Thursday, March 23, 2017

Melog Rankings: Post-Indian Wells 2017

So, this is later than I thought it would be. Through a combination of happenstance and procrastination, I failed to run fully updated rankings before Indian Wells started - and I would have put them up after the tournament began, except that the draw promised extensive madness and then delivered in spades, and it seemed like a good idea to let that play out.

Everyone knows the big story: Roger Federer sat out the last six months of 2016, then came back to start this year and has won the two biggest events played to date. Which is marvelous theater, of course, but it's accompanied by so many other things that I'm reluctant to discuss them in too much detail before we get to the numbers. So let's do that.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Melog Rankings: Post-Australian Open 2017

At the end of last year, tennis appeared to be well on its way out of the Big Four era. Yes, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic were still the top two players in the world (and with a wide gap between them and everyone else), but their counterparts in the group, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, had both struggled with various injuries throughout the year as age took its inevitable toll on them.

One month later, two of the members of the Big Four absorbed early, shocking upsets in Melbourne, while the other two faced off in the final of the season's first Grand Slam, with the winner overcoming a long-standing, well-known head-to-head disadvantage. If that description had been provided to anyone before the event began, it would have been expected that Murray had finally bested Djokovic and claimed his first Australian Open crown.

Instead, it was Federer and Nadal facing off in their first Grand Slam final in almost six years - a remarkable match that more than lived up to the hype (and easily justified my decision to wake up at 2:30 AM to watch it live). Federer's victory, rallying from a break deficit in the fifth set, gives him an 18th Grand Slam title. We'll cover the historical ramifications of said title when we update Grand Slam Scores in a later post, but for now, how does this affect his standing in the shorter-view Melog ratings?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Melog Rankings: Post-Finals 2016

One of the things I like most about tennis is the way it rewards long-haul performance. So many other sports seem to be all about the playoffs; you can win 116 games in a baseball season (like the 2001 Mariners), or 73 games in a basketball season (like last year's Warriors), and still have people scoff at you if you get upended in a short playoff series (or, like the 18-1 2007 Patriots, one game of football).

Tennis is different. While it has its own version of the playoffs, taking the top 8 players of the year and matching them up with each other in the World Tour Finals, it does not automatically designate the winner of that event to be the champion of the year. Instead, the World Number One is the player who performed best through the grind of the ten-month tennis season.

That designation is often secured very early - in 2015, for instance, Novak Djokovic clinched the top spot by winning the US Open in early September. Through the first half of the 2016 season, it looked like we'd have another blowout, as Djokovic won the first two Slams of the year, and three of the first five Masters. After he wrapped up the French Open title (completing the career Slam, and making him the first player in nearly 50 years to hold all four Slams at once), his lead in the 2016 points race was over 3000.

And after that... well, after that, Andy Murray had the run of his life, winning seven titles from nine events stretching from Queen's Club to Paris. Djokovic won only one title in that span, and entering the World Finals, Murray held the #1 spot by a margin of just over 400 points - a gap that could easily be closed using the points available in the Finals.

The event played out perfectly, as Djokovic and Murray both swept their round robin groups and won their semifinal matches, bringing up a first in tennis history: the last match of the Tour Finals would result in the year-end #1 ranking being awarded to the winner, whichever player that was.

Murray won the match, and the title, and the year-end #1 ranking. And given how the Melog ratings have looked during the last couple of updates, the top of the upcoming table should come as little surprise...

Thursday, November 10, 2016

2016 MLB Postseason: The statistical view


It's been just over a week and it still hasn't fully sunk in. But I'll try to cut through the haze of post-title bliss and be as rational as possible in breaking down what the numbers have to say about the highly memorable 2016 postseason.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Melog Rankings: Pre-Paris 2016

Here we go.

Andy Murray won the 500-point title in Vienna last week, further narrowing the gap between himself and Novak Djokovic. Novak still leads by nearly 2000 points in this week's ATP rankings, but there's a caveat to that: he's the defending champion at both the Paris Masters and the World Finals, and because of a quirk in the ATP rankings (the previous year's Finals are removed a week before the next year's take place, which is a week earlier than any other event), Murray could leapfrog him in the rankings as early as this week and grab #1 for the first time in his career.

There's action down the line as well, particularly from last week's other titlist, as Marin Cilic grabs the Basel crown and climbs into the ninth spot in the 2016-only rankings, which will determine entry into the World Finals. (The player occupying the #9 spot will qualify for the eight-man field because Rafael Nadal, who's in the top 8, has shut down for the year due to injury.)

And there's a strong argument to be made that neither of those things was the coolest event of the last fortnight. The week before last in Stockholm, Juan Martin del Potro secured his first title since January 2014, further cementing his comeback after years of health problems.

With all of that in the books, let's get to the numbers!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Melog Rankings: Post-Shanghai 2016

The Asian swing is usually one of Novak Djokovic's favorite parts of the tennis season. In particular, he has dominated the 500-point tournament in Beijing like nothing else, having never lost a match there. In 2015, he won both Beijing and the Shanghai Masters, providing yet another exclamation point on a season full of them.

This year? This year, Djokovic pulled out of Beijing with an injury, and lost in the semifinals in Shanghai. And that actually overstates his performance; there were so many early upsets in Shanghai that Djokovic didn't face an opponent in the top 40 until the semifinals, where he lost in straight sets to Roberto Bautista Agut. Meanwhile, both the Beijing and Shanghai titles were instead captured by Andy Murray. Murray, who entered the month over 2000 points behind Djokovic in ATP ranking points for 2016, returns to Europe trailing by just over 900, within relatively easy striking distance of the year-end number 1 spot.

And in the Melog ratings. the upheaval is even bigger.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Game of the Day (10/6/91)

On the last day of the 1991 baseball season, all four division titles were locked up, and there were no other playoff spots up for grabs because no other playoff spots existed.

So there wasn't much at stake in any of the games played on this particular date - except, of course, for professional pride. And in the case of Brewers 6, Red Sox 3, there were two starting pitchers looking to put exclamation points on excellent seasons - Milwaukee's Bill Wegman hoping to extend his career high total of 15 wins, and Boston's Roger Clemens trying to seal a third Cy Young award after having been robbed in the previous year's voting.