Sport

Roger Federer was eliminated from the Australian Open when he lost a match in which he won the majority of the points.

Was it a one-off, or a sign of an underlying issue? And how does his rival Rafael Nadal compare when it comes to winning the biggest points in tennis? Find out in our interactive graphic Read more

By John Burn-Murdoch and Gavin Jackson

In the latest instalment of The Baseline, our weekly feature on sports statistics, we looked ahead to the ATP Tour Finals, the climax of the men’s tennis season.

The tournament is played on a hard court surface, which goes some way to nullifying the relative advantages afforded to big serving and big returning players by grass and clay courts respectively. But where exactly does hard court fall between those two extremes, and what can this tell us about its impact on the playing styles of grass and clay specialists? Read more

By John Burn-Murdoch and Gavin Jackson

In the latest instalment of The Baseline, our weekly feature on sports statistics, we looked at Serena Williams’ dominance of women’s tennis over the last decade.

Williams has won 17 of the 43 grand slam tournaments she has entered since the 2002 French Open, and the reasons for her success can be explained with a look at performance data for the top players of the modern era Read more

FT Baseline

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Kate Allen

by Kate Allen and Roger Blitz

Usain Bolt lines up in Moscow for this weekend’s athletics World Championships as red-hot favourite for the 100m sprint title.

This chart shows all the official International Association of Athletics Federation times run by men in the 100m in under 10 seconds. It has become a relatively common achievement in the past few decades, but Bolt is a phenomenon, head and shoulders above every runner in the history of the sport – even those later disqualified for having taken performance-enhancing drugs.

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If you watched every American professional football team play every snap, analysed its success, compared it to all other plays in that situation, and then weighed it according to the defence it faced, you would reach an important conclusion: the Denver Broncos have the best chance of winning the Super Bowl on February 3.

That is according to FootballOutsiders.com, whose popular DVOA rating puts the Broncos as a slight leader (24.3 per cent) over second-favourite New England Patriots (23.6 per cent).

Founded by Aaron Schatz, an ESPN columnist, the site provides an in-depth analysis of every single play of the NFL season along with various ratings based on that analysis.

“For me, personally, I started this because I wanted to make better commentary,” says Mr Schatz. “The bigger gap that needed to be closed was between reality and the nonsense of colour commentators.”

Baseball’s “sabermetrics” movement – popularised by Moneyball (both the book and movie) – led the way increasing the sophistication of the statistics used in sport. It was primarily developed by people outside the baseball establishment to help teams properly value individual players.

In contrast, Football Outsiders does provide some predictive qualities, but the data analysis offers a different utility from the of baseball: to educate and inform football fans about a complicated and sometimes misunderstood sport. Read more

Martin Stabe

Iran's weightlifters Behdad Salimikordasiabi and Sajjad Anoushiravani took gold and silver in the men's +105kg

As expected, the US and China topped the conventional Olympic medal tables (however you chose to sort them). But by merely achieving the expected, the sporting superpowers appear much farther down the FT’s weighted medal table, which ranks countries by how much they exceeded pre-Games expectations.

Our table benchmarked nations performance against macroeconomic factors known to affect Olympic performance, such as GDP and population.

Great Britain’s 29 gold medals and 65 overall was enough for third place on the FT table as well as the conventional table – an impressive feat given the handicap our methodology imposed on it by taking into account the host-nation advantage.  Here’s a look at some of the other nations that can leave London extremely happy, having greatly exceeded expectations. Some of them may surprise you. Read more

Martin Stabe

This scatterplot below shows how nations’ actual medal performance at London 2012 compares to the economic models used to construct the FT medal table, along with some of the underlying factors used by the models, such  GDP, population and performance at Beijing in 2008.

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Martin Stabe

How does Great Britain’s haul of 65 medals, including 29 golds, compare to other recent host nations’ performance?

There can be little doubt that greater recent investment in elite sports is the main cause of  Great Britain’s impressive performance at these Olympics an uptick in performance compared with Beijing 2008 would have been expected regardless, because of a well-documented “host-nation effect” that sees the home team performed significantly better than it usually does. Read more

Martin Stabe

We launched the FT’s economically-weighted medal table on Sunday night.

Rather than ranking the table in the conventional format – gold medals followed, where equal, by silver medals and finally bronze medals – we are ranking counties by their performance against a benchmark developed from four economic models. These predict success on the basis of socioeconomic factors that have been shown to contribute to Olympic performance historically.

Even on our weighted measure, China leads with its 12 medals, representing 4.6 more than would be expected at this stage of the games. Italy’s seven medals place its over-achievement to date hundredths of a percentage point behind. Great Britain, by contrast, is near the foot of our table, underachieving by 2.8 medals so far. Read more

The Olympics are finally here and the web is awash with interactive graphics and visualisations.

Here are the ones it’s worth taking a second look at:

Dressed for a world record?
This is a must-view for swimming fans. The invention of slick, hi-tech bodysuits enabled a series of world records to be broken, but since the suits were banned in 2010 few records have been beaten. The Washington Post looks at the evolution of Olympic swimwear and tracks this against world records in each swimming discipline. Read more

The beautiful game is about to get a bit more by the numbers. Starting in 2013 the US soccer league – Major League Soccer – will begin using Adidas’ micoach elite system, which will track “heart rate, speed, acceleration, distance, field position and, for the first time, power.”

The data be collected in real time and transmitted wirelessly for in-game analysis and fans will have access to the raw numbers as well – meaning pub debates could get a lot more interesting in the future.

The sports data analysis revolution that took hold first in US baseball and has crept in to basketball has left football (or in the US, soccer) relatively untouched. Most stats haven’t changed much since categories like shots, fouls and passes completed. Read more

Emily Cadman

What we’re reading today in the world of statistics, open data and data journalism:

Reference material
The Data Journalism Handbook – the first edition of the book is now available for free online and features contributions from data journalists around the globe, including our colleague Cynthia O’Murchu who explains her investigations into European Structural Funds and care homesRead more