8: The Andrin Schnider saga

Competitive curling returned last week and looked mostly normal. Skips of the non-throwing team were not allowed to sweep but that and a lack of spectators was the only difference between the Schweizer Cup and a normal curling event.

As expected, the women’s final was between Elena Stern and Silvana Tirnizoni. Stern won in a mild upset, though the story was more interesting because she needed to win a shootout to win her first match of the event (there were no extra ends in this competition) and lost her second game, essentially requiring her to win five games in a row – two over Tirinzoni – to claim the title.

On the men’s side, Andrin Schnider pulled off a Shuster-winning-the-gold level surprise in winning the title, beating Yannick Schwaller in a shootout. Schnider trailed 4-0 after Schwaller’s steal of 3 in the second, which put his chances at about 10% to win the game, but never tell me the odds. He pulled off the improbable comeback for the win.

We don’t plan on regularly recapping the past week in the global curling scene, but given that this was the first live ratings update on the site, it seems appropriate to talk about it. When I was developing the ratings, Team Schwaller was one of the teams that jumped out as having the biggest difference between the WCT rankings and my own. They finished last season sixth in the former and 22nd in mine heading into last weekend’s action. Given that he was 8-17 against the top ten and 8-11 against teams ranked 11 to 25 last season, a spot towards the back end of the top 25 seems reasonable.

Schnider, for his part, also had a big gap between his WCT ranking and the rankings here, ranking just 134th overall at DoubleTakeout, but 70th in the WCT rankings. The results indicate he probably wasn’t a top 100 player, having gone 0-10 against the top 25 and 5-24 against the top 50. Team Schnider’s best win last season was against #37 Thomas Ulsrud in the Baden Masters. That allowed Schnider to advance to the playoff round, one of two events where he was able to do so.

He was given a 13% chance in a head-to-head game against Schwaller, although it might have been slightly higher given the lack of an extra end. Schnider’s 6-0 run at the Schweizer Cup moves him up to 115th in my ratings. He’ll get a chance to step up in competition level this week at the Baden Masters, which begins on Friday. (Livestream schedule via worldcurlingtour.org.) This is a field that includes almost all of the top rinks in Europe among its 20 entries and a little bit of Swiss filler to round out the field.

The format here is four groups of five for pool play followed by an eight team playoff for the title. The computer says there’s a two-in-three chance that the title goes to one of the three top-ten teams in the field. The DoubleTakeout probabilities:

(Insert record scratch sound effect.) Before we go further, my forecast for the Baden Masters was based on the original field announced weeks ago. Unfortunately, the Scottish and Norwegian teams had to drop out, reducing the field to 13, which will be competed in two groups and six advancing to the playoffs. Updated probabilities are below. But please continue after that for a preview of a mostly fictional curling event along with other interesting tidbits.

 rank rating   last_name pool playoff title
7 12.079 De Cruz A 98.9% 37.8%
8 12.035 Edin A 98.7 35.6
23 11.416 Schwaller B 90.8 13.0
25 11.281 Retornaz B 87.5 9.9
41 10.709 van Dorp B 63.6 2.3
66 10.340 Hess B 39.8 0.7
77 10.223 Muskatewitz A 44.4 0.5
110 9.912 Krause A 24.9 0.1
115 9.874 Schnider B 17.9 0.1
135 9.659 Gempeler A 14.4 0.04
143 9.532 Klossner A 10.7 0.02
153 9.412 Hoesli A 7.9 0.01
196 8.346 Iseli B 0.4 0.0001

The format here is was four groups of five for pool play followed by an eight team playoff for the title. The computer says there’s a two-in-three chance that the title goes to one of the three top-ten teams in the field. The DoubleTakeout probabilities:

 rank rating   last_name pool playoff title
    6 12.353       Mouat    C   96.2% 30.7%
    7 12.079     De Cruz    A   86.7  18.3
    8 12.035        Edin    B   87.7  17.6
   15 11.738       Whyte    B   78.4   9.8
   14 11.761    Paterson    A   75.9   9.6
   23 11.416   Schwaller    D   68.4   4.9
   25 11.281    Retornaz    B   56.2   3.1
   30 11.042   Ramsfjell    D   48.1   1.6
   33 11.010       Bryce    D   46.2   1.5
   30 11.027     Walstad*   A   36.3   1.3
   40 10.825      Ulsrud    C   42.5   0.9
   41 10.709    van Dorp    D   30.1   0.5
   66 10.340        Hess    C   19.2   0.1
   77 10.223 Muskatewitz    A    7.8   0.05
  110  9.912      Krause    C    7.6   0.02
  115  9.874    Schnider    C    7.0   0.02
  135  9.659    Gempeler    B    3.0   0.005
  143  9.532    Klossner    A    1.2   0.002
  153  9.412       Hösli    D    1.5   0.001
  196  8.346       Iseli    B    0.06 <0.001
*rating from 2019 team

Yikes, the computer really hates Schnider’s chances! He’s given a 7% chance of making the playoffs and basically no chance of winning the event. His team hasn’t been competitive against top ten teams in the past and the win against Schwaller was his second against the top 40 since the beginning of last season. So winning the whole thing would be pretty crazy given that 10 of the teams here are in the top 40, and an 11th, skipped by Steffan Walstad, was ranked 30th the last time he ran his own team. And a 12th team, Jaap van Dorp, is ranked 41st. So it’s a nice field.

But Schnider did make the playoff round last year, which makes the 7% chance seem a little silly. Especially since Ulsrud is once again in his group along with Jan Hess, who Schnider just beat. When you consider that Ulsrud has a new (and probably worse without Walstad) team and Schnider has six games of competition under his belt, there’s reason to be a bit more optimistic.

A better question might be to determine what is possible for a team that enters the season outside the top 100. These are the teams that finished last season ranked in the top 50 after starting the season outside the top 100:

Started Finished Team
  165      39    Ryan Wiebe
  120      49    Martin Ferland

And now for the women:

Started Finished  Team
  145      29     Wu Han
  121      40     Julie Hastings    

So teams can make the jump into the top 50, although not many do. I have to point out that this is not a list of what is possible, only what has occurred (and just last season at that). If teams and people never did things that haven’t happened before, sports and life would be pretty boring.

By the way, one thing we can do with the ratings is compute a more organic strength of field for every event. And on paper this year’s Baden Masters is significantly stronger than last year’s, with an average team rating of 10.7 compared to 10.0 last season. There were just six teams in the top 50 entering last season’s competition.

So this is a massive step up in competition level. But Schnider’s in the right pool to make the playoff round, and then he just needs to figure out how to win three games. It is possible Andrin Schnider continues his success and renders me the Sam Wang of curling prognostication. On some level, I would welcome that.