Expected Points Differences: League Two

Mike Holden by Mike Holden / 04 October 2016, 15:58

As we venture into the international break this is the perfect opportunity to bring you the first of four Expected Points Differences articles from Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike), starting with League Two.

(For a full description of the Expected Points Differences concept check out the information beneath the graphic below)

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League Two claimed its first two managerial scalps last week and the accompanying table shows why Leyton Orient and Newport were so tempted to pull the trigger. Neither Andy Hessenthaler nor Warren Feeney had achieved a great deal at their respective clubs prior to this season, so neither was really in a position to weather a stormy start.

Indeed, Orient fans had their reservations about Hessenthaler to begin with. The 51-year-old had two seasons to secure promotion at Gillingham previously, with a good budget, but twice failed to even reach the play-offs. The O’s are now 17th and limp home defeats to Newport, Mansfield and Yeovil - all bottom-half clubs - did virtually all of the damage.

Feeney made a promising start at Rodney Parade, building on solid foundations laid down by John Sheridan. The Ulsterman picked up 20 points from his first 11 matches in charge to secure EFL survival but finished the campaign 11 matches without a win. Needless to say, one win in ten attempts at the start of this season was never going to be enough.

Only two managers have worse records up to this point but Paul Tisdale and Gary Johnson presumably have enough credit in the bank to ride out poor starts. In Tisdale’s case, though, that's likely to be tested in the coming weeks by rising discontent among supporters, a faction of whom are planning protests this weekend in the wake of five straight home defeats.

Tisdale is currently the longest-serving manager in the EFL and remains hugely appreciated by the Exeter board, not least for the money he has brought through the club coffers through the sale of Matt Grimes in January 2015 and an FA Cup third-round replay against Liverpool last season. The Grecians hierarchy will have faith in his ability to turn the tide.

Likewise, Johnson should be able to count on plenty of goodwill after guiding Cheltenham to the National Premier League title last term. When you look closely at Cheltenham’s results, you realise it’s the draws (six in 11 matches) that have been costly. There’s plenty of room for optimism - the Robins have already played six of the current top eight.

As it stands, Paul Cook is arguably the manager under most pressure. It’s no secret that Portsmouth have the biggest budget in the division and though missing out via the play-offs was considered just about tolerable in his first year, Pompey were widely expected to take the division by storm this term. With three defeats in the last four, that clearly isn’t happening.

Derek Adams is blazing a trail at the top of the table with Plymouth five points clear at the top of the table and almost nine points superior to market expectations. Meanwhile, Dermot Drummy (Crawley) and Jim Bentley (Morecambe) are going great guns for the underdogs. The Red Devils have landed big prices against Luton and Blackpool, the Shrimps likewise against Portsmouth and Blackpool.

League Two Expected Points Differences

Expected Points Difference - What is it?

Expected Points is a way of converting bookmakers’ match prices into predicted outcomes by turning percentage probabilities into points values. It’s a helpful method of measuring performance versus expectations because it puts a cap on how much samples of data can be skewed by outliers, such as a freak 16/1 winner that subsequently needs 16 poor results to be cancelled out.

Example: if Team A is deemed to have a 52 per cent chance of winning before a match and the draw is a 28 per cent chance, their Expected Points value is 1.84 (0.52 x 3, plus 0.28). Likewise, if Team B has a 20 per cent chance of winning, their Expected Points value is 0.88 (0.20 x 3, plus 0.28). 

If the match then finishes a draw, the result is worth -0.84 points to Team A and +0.12 points to Team B. This can be an excellent way of measuring pressure on managers because bookmakers’ prices tend to be a reliable gage of what they should be achieving. Consistently, those towards the bottom of the table tend to be the ones out of a job first - or next! 

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