Sunday, 29 March 2009

No Loss

After four days, the Second Test between New Zealand and India is headed for a draw. Using Runs/Wicket State data, the odds of either side losing are nil.

The fascination, for me, of cricket matches is the question of balance. There is balance between batsmen and bowlers both within the sides and as matched against the opponents. There are also points at which the match itself balances between winning and losing. In this specific case, the question that should haunt us all is whether New Zealand left it too late to declare. I think they did. When they were 415/5 they had nearly a 60 per cent chance of winning the match. They did, however, have a small chance of losing. When the Black Caps reached 605/7, that chance of losing had vanished. I'm not sure why they hung on for two more wickets after that, but those two fell so quickly I don't think they made much difference to the outcome.

But, think of it this way—India is one of the Test sides that is best equipped for batting itself back into a match. The New Zealand attack is nothing special. The balance there suggests that if you're playing the Test 'by the book', your first mission is to bat yourself into a position where you can't lose. The gamble you take is that your bowlers can draw on that reserve of will sometimes needed to shatter the opposition. The Black Caps came close, but I think having to bowl twice in a row took too much out of their attack.

So maybe the point of balance in this match came after India's first innings. A tired New Zealand attack was sent out against a top batting side to get ten more wickets. How realistic was that? Should the follow-on have been enforced? There's something for you to argue about.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

West Indies vs England Test Batting

In between posts on the Napier test I offer some of my Series Score data for the batsmen during recent Tests between England and the West Indies.

Strauss      21
Collingwood 18
Pietersen 10
Prior 8
Bopara 8
Ambrose 4
Cook 2
Sidebottom -6
Bell -6
Swan -6
Anderson -7
Panesar -10
Flintoff -12
Harmison -13
Shah -14
Broad -24

Seeing Bell at -6 and Shah at -14 tells you that England need to think again, as that Scottish song puts it. And one really wants a better performance that that from Pietersen. Frankly, I fear the worst for this England team this summer. They'll probably be able to exploit home advantage enough against the West Indies that they'll get revenge in the first series, but at the moment I see them getting massacred by Australia.

West Indies
Sarwan       47
Chanderpaul 7
Gaye 6
Ramdin 1
Nash -1
Baker -5
Marshall -5
Simmons -6
Taylor -9
DS Smith -10
Benn -13
RO Hinds -14
Edwards -22
Powell -22

It was Sarwan that won it on the batting front. Ramdin also deserves some credit for taking the pressure off Gayle and Chanderpaul. One might consider Nash disappointing, but a -1 is still moderately useful

Thinking strategically, West Indies really need another batsman, and probably two. Chanderpaul will not be around forever, and who is going to take his place? I suspect his career will end abruptly. One series he'll stink, then he'll stink again, but not having an alternative they'll be tempted to keep putting him in so he'll stink some more, putting an ugly punctuation mark on a wonderful career.

Friday, 27 March 2009

New Zealand in Charge!

Now's the time to deploy that headline. I'm not too fond of today's effort, either, about a relentless New Zealand. Rather, I wonder about this curious fact: when Franklin was out the Black Caps' chances of winning were actually higher than at the end of the innings.

New Zealand certainly were the most 'sabermetric' of sides, it seemed back when I started analysing cricket in this way. They surely know, if any side does, that there is a chance of diminishing returns if one keeps batting for runs in the first innings. Yet they have done exactly this in a series where they are one match down. As things turned out, their chances of winning are exactly 50/50 by my reckoning. What they have successfully done is put any chance of losing out of the picture.

The Indians are, to my mind, still the same group that was once (and may still be) the best batting side in the world. You have to respect that, but I wonder if New Zealand took it too far. It's a question of how much confidence they have in their attack, I suspect.

At this stage, though, they are looking smarter than me.

India opened with a .322 success rate, against a New Zealand one of .500.
The first wicket (Gambhir-Sehwag) advanced them to .430 for a gain of .108
The second wicket (Gambhir-Dravid) regressed them to .314 for a -.116.
The third wicket (Dravid-Sharma) regressed them .067 for a -.247.

CLARIFICATION: A better writer would have made it more clear that the Success Rate reflects the chance to win the match, and thus excludes draws. So the Black caps had a 50 per cent chance of winning and a 50 per cent chance of losing when I wrote the above, but no chance of losing. [z0345]

Thursday, 26 March 2009

New Zealand in Charge?

That's what the headline on CricInfo's home page says—that New Zealand are in charge of the Second Test against India. Well, as my little series about Runs/Wicket States showed, it's possible to get some sort of measure of that.

The question as I left was whether we can really use a team's first innings to draw much of a conclusion about the match state. I'm not sure they are entirely useful even when a team might find itself at 23/3. At this stage there are just too many variables of what could happen—like a fourth-wicket partnership of 271!

However, I'd say that after the first wicket New Zealand's chance of success was .278, after the second it stood at .074. The third wicket wasn't so catastrophic, taking the success chance down to .061. The key wicket to fall, from India's point of view, was the second. That one put them in control, and they merely needed to keep up the pressure by taking wickets for an average of around 25 runs apiece.

They didn't. Ryder and Taylor increased New Zealand's chances of winning to .434. That's 37 per cent, in case you hadn't worked that out. Wow! D--n good stuff.

However, are New Zealand in charge? I don't think so, not yet at least. 'Taylor and Ryder save sinking ship' is how I would have put it. They might, however, fancy their chances. This match didn't happen all that long ago, and they are already ahead of the fourth-wicket score.

CORRECTION (27 Mar 2009): I did not apply the correct formula for the success rate. The fall of the Black Caps' first wicket took their success chances down from .331 (the percentage of all Test matches turning into wins for the opening batting side before a single ball is bowled) to .321. The second wicket took the chance down to .215, and the third down to a round .100. Taylor and Ryder did still add 37 per cent, though, taking the rate up to .473.

My figures for the Cape Town test were also a bit out, but as they were for illustrative purposes, I'll not correct them at this time.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Runs/Wickets State 3

As stated in the last post, the problem with looking at a single innings in isolation is that it does not take into account the match situation. Mitchell Johnson may have been improving Australia's chances of winning the match, but did they have much chance to begin with? For that, we need to look briefly at South Africa's second innings.

When the ninth wicket fell, the chances of South Africa winning, based on previous results were about.667—that is, two-thirds of all matches where the team batting in the second innings stood at 637/9 ended up with that team winning. However, there had been no matches that had seen the second innings finish on 651. Thus, at that point, we go with the available data, and wait on the outcome.

When the fifth Australian wicket fell, their chances of winning were .288-.667=-.379. When the tenth Australian wicket fell, we learned that the 422 score in the second innings results in defeat 2 out of 3 times. Australia's chances of winning were .333. South Africa's chances of winning on 651 go up to 1.000. They are the only team to reach that score at the end of the second innings of a match. However, the net effect of Hilfenhaus losing his wicket took Australia from -.271 chance of success to -.667, or a swing of -.396. But it would be unfair to pin all that blame on him. We need to share it out among all eleven players. Cricket is a collective effort, Mitchell Johnson gets the same blame for falling short as Hilfenhaus. Everyone gets a reduction in their score of -.032. The table produced yesterday now looks like this:

Johnson +.109-.032=+.077
McDonald +.101-.032=+.069
McGain +.014-.032=-.018
Siddle -.007-.032=-.039
Hilfenhaus -.032

Just because Hilfenhaus' was the last wicket to fall doesn't mean he deserves all the blame. Siddle's wicket was actually more significant in leading to a defeat. McGain's performance goes from being a positive to a negative.

One could argue that we need to adjust South Africa's score for Australia's first innings. I'm not sure. We'll take a look at that another time.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Runs/Wickets State 2

So, now the match is finished, let's take another look at how we can use the Runs/Wickets State to measure a player's contribution.

When Mitchel Johnson came in, the runs/wickets state was 218/6. Teams at 218/6 had gone on to win .294 of their Test matches.

Johnson and McDonald took the score to 381/7. Teams at 381/7 went on to win .389 of their Test matches. Thus, Johnson and McDonald in this wicket managed to increase Australia's chances of victory by .095.

Siddle was out next ball, but at 381/8 we're looking at .382 wins, so Johnson's score stays the same but Siddle gets a -.007. (We'll punish the player whose wicket falls with any negative, and share the credit for any positive.)

Johnson and McGain put on 7 runs, so at 388/9 we're looking at .396 wins. Johnson's score goes up to .109, McGain gets credit for .014.

Johnson and Hilfenhaus take the score to 422. But defeat in this match transforms a score of 422 in the third innings of the match from a .500 win to a .333 win. That's a big -.063 for Hilfenhaus? Or is it a plus .104 for both?

Ah, you see, you can't just use a single innings' score. You have to remember that in the third innings of a match a team is chasing a pre-existing state.

Anyway, for the purpose of this post, let's call the scores as follows:

Johnson +.109
McDonald +.101
McGain +.014
Siddle -.007
Hilfenhaus -.063

Runs/Wickets State

Following on from yesterday's post, about Base/Out States in baseball, I thought I'd take a snapshot of the current Test Match, which will perhaps explain more plainly the direction that I'm going in.

When I checked the South Africa v Australia score, at tea Australia were 231/6. Teams at 231/6 in the third innings of the match have a cumulative record of 243 wins, 330 losses and 235 draws. That's a success rate of .301, which tells you that, even not knowing South Africa scored 651 runs, that Australia weren't in good shape to win the match.

At 365/6, the current score, the success rate is .383, still not good, but better, an improvement of .082. Thus, we can calculate that this current stand by McDonald and Johnson has increased the Australian chances of success.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Base/Out Musings

Thinking about the way sabermetrics analyses baseball, and trying to translate that to cricket, is the main area where not enough work has been done. There's a tendency, even on my part, to focus on trying to keep too close to the baseball model, and not enough on adapting the underlying principles to the very different game of cricket. The first big breakthrough I made was in recognizing that cricket is a mirror image, so some things need to be reversed. Thus, wickets in cricket are more analytically useful than runs, whereas in baseball runs are of more use than outs.

Looking at the idea of the base/out state in an inning has brought me to the realization that in order to estimate win expectancy, a cricket sabermetrics would do better to look to Duckworth-Lewis, and think about resources in a Test match. This opens up some fascinating potential in the analysis of bowling, but also some interesting perspectives on batting. I'm working on a way to deploy this so that we can follow a Test match via this blog and see if practice leads to understanding.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Ladder Alert!

Hmm, while I've been away, the ladder's taken on a whole new look. (Which led me to the discovery that the ladder hadn't been imported from the original Blogger site.)

Anyway, after the baseball came a ton of work, so I had to shelve this blog for a bit. I still have a ton of work but if I manage my time better perhaps I can post at least once a week until this ton is lifted off my shoulders.

What about those West Indies, eh? I don't think I've seen them this high since I started thinking sabermetrically about cricket back around 2001/2. And didn't I say that England could come a cropper there?

Yes, Australia back on top. Ho-hum. The sun rises in the east, too, you know. It just gets old after a while.

I'll try to do a post soon comparing my test batting projections in that series against what really happened.