because the owners of the club, who own casinos in the Philippines, have a large bet on Wigan being relegated at the end of this season. You can’t see a face in the video and it’s only a short clip so there’s no context given to the conversation that was being held, so for some time there was considerable conjecture that the video might have been faked, but the EFL did confirm in a statement last night that the person talking in the video was indeed Parry.
Wigan are currently third favourites and odds-on to go down. Barnsley looked doomed with their three other games being against Leeds United, Brentford and Nottingham Forest, currently in 2nd, 3rd and 5th places respectively.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Seven Year Hitch

While researching backing the Draw, I stumbled across a blog that seems to no longer be active, called Sport DW written by Ian. It's one of the better written blogs out there, with a statistical angle which I like, but it hasn't been updated for about two years which isn't a good sign.

What caught my eye was a post from about seven years ago, which claimed that

"If we look at the past three completed seasons in the Premier League, we can see how blindly backing the draw can be particularly profitable:"
Evidence in the form of a table is then shown, with the three EPL seasons from 2010-13 shown:
Ian clarifies that:
"The figures are based on placing £10 on the draw in every Premier League match over the course of a season. As we can see, you would have won money in two out of the three seasons, with the overall profit for the three year period being an impressive £668.90, which represents a 5.87% return on your initial stakes."
Unfortunately where the odds were pulled from isn't mentioned, but I compared them with my spreadsheet which uses Bet365's numbers for 2010-12 and Pinnacle's Closing Prices for the one season they are available (2012-13). 

My numbers for the seasons are:
Still profitable over the three seasons, but nowhere near as profitable as Ian was able to find. 

Possibly the results were achieved using the idealistic "best Draw price from any of the sportsbooks", and while it doesn't really matter at this stage anyway, perhaps Ian can recall where he pulled his numbers from? Or maybe not because seven years is a long time ago! 

In practice, it's likely an investor would have called it a day in early 2012 given that this method isn't traditionally profitable and the positive spell was just noise.

In fact, these three seasons just happened to be the best three for blindly backing the Draw since Football-Data began! 

Here are the results from the EPL since 2000 with the prices adjusted to a standard 103% over-round.

As readers will know, there is no edge to be found blindly backing the Draw.

Ian does continue with looking at the return in matches where the Under 2.5 goals is favourite (profits are increased) and also finds that the EPL is something of an outlier when it comes to Draws when compared to lower divisions and the top leagues in Europe.

In the comments, Spencer asked:
Great article Ian. Could you increase the ROI by leaving out games with heavy favourite?
Also, would be interesting to delve into why the Premier League is an anomaly when it comes to draws? 

Is it just coincidence or do you feel it's likely to continue in the future?

Wheelie1977 raised the topic of the Big 6 teams, although he only considered 5 worthy of being considered Big at the time, asking:
Wonder what the stats are if you leave out the Big 5 either home or away. Surely double digit ROI?
Actually the idea was a 'wheelie' good one, and would have left us with the 182 Little 14 match-ups per season and some good returns:
For the full twenty seasons blindly backing the Draw in 'Little 14' matches is down just 3.59 points after 4139 bets, so it's actually not a terrible system and one can that easily be made profitable by focusing on close matches. 

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

$TSLA Bull

It's hard to believe that it is over two years now since I invested a five figure sum in Tesla at $314.16 a share. 
I also liked that "around three-quarters of Tesla’s stock is held by major institutional investors — companies who have built their empires based on choosing good stocks. Furthermore, institutional investors have recently been increasing their stakes in the company".

These investors usually (not always) know what they're doing.To cut a long story short, I invested.
It's not been the prettiest of rides, especially in early April, but the stock is up 46.44% from that low, and the last couple of weeks have seen the red turn to green with some breathing room, and I think there is plenty more upside.
I wish it had been a six figure sum, because at the close yesterday, the stock was at $1,371 and after-hours was up to $1,432. The lower figure represents an ROI of 336.58%.
Bullish at this level I'm not so sure about, but while I'm not looking at selling just yet, I certainly wouldn't recommend buying at this level.

Boeing were up 57.56% about a month ago, but have since fallen back to +28.44%.

This would normally be a great return after five weeks but now feels slightly disappointing!

The second quarter just ended was a record for the spreadsheet (+14.3%), with the markets bouncing back strongly from their March slump.
The S&P 500 is down just 1.6% for the year, although the FTSE is struggling again as I warned in January 2018:
In more traditional financial markets, once again the main US benchmark index outperformed the UK's FTSE100. Only 4 times in the last 24 years has the FTSE prevailed, and the disaster that is Brexit means the US and Overseas markets are where most of my investments will again be in 2018.
I used to enjoy reading Wayward Lad's Pension Builder blog, but updates these days are few and far between with the last update back in February. A lot has happened since then, but overall his portfolio doesn't look to be in terrible shape.  

No Divas

The NHL continues to move towards a resumption of play with the two cities chosen almost certain to be Toronto (Eastern Conferences) and Edmonton (Western Conference).

Training camps originally scheduled for this Friday (July 10th) have been delayed to next week and will be held in the home city of each of the 24 participating teams.

From ESPN:

Teams are then expected to travel to the two hub cities on July 25 or July 26. Games are expected to begin Aug. 1, and if the tournament goes as planned, we should be awarding the Stanley Cup in early October. This is all still fluid, but we're getting to the point where the NHL needs to put firm dates on the calendar.
Interesting, but perhaps not surprising given the COVID-19 situation in the US, that the two cities likely selected are both in Canada, with Las Vegas dropped as the hub city for the Western Conference. The ESPN article has an amusing exchange between the writer (Emily Kaplan) and "a prominent Western Conference player":

Kaplan: Edmonton isn't exactly Las Vegas; do you think that will be a factor in some guys not wanting to play?

Player: The location of the hub hasn't been a consideration for any of the guys I talked to. If we went to Vegas, it's not like guys were really expecting to be able to go play cards at the Cosmo, or whatever. The only reasons guys are going to opt out is for health, personal or family reasons.

Kaplan: At the end of our conversation, he added: "Hockey guys just aren't divas like that."

In baseball, the long awaited schedule has finally been released by MLB and it looks like 40 games are against Divisional rivals with the other 20 against opponents from the other league although not 4 games against each. 

For example, the Los Angeles Dodgers play their National League West opponents (San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies) ten times each, and American League West opponents Houston Astros (4 times), Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (6), Seattle Mariners (4), Texas Rangers (3) and Oakland Athletics (3) for the 60 game season.

The season is scheduled to open on Thursday 23rd July with games between the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees followed by the Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants.

All being well of course. 

The opening lines are already up for the Nationals v Yankees game with the total runs set at 7, significantly lower than the average total tine of 9 runs last season but reflective of the two starting pitchers status as 'aces'. At home in the Regular Season last year, the total was set at 7.8 when Scherzer was starting.   

Monday, 6 July 2020

Le Draw in Ligue.2

While there have been few Draws in the EPL since the hiatus, we did find two more winners this weekend in the "Close" and "Toss-Up" categories, although the official 2.95 for Burnley v Sheffield United was the shortest Draw price of the season.

Above are results since the return, and below overall for the season to date:
The Total line is for all seasons from 2000-01. It's also good to see that Pinnacle's over-round since the break has dropped slightly to 102.6% and note that the results above are adjusted to a 103% over-round and as a consequence are slightly worse than would be achieved in practice.

I also finished off the numbers for Ligue.2 this season, and they are presented below:

The problem with this league is that the average Draw price is so low. Overall the average price is 3.29, but in Close and Toss-Up matches it is just 3.05.

In the EPL since 2012, the respective averages are 4.28 and 3.34. 

While the percentage of matches ending in a Draw is consistently higher in Ligue.2 versus the EPL (see below for 2012-20) this is understood by the market and the prices offer little value.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

NBA Restart Totals

The regular season is anticipated to begin on July 23-24. MLB has submitted a proposed 60-game schedule to the MLBPA to review. It has not yet been finalized.
I still have my doubts that the MLB season will take place, with the schedule still not confirmed, the clock ticking, players test positive for COVID-19 and at least two star players opting to skip the season for health (coronavirus) reasons.

The message at the top of this post has been unchanged for over a week now, and the Los Angeles Dodgers' star pitcher David Price and Atlanta Braves' Felix Hernandez announced yesterday that they would sit out.

It must be nice to be able to forgo an $11.9m salary for 60 games! Maybe I'm overthinking this, but if more players test positive (for COVID-19, not PEDs as has been the traditional meaning) and / or more leading players choose not to play, the season may well not happen. I hope I'm wrong.

The NBA is moving forward with its plans to resume play as I mentioned in this post last month.
All 2019-20 NBA Restart games are played across three venues at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida and will begin on July 30. Based on a competitive format approved by the NBA Board of Governors and the NBPA, 22 teams will return to play during the 2019-20 NBA season. The 22 teams consist of the 16 teams (eight per conference) in current playoff positions and the six teams that are currently six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences.
Early lines are open for the next games, although each team will have three warm-up games prior to the season resuming.

For anyone using "days rest" as a parameter, your models are going to be a little odd with values in the 140s rather then the usual low single digits, and of course the Home / away designation is purely for administrative reasons. It will be another opportunity to look at the impact to a sport of no crowd.

The sportsbooks appear to be expecting a decline in the total points. Looking at the first few games and comparing them with earlier totals, I see the following:

Utah Jazz v New Orleans Pelicans : Jazz were favourites in all three previous match-ups this season, but are 'dogs currently. Previous totals were all higher than the 219.5, with all three games going Over.

Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers : Average total was set at 224 in the first three match-ups, down to 218.5. All three went Under. 

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets : Only two previous match-ups with the total set at the average of those two.

Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers : Total set 12 points lower than the one previous match-up.

Phoenix Suns v Washington Wizards : Total set 10 points lower than the one previous match-up.

Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks : Total set 7.5 points lower than the average for the two previous match-ups.

With no fans, and in the NBA fans are close to the court and probably affect players more than perhaps other sports, these games may have the feel of Summer League games, which are generally lower scoring but the quality of the players is generally poorer too. I suspect the books are correct in lowering the totals, but have they lowered them enough. I suspect maybe not. 

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Good For Stanley, I Presume?

Still no definitive date on schedules or when MLB might be back, but pre-season training camps have begun and confirmation today that the annual mid-season All-Star game will not be played but the Los Angeles Dodgers will host instead in 2022.

No fewer than 31 players have tested positive for COVID-19 in Major League Baseball's first round of testing.

Two players were named, one from the San Diego Padres, and another from the Cleveland Indians who may well have a new name if and when the season re-starts.

The Washington Redskins NFL team also look almost certain to change their name. Such changes have long been discussed, but have never come to anything, but as the New York Times put it:

But in the last month, the ground underneath their feet has shifted. American society is undergoing a wide uprising over police brutality and systemic racism that flared after the killing of George Floyd in police custody, a widespread movement that has led to a reconsideration of statues, flags, symbols and mascots considered to be racist or celebrating racist history.
There have been previous incarnations of the Cleveland Indians, though in the NFL. Teams formed in 1921 and 1931 both folded, and the Akron Indians changed their name to Akron Pros before switching back in 1926 and folding in 1927.

Other high profile teams who may be making changes include the Atlanta Braves (MLB), Kansas City Chiefs (NFL), Chicago Blackhawks (NHL), and Edmonton Eskimos (CFL).  

The Hawks in Atlanta's NBA team name was originally Blackhawks, and the Golden State Warriors (NBA) dropped Indian imagery when they move to Oakland, so they should be good to continue.

The Florida State Seminoles and Utah Utes are a couple of football playing college teams who may be looking at a change of mascot, but the San Diego State Aztecs might just be spared:
The NCAA did not cite San Diego State University, San Diego, California as "hostile and abusive" due to the Aztec people having no modern representatives. However the Aztec Warrior mascot, whose performance including human sacrifice, has drawn criticism.
Fortunately English football doesn't seem to have any offensive names, barring your club's rivals possibly. Accrington's Stanley comes not from the colonialist Sir Henry (famous for "Dr Livingstone, I presume?" line), but more mundanely from the town's Stanley Street. Rugby does have its Exeter Chiefs though. 

As Cheltenham Town found out in the League Two play-offs, an away win in the first leg doesn't guarantee progressing, especially in the strange new world of empty stadiums, but it was a good day for Away teams yesterday in the League One play-offs. 

None of the play-offs to date have had any team at odds-on (Odds Portal) with the shortest priced Home team being Fleetwood Town at 2.05 who promptly lost 1-4.

At the time of this last update, blindly backing the Draw in the EPL was borderline profitable, but the current losing run is 16, which happens. 

Here are the EPL Draw numbers by season, including the over-round which is slowly inching back up. Note that so that results are consistent, and we can compare 2000-2012 with the Pinnacle era, the over-rounds has been adjusted to 103%.