Results Orientated Decisions


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Something that I see a lot, and possibly more often recently than usual, is results orientated thinking and decisions.  This takes place in many guises, but frequently (probably due to what I read) the most common areas where I see it are print/internet media, social media and gambling.

Almost always this thinking or decisions based on results are flawed, in extreme.  Some examples are easy to give:-

On Sunday, Andy Murray won Wimbledon, for the second time in his career.  This was no doubt a fabulous achievement for the Scotsman, who I rate highly enough to assert that he would have won more Slams if he wasn't in a golden era, with three rivals who are contending to be the best player of all time.  I helped contribute in a small way to Sean Ingle's article in the Guardian on Monday, which can be viewed here, discussing the fact that Murray's hold/break stats were comparable, if not better, than many Hall of Fame Players, and legends of the game, from around 20 years ago.  

However, the media were keen to jump on the Ivan Lendl bandwagon, saying that it was the influence of the Czech 'super-coach' which helped Murray to win this title.  In my opinion, this is absolute fantasy, and the ultimate in results orientated thinking.  The wisdom of Twitter, as expected, backed me up:-


74% of survey respondents felt that Sam Querrey - a rival player - assisted Murray more than Murray's own coach!  Querrey, if you are unaware, knocked out Murray's main rival, Novak Djokovic.  

The effect of Querrey's win was profound.  Instead of being an underdog to Djokovic in the tournament, and the final, Murray was a heavy favourite against Milos Raonic.  I ran some numbers and based on 2 year grass court data, and head to head records, Djokovic would have been a 1.62 favourite over Murray in the final based on my model, assuming equal fitness.  However, that data took into account Djokovic's defeat to Querrey, as well as evading his subsequent wins to get to the final, so it's reasonable to assume a ballpark figure of 1.50 Djokovic/3.00 Murray would be more accurate.

Murray actually started the final against Milos Raonic at 1.27.  Calculating the implied win percentage of this, we can see that the price implied he had a 78.74% chance of winning the final.  Compare this to the expected 3.00 price against Djokovic, where he'd have a 33.33% chance of success.  Sam Querrey boosted Murray's tournament winning chances by around 45% - a figure both Murray, and Lendl, could only dream of.

Will Murray's success improve Lendl's reputation?  Almost certainly.  When their relationship is over, will it help Lendl get another premium coaching job?  Almost certainly.  Is that justified?  Debatable.

Another good example is the differential in opinion between Roy Hodgson and Chris Coleman.

Hodgson resigned within minutes of England's defeat to Iceland in the second round of Euro 16.  The media, and social media, were both scathing.  However, let's think about how many people called England's poor tournament prior to the tournament actually starting.  I cannot think of many.  Micky Quinn, on TalkSport, who has plenty of holes in his knowledge, was one pundit who actually deserves some credit for constantly repeating his lack of faith in Hodgson.  Criticism of Hodgson and the England team was the ultimate in after-timing.

I read a post on Twitter which stated that England really need to find a manager equipped to virtually guarantee them a quarter-final position, and from then it's luck.  I'd totally agree with that.  Two decent sides in the latter stages of a knockout event won't be that far away from evens apiece to qualify and one match doesn't determine which team is better than the other.  Maybe if the match was played 100 times...

Flip this criticism of Hodgson over to the Welsh boss, Coleman.  Benefitting from one world class player (Bale) and one very good player (Ramsey), Wales got to the semi-finals, topping England's mediocre group before edging past the might of Northern Ireland and an admittedly excellent win against an injury depleted Belgium side.  However, except for Belgium, in how many matches did Wales actually play well in?  None.  Slovakia were all over them before Wales counter-attacked for the winner.  The other two wins were against a woeful side in Russia and a well organised but extremely limited Northern Ireland team.

Now Coleman has stated that the next World Cup will be his final campaign in charge of Wales.  I think he's eyeing up a big club job.  However, I think that his success is more down to team spirit with a couple of individuals as opposed to Coleman being some  managerial genius, like the media try and have us believe.  Twitter wasn't fooled:-



82% of replies stated they would not be happy if Coleman replaced their current manager at the Premier League club they supported.  It is my belief that variance, and the assistance of several key players, has benefitted Coleman in the extreme.

There are quite a few people on Twitter who tweet about goal expectation post-match, and I believe this to be a much more effective measure than actual results, which can be extremely skewed in the short term.

This happens in Tennis quite a lot too.  How many times do you see a player making a random run in a 250 or Challenger and then suddenly they are priced up as being much better than their ability?  Very, very often.

Luca Vanni, who got to the final of Sao Paulo ATP in February 2015 when ranked 149 in the world is a good example.  Following this, markets priced him as being much better than his actual level, when in reality he only beat Thiemo de Bakker, Dusan Lajovic and Joao Souza - highest rank of this trio a lofty 77 in the world - to get to the final.  Now Vanni can barely buy a win.

Another example is Mijlan Zekic, who at 28 years of age reached his first final of his career at Challenger level in Todi last week.  After victory over Stefano Napolitano to take the title, Zekic was priced at 1.34 against David Perez Sanz for his first round match this week in Poznan.  So let's get this straight - Zekic won 5 matches in Todi, with a win best priced at 3.17.  He then flew (presumably) to Poland to play Perez Sanz.  Zekic, not used to playing finals, was almost certainly shattered, on a comedown from the title, and almost certain to not be a regular tournament winner on the Challenger Tour (he hadn't even made a semi-final this season).  His stats aren't that good and career turnarounds from mediocre 28 year olds happen pretty much never.  But the market saw fit to price him at 1.34 in a match where the week before a price of closer to even money would have been more appropriate.  Zekic retired after just six games.  This pricing from the bookmakers was completely result orientated from the previous week, and completely illogical.  I can remember a similar situation with Enrique Lopez-Perez earlier this year too.  There are plenty of examples.

In short, trying to work out why a result has occurred, as opposed to looking purely at the result, is a much more advantageous point of view to take - when you see a tennis score, check out why it occurred.  It could well be that the player that lost didn't deserve to, and a future position can be taken on this information.


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