We’re suckers for a good stat here at On Top Of The Moon and when an article on Hurling People Now provided an introduction to the concept of ‘Strength of Schedule’ the run in to the Pro 12 playoffs seemed like an ideal opportunity to road test the concept.
In essence Strength of Schedule is intended to provide a comparison between teams who may face different opposition (ie not a straight home and away league where everyone plays everyone – so this would not really be relevant for a full Pro 12 season). OTOTM has already looked at a forecast final Pro 12 table – with this being based on results in previous seasons. Looking at the Strength of Schedule for the remaining fixtures allows the current campaign’s form to be recognised (particularly relevant when considering the fortunes of Connacht for example).
The actual calculation we’re going to use is to average the rate of points collected by each team (split home and away) that the 12 sides are still to face during the season’s vinegar strokes. The percentages for each side are (click for large version):
So, for example, with 34 points out of a possible 40 Leinster have gathered 85.0% of the available points at home and with 4 points from a maximum of 45 the Dragons have managed just 8.9% of the total possible points on their travels. If a side has to go to the RDS they’re probably not expecting much but hosting the Dragons would contribute to a relatively easier schedule.
Taking into account all the remaining fixtures leaves us with a Strength of Schedule calculation for each side along these lines (click for large version):
The 4 Welsh sides have the, comparatively speaking, ‘easiest’ run ins with the Irish provinces all facing schedules over the average points collected mark of 49.1% (not 50% as it reflects the fact that BPs are not picked up in every game). Key for the playoff contenders in Wales and Ireland are the number of in country derbies. Scarlets and to a lesser extent Ospreys will be looking to take advantage of the Blues and Dragons being out of the running. By contrast the 4 Irish sides are all still within striking distance of the post season and it seems certain that at least 1 and quite probably 2 of those clubs’ ambitions will founder during heated local contests.
Edinburgh have been ahead of Glasgow for much of the season but even with the Edinbuggers having one of the friendlier run ins it looks like the men from the West (and their 2 games in hand) are more likely to challenge for a playoff spot as they try to defend their crown from last year. The 2 Italian sides will not be involved after the regular season schedule is completed but with their own battle for Champions Cup qualification ongoing and a number of games to play against the top 8 any upset they can create could have a significant impact on who finishes in the top 4 and who misses out.
With some of the sides with points already on the board having the relatively more difficult run ins this is another indicator that the tail end of the Pro 12 season should provide plenty of drama and a close finish. Playoff levels of intensity are likely to start early as every game becomes vital for teams to ensure their season doesn’t end on the 7th of May.