Tim Lane is considered by many to be an elite sports commentator. And he is not at all afraid of bringing some quantitative insights to his analysis of the great game of AFL. Indeed, some claim he is one of the inspiriation for Stan the Statistician. Back in July 2005, he took it upon himself to add some quantitative meat to the laments of Victorian fans that too many foreign clubs were finishing too high up the ladder. The rather remarkable article is HERE.
He decided to measure the success of m=6 foreign clubs by the total of their rankings. He was using the Wilcoxon rank sum statistic to measure the difference between two populations. And he successfully calculated the correct null mean from N=16 teams as 51 (without generalising to the formula m(N+1)/2). He calls this “par value”. I wonder whether this wouldn’t be a good informal term to use for the null mean in teaching statistics generally.
And while he does not calibrate deviations from 51 using the Wilcoxon distribution he does at least talk about the issue of robustness – pointing out that the results from 2002 to 2005 were skewed by the anomalous performances of the Lions but also pointing out that the main patterns remain when this outlier is removed.
Ian Gordon who is the director of the Statistical Consulting Center at the University of Melbourne sent Lane a letter pointing out that his rank sum statistic was a standard statistical tool and that he had got the par value correct. Tim reportedly cops a bit of ribbing from his fellow commentators about his over-intellectualisation of the game. Apparently he was quite chuffed by Ian’s letter and let his colleagues know that his calculations had been endorsed by a properly qualified boffin.
On a different tack, Lane goes on to discuss why foreign clubs might dominate. I was particular interested in the following quote from “a Victorian based coaching assistant” who observes that
West Coast and Brisbane seem better than any team at putting hard flesh on young bodies.
I wonder what he is talking about folks!? They don’t take drugs over in the West do they? Many thanks to Ian Gordon to alerting me to this article.