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The Deep Dive: 'Expected scores' reveals 'real' ladder, best and worst kicks for goal

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Every Wednesday of the 2022 season, ESPN will combine with Champion Data to provide an in-depth analysis on a particular hot topic in the AFL.


Take one glance at the current ladder logjam and you'll see we're in for an epic final stretch of the season.

You might even scratch your head and think how on earth are there just two games that separate the top nine sides, or how can the Dogs, who have the fifth-highest percentage in the game right now, sit two spots out of the eight?

Could the reason be something as simple as goal kicking inaccuracy, or being on the receiving end of a team exceeding expectations at the wrong time? We know - should've, would've, could've... But hear us out.

Maybe we're looking at the wrong ladder, so to get a better grasp on the true way the season should be playing out, Champion Data have released their 'Expected scores' data, which includes what the ladder 'should' look like had each team kicked to their expected accuracy, and which players are over and under performing in the goal-kicking department.

Expected accuracy is a way of measuring the likelihood of a player scoring a goal, taking into account the shot type -- such as set shots, snaps, and on the run -- location on the field, and the pressure at the point of the kick. Every shot gets compared to the competition average across the same shots attempted since 2013, with the lower the expected accuracy the more difficult a player's shot is - a shot from directly in front would have a higher expected accuracy than an unlikely checkside that defies the odds from the boundary.

By using expected scores we can determine how accurate teams and players are (expected accuracy compared to real accuracy, and expected score from shots taken vs. a team's actual score).

It's a metric used to reveal to fans, and even coaches, which teams are playing the brand of footy that creates better opportunities at goal, which teams have been lucky or unlucky, and whose game style appears unsustainable with a reliance on accurate kicking in front of the big sticks.

If every team was to kick to their expected accuracy in each round this season, Geelong would be on top with a 10-3 record, while Collingwood, the Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast would be entrenched inside the top eight at the expense of current September fancies Carlton, Sydney and St Kilda.

Brisbane has the best accuracy in the league, wth an expected score of 93.2 points per game but a league-high actual score of 102.9 (+9.7 per game), with the Swans (+4.7) and Blues (+4.0) rounding out the top three for most accurate (or, lucky?) teams.

At the other end, the Suns and Pies have an accuracy differential of -2.9 and -1.7 respectively, which ranks them both in the bottom five. This is despite both teams taking some of the 'easiest' average shots on goal this season - the Pies have an expected accuracy of 50.8% (equal first in the league), while the Suns are expected to convert 48.9% of the time (fourth easiest shots).

What about players?

As the AFL evolves with every new season, there's one thing that remains constant: the deteriorating art of goal kicking and fan frustration towards a players' lack of polish in front of goal.

Well, the cat's out of the bag with Champion Data also revealing which players are starring or misfiring in 2022.

Brisbane All-Australian smokey Zac Bailey is this year' top-ranked player for scoring above expected accuracy, kicking 173 total points from an expected 133 (+40).

Port Adelaide's Todd Marshall (+37), Melbourne's Bayley Fritsch (+34), Geelong's Jeremy Cameron (+34) and Giants swingman Harry Himmelberg (+33) round out the top five and can also consider themselves a dead-eye.

On the other end of the spectrum, crafty Demon Alex Neal-Bullen has the worst accuracy differential in the competition (-31 points), and he's joined in the bottom five by star teammate Christian Petracca, who has scored 23 less points than expected - albeit he takes on average the most difficult shots on goal in the AFL.

Perhaps most alarming is the accuracy, or lack of, from Pies marksman Brody Mihocek. The hard-working 29-year-old sits in the top five for easiest shots on goal (expected accuracy 57.8%), but is still in the bottom five for accuracy differential (-23 points).

We've also been able to dig out which player has kicked the 'hardest' goal of the season to date (biggest degrees difficulty based on expected score). The mantle is currently held by Port's Kane Farrell, who nailed a left-footed beauty with little time to think during the side's Round 6 win over West Coast.

As for the worst miss? Wayne Milera's howler against the Suns in Round 14 nets him that unwanted title - an attempt with the expected score of 5.9.

So, whenever you hear a fan crying out for their team to spend more time fine-tuning their goal kicking, there may actually be merit to the passionate whining.

After all, golfers spend most of their time practicing putting for a reason. Now we know which players -- and teams -- need to spend more time on footy's putting green!


Expected scores ladder

1. Geelong (10-3) - points: 40, for: 88.2, against: 71.9, percentage: 122.6%
2. Fremantle (10-3) - 40, 82.2, 67.1, 122.4%
3. Melbourne (9-4) - 36, 85.7, 65.1, 131.6%
4. Brisbane (9-4) - 36, 93.2, 75.1, 124.1%
5. Collingwood (9-4) - 36, 87.5, 75.2, 116.4%
6. Richmond (9-4) - 36, 93.2, 80.1, 116.3%
7. Western Bulldogs (8-5) - 32, 93.6, 75.5, 123.9%
8. Gold Coast (8-5) - 32, 90.0, 77.6, 116.0%
9. Carlton (8-5) - 32, 84.7, 76.7, 110.5%
10. St Kilda (8-5) - 32, 82.2, 76.3, 107.7%
11. Sydney (6-7) - 24, 85.7, 80.0, 107.1%
12. Port Adelaide (6-7) - 24, 75.8, 76.2, 99.4%
13. Adelaide (4-9) - 16, 78.7, 86.0, 91.5%
14. GWS (4-9) - 16, 79.3, 89.0, 89.0%
15. Essendon (4-9) - 16, 74.9, 88.6, 84.6%
16. Hawthorn (3-10) - 12, 80.9, 96.6, 83.7%
17. North Melbourne (2-11) - 8, 59.6, 104.9, 56.8%
18. West Coast (0-13) - 0, 54.6, 107.8, 50.6%


Most accurate teams

Brisbane - expected score: 93.2, actual score: 102.9, difference: +9.7
Sydney - 85.7, 90.4, +4.7
Carlton - 84.7, 88.7, +4.0
GWS - 79.3, 83.0, +3.7
West Coast - 54.6. 58.0. +3.4
Geelong - 88.2, 90.5, +2.3
Hawthorn - 80.9, 83.2, +2.3
Richmond - 93.2, 95.2, +1.9
St Kilda - 82.2, 83.2, +1.0
Western Bulldogs - 93.6, 94.4, +0.8
Fremantle - 82.2, 82.2, -0.0
Melbourne - 85.7, 85.5, -0.2
Port Adelaide - 75.8, 74.2, -1.5
Collingwood - 87.5, 85.8, -1.7
Essendon - 74.9, 72.8, -2.1
Gold Coast - 90.0, 87.2, -2.9
North Melbourne - 59.6, 55.7, -3.9
Adelaide - 78.7, 74.8, -3.9


Easiest shots on goal

Collingwood - expected accuracy: 50.8%
Hawthorn - 50.8%
GWS - 50.0%
Gold Coast - 48.9%
Brisbane - 48.8%
St Kilda - 48.7%
Richmond - 48.0%
Adelaide - 47.9%
Sydney - 47.8%
Western Bulldogs - 47.8%
North Melbourne - 47.4%
Carlton - 47.2%
Essendon - 46.3%
Fremantle - 46.3%
Geelong - 46.2%
Melbourne - 45.9%
Port Adelaide - 45.9%
West Coast - 45.3%


Players with easiest/hardest shots (minimum 20 goal attempts)

Easiest shots

Levi Casboult - expected accuracy: 59.4%
Aaron Naughton - 58.6%
Jesse Hogan - 58.3%
Shane McAdam - 57.8%
Brody Mihocek - 57.8%

Hardest shots

Christian Petracca - 36.8%
Adam Treloar - 38.8%
Zac Fisher - 40.5%
Jordan De Goey - 42.3%
Kysaiah Pickett - 42.5%


The sharpshooters

Zac Bailey - expected score: 133, actual score: 173, difference: +40
Todd Marshall - 132, 169, +37
Bayley Fritsch - 151, 185, +34
Jeremy Cameron - 218, 252, +34
Harry Himmelberg - 85, 118, +33


Players with the 'yips'

Alex Neal-Bullen - expected score: 53, actual score: 22, difference: -31
Mitch Georgiades - 102, 75, -27
Lachlan Murphy - 45, 21, -24
Christian Petracca - 96, 73, -23
Brody Mihocek - 192, 169, -23


'Hardest' goals the season

Kane Farrell - Round 6, quarter 2, expected score: 1.23 points
Izak Rankine - Round 12, quarter 2, expected score: 1.31 points
Dayne Zorko - Round 9, quarter 4, expected score: 1.31 points


'Worst misses' of the year

Wayne Milera - Round 14, quarter 2, expected points: 5.9
Tom Hawkins - Round 5, quarter 3, expected points: 5.7
Shai Bolton - Round 13, quarter 4, expected points: 5.6