You would be able to score at some very weird angles, where the goalie wouldn't have any reasonable chance at making a save.
Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
anecdotal comparison demonstrates that the best basketball player ever, Michael Jordan, was considerably better than the best baseball player ever, a chimpanzee named Carl who led the 1883-1884 Erie Mudjacks with a .546 batting average.
Question about randomness in sports that evolved into a very long answer with rants about how to fix hockey.
Hey MGoBlog team,
I'm of the opinion that individual games in any sport are decided by a combination of four things: player athleticism, player skill, player/coaching strategy, and chance. If you want you could also pull refereeing out of the chance bucket to make a fifth. Do you think this is a valid and relatively complete model and if not how would you change it? A related question is which of the five major sports (football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and hockey) relies most on chance to decide the outcome of a single game? How does that affect the fan experience?
My answer is basketball and hockey as the most reliant on chance, which I think negatively impacts my ability to get too caught up in the outcome of those games. That could be because I'm relatively ignorant of the strategy and skill elements in those games though, which is why I seek your most esteemed opinions.
Those four things cover just about everything, though athleticism and skill are sometimes difficult to parse out from each other.
As far as randomnesss goes, basketball in fact seems like the sport least impacted by chance, especially at the NBA level. The best NBA teams win something like 80% of their games, and teams that good generally plow through four rounds of playoffs without issue. A whopping 14 of the 20* teams with the best regular season win percentage in NBA history went on to win the championship. Two that didn't (the 96-97 Utah Jazz and 1995-96 Seattle Supersonics) lost in the finals to teams ahead of them on the list.
Meanwhile, no baseball team in a much longer history has touched an 80% win rate and only five of the 14 teams that Wikipedia references made it through much shorter playoff structures. Also, eight of them played before WWI. Baseball is the king of randomness. They've done studies and everything.
And when you think about it, it makes sense. Basketball is structured as 60-90 random trials worth 0-3 points for each team. That's a lot of trials. Baseball has nine. Football has 10-12, though that's a bit different because those trials are a lot less independent of previous ones. Hockey defies this sort of categorization. But just think about the MAXIMUM THUNDERBOLT LEVEL possible in any particular sport as a proxy for randomness:
Despite the high thunderbolt rating of the top football plays, the sport as a whole is less random than hockey and baseball, primarily because each play has an impact on the one that follows it in a way that doesn't happen in sports with less memory. You can load the bases in baseball and come away with nothing; ripping off a 30-yard run in football is always worth something.
Soccer also defies this analysis, as goals rank high on the thunderbolt scale but soccer Cinderellas are exceedingly rare. When Cypriot club APOEL made the final 16 of the Champions League a couple years back there was a veritable tizzy; they were immediately bashed out by Real Madrid 8-2.
And that makes sense, too. The structure of the game is such that good teams always have the ball and bad teams give up on the idea of competing on equal footing, instead preferring to pack everyone in front of their goal in hopes of a tie or a fluke goal. Outmatched teams regularly get outshot 10-1, compared to 2-1 in hockey. Hell, when Barca comes to town even teams backed by Russian plutocrats have a tendency to park the bus and hope for fortune.
Your randomness rankings, then, from least to most random:
It's a wonder they bother to play baseball instead of just guessing what color the ump is thinking about.
College basketball is quite a bit more random than the NBA, primarily because the game is shorter, possessions longer, and three pointers more readily available. Michigan just lost a 55 possession game in which the opponent went 8 of 13 from three primarily because one guy was unconscious. If that was an NBA game it would be the middle of the third quarter and they would have a chance to right the ship.
But overall, college basketball still spits out the "right" team enough that it's satisfying to me. The playoff structure very rarely sees top teams not reach the Sweet 16 and even more rarely puts a true interloper into the Final Four. Meanwhile, the single elimination nature of it makes any team vulnerable. March Madness straddles the line between unsatisfyingly random (baseball) and boringly rote (the NBA) almost perfectly.
I am with you on hockey, though. I find myself increasingly discontent with 2-1 games in which goals are mostly a matter of which plinko ball makes it all the way through the mass of bodies. Watching MSU and Michigan play in the GLI was illuminating, as Mickey Redmond took some time to compare MSU's defensive strategy of packing all six players in or near the crease to the current NHL vogue, then complain about how the game was better when people were checking guys on the points. The game has shifted such that save percentages added in with the number of shots that don't get to the goalie means that maybe 1 of 50 point shots does anything useful.
Meanwhile, the single elimination format that works so well in less-random basketball is a complete disaster in college hockey. Hell, the addition of the shootout and the loser point in the NHL has made even the 82 game regular season(!) way less predictive than you'd think. This then bleeds into the playoffs, where 8 seeds beating 1 seeds is commonplace. While it's somewhat controversial, these days statisticians struggle to find meaningful differences between most NHL goalies.
As a result I'm in favor of rather radical changes that would help teams who dominate in shots and attack time win more games, starting with expanding the net by approximately as much as goalies have improved in the last 20 years. Nine of the top ten save percentage marks in NHL history have been posted in the last five years. The only guy in the top 35 to post his mark before 2000 was Dominik Hasek, who owns five seasons in that range. There isn't a season older than 1993 in the entire top 250. This kind of goalie dominance makes hockey unsatisfyingly random.
I prefer a world were everything that goes off the post now is a goal. This gets goalie save percentages back down to a place were .900 is pretty good, differentiates the goalie pool, and makes standing around waiting for a hail of rubber a worse idea. Then gradually introduce Olympic ice in new buildings, do something to fix the wreck that is the offsides rule**, and maybe futz with goalie pads so they're more like they were back in the day—heavier, harder to cover your five-hole with, more cumbersome.
Death to plinko hockey.
*[I'm setting aside the 1946-47 Washington Capitols from Wikipedia's list since that season was considerably shorter than a regular NBA season, and it wasn't even the NBA yet.]
**[Current position: allow play to continue as long as the offsides player immediately moves to tag up at the blue line. Any other action by the player brings a whistle. There's no reason for rushes to get broken up because a guy is one foot offsides.]
With Dileo departing, an overlooked change that will take place next year is at holder. Who do you think will assume this role? My preference would be Norfleet or Peppers since I could see them executing some razzle dazzle that would lead to me dumping marinara sauce on my head in joy.
I have bad news, Mike: it's almost certainly going to be Kenny Allen, the backup punter, with an outside shot of one of the backup quarterbacks.
Dileo was uniquely qualified to be the holder because he secretes a sticky substance from his fingers that gives him super catching powers. Peppers and Norfleet are unlikely to be in Dileo's class in that department, so Michigan will replace him with someone who takes a ton of snaps as part of his daily routine. This is the way of the world.
Yeah, that change will limit Michigan's ability to fake field goals. Michigan will probably just go for it instead, which is fine.
Was wondering if you could project who you think the starting CB will be next season. I may be in a minority but I was really impressed with Jourdan Lewis.
It's going to be tough for Lewis to fight his way past either incumbent starter, especially with Jabrill Peppers arriving on a cascade of hype, torrent of praise, and all other water-related-muchness of thing.
First, the incumbent starters. I know both Raymon Taylor and Blake Countess had issues with Tyler Lockett. This puts them in good company, as everyone who played a healthy Lockett this year got shredded. Overall Michigan finished 47th in yards per attempt and in a big pile at 23rd in interceptions despite having a mediocre-at-best pass rush. Countess and Taylor acquired ten of the seventeen interceptions, nearly all of them great plays instead of fortunate deflections. The eyeball test was pretty kind to both when in non-Lockett situations. (Also non-Indiana-tempo'd situations, which are a problem but one of a different sort than not being able to cover dudes.)
Meanwhile, the freshmen behind the starters were game but did give up a ton of yards in big chunks, whether it was because they phased out of reality or irritated the wrong gypsy. I don't think either starter is getting passed.
Then: Peppers. Historically, guys like Peppers have a breaking-in period of about half a season before emerging into a starting job late in their freshman year. Woodson, Hall, Countess, Jackson: all followed this path. With Michigan short on boundary corner types that seems like the most likely path for Peppers as well, starting the year as the third corner and gradually displacing Taylor as the season plugs along.
This doesn't leave much room for Lewis or Stribling this year. Michigan's corner depth is such that 247 is reporting that redshirt freshman Ross Douglas has been flipped to tailback despite being 5'10" and 180—the opposite of the rough and tumble brawler Michigan seems to want. While I expect both sophomores to get spot duty, a breakthrough is unlikely this time out.
You would be able to score at some very weird angles, where the goalie wouldn't have any reasonable chance at making a save.
Plus define the post compared to the side of the net. How much is post? What about the skirt at the bottom of the goal? the definition of the goal itself would have to change.
My perception, though I may have read wrong, is that Brian means that the goal should be widened so that every shot that now hits post would get in.
I took it as two distinct suggestions originally.
I understood Brian's intention, but I like this post-less idea of inconceivable angles too.
I don't mind the suggestion to increase the net size by a bit to include the current post area. Reversing the technological advances on goalie pads to make them worse, on the other hand, is not a good idea.
I think he means expand the net so that shots hitting the posts now would go into the goal. A shot off the post would still just be a shot off the post.
They also have an extra foul (granted, they also have 8 extra minutes, which makes sense), and thus the effect of a bad call or two is significantly reduced. An NCAA championship game can be (and, as we remember, has been) swayed by a bad call on a key player early in a half, forcing them to spend significant time on the bench.
I love the atmosphere and accessibility of college basketball, and the regular season is worlds better, but the NBA has a far better set of rules.
I see a lot of calls to increase the foul-out threshold from five to six, but I'm positive all that would do is reverse any progress they're making on opening up the game. Defenders will be a lot more aggressive if given that much more leeway before they're in foul trouble.
Having the threshold where it is emphasizes having depth on the bench, as well. I realize that's less of a popular opinion because people don't like putting the stars on the bench in foul trouble, but I think teams should be rewarded for depth.
I get the bad-call argument, and it holds weight considering the awful inconsistency of CBB refereeing. I'd just rather fix the refereeing than address a symptom of it.
The NBA game is also longer than the college game - 48 minutes to 40 minutes. Which is the same ration as fouls in the nba to college: 6 to 5.
I think it worthwhile to keep in mind that while the total length of an NBA game is eight minutes longer, the best individual players in the NBA are not necessarily on the court longer than many of the best college players. Kevin Durant averages 38 mins. per game, third-most in the NBA. There are plenty of good college players--especially good players on teams that rely very heavily on their production--who play over 38 mins. a game. Bryce Cotton for Providence actually averages 39.5 mins a game. When Cotton has only five fouls at his disposal, the effect of each of his fouls is potentially greater in magnitude (as are the effects of bad calls) than in the case of Durant, since each plays similar minutes. Obviously, with respect to the sum total of players, their are fewer minutes to go around in a college game, but, with respect to high-usage guys, the difference in fouls allowed is not merely "proportional"--it's comparable, and thus the 5/6 distinction matters.
38 minutes a game is 95% of the available minutes, which according to KenPom, only Cotton plays that many. There aren't "plenty" of players playing 38 minutes, only Cotton.
Now, I think your point still stands somewhat. 42 college players average 90% of their team's minutes (36 minutes if we assume the effect of OT is negligible.) Nobody in the NBA averages 90% of their team's minutes.
However, in terms of possessions, Durant plays far more of them in that 38 minutes and therefore has many more opportunities to foul. Durant would play 95 full-length possessions. Cotton, if he averages 38 minutes, would play 65. Cotton must go 13 possessions between fouls or else foul out. Durant must go longer, about 16. Therefore the burden is actually more on the pros, despite having more fouls to give. The fact that they foul out much less than in college is, to me, mathematical proof that they just don't play defense as hard in the NBA.
While I admit that "plenty" was poor/inexact word choice on my part--and I admit that "38 mins." was arbitrarily selected based on KD's average--Cotton isn't the only player to avg. 38 mins a game--well, at least not according to ESPN. ESPN doesn't let you sort college players by mins. played, but, for other examples, Deonte Burton of Nevada plays 39 mins. a game and Billy Baron of Canisius plays 38.5. As you say, my point doesn't wholly rise or fall on this matter. Obviously, even if a higher percentage of NBA guys will play more total minutes, in the case of a number of high-usage players, the gap between the pro and college players narrows and sometimes even closes.
Also, I can see that as the number of possessions rises, the chances of fouling may as well, given the situations in which fouls often occur (e.g., many shooting fouls stop the clock and then end positions). But--and I'm presuming you're not saying this--the number of possessions doesn't seem to necessitate more fouls in any strict sense. I mean, whether Durant is playing 70 seconds of defense spread out over two possessions at the college level or over three possessions at the pro level, that is still 70 seconds in which he might commit a foul (for example, a defensive, non-shooting foul). As long as he's on the floor and the clock is running, he can foul. I'm sure you know more about this than I do; I'm just clarifying things for myself since your point about possessions took me off guard at first. It sounded like you were equating "distinct possessions" with "opportunities to foul." Perhaps there is a known ratio that exists between the two that you're implicitly relying upon.
NBA possessions are quite a bit shorter than college, 13 college possessions are at least slightly longer than 16 pro possessions. And I'd argue that they're simply better at playing defense without fouling in the NBA, or that deeper benches result in players usually ending up around 3-4 fouls and then coaches pull them to prevent fouling out.
means Izzo wouldn't have to play "weird guys"
I dislike your top analysis. However I do have trouble disagreeing. Goalies have gotten better despite everything the NHL can do. Moving the goal and blue lines, shrinking equipment, plus rule changes for players to benefit offense all should have contributed to more goals. I don't know that changing goalie equipment again is a good idea and I don't think that posts would help either.
One idea that's actually kind of dangerous but might work is to increase the net vertically. It's 4'x6' now, what if it was 4'6" x 6'? The added height would make the butterfly less of a weapon, and it would also make higher shots more valuable, and therefore could discourage everyone from standing around in front of the net.
it is unfortunate that it would further diminish the competetiveness of small goalies.... I think they should shrink the equipment again.
Agreed. Taller goals would also increase risk of wayward shots to the face. Shrink the goalie pads again...
Question #1 made my brain hurt.
Very interesting. One quibble:
You can load the bases in baseball and come away with nothing; ripping off a 30-yard run in football is always worth something.
As I understand it, the argument is that the 30-yard run, even if you don't score on that possession, affects the probability of the opponent scoring on the next possession. This is what is meant by football having "memory," yes?
However, baseball does have memory, too. Pitch count matters. Times through the order matter. If Miguel Cabrera bats five times in a game, the odds of him producing a run in that game are better than if he bats four times. If you burn through an opposing bullpen faster, you're more likely to see a worse pitcher. In fact, in this way, memory exists from game to game in a way that football, nor any of the mentioned sports, does not have. If I force you to use your bullpen too much in the first two games of a three-game series, my odds of winning the third game improve.
In other words, if I load the bases in the 7th with my 2-3-4 hitters and my 5-6-7 hitters pop up, my 2-3-4 guys are now due up in the 9th instead of the 10th (an inning which may not happen.) If I then load the bases the next inning with 8-9-1, my odds of scoring a run are improved because I loaded the bases in the 7th.
Baseball is still the most ridiculously random sport - and anecdotal evidence of a regional 4 seed winning the entire CWS is a small piece of proof. But memory does exist.
This effect is real, but can still be quite random in its execution. Leaving aside the game-to-game issue for a second, a bases-loaded situation in the 4th inning seriously affects the pitch count; in the 7th, it helps the order... but if its a reliever in for one inning anyway, it doesn't matter. The A's gained nothing by loading the bases against Scherzer last fall, for example.
Well, everything is random in the execution. The 30-yard run could be followed by a pick-six on a screen pass where the defender would've scored from the 50 or the 10. I'm just saying that baseball has memory in a way that was overlooked in the original analysis.
But I'd argue college hockey still is "more ridiculously random" at the Championship tournament level.
In 7 of the last 10 years, the CWS champion has started as a #1 regional seed. There's also been one #2 regional seed (Fullerton 2004) and one #3 regional seed (Oregon State 2007).
The distribution for hockey champions: 5 #1 regional seeds, 2 #2 regional seeds (BC 2008, Denver 2004), 2 #3 regional seeds (Duluth 2011, State 2007) and 1 #4 regional seed (Yale 2013).
Double elimination definitely makes the CWS tournament better. It's BEYOND time to find a way to incorporate a double elimination component into the hockey tournament.
But I'd argue college hockey still is "more ridiculously random" at the Championship tournament level.
It is in practice, but, I think, only because of the format. Double elimination tamps down the randomness quite a bit in baseball. In fact, more so than just the mathematical effect, and more so than it could in hockey, because it puts a premium on having a deep pitching staff. I guarantee if baseball just had a straight single-elimination bracket, the championship would be a mess.
A simple one-week expansion of the tourney would do it. Lacrosse has a three-week tourney so there's no reason hockey can't. Play best two-of-three the first weekend, that's all it would take. Play best two-of-three the next weekend, too, that's fine - and then go to the Frozen Four and play single elimination for the marbles.
hockey used to have best of 3 series at campus sites- 1st round and even 2nd round IIRC. Only the final 4 was at a neutral site. this was back in the 80s.
it was a much better system, IMO-
Not sure I buy "you get only 9 chances in baseball." You could as easily conclude you get 27--every batter has a chance to hit a home run. Or 27 + number of walks + number of hits because that means more guys have a chance to hit HRs. In football too, you can try to score on every play if you want to. Seems the real reason baseball if less predictable is that so much turns on the pitching, which varies from day to day, unlike an NBA starting lineup. I don't think that makes the sport more random, it just means the outcome is more variable because of the way the game is structured.
Basketball is not random at all. Brian well-described how consistent the NBA is at determining a champion, for better or for worse; the "best team" almost always wins.
Baseball, unlike other sports, is designed with the randomness factored in. One game is not meant to be a true test of a team's full ability, particularly since only one pitcher can start on any given day. Thus, regular seasons have a different meaning; conversely, post-seasons are rather bizarre.
Hockey's randomness is not just a recent phenomenon, either. There have frequently been so-so regular season teams that have made big playoff runs, and of course all Wings fans remember what happened in 1996 after the greatest regular season ever. Perhaps things are amplified now, but hockey has long had this issue.
Brian's idea concerning goalie effectiveness is barking up the right tree, at the very least. Goalies are so good now that they are pretty much expected to stop every shot they can see and generally do. The rapid rise in goalie competence over the past 20 years has completely changed the game, and was an un-addressed root cause of much of the offensive doldrums that were the drive behind significant rule-changes after the lost season.
Anyone who watches film of, say, the Gretzky Oilers will be astonished both by the style of goaltending and the impressive number of goals scored by simple shots that would be no challenge today. Equipment is one factor, but goalies just play better now. The old stand-up goalie is a thing of the past.
I love it when players sell out to block shots, but when one combines the danger of the play with how effectively it throttles offense from the point, one wonders if limiting a player's ability to block shots should be limited. Perhaps ban players from leaving their feet to intercept pucks between the faceoff dots or something. Yeah, it would eliminate some sell-out play, but it would certainly increase offense. Make two-on-ones easier to convert, too.
Limit shot-blocking, widen the goal, shrink goalie equipment. I think it would all help.
further reduces randomness via the referees' inherent regard for superstars.
and ability to execute the power slide.
Speaking of the unsuitability of single-elimination tournaments in hockey, it should be mentioned that the NCAA hockey tournament has a great event for it's last four teams but is otherwise just about the worst-executed playoff imaginable on so many different levels.
Single-elimination to start with is challengingly random; a team can have a bad break or two, a bad call, or a bad bounce and have its season end. What's worse, their season probably ends at some neutral site that is 25% full of fans that are all there for the one team that is kinda sorta close by. Instead of the season peaking in the postseason, then, it ends with a heartless whimper.
When the issue of major junior comes up, we gripe about them paying players and making dishonest promises, and of course that is true. It remains a good product, however, that plays more games (what kid complains about playing more?) and has a killer post-season that almost every team qualifies for and starts at best-of-seven from the bottom rung. Thanks to their aggressive draft system, most teams that are decently well-run will be good enough to get to a conference finals at least once during a player's career. The teams that are lifting the best players (London, Kitchener, etc) are also rather good at being good enough to make even deeper playoff runs every year, and every game is packed with rabid fans.
This totally smokes the NCAA playoff system, where only the Frozen Four shines as an experience and most teams never make it that far. It's a hard sell.
And teams lose by random chance.
The problem with baseball regular seasons isn't that they aren't representative of the best team during that period, but playoffs are basically a different animal compared to the regular season in a way you don't see with other sports. In baseball, you can't roll out Verlander every game; you have to rest him and rely on your "lesser" pitchers 3 out of every 4 games. It would be like Michigan playing Gardner one game, then having to role with Morris, Bellomy, and random backup the next three games. The leader of one-half of your team is a non-factor for most of the post-season, introducing far more variability. And even that said, it's not like Cleveland is winning championships when they get into the playoffs; the Red Sox were one of the best teams all year, so just because they didn't have the best record we are talking about fine-grain differences at best. Probably the only egregious underdog I've seen was the 2006 Cardinals, and even that was due in part of injuries and the like for parts of the year.
To me, the most random sport has always been hockey, just because a hot goalie can keep a team in any game. With games usually decided by a goal, packing it in really is a viable option compared to even soccer, where the wide pitch forces teams to open up the zones quite a bit more, plus the (lowered) physicallity gives more freedom to the skill players.
I've been thinking for a while that there should be some sort of illegal defense rule since so many teams just compact their defense to the front of the net. There are times where if you're shooting from the blue line you may have to get the puck past 4 defenders, and several of your own players, just to get the puck to the goalie, let alone beat him. If there was a zone / key in front of the goal that only a certain amount of defensive players could be in at a time, otherwise a penalty, it might open things up a bit.
The protective equipment for players is so good now there is no fear for them to block shots. Goalie leg pads are still too big. Were there a lot of goalies getting hurt by shots in the 80's / early 90's that required the leg pads to expand so much?
Another idea: pucks that deflect off the netting should be "in-play". This would keep the action going and reward teams applying pressure in the offensive zone. Increasing the height of the goal would create a safety issue, with an increase in shots at head level.
Love hockey but I get annoyed when so many shots get blocked or teams have to employ the strategy of intentionally shooting wide in hopes of a fortuitous bounce off the boards.
I think the goal should be changed to look like an octopus, with the existing goal as its thorax or whatever. Then a bunch of tentacles could spread out from the goal, giving goalies extra random spaces to cover. And anytime a player gets a puck into one of the tentacles, everyone in the stadium gets a free hamburger. Because who doesn't like hamburgers.
I disagree with Brian here. As I understand it, soccer is very random, due to the very low number of scoring events per game (0-0 joke goes here). However, in comparison to American sports leagues, there is a much, much larger disparity in talent between the best and worst teams, and this helps to mitigate the chaos. In Europe, not only is there no salary cap, there are also no roster limits, drafts, or revenue sharing.
If you want an example close to home, look at results from early MLS years (really, up until a few years ago). There was essentially zero correlation between playoff success and regular season record.
But even at the World Cup, where all the teams are pretty good, soccer isn't really that unpredictable. The favored teams almost invariably make it out of the group stage. Prior to 2010, every WC final had involved one or more of Brazil, Germany, Argentina or Italy - and the '10 final wasn't exactly a shock either, with two powerhouses (Spain and the Netherlands) playing.
On paper, you would expect soccer to be as unpredictable as hockey, but that doesn't seem to be true. You get the occasional Cinderella (Greece won the Euro in 2004) but mostly, it goes to form.
Which of the corners is going to move to safety to improve depth there? That's what I want to know. Stribling has the size, but I know the coaches want big corners so a future of Stribling/Peppers sounds appealing. Any thoughts on those options?
My big frustration with basketball is that the "randomness" is so tied to officiating. I understand that it is impossible to be good at basketball officiating. But it changes games perhaps more than any other sport's officials do. Making matters worse, at this point you now see officials in football and baseball being held accountable via replay and slow motion. In basketball they rarely show bad calls or even discuss the impact of lousy officiating on the outcome of the game. I think it has forced improvement in the other sports but remains awful in basketball.
Of the sports you mention, baseball is the only one where the defense puts the ball in play, and the defense cannot score. In addition you can play to avoid good talent (intentional walk, over shifting the defense) in a way that other sports can't.
Basketball has the advantage that it is almost impossible to neutralize a star, because he can always bring the ball up; you can't keep it out of his hands. Soccer and hockey stars are more limited but still can start with the ball.
Football has the issue that often it's the weakest player rather than the best that determines success or failure. The heart of baseball is the batter-pitcher matchup. The heart of football is controlling the line of scrimmage.
It is really difficult to make a blanket generalization on soccer. Since there are soo many teams and soo many competitions
At the world cup the gulf between the best an worst teams are huge. The large variance between the teams makes it less likely for any inherent randomness to maniest itself in te results. You could even apply this principle to the champions league.
Compare this to the English premier league, where winning half your games in a 38 game season pretty much guarantees you a champions league berth (top 4 out of 20), and winning 60% of your games is outright championship form. The variance between teams here is small, so inherent randomness has a larger effect on the result of any single game.
I really enjoyed this discussion and the linked articles about randomness in sports--great stuff. But I'm a big Ron Fartburg fan and didn't appreciate Brian's Canadian brother belittling him (linked article about NHL overtime loser points).