Analytics are becoming more prevalent in Ultimate. Offenses are broken down in unique ways, and the MLU Fantasy League is the first of its kind to measure statistics beyond goals, assists, and D’s. While Ultimate is starting to catch up in the analytics department, it still trails badly in prediction models. In Baseball there’s Baseball Prospectus and Accuscore, and in the NBA there’s the Hollinger Playoff Odds. Ultimate lags behind. Sure we love our power rankings, but too often those power rankings are nothing more than a snapshot in time, rather than looking at the season as a whole. What Ultimate needs is a simulation prediction model akin to the Hollinger Playoff Odds.
Enter the Jesson Playoff Odds. Loosely based on the Hollinger model, this model incorporates home away splits, back-to-back games, remaining schedule strength, head to head results, and point differential as well. Unlike the Hollinger Playoff Odds, the Jesson Playoff Odds take injuries into effect. Seth Wiggins injury? This model accounts for that. The Dogfish missing half their roster for their loss to the Stags? The model accounts for that too. One downside to this model is that there is no equation, no computer simulations took place, the percentages and projected standings provided are based purely on conjecture. But very thoroughly researched conjecture.
The Jesson playoff odds show the current standings, projected standings, chances of a team making the playoffs, finishing first in their conference, making the finals, and winning the championship. Anything with less than a half percent chance of happening was rounded down to 0%.
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Looking at the odds, it’s clear that nothing is clear in the race for second in the Eastern Conference. It’s the only unsettled playoff spot left. Though the Spinners are mired in a five game losing streak, I look at their remaining schedule with some optimism. Other than their road game against Boston, the Spinners have home games against the Rumble and Current. Yes, the Spinners are on a losing streak and they haven’t won at home yet, but I don’t put too much weight in these factors. I’m expecting some progression toward the mean for Philadelphia. Momentum hasn’t mattered much in the Eastern Conference so far, so there’s little reason to think it will start now. At various points in the season, both the Current and Rumble were written off, only to come back from the dead. With the Current and Rumble likely to split their two remaining games against each other, the Spinners will have a good chance to jump back into second. I like the Current over the Rumble, largely because of the Current’s close 19-20 loss to the Whitecaps from Week 2. After their 2-0 road trip this weekend I do expect the Whitecaps to finish undefeated, though I’d say there’s only a 51% chance of it happening. If they win this weekend in DC, that number will increase to 72%.
The Stags or Nighthawks could still technically make the playoffs in the West, but the chances of it actually happening are beyond remote. Either team would need to win out and have either the Rainmakers or Dogfish lose their remaining games. Nothing has happened this season to suggest that’s a possibility, so their playoff odds are at 0%. While the Rainmakers currently lead the Dogfish in the standings, the Dogfish are still favored to finish first by virtue of their two remaining games against Seattle, and their victory over them in Week 3. Due to the less pressing, more random nature of late regular season games, there’s still a decent chance the Rainmakers finish first.
For the playoffs, there’s not much reason to see the Eastern Conference Finals as little more than a formality, with the Whitecaps winning 90% of the time. In the West I view the Dogfish as the heavy favorite, again partly due to their head to head win against Seattle, in which San Francisco was missing many of its starters.
And though the Whitecaps are more likely to win the championship than any other team, that doesn’t make them the favorites in the finals. They actually win less than half the time against the Dogfish, and only half the time against the Rainmakers. With more data these percentages would gain accuracy and have a smaller margin of error. Right now it is possible that too much weight is being placed on the only Rainmakers-Dogfish game that has taken place.
Of course nothing is set in stone. Though the Jesson Playoff Odds have correctly predicted every previous MLU season, it is possible that this could be the one time they are proven wrong.