Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bang for Your Buck: Calculating and Scoring AHL Schedule Diversity

(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
As I considered the position of being a season ticket holder for a California-based team and stared at the potential of playing the same four teams over and over again, it occurred to me that some teams are better than others in terms of schedule diversity.

Schedule diversity is just what it sounds like. How many teams do you play and how many times? In the AHL, one might argue that playing every team in the league isn't necessary or even advisable in order to attract casual fans. However, if you play the same four teams practically every game, that also gets a little bit blasé.

So what to do? If you know me, you know I'm all about data and counting what is countable. In this case, I made an algorithm to quantify schedule diversity.

In order to do this, I had to identify the most important factors to diversity and then I had to weight them based on how important they are to overall diversity.

(Note: If you aren't interested in the math, skip to the table and scope out that last column.)

Teams played in your own conference
This one is pretty straight-forward. How many teams did you play in your own conference? There is no reason why this shouldn't be max score of 14 for every team in the league. Surprisingly, this does not follow for all teams. Cross division play, especially out West, is no guarantee, and it is surprising which team scores lowest in this category.

Because of how important this is, it makes up 60% of the score.

Teams played out of conference
I have honestly gone back and forth on this one in the past six years. At this point, I'm in a take what you can get state for Texas, at least. However, as was the case last year, if you are Syracuse and you don't play Utica, which you literally drive past to play Albany many times per year, that should count against you. With the Eastern teams more well defined and the difficulty of determining a geographical element to the equation rather high, I opted to exclude that little tidbit.

The OOC score is 10% of the final score. If you don't play any out of conference teams, you get a zero. If you play just one, you get 8.6%. Each additional team after that is another 0.1%. I feel that's a pretty realistic way to look at things, given how little interconference play there is overall.

Number of games against the same opponents
Things got a little screwy on the last metric, but stick with me. We want to add some sort of factor that penalizes teams that play the same four opponents 48 times in the season. Basically, what good is it to play all 14 teams in the conference if you play 10 of them 20 times and the other four the rest of the season?

To do this, I started with the "Idealized Team Diversity" score. This is easy. It's the number of games you play divided by your number of opponents. We round this up to the nearest even number (because you can't play odd games in the AHL) Texas has 76 games and 14 opponents this year, so their ITD is six.

Now we count the number of teams that the team plays six or fewer times and divide that by the total number of teams they play. This gives us a measure of how many teams they play a reasonable number of times and how many they might be over-scheduling due to rivalries or geography.

I gave this a 30% weight, because we've all been to too many Texas Stars v. San Antonio Rampage games.

The Equation Assembled

The 2015-16 Results



Some interesting notes:
  • Huzzah for the Amerks, who are going to play all 14 teams in their conference and tack on two out of conference teams for good measure. They top the rankings with a 0.893 rating.
  • San Antonio and Texas are just behind them, and I swear not by design. Things just work out that both teams play everyone in their conference and have a good mix of those teams.
  • Being centrally located is clearly good for Hershey, WBS and Lehigh Valley out east. Those PA teams are near the top of the rankings because they hit all the teams in their conference and have a good spread among them.
  • What are you doing, Chicago? They aren't playing a single California team and they have only 9 teams on their schedule overall. That's the same as four of the five California teams. Ontario is the only team in the league playing fewer games than Chicago at eight. Predictably, the Reign do have the worst diversity.

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