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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Canada Olympic Trials Preview – and Coming Soon to CurlTV…

Yes readers, yours truly, the Curl with Math guy (perhaps a better moniker would help my marketing efforts), will be joining Luke Coley in the broadcast booth for several draws during the Roar of the Rings! Actually, I prefer the name “Olympic Trials”, as it more clearly states what is actually going on. ROTR seems to be a screenwriter’s pitch to Warner Brothers for a new movie…. “Lion King meets Lord of the Rings….and we’ll film it in Edmonton; parts of it look just like Mordor and the locals look like Hobbits”.

Let’s begin our Preview show…

Men’s Teams
The “Big Four” are Martin, Howard, Ferbey and Stoughton. No slight to Middaugh, who is a two time Brier champion or Koe who is an original 4 qualifier, but those four teams have the most wins, best records and greatest success against the field going back many years. It would not be a surprise if any of these teams won, and the numbers will show us why.

The Favorites
  • Kevin Martin is 76-35 (68%) since start of the 06/07 season against this field and is 41-19 (also 68%) against the rest of the Big Four.
  • Howard is 13-13 against Martin and 7-8 since 06/07. However, they are also .500 against the others in the Big Four, 31-31 overall and 17-17 since 06/07.
  • Martin has outscored all Trials teams by nearly a point per game. Howard and Ferbey are around a half point.
  • Martin is 22-18 against Stoughton historically but 11-2 since the 2007 Brier.
  • Provincial Rivals – both Favorites have been dominant:
    • Martin is 20-7 against Ferbey since 06/07 and 27-10 overall.
    • Howard is 12-5 since 06/07 (70%) and 25-14 historical numbers against his ex-teammate, Wayne Middaugh.

  • Ferbey is only 16-29 (36%) since 06/07 against other Big Four teams but minus Martin, they are 9-9 against Stoughton and Howard since then and 21-17 overall against those two teams.
  • Stoughton is 80-74 against the entire Field but has beaten Gunnlaugson (including Carruthers) 10 times. Jeff is 37-46 overall against the other Big Four teams including a mere 13-22 (37.1%) since 06/07.
  •  As a top 4 qualifier Koe has a (somewhat) easier start, not facing Howard, Martin or Ferbey until their final three games. Their opening game is against Simmons, against whom they are 11-0. They are 7-6 vs Stoughton but against Howard, Martin and Ferbey they are 18-41 overall and 18-37 since 06/07.
  • Middaugh plays Martin well (11-12 and 4-4 in last 3 years) but Howard (see above) and Ferbey (4-11) both seem to have his number. Middaugh is 7-0 vs Carruthers/Gunnlaugson.

  • Simmons, is he an underdog? Numbers indicate yes. They have only won 32% against this field and haven’t shown to be any stronger since 2006. They are 5-1 against Middaugh in the last few years and…if they can finally win against Koe… 
  • Gunnlaugson has no chance, mathematically. But then again, Gushue probably didn’t have much chance last time either, even Stoughton said so…. With their small sample size, we don’t have much to analyze. Including Carruthers, Daley Peters and Gunnlaugson as skipping the squad is 12-37 against this field. However, Gunner is 3-5 as a skip and has beaten Howard, Koe and Stoughton. If only he’d picked up a veteran to play front end….
Play-off Bound?
Let’s examine chances of outcomes. These are based on handicapping analysis I have done. I will spare you the details of the numbers, other than to say if you’d like to bet on any games, please let me know.

  • Martin has 7% chance and Howard a 4% chance to go undefeated.
  • At least 5 Wins – Howard is around 54%, Martin near 65%. Next closest is Ferbey at 32%.
  • At least 4 Wins – Howard is 80% likely, Martin 86%, Ferbey 62%, Stoughton 58%
  • Koe is 49% likely to get to 4 wins, Middaugh is 45% and Simmons 16%
  • Gunnlaugson is calculated at approximately 7% chance at 4 Wins. As I stated earlier, this is based on small sample size and with other skips, so if someone offers you better than even money that Gunner will win 2, then it is a good bet. Of course, he still might go Winless (12% chance).
Women’s Teams
The Women’s Trials teams have the Big Two but also 3 others who are very close. Jones and Lawton then Scott , Bernard and Kleibrink. Let’s call them the Top 5.

It would not be a surprise if any one of these five finished as the winner. It should be noted, the sample size (or numbers of games played) amongst these teams is far smaller than those for the Men’s. This leads to more variability in probable outcomes. But let’s still take a look…

The Favorites

  • Jones is 39-23 (63%) and 29-21 against the other top 5 teams. She is 8-1 against Bernard, 4-0 against McCarville but 6-9 against Scott.
  • Lawton is 38-25 against this field including 27-19 (59%) against the other top 5. They are 9-3 against Scott and 0-3 against McCarville
  • Heads up Jones edges Lawton 6-5.

  •  Scott is 33-30 against the other Top 5 and 12-5 against Bernard. Interestingly, she’s only 2-5 against Holland.
  • Kleibrink is only 41% against the other Top 5 and, though 10-9 against Scott they are 7-3 in the last 10 meetings.
  • Bernard is 40% against the other Top 5. Strong against her Calgary opponents: 8-4 against Kleibrink and 6-0 against Webster.

McCarville’s numbers are close to Kleibrink, Scott and Bernard. They are 46% against this field while the others are 48-50%. However, her sample size is much smaller and we can expect her success at this level of competition is not on par, so we will put her in this category (so that we have someone!).


  •  Webster played well at the Pre-Trials, qualifying in A, but historically they are 10-24 against this field. It’s not likely, but if given the right odds, some would say it’s good to bet a streak.
  • Holland is 16-27 against these teams but is 5-2 versus Scott. Being the last qualifier they have a tough start but who knows….
Play-off Bound?

  • Jones has a 6% chance and Lawton a 4% to go undefeated.
  • At least 5 Wins – Jones is 59%, Lawton is 50%. Next closest is Scott at 25%.
  • At least 4 Wins – Jones is 84%, Lawton is 78%, Scott and Bernard 53%, and Kleibrink (50%).
  • McCarville has a 47% expectation for 4 wins and Holland is 25% likely.
  • Webster is 11% likely to get 4 wins and 9% likely to be Winless.
So now that we’ve looked at the records, who do I like? The correct answer is always whoever gives me the best odds, but if we aren’t taking Gunner at +380 to beat Stoughton, then I suppose I’ll go with my gut (and not my wallet)…

Howard, Martin, Ferbey all get in the play-offs. 2006 was an anomaly and these guys are all more prepared and playing better against the field coming in than they did in 2006. I think one or two others may also be in tie breakers, likely Stoughton and possibly Middaugh – but he needs a good start. Koe has a chance to get on a roll with some early wins but will need to hold on. Simmons had a good Pre-Trials but they may get called for too many men on the ice. I think if Gunner goes 0-7 its possible to have a 6-way tie at 4-3. Wouldn’t that be something?

Women’s? I don’t watch/study this game as much and think anything is possible. Many of these teams have the big game experience and should be able to play to their potential despite the magnitude of the event. The qualifying format through a Pre-Trials likely helped teams like Webster and McCarville in this regard and make them possibly more dangerous than some would suspect.

Play-off predictions?
I’ll wait until Thursday.

Note: the accuracy of these records is the responsibility of CurlingZone. We may be out by a game or so, but we have to start somewhere. If anyone has numbers which contradict these, please e-mail Dallas or Gerry @

Another note: These numbers don’t rank the value of a win based on the importance of the game. For example, a win or loss could come in the Brier or in the opening round of a WCT cashspiel. We could try to add this to our analysis, but I do have a day job and I don’t know how much more value it gives us.

And yet another note….

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE…will PinnacleSports or some other betting web site offer the Canada Olympic Trials? Four years ago some great gambling opportunities and the Brier last year was a potential gold mine. And finally, this year, I do all the prep, analyze the records, am prepared to lay down my money….and no where to put it. Guess we’ll have to wait for Vancouver….

Two other Math notes this month…

  1. There should be no surprise that I agreed with Bill Belichek’s call on 4th and 2 versus the Colts a few weeks ago. For anyone wanting math analysis in Football, check out and their coverage of that controversial decision at Of interesting note is how talking heads (of which I will be one next week) try to attempt to support their belief regardless of the actual numbers. Tony Dungy said that Bill “should have gone with the percentages” and punted. Actually Tony, percentages say the opposite. The following weekend on ESPN Sports Reporters, Mitch Albom of the fine quaff and author of such books as Tuesday’s with Morrie, Five People You Meet in heaven, and other books which can be made into an ABC Hallmark movie of the week, said “No, it’s one of those things that if it works it’s the right call. It didn’t work and every single number out there that you can crunch says it was the bad call.” What?
  2. Troy Aikman this past weekend mentioned, while commentating on my Vikings, that coach Brad Childress should be concerned that Favre has only thrown 3 interceptions this year and he is likely due for a bad game where he will throw 4 or 5. We hear nonsense like this all the time in baseball when the announcer says “he’s 0 for his last 5 at bats, he’s due for a hit here”. These examples are similar to stating that if a coin comes up heads 9 times then it is more likely to come up tails on the 10th attempt. I hope my readers have figured out that is not the case.
If you happen to be at the Trials in Edmonton and read my articles, whether you agree, disagree or really don’t care, please come say hello. I’ll be the person in the CurlTV booth most likely to be fired.

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