Saturday, November 17, 2007

Referee Pete Morelli better for visiting teams?

Is it possible that a referee in some way is better for visiting teams than other referees? By this, we mean that there may be some unintentional bias for visiting teams, not an intentional effort. After all, if anyone was intentionally trying to influence games, they would probably flip flop from week to week which side they were favoring and change their bets accordingly. A long-term trend is more likely to be an unintentional and unconscious bias.

Let's focus on Peter Morelli: is it possible that he favors visiting teams?

Well, visiting teams have done unusually well in games that he has covered. Let's focus over the 2006 and 2007 season (the 2007 season through week 10 or through November 12, 2007). Let's narrow the analysis only to the referees who have worked both in 2006 and 2007. We're taking out the referees who only worked one of the two seasons.

In 2006, Peter Morelli had the best winning percentage for visiting teams -- they won 67% of the time. The next-best was four referees where visiting teams won 53% of the games. So Peter Morelli was the best out of the 16 referees we are studying.

In 2007 (so far), Peter Morelli again has the best winning percentage for visiting teams -- they are winning 75% of his games! The next-best is Scott Green, where visiting teams are winning 67% of the games. (Strangely, in the 2007 season, the visiting teams went 0-2 to start the season and have since then gone a blistering 6-0 in Pete Morelli's games.)

Here are some examples of visiting teams doing unexpectedly well in his games:
2006 Wk 6: Carolina (8-8) beat Baltimore (13-3) 23-21
2006 Wk 10: NY Jets (10-6) beat NE Patriots (12-4) 17-14
2006 Wk 9: Miami (6-10) beat Chicago (13-3) 31-13
2006 Wk 15: SF (7-9) beat Seattle (9-7) 24-14
2007 -- no unusual examples, in each of the six victories, the visiting team has arguably been having a better season overall than the home teams. The one that you might argue was close might have been week 4 where Tampa Bay (now 5-4) beat the Carolina Panthers (now 4-5) by a score of 20-7, where Tampa Bay had one penalty for 5 yards and Carolina had 7 penalties for 65 yards. Maybe you would say sure in 6 of 8 games the visiting team was better, but maybe it means something that the 6 visiting teams won those games?

So, is it an irrelevant statistical oddity that Pete Morelli is best in 2006 and for now also best in 2007 out of the 16 referees who worked in 2006 and 2007? What do you think? Post your thoughts as a comment to this blog posting.

Update: now that the December 18 games are over, how about Peter Morelli happening to be at the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens game that ended 33-30 in overtime for another visiting team victory after Phil Dawson kicked a 51-yard field goal at the end of regulation, the referees initially called it no good, they conferred and corrected themselves, and they had to get the Ravens to come back out from the locker room to play overtime? Naturally, it was good that Peter Morelli and his crew got the call right, but how about the odds that the game was barely won by the visiting team, just after we pointed out that the visiting team had won 6 straight before that game and visiting teams did the best with him in the 2006 NFL season? Again, post your comments about whether this is an unimportant statistical oddity or might somehow mean something, perhaps an unconscious bias.


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