Going forward: Whitecaps on attack vs LA Galaxy

01/11/2012 § Leave a comment

Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie will be hoping to conjure up a master plan to bring about victory in Los Angeles

This Thursday will mark the Whitecaps’ first ever venture into the MLS playoffs and with it, representation as the first ever Canadian team to make this stage, following the continuing demise of Toronto FC back east. It’s a proud moment for honest head coach Martin Rennie in his inaugural season in Vancouver. The Scot has rejuvenated the team and brought about a defensive stability that has made the ‘Caps hard to beat and united the squad and fans as one.

For most, this would be the ideal scenario heading into their playoffs debut. But the Whitecaps could hardly have asked for a tougher draw. The Los Angeles Galaxy are the most high profile MLS club in the world and have really found their form in the latter stages of the season heading into this winner-takes-all match up at the Home Depot Center.

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Special Delivery: The FedEx Cup Explained

24/08/2012 § 1 Comment

Five summers ago, I was wrapping up some research with a professor at UBC looking at shot-making on the PGA Tour and which stats are the best indicators of success.  In order to carry out our study, we were in touch with the people behind the scenes of ShotLink data, and during one conversation were made privy to the revamping of the scoring system for the season ending playoff series, The FedEx Cup.

I remember having my suspicions.

The problem was what occurred the previous year in the inaugural PGA playoffs.  Tiger Woods sat atop the standings heading into the four-tournament series and actually opted to sit out the first event, The Barclays.  The points system for the playoffs allowed for little volatility, and in the end the final standings very closely reflected the regular season standings.

In other words, the LA Kings had no chance of winning the Stanley Cup, perhaps in part because their opponents in the first round decided to take the series off (interpret as you wish).

So, the think-tank at the Tour made the aforementioned alterations heading into 2008, allowing for players to rocket up the standings with a strong showing in the playoffs.  Unfortunately, things played out about as badly as anyone could have imagined.  Vijay Singh won the first two playoff events, The Barclays and the Deutche Bank, and in doing so amassed such a lead over second place that all he had to do was show up the next week at the BMW to lock up the FedEx title; he did so by shooting 76-75-75-73 and finishing 67th of 70 players.  That was all before the final event, the Tour Championship at East Lake, where there was in fact nothing to play for.

For you hockey fans: seriously, nothing to play for

It was as if the Phoenix Coyotes, with wins in their first two series, had locked up the Stanley Cup even after being bounced in 5 games by the Kings.  LA and New Jersey were playing for fun in the finals, before Shane Doan came out to accept the cup.  It was an anticlimax worse than every blackout drunk one-night stand of mine in undergrad.

Subsequent emails I sent to the head of statistics at the Tour were met with auto-replies that he had left on stress leave.  No surprise, really.  The FedEx Cup Playoffs was in trouble and needed some serious reworking.

What was achieved in advance of the 2009 season was a system that sought to balance season-long consistency with playoff performance, but which also assured some drama at the Tour Championship at East Lake.  The scoring system devised then has survived the past three years with relative success.  But a problem still exists.  Fans have no clue what’s going on, and each year, a breakdown of scenarios needs to be provided heading into the final event, and further into the final day.

This year

Seriously, a handbook?!

There’s nothing new this year.  Come a month from now, something akin to the link above will be concocted heading into the Tour Championship.  Such is endemic to any system that wishes to perform the balancing act it seeks.  What follows are the essentials you need to know as a casual golf fan.

1. Players compete in tournaments from the Hyundai Championship beginning in the first week of January to the Wyndham Championship last week for FedEx Cup points.

2. The top 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings over the period above advance to the playoffs.

3. Points are “reset” or better put “recalibrated” according to the standings heading into a four-tournament playoff consisting of the Barclays, Deutsche Bank, BMW, and Tour Championship.

4. The top 100 players advance to the Deutsche Bank, 70 to the BMW, and 30 to the Tour Championship

5. Points are again recalibrated before the Tour Championship.

6. Each player in the top 5 of the standings going into the Tour Championship has controls his own destiny.  A win at East Lake wins the FedEx Cup.

7. Every player advancing to the Tour Championship has at least some faint chance of winning the FedEx Cup.




The Barclays


Top 70 and ties

The Deutsche Bank


The BMW Championship


No Cut

The TOUR Championship


And so it begins.  I can only hope that this year provides the splash of drama that Bill Haas gave us last year.


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