Monday, February 5, 2018

With fewer teams making Seattle area local playoffs, are the men's sub-flights balanced?

I wrote last week that a change in playoff format is going to result in 31% fewer teams making local playoffs in the 40 & over division in the Seattle area.  Specifically, where last year every sub-flight had the first and second place teams advance to playoffs, now, at most levels, just one second place team from all the sub-flights will advance.

This clearly puts a premium on the regular season.  In past years, a team could lose a match, perhaps even two, and still make it to local playoffs.  Now, that is less likely to be the case and there very well could be teams with just one loss that don't advance.

Those reading closely will note that there is a spot for at least one second place team to advance, so you might think that this will make things equitable and allow that really good team that got unlucky and had to face another really good team to advance anyway.  But is that really the case?

For that theory to be true, it requires that all the sub-flights be reasonably balanced so that every second place team have a reasonable chance of winning that coveted wildcard.  If they aren't balanced, one sub-flight could have three or four very good teams and beat up on each other resulting in a second place team with at least two losses, while a weaker flight could have a weak second place team lose their one important match but have a record that appears better than those in the tougher flight.

So, I went about checking on how balanced the flights are to see if teams will have an equal chance or if things are stacked in favor of some sub-flights.  To do this, I looked at the top-8 averages for each team using my ratings as of 1/1/18.  This is the best gauge of how strong a team could be known to be prior to the season starting.

Note of course that players can improve during the year, self-rated players aren't accounted for, and player availability and teams doling out equal playing time can result in teams with high top-8 averages not doing as well as expected.

For the below, I'm looking at just the men.  I wrote about the women's flights here.

The 2.5 men have just one flight so we'll skip them.

The 3.0 men have three flights and 28 teams.

  • Flight A has the top-3 teams and five of the top-7 so definitely appears to be the toughest.
  • Flight B on the other hand doesn't show up until T9 and then has three of the bottom 4.
  • Flight C fits in between but does have four of the top-12.
Certainly some disparity here, can flight A with all its strong teams get the wildcard?

The 3.5 men have four flights and 38 teams.
  • Flight A doesn't show up on the list until T11 and has three of the bottom 4 so appears to be the weakest flight.
  • Flight B has four of the top-10 but is otherwise spread out pretty evenly.
  • Flight C has five of the top-9 so appears quite strong.
  • Flight D has the top team, but then five between T11 and T17.
There are some real differences here too.

The 4.0 men have three flights and 30 teams.
  • Flight A is at the top with two of the top-3, five in the middle 8, then three of the bottom 5.
  • Flight B has three in the top-10, then fills all of the spots from 20-25.
  • Flight C is weighted towards the top with six of the top-13.
The flights are different but no one is really strong or weak.

The 4.5+ men have two flights and 16 teams, the flights alternating the top-7 spots.

Again, one flight shows a big disparity and another a noticeable one.  We'll see who takes advantage of it.