Introducing The Murphy Score (and a #AFL round 4 preview)

This is the third weekly wrap up/preview for the 2016 AFL by HPN.

Collingwood’s large problem

Before the season, Collingwood were nearly everyone’s breakout pick to make the eight this year, if not even more. Even we hopped on board based on entirely sound but observations from available data.

Spoiler alert: the Pies haven’t looked like a finals side yet. But why is this the case?

In short, Collingwood has a bigs issue. That’s not a typo, but it is a bad pun. Across the park Collingwood’s talls have been mediocre to disastrous. Collingwood is the only side in the league to be in the bottom four of each of three indicators of big man quality – marks per inside 50 entry (offensive and defensive) and hit out win rate.

2016 R3 AFL COLL TAll

The Pies have had only 7 of their 34 goals kicked by players taller than 192cms. They’ve trialled a few options so far this season, but none have really stuck so far. While it isn’t a fatal blow for their season just yet, if they can’t find a solution soon, it will be.

The Murphy Score

Like many AFL fans, our hearts sank on Sunday afternoon as HPN’s favourite neutral player Robert “Bob” “Bobert” Murphy went down in the last minute of the game against the Hawks. Without adding to the hyperbole, Murphy shows many of the greatest attributes of the game, has an acerbic wit and is one of the finest writers about the game to boot. We’re still waiting for an invitation to play Zoneball, but we fear that may never come.

One of the first proposed pieces for HPN was a metric to determine which player in the AFL is the most “Robert Murphy”. For about a month we worked the data, but the closest we could get Robert Murphy to being “Robert Murphy” was 3rd. Almost always, Brodie Smith was always more like Murphy than he was himself.

So, given the events of the week, we’ve had another crack at developing “The Murphy Score”, a measure to determine how much like Robert Murphy a player is. It’s close to a “defensive quarterback” rating (something else we have cooking for future weeks).

Murphy Score

The Murphy Score is a fuction of stability, creativity and trust. The statistics relied upon are rebound 50s, inside 50s, goal assists, uncontested disposals, bounces with heavy penalties for frees against and clangers. This was calculated on 2015 season statistics.

And the least Robert Murphy of players last season are:

Murphy Score Bottom

Hot Take of the Week

David King has a plan . A plan for Essendon to conduct a playing list firesale and then to rebuild with the acquired draft picks. He calls this a “once in a lifetime opportunity” as though clubs can’t theoretically embark on exactly this tanking rebuild path at any time, and as though St Kilda haven’t done exactly the same thing twice in 15 years. This is a bad take.

But also, King’s plan for Essendon to undertake a Philadelphia 76ers “process” hinges on some pretty unrealistic expectations of the proposed movements.

Mostly, we are skeptical that any banned player who departs Essendon as a free agent due to the doping sanctions will attract a compensation pick. The departure was triggered by Essendon malfeasance, and the AFLPA’s view is that these departures are driven by breaches of contract that render the players delisted free agents rather than restricted or unrestricted free agents. The idea that Cale Hooker would earn Essendon pick 2 as a reward for the impact of doping sanctions on onfield performance and on his contract seems a bit offensive.

The trade values proposed by King are a mixture of entirely reasonable and substantial overs. Trading Heppell for two top ten picks is actually not mad at all. This is essentially the Treloar trade which we noted was very well balanced  with Collingwood trading pick 7 and their 2016 first round pick. Heppell’s value is roughly on par with Treloar as a truly elite player still in his early to mid 20s – we rate him a bit higher due to his greater Brownlow vote count, but it’s much of a muchness. Heppell for just a pick 1 would be a fair swap, we feel.

Michael Hurley earning 5 and 25 is optimistic but the sort of thing which could potentially be squeezed out of a club. We’d value him around pick 6 alone, as an established and durable All-Australian player with a good six years of football ahead of him from next year.

However, the projection of four picks in the mid-20s for Myers, Howlett, Bellchambers and Hibberd, is optimistic. Three of these guys will be 27 or 28 in the years it’s proposed they be traded. Bellchambers has only managed 12 games per season in recent years, and Myers 13. That doesn’t suggest the sort of output clubs will want to swap such a high pick for. Hibberd and Howlett are probably more valuable with their more reliable past output, but even then, only Hibberd with his relative youth clearly shapes as a reasonably valuable commodity.

In summary, King’s proposal isn’t new, and is an option available to clubs at any time. Cashing in accrued talent for draft material in order to tank and rebuild from the bottom of the ladder is not a new idea. And it’s unlikely that Essendon will reap the bounty suggested here – two high picks for Heppell, one for Hurley, and a smattering of lower picks looks more realistic, especially if the AFL does do the logical thing and deem Hooker a delisted free agent.

Things to watch this week

  1. Can Carlton’s surprisingly not-terrible defence continue to be not-terrible?

Carlton was a disaster last year in nearly every part of the field last year, but especially in defence:

2015 AFL Carl Def

This year, they’re not nearly as bad (except for opposition talls getting marks inside 50):

2016 R3 AFL Carl Def

Brendan Bolton has several handy parts in defence, and a change of scheme since the Malthouse-era has seemed to re-vitalise the playing squad. The risk to this new found competence is opposition scouting, and facing more potent attacks. We can’t believe we’re writing this about Carlton, let’s hope they don’t suck as much going forward.

  1. Will certain teams continue their addiction to the handball?

Last season, Sydney were the biggest relative users of the ball by hand, managing to kick 1.141 times for every handball. But this year, a couple of teams have taken this to new extremes:
2016 R3 KHB ratio

Interesting here is that the new exponents of the handball are a mixture of teams that are flying and those that are struggling. We feel that kick to handball ratios reflect more about game style than club success, and the mixture of teams at each end of this table seems to bear that out.

  1. #ForeverDefeatedWatch

With the victory of St Kilda over Collingwood, three winless teams remain – Fremantle, Carlton and Brisbane. Fremantle play Carlton next week, so at most there will be two teams without a win after that. Brisbane play Fremantle in round 11 and Carlton in round 12, so those are the last possible times there can remain two winless teams.

There can, of course, be one winless team all season.

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