BY DAN AND HERMAN
The Canberra Raiders are the unluckiest team in Rugby League.
Anyone that has paid attention to this season would undoubtedly be aware of that fact. Six of their losses have been by a try or less. They’ve lost three games in golden point. One of those the ball hit the underside of the cross-bar, bounced miserably in the end goal and somehow a second-rower was the first person there. They lost another to a late field goal. They’ve even lost to the Knights, and that wasn’t even one of the hardest losses to take (seriously – they were just outplayed that day). We’ve chronicled each flipping loss on this illustrious website, finding new and innovative ways to say ‘gosh, that is depressing’.
We’ve been here before – believe it or not, the 2015 Raiders were similarly unlucky. Like we used to assess the Raiders luck in 2015, we’ve mangled utilised a method of assessing expected wins from points scored developed by Bill James, the big daddy of sabermetrics, for baseball and later in NFL by a bunch of people, notably Bill Barnwell of ESPN.
This method is called Pythagorean Expectation theory. It basically assess how many points you’ve scored, and how many you’ve let in, and how many wins that should theoretically result in.
It’s not complicated and it’s not foolproof at the best of times, not in the least when you strip it out of its original context and apply it to a game it was never meant to be applied to. Then take into account we’ve used a whole bunch of scientifically dubious ways to shoe-horn it into a rugby league context and frankly this is more scientifically questionable than your mate who keeps sharing that anti-vaccination hogwash on your preferred social media platform.
But it’s bye week for the Raiders. Let us have our fun.
Below you can see the ladder as it looked before round 15, with each teams number of wins. The expected wins is what our formula calculated. A positive metric in the ‘difference’ column means you won more games than you should have, a negative the opposite.
As you can see the Raiders have a ‘league leading’ difference of -2.3, meaning they should have won 8.3 games this season. All things being equal the Raiders should be sitting in sixth position instead of outside the finals.
Ladder – Actual V Expected
|Actual wins||Expected wins||Difference||Expected position|
You might also be tempted to suggest that maybe the series of narrow losses was the result of a more complex range of factors, including under-performing halves, lack of forward depth and Josh Hodgson being merely mortal this season. But do you have numbers? You do not.
Other notable changes are that the Eels should join the Raiders in the finals, and the Cowboys and Panthers should be sitting outside. The Storm and the Bulldogs have outperformed their expected wins, so before you say ‘good sides win the games they’re not meant to’ think of Josh Reynolds pretending to be a capable half and jog on. The Knights should be on 3 wins, the Tigers on two, and to me that feels about right.
But mostly just revel in the fact that the might Green Machine are clearly going to start performing more in line with their statistics, just like they did in 2015.
 To be clear we have actually suggested this a lot. These numbers are fun and reflective of a side under-performing its capability. I mean if that doesn’t describe the Raiders what does?