Monday, April 14, 2014

The Portland Timbers' (Drawing) Problem + Alternate Table Realities

In 2013, Caleb Porter led a remarkable turnaround for the Portland Timbers, garnering coach of the year honors in the process.  The team only lost five times in 34 regular season games (now seven in 40 counting 2014).  Despite this enormous success, there is some vague discontent in the Rose City.  The reason?  Of the 33 games the Timbers have gotten a result from, the team has only 14 wins compared to 19 draws.  This is highly unusual.  Even if Portland drew an above average number of times (let's say 35%), you would expect the team to have 19 wins and only 14 draws from those 33 results.

A reason for optimism? In 2013 Portland did have the best goal differential in the league, and this has been proven to be among the better predictors for year over year performance (at least in the EPL, so not quite apples to apples).  Also, there are no indications that a high draw rate is repeatable from season to season.

All indications are that the abnormally high draw rate being experienced in Portland is not sustainable and will regress toward the league's average draw rate in due course.  Caleb Porter is still an excellent coach and team seems very likely to be in the hunt for the Western Conference crown.  

Alternate Table Realities

There was some discussion on twitter about MLS' high draw rate (38%) in the first month of the 2014 season.  Ravi Ramineni, of the Sounders, made an interesting comment.

I went ahead and looked at this alternate NHL-scoring style reality (forgetting the NHL overtime/shootout rules) for both MLS and the EPL.  As expected, the results didn't really move the needle all that much, though it would have delivered the 2013 Supporters Shield to Portland instead of New York.


  1. The odd part is how PTFC had the highest GD while half of their matches were draws.

    1. It is unusual and (I think) is a sign of just how unlucky they were