Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Top MLS Bargins (Teams, Players)

In a perfect world, professional athletes would be paid based on performance above all else.

Using my player ratings I can estimate individual player values in relationship to the rest of the league and their corresponding salaries.

The way I do that is to take the aggregate of every player's score and assign a monetary value to each point -- then add all those player values and group by team. From there you get a club value as compared to (above or below) existing salaries (more details below list, promise):

THE BEST (in $$)
+950k : San Jose
+750k : Sporting KC
+650k : Houston
+450k : Columbus
+450k : Real Salt Lake
+450k : Seattle

+200k : D.C.
+100k : New England
+100k : Chicago
+100k : Chivas USA
-100k : New York
-300k : Colorado

-350k : Philadelphia
-400k : FC Dallas
-500k : Los Angeles
-500k : Vancouver

-731k : Montreal
-751k : Toronto FC
-769k : Portland

482 players have seen minutes in MLS this year. I've awarded 17,448 pts (on a 0-100 pt scale) when added up from all of them. Total salaries of those 482 players: $ 61,431,169. I've capped salaries at $350k as that is the max MLS counts against cap.*

Total Salaries / total pts = per point value

61,431,169 / 17,488 = $ 3,520.75

Example: I have New York's Teemu Tainio as a "12". He's played 180 minutes on an above average team, no goals or assists but fired off 3 shots and has fouled as much as he has been foul-ed.

12 x 3,520.75 = 40,531.6 (Helltown player value)

Teemu Tainio is being paid A $205,000 guaranteed salary. Which means, by this scale, his overpaid by $164,468.40.

Now imagine that formula aggregated per team and you have my above list (in Dollars).

It's rounded because of some player transactions that I'm not going to bother messing with. Reminder that this only includes players that have seen minutes. There are a total of almost 600 MLS players. For the sake of this exercise, we will consider the players not getting minutes as unused inventory.

Here are the top 10 players completely outperforming their contracts (by %). Each of these players make less than $60k in guaranteed salary.

Justin Morrow (SJ), Steven Beitashour (SJ), Ryan Meara (NY), Rafael Baca (SJ), Connor Lade (NY), Daniel Woolard (DC), Brian Meredith (SEA), Josh Williams (CLB), Lee Nguyen (NE), Jeb Brovsky (MON).

Here are how Crew players look when pulling things apart in this way (% above current salary):

Josh Williams (+350%)
Andy Gruenebaum (+220%)
Eric Gehrig (+190%)
Kirk Urso (+180%)
Kevan George (+160%)
Bernardo Anor (+130%)
Aaron Schoenfeld (+125%)

Justin Meram (+80%)
Cole Grossman (+75%)
Sebastian Miranda (+70%)
Emilio Rentería (+50%)
Ethan Finlay (+50%)
Eddie Gaven (+40%)
Nemanja Vukovic (+30%)

Danny O'Rourke (-10%)
Tony Tchani (-15%)
Milovan Mirosevic (-20%)
Carlos Mendes (-20%)

Olman Vargas (-30%)
Julius James (-39%)
Chad Marshall (-50%)
Dilly Duka (-64%)

Still a lot of MLS season to go so we will see how it turns out. Major League Soccer executives like to talk about the stability of their league. Looking up and down the talent in the league and seeing what they are paid, I would agree. Just not in the way they might like.

There are too many underpaid players in this league, which means MLS is ripe for the pickin' from other leagues. They (MLS) need to let go of talent more easily and reward teams that develop it more fruitfully. It's not a surprise that teams from California, Missouri, Ohio and Texas make my list. They all have talent to spare.

This is a working model and I should probably not get this specific (rounding is our friend).


There have been a significant number of high profile "designated player (DP)" trades in MLS this year. To be frankly honest, I think a DP player is useless and a waste of money, time and resources for most clubs.

The recent Crew signing, in particular, is baffling to me. Why? For the most part the Crew have stuck to a formula Simon Kuper (and Stefan Szymanski) wrote about in a their ever so popular book; Soccernomics. Embedded deep in that book was a chapter about helping players adapt to new cultures. While I found it informative and valuable for a Barclay's Premier League like clubs bringing in players from half a world away I felt it relatively unimportant for Major League Soccer teams. Why? Well, the pressure is mostly off in this league and the US is a melting pot. Round a corner and you will probably find folks from your homeland.

Be it lack of funds or otherwise... The Crew have taken the importance of helping players adapt to new cultures (ie. OHIO) to a NEW LEVEL.

Two players from California (Marshall, Grossman), two from Chile (Mirosevic, Miranda), two from Costa Rica (Vargas, Arrieta), two from Indiana (Gehrig, Balchan), two from Missouri (Gruenebaum, Heinemann).

Shall I go on? *deep breath*

Two from New Jersey (Duka, Gaven), two from Tennessee (Schoenfeld, Lampson), two from Venezuela (Anor, Renteria), and two from Trinidad and Tobago (James, George).

I've buried it here in this post because it's nearly comical and just about laugh out loud ridiculous. What's even more ridiculous is that they employ this superficial "buddy system" with just about everyone except their most expensive purchase.

Federico Higuaín.

*MLS salary regulations get wonky when players make above 350k. Product manipulation, centralized control, all that snuff so I cap it at the max cap hit

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