A half-hearted Scotties preview

(I’m really proud of that title.)

With the shadow of the Olympics looming, the Scotties don’t quite capture the full attention of the curling world. But it’s a fact that both the Beijing games and the Scotties will have two of the top four teams in the world competing.

The Scotties start Friday in Thunder Bay, featuring 18 teams in a largely fan-less Fort William Gardens due to local Covid restrictions. Curling Canada has done away with the Championship Pool portion of this event and replaced it with what can best be described as a double page-playoff involving the top three teams from each pool.

For the purposes of the probability tables shown on this site, the six-team (kind of) double-elimination portion will be considered the “playoffs” even though official Scotties terminology calls the initial phase the Championship Round and the final four-team page-playoff the “playoffs”.

I’m not going to run through every team here, but Fleury and Einarson are the obvious favorites to win, combining to have a 70% chance. Which means there’s a decent chance of a surprising interloper earning the Team Canada distinction. Ten teams have between a 20 and 50% chance of making the playoff round, meaning there’s a possibility of some fresh names breaking through.

One issue in my simulations was figuring out how strong a Homan-less Team Homan will be. I’ve arbitrarily reduced their rating by 0.5 points which would drop them from the 7th best team in the world to around 15th. The odds posted at coolbet.com are slightly more pessimistic, so who knows.

Anyway, it will be another data point in how important a skip is. The swap of Glenn Howard with Wayne Middaugh in last year’s Brier didn’t have nearly the effect I was expecting and Homan isn’t adding someone who was retired for a few years. (Alli Flaxey will join the team and play second, while Emma Miskew and Sarah Wilkes move down in the order.) So I’m satisfied with the more conservative approach.

Here are the chances returned from simulation the Scotties one million times using this week’s ratings:

Rk   Rating  Team     Pool  Playoff Title  
 2   11.29   Fleury     A    90.4%   38.6%   
 4   11.08   Einarson   B    91.3    31.5   
13   10.38   Walker     B    65.3     7.3   
     10.36   Homan      A    49.6     5.5   
16   10.34   McCarville A    47.9     5.0   
22   10.08   Duncan     B    47.3     2.9   
20   10.16   Carey      A    37.6     2.8   
28    9.95   Zacharias  B    39.2     1.8   
27    9.97   Barker     A    27.2     1.3   
32    9.91   Birt       A    24.4     1.1   
34    9.88   Crawford   A    22.7     0.9   
36    9.76   Galusha    B    28.6     0.8   
44    9.60   Black      B    21.1     0.4   
74    8.92   St-Georges B     4.0     0.01   
84    8.85   Arsenault  B     3.2     0.007   
146   8.04   Hill       A     0.08    0.0001   
      7.52   Birnie     B     0.02   <0.0001   
195   7.43   MacPhail   A     0.005  <0.0001   

Odds Oddities: Continuing a trend that started at the Canadian trials, there is no value in any of the odds currently posted at coolbet.com. It’s almost like my ratings are pretty decent. Which is fine, but it’s much more interesting to prove one’s model by betting against things than by just saying the established odds are in line with my math.

The lines with the least negative EV are either Fleury (+155) or Einarson (+210) to win. So if you have to wager on curling, that’s the safest way to do it. All of the other lines to win or make the playoffs, or even the round-robin win totals, are all in line with my ratings and thus unprofitable.

The most interesting thing is that Coolbet has Northern Ontario with the third-best odds to win, while I have them as the fifth-best. There’s a small but real chance for a McCarville breakthrough and a win for part-time curlers everywhere.

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