Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: 2019 European Speculation

The final four of the Scottish Cup is set, so I will give my subjective outlook on which sides I expect to end up in Europe next season. There are 3 more matches before the split (where the top-half sides only play top-half sides). At the split, I will get more quantitative.


Chance of playing in Europe: 99.99%
Path to Europe: Not have a complete collapse in the league, or have a complete collapse and not have the teams below them have a spectacular rise, or win the Scottish Cup. Basically, they can still mathematically finish as low as sixth, but that's not going to happen. Fivethirtyeight gives them a 96% chance to win the league again, and being passed by three or four other clubs is almost out of the question.
How happy we should be if they are in Europe: Very. If Rangers pulls off the 4% upset, they might add enough quality for the Champions League, but Celtic is clearly the class of the nation still.
Managerial Outlook: Last year I said, "'s not unrealistic to see Brendan Rogers being lured away." He was! But Neil Lennon is also very good. Hopefully they keep him, but 


Chance of playing in Europe: 95%
Path to Europe: Not have a collapse in the league. They're second and have been playing well. It would be a disappointment to end up third, a big disappointment to end up fourth, and even that would be enough depending on who wins the Cup.
How happy we should be if they are in Europe: Very. They are the only side other than Celtic I can see making it into the knockout stages.
Managerial Outlook: It doesn't seem time for Brendan Rogers to be lured away yet.


Chance of playing in Europe: 90%
Path to Europe: Hold on in third, win the Cup, or drop to fourth and have Celtic win the Cup. (Or drop to fourth and have Hearts move up to third and win the Cup.)
How happy we should be if they are in Europe: Quite. They have consistently had decent European results, stopped only by running up against an EPL side (who they almost beat).
Managerial Outlook: If Derek McInnes didn't leave for Rangers, I think he's there for a while. He would like to hoist a trophy or two.


Chance of playing in Europe: 40%
Path to Europe: Stay in fourth and have Celtic and Aberdeen win the Cup, or move up.
How happy we should be if they are in Europe: Not. They are a classic Scottish side who overachieves domestically, but doesn't have the funds to compete in Europe.
Managerial Outlook: Clarke seems like a great manager; maybe he will take over a bigger Scottish club.


Chance of playing in Europe: 55%
Path to Europe: Win the Cup, move up to fourth and have Celtic or Aberdeen win the Cup, or move up to third. They have had some nice results, so moving up to fourth or winning the Cup can't be ruled out.
How happy we should be if they are in Europe: Somewhat. They have the resources and they may be willing to spend a little with their stadium renovations done.
Managerial Outlook: Good. Levein is doing a good job, and doesn't seem to have ambitions elsewhere.

Everybody Else

Chance of playing in Europe: 25%
Path to Europe: Hibs, Motherwell, St. Johnstone and Livingston are all alive for the sixth spot at the split. Then they could mathematically make it into the top three or four. Maybe 25% is high, but Hibs could make some noise. Inverness CT doesn't have much chance to win the Cup out of the second tier, but it has happened before.
How happy we should be if they are in Europe: Not, except maybe Hibs.
Managerial Outlook: Mixed.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: 2018/9 Knockout-Round Review

Well, the knockout rounds aren't over, but they are for Scotland. Celtic got swept in the Europa League Round-of-32, so that's that. A sad end to a really excellent campaign.

I mean, 20th! That's not nothing! And look at those 6.75 points from this year's campaign. That's the most in 11 years. It's the 10th-best in Europe this year (though 4 countries below them still have teams active). Anyway, 20th will put them in decent shape for the 2020/21 campaign, but more importantly, it positions them well for next year's climb up the charts (which, I remind you, affects the 2021/22 campaign).

So in 2020/21, Scotland won't be in the embarrassing spot that they will be in 2019/20, with a first-round entry for all their teams. But they haven't climbed up enough to make any sort of improvement. Yet.

Before we start looking ahead, let's look back one last time. How did Scotland get 6.75 points? Well, they got 2.875 from Celtic, actually a little worse than last year. But Rangers produced 2.75, Hibs contributed 1, and poor Aberdeen chipped in a measly 0.125.

I think sustained runs from the Old Firm are a possibility every year now. Aberdeen will probably be back and could get a friendlier draw, and the fourth team (probably not Hibs) may or may not be able to contribute a point again.

Scotland starts out the next campaign still in 20th. It actually looks harder to climb up than to fall down, but another solid performance would do it.

Looking ahead to 2020/21 (where we are setting the ranking for 2022/23) is where the Scottish surge could really come into play.

Two years like the last, and Scotland could see two Champions League representatives again...four years from now.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Nebula Update: The Falling Woman

I read a Nebula Best Novel winner for the first time in several years. I also let a couple of years go by without reading that year's winner. Of the six finalists this year, I have read one of them. Guess which one I'm rooting for!

This leaves me with

  1. 1966: Flowers for Algernon (tie)
  2. 1966: Babel-17 (tie)
  3. 1968: Rite of Passage
  4. 1976: Man Plus
  5. 1978: Dreamsnake
  6. 1981: The Claw of the Conciliator
  7. 2017: All the Birds in the Sky
  8. 2018: The Stone Sky
Below is my Goodreads review of The Falling Woman.

The Falling WomanThe Falling Woman by Pat Murphy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this in my quest to read all of the Nebula Best Novel winners. This one was a slog. That is partially on me. I prefer more traditional forms of fantasy rather than a real-world story with some mystical elements layered on.

It’s partially on the novel, though. The best novels draw me in, regardless of genre. This one didn’t, and it wasn’t helped by the at-times clunky prose.

View all my reviews

Monday, January 07, 2019

2018 Stay-At-Home Bowl Preview

It is playoff time in the NFL, which means that as a Redskins fan, I turn my attention to something other than following my team.

Yes, it's the Stay-At-Home Bowl, the honor I bestow upon a team that has beaten both Super Bowl participants. With the final eight teams decided, there are five out of the sixteen possible Super Bowls that will cause the honor to be bestowed.

  • New England-Dallas: Tennessee would win.
  • New England-Philadelphia: Tennessee would also win.
  • Kansas City-Dallas: Seattle would win.
  • Indianapolis-Rams: Philadelphia would win.
  • Indianapolis-Dallas: Houston would win.
I guess what I am saying is that the NFC East wasn't very good, so their playoff teams lost to a lot of teams, so in the unlikely event that one of them ends up in the playoffs (dear God, no), there's a decent chance you have a winner.

Last year's winner, Kansas City is doing pretty well this year, continuing the trend of winners having a good next season.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Geocaching: Quiet Fall 2018

This fall, I found only 10 caches (bringing me to 424), all in Virginia or California. But some of them were memorable!

On September 30, in order to teach the boys about compass use, I found my second letterbox.

I only found two in October, one in California (in a mall parking garage) and one in Virginia (across the street from our post office). Neither were to do anything more than pass some time.

In November, I had my first month since 2015 where I didn't find a geocache. I guess life was busy.

In December, a trip to Northern California allowed me to fill in some areas I had never been to before. My first find was in Paradise, recently devastated by the Camp Fire. There was a virtual cache there, and I confirmed that the historical marker necessary to claim the cache had survived the fire. Butte County was County 82.

From Paradise, I drove to Oroville to find a challenge cache (also in Butte County), then farther south until I hit Yuba County, to claim one in County 83.

Unfortunately, this cache was pretty much disintegrated. I posted a note, and the cache has recently been disabled pending maintenance.
Needs Maintenance

From there, I drove to Yuba City, which is in Sutter County (County 84), not Yuba County like you might think. I visited a war memorial that served as a virtual cache.
Yuba City War Memorial
I ran out of daylight before I could add a fourth county that day -- one of the lesser perils of winter caching, I suppose.

The next day, on my way to the airport, I found caches in Glenn County (County 85) and Sutter County (County 86). I missed another county because I couldn't find a cache at a rest stop. Then, at the airport, there was a new virtual cache, which gave me Sacramento County (County 87).
Sacramento Virtual

So how did these 10 caches affect my stats? I didn't find any new difficulty/terrain combos. I only found one new month (November 2017) -- from the challenge cache.

With three new months appearing, that increases my total of missing months to 43. The three from 2018 should all be pretty easy, however.

My California counties map has really filled out.

Sixteen down, forty-two to go! I bet I can get at least one more in 2019, and several more if I get to spend any time in the Bay Area.

Because Sacramento and Chico are close in latitude to the DC area, I was able to make some progress on the 38 and 39 North challenges. Recall each requires finding one cache for each of the 60 minutes of longitude within a given degree. I found two more for the 38 North challenge, bringing me to 27. I found three more for the 39 North challenge to 22. I am still doing better in the longitude challenges.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Scotland's UEFA Coefficient: 2018/9 Knockout-Round Preview

Celtic made it through to the knockout round! Rangers almost did, and picked up a bunch of points in the process.

The "neighborhood" of nations within 2 points of Scotland has shrunk, but 20th place is not settled yet.

Playoff-Round Review

Rangers put together a win and three draws -- not quite enough to advance, but enough to pick up 1.125 for the coefficient. Rangers bowed out having been worth 2.75 for the coefficient; this year shows what good shape Scotland is in when more than just Celtic contributes.

Celtic contributed three wins -- barely enough to advance, and good for 1.25 for the coefficient. Overall, they have brought 2.875 to the coefficent this year, slightly better than their Old Firm rivals.

I said that better than 2 points total from the group stage and having a team make it out would be good. With 2.375 points and Celtic through, Scotland had a good year.

Group-Stage Preview

Celtic got a tough draw. I'm going to use the Fivethirtyeight ratings to preview things. Valencia is the fifth-best rated of the thirty-two teams remaining. As a second place finisher, Celtic was almost certain to have a tough draw, but this is one of the toughest.

Fivethirtyeight gives Celtic a 24% chance of advancing. The average expectation is for them to pick up 0.5 more for the coefficient; that would represent salvaging one draw.

So a good round would be picking up a full point, even if they don't advance, and a bad round would be two losses (which would not be shocking, given the quality of the opposition).

Where We Are

There was an article in the Scottish newspaper The Herald that I think confused the issue, with statements like, "So in terms of significant improvement, Scottish football needs teams to excel in Europe’s top club competition. Obviously, this isn’t the case this the season but improvements can still be made that will bring tangible rewards in the next couple of seasons."

Here's what that analysis missed. Scotland no longer needs to improve; it merely needs to maintain this year's level of quality. The 6.750 points picked up so far this year, maintained for five years, would put its coefficient at 33.75. Over the past few years, that would have been good enough for 11th-13th. Recall that getting to 15th or 17th is the goal.

For this year's coefficient, a single draw would push them past Serbia into 19th. Although they would need to get to 17th to guarantee skipping early rounds, this year because of various details 19th was good enough, so it might be good enough in 2020/21 (when these ratings take effect).

Next year, they will start in 20th (the terrible 2013/4 qualifying cycle still hits them for one more year). They will have one chance to make the hard climb to 15th before they end up in Europa League 2.

(I read the announcement for this new league. I am mostly going to ignore its effects for now, since it seems mostly to be a split of the Europa League for our purposes. It may have a mild positive effect of exposing Scottish teams to weaker competition, and a mild negative effect of hurting revenues and recruitment by putting them in the third-tier competition.)