Thursday, November 29, 2012

2013 Crew: Doomed to be Average

Ain't no man can avoid being born average, but there ain't no man got to be common. - Satchel Paige

Looking at the past two years there is clear evidence to support exhausting all resources to keep as many players together as possible. This is of course challenging as Major League Soccer salary cap restrictions work against consistency.

Back in October I took a look at roster turnover on each club. What I found was that successful teams in 2012 retained players from their 2011 roster. It's not just a case of good teams keeping good players, either. San Jose topped the league this year after being a bottom feeder in 2011. You would've thought that they flipped their roster to improve this year, instead it's just the opposite. They had the 3rd highest player retention rate in the league. 60% of the Earthquake players that saw minutes in 2012 also saw time in 2011.

The team retaining the most talent from 2011 to 2012? MLS Cup co-participant, Houston Dynamo (67%).

What I've found is that retaining and playing >54% of the same players year over year greatly increases success in the league.

54% : Top Half of Table (53% AVG)
45% : Bottom Half of Table (43% AVG)

• Only three teams in the top nine were under 50% retention (NY, CHI, SEA).

• Only ONE team in the bottom half was above 50% (FCD)

The dust hasn't settled on the Crew offseason yet but right now, at best, the Crew have retained 15 players for the 2013 season that were on the team at the start of 2012. 50% puts them right in the middle of the table. If I subtract Aaron Horton due to him not seeing a minute of MLS time (in keeping with October post) the Crew drop to 47% retention. Removing Ben Speas' appearance in the last game takes the club down to 43%.

Unless you have one of the best players in a generation on your team you will likely be out of the playoff with a 43% retention rate of players seeing time in both last year and this year.

Has the Crew already relegated themselves to the middle of the 2013 table? My honest answer to that is "yes". Of course there is still a lot of time between now and the end of next year and there could possibly be re-signings (recommended).

CAVEAT: If I've learned anything in this league it's that MLS likes to tinker and that opens the door for crazy. That said; No expansion team this year should allow teams to keep more players together thus (fingers crossed) improve the overall quality of play in the league.


MLS changes and modifies rules constantly. There seems to be a strong movement to build "Homegrown Talent" with some of the clubs right now. Brian Bliss and company have really grabbed hold of this trend (see more at Top Drawer Soccer) and this year seems to be shaping up as the YEAR OF THE HOMEGROWN (Trapp, Weit and Barson for the Crew). Some of the cuts this year might be in anticipation of a trio of local players joining the club.

Here is the list of % players retained by club and listed by rank (descending 1-19) on the final 2012 MLS table.

60% : San Jose
60% : Sporting KC
54% : D.C.
30% : New York
61% : Real Salt Lake
44% : Chicago
48% : Seattle
50% : Los Angeles
67% : Houston
46% : Columbus
45% : Vancouver
- : Montreal
59% : FC Dallas
45% : Colorado
38% : Philadelphia
39% : New England
45% : Portland
28% : Chivas USA
48% : Toronto FC

One of the first things I'll be doing when predicting table in February is comparing rosters year over year.

Some good reading out there for those looking to make sense of offseason club moves.

1. Salary Cap Realities Harsh For Seattle Sounders, David Clark.

2. Real Salt Lake see more players victimized by MLS salary cap and roster policies, "denz"

The wise are instructed by reason, average minds by experience, the stupid by necessity and the brute by instinct. - Cicero
One cannot develop taste from what is of average quality but only from the very best. - Goethe

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

7 Options Declined

The Columbus Crew today announced they will be declining options on the following players contracts: William Hesmer, Rich Balchan, Julius James, Sebastian Miranda, Chris Birchall, Tony Tchani; and forward Tommy Heinemann.

Columbus is free to negotiate new contracts with these players but it is not likely that the club will pick any back up. Roster bullet points:

• All totaled the Crew dropped $ 854,825 in Guaranteed Salary ($ 710,950 Base) today.

• $ 1,899,900 worth of contracts remain on the 2013 payroll, $ 1,554,200 (Base Salary) left on the roster, according to MLS Salary Cap rules

• Only 9 players left from just 2 years ago. Of them, 2 were regular starters. Columbus very much in rebuilding mode despite reports out of team HQ stating otherwise.

Here is a list of 17 players that will be returning in 2013: Andy Gruenebaum, Matt Lampson, Eric Gehrig, Chad Marshall, Josh Williams, Bernardo Anor, Dilly Duka, Ethan Finlay, Eddie Gaven, Kevan George, Milovan Mirosevic, Jairo Arrieta, Federico Higuaín, Aaron Horton, Justin Meram, Aaron Schoenfeld, and Ben Speas.

According to reports, the Crew will be offering new contracts to Carlos Mendes, Emilio Renteria and Danny O'Rourke.


Sadly, a lot of what was cut strikes me as simply cutting injured players. I do not believe the Columbus Crew have the resources to care and feed players with injury (of any kind). Hesmer, Balchan, and Heinemann all had season injuries early on. James suffered a collapsed lung that sidelined him most of the year then battled a reoccurring shoulder injury. All were cut and all are probably casualty of a poorly financed and run fitness and training staff.

Sebastian Miranda and Chris Birchall are pure examples of unnecessary cuts in my book. They have MLS experience and earn a modest starting salary. Replacements will likely be, at best, similar quality. It's 'change for change sake' at it's best.

Tony Tchani seemed to come on a bit this year but ultimately it's probably his Generation Adidas contract that did him in.


Having only been a casual fan over the years, Tommy probably responsible for me getting hooked on following the Crew as closely as I have since late 2010. I'm not even going to pretend to use data to justify keeping him (even though his win % as a starter remains one of the best in last 2 years). I favor him too much. He's a good dude and I wish him the best where ever he goes.

Tommy's time with the Crew inspired enough in me to make a couple videos... 1st is a video during a long road trip out west back in 2011.

Another was in defeat... but myths, legends and heroes are made in such times:

And here's a 3rd one I did.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Crew Brand

Almost positive this is a topic that is going to get more and more attention as the weeks and months go by, so touching on it for a minute.

Outside of what the word "massive" means and how the club plans on usurping it, there seems to be two separate arguments stemming from a Brand Survey the Columbus Crew asked fans to fill out. It was first sent out to fans of whom they had email addresses for. It was later posted on their site. You can find it here, Black and Gold Brand Survey.

The Two Arguments:

1st is about the logo itself. Even though I'm very far from my BA in Graphic Design (and Fine Art!), I know the thing is dated. I also asked a couple of friends who design for a living (one in Raleigh, NC another in LA) and whose opinion I trust more than my own what they thought, they agreed.

2nd argument is about what the logo means. What it stands for. These days I'm closer to what symbols mean more than how they look. The Crew logo has come to actually mean something in a way that some other pro sports in the US take for granted. In a lot of ways the Crew logo is the brand.

I'm sure a brand refresh would generate some interest and sell a few more tickets (I'm thinking Miami Marlins) but I believe it comes at cost greater than the gain. I'm having a hard time coming up with a total brand refresh that has been 100% worth it. Narrowing down the 'refresh' list to teams not moving out of town and it gets even harder to find a good example.

I've written about the "Crew Brand" a few times over the past couple years.


"The game of soccer was born behind places like Columbus Steel Castings and in towns like Newcastle Upon Tyne. The "Through these gates..." like sign is not uncommon around union halls and other mfg facilities around town. "America's hardest working team" comes naturally to this part of the country."


"I work, and have been working, in manufacturing here in Columbus for over six years. For me? Reaffirmation sometimes shows itself in the form of being able to share a moment talking Crew soccer with someone who physically sweats, sneezes, and coughs up black soot. I doubt many who are casting stones at the Crew have met someone like that.

Maybe there are folks out there that have never met someone who gets a three dollar pay increase for merely not getting maimed or even dying in the first couple months at the local foundry. That same someone who might only know of the Crew through their team slogan, "Hardest working team in America." "

Josh Williams (talent+romanticism)

"The future growth of this sport in this area is not in the teenagers filling stands on Saturday nights right now, but it is those same teenagers 20 years from now who are Jack swigging, pot smoking - proud - Iron Workers Union - hellraisers filling the stands and taking their kids out to the game."

Outsiders also tend to view the club as "hardworking, underdog" but think the logo sucks. I realize it's not for everyone but I enjoy this view on the Columbus Crew. I think it actually means something in that it actually represents an ethic and not just an animal, mythical being or a natural disaster.

If the Crew organization doesn't like that ethic or doesn't think it represents the folks around town then they need to step out of their office, drive down to Obetz, Ohio where their training facility is and walk into any one of the literally dozens of warehouses surrounding it. I actually work in one of them, right down near Rickenbacker Airport.

They can come on down and take a look around. I only ask a couple things that might sound a bit off to them but familiar to over half the City of Columbus: No loose clothing, hair can't drop below their shoulders. Flat soled shoes and long pants are recommended. I'll provide the safety glasses, a mask for dust producing areas and coating department... and, if necessary, a hardhat.


Friday, November 23, 2012

The Crew Forward Market

Now that I've looked at Crew Defenders and Midfielders, it's time to take a look at the Crew's attacking group. Just as in the last post I'm going to touch on which players are a hit and which are a miss in regards to contract.

You'd figure that writing about the Forward position might be the most exciting, but it really isn't. Why this is probably has a lot to do with the Columbus Crew switching to a single forward attack over the two that they preferred all of last year and at the start of this year.

The rise of the 4-2-3-1 as Robert Warzycha's primary formation comes from the lack of any target man. The injury to Tommy Heinemann, impatience with Olman Vargas and generally 'rookie-ness' of Aaron Schoenfeld almost forced the oh so mighty hand of Warzycha to go with what was his secondary formation (the: 4-2-3-1) last year.

Since that formation change - the club rode the Jairo Arrieta train from summer on. What that means is that there isn't a whole lot to hang our hats on here at the "forward" position. All is not lost though. How about we look at it from a "attacking" position perspective.


Federico Higuain
Value: $195k, Contract: $162k
Notes: Contract was cut in half to adjust for MLS rules regarding players starting half way through the season.

Emilio Renteria
Value: $163k, Contract: $134k
Notes: Renteria's Goal p90 rate tanked this year but most of that was due to the change in his role. Renteria took his positional change really well and actually earned three assists.

Jairo Arrieta
Value: $134k, Contract: $113k
Notes: Arrieta is another contract I cut in half due to MLS rules on players coming in halfway through the season.


Olman Vargas (released)
Value: $79k, Contract: $175k
Notes: Olman contract option was not picked up by the Crew.


Turns out that even my modest predictions for him back in February were too lofty. I predicted 3-5 goals, no assists and 1200 minutes of playing time with a scoring rate of 0.12. Turns out I was dead on the scoring rate. In MLS he got 0.13 but only half the 1200 minutes I foresaw. Also, he registered 0 (nowt) assists, just as I thought (mu-hahaha).

On other thing I tried to predict was his salary. I called it at $140k. Turns out it was slightly higher; $175k. What's frustrating to me is that armed with only public information I was able to predict what this player would do and the salary he would make.

Vargas was the only real loss the Crew took at the forward position. In fact, the forward position was the only group that was in the black.

It's surprising to me is that for all the fan discontent with the Crew attacking capabilities the players classified by Stats, Inc as Forwards actually did very well (in terms of value). Much better, in fact, then both Defenders and Midfielders.

-$186k: MIDFIELD
+$127k: FORWARDS


Justin Meram and Aaron Schoenfeld are underpaid when comparing what they did to the rest of Major League Soccer. I value Meram at $169k and Schoenfeld at $80k. Both are clear values based on 2012 production. The earned well above their current salaries.


Robert Warzycha will ride Higuain and Arrieta till the wheels come off. Problem will be - the wheels will inevitably come off. You can't win in this league with just one playmaker and one opportunistic forward. Banking an entire season on that combo is league table suicide. Aaron Schoenfeld and Tommy Heinemann will have to play a role in order for this team to make some noise in 2013. Look at the best teams in this league. Hell. Any league.

Simply put: You cannot survive on a poacher (Arrieta) and an advanced playmaking forward (Higuain) to create all your goals over a 34+ match season.


Of the players that saw time, Ethan Finlay and Ben Speas are the only other players I haven't talked about. I like both of them. It appears that they will be spending time in unnatural spots. Speas seems to be destine for the Left Mid spot and Finlay? Anywhere else under King Warzycha. I like him anywhere that allows him to run.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Crew Midfield, MLS Value Conversation

The more time I spend with on this type of analysis the more things start jumping out at me. It's especially apparent now that I've reviewed the Crew Defenders and Midfield. While the specific numbers matter to me, the simpler way to look at this is to call a players contract either a "Hit" or "Miss".

It's great that there are some players far exceeding contract but what is also impressive are those players that demand larger contracts and perform up to that level. Going back to my last post real quick, you'll notice two players that were definite salary / contract "Hits" in Sebastian Miranda and Carlos Mendes and three decidedly "Miss" in James, Vukovic, and Marshall.

Looking at the group as a whole it's easy to say that the Crew missed on the entire backline with contracts falling -$(195,506) to the red. That actually puts them 14th in the league (not good) in regards to the backline (TFC, COL, VAN, PHI) territory. However, upon closer inspection I see that C. Marshall makes up 89% of that deficit.

Similar tale to tell here with the Crew midfield. The players at this position carry a contract deficit of -$(186,126) and through not much fault on his own, Dilly Duka makes up 74% of it (reminder: I always use 'guaranteed contract'). Duka is coming of Generation Adidas graduation and appears to be saddled with a heavily incentivised contract. It is very possible that the 'herky-jerky' nature of his playing time was due to this. Has the Robert Warzycha and Co. ruined a talented player here? I have a feeling we will find out very soon when/if he suits up for another club and plays his natural central MF spot.

Other midfield contract misses are Milovan Mirosevic, Danny O'Rourke and possibly Chris Birchall. Mirosevic's $223,000 is 28% too high in my book. I value him at a healthy $160k, which is significantly above league median of $110k, which means he added value but he did not live up to this heavy price tag.

In fact, no midfielder in MLS really lives up to a salary that high when looking a value based on performance. My analysis shows that anything over $215k might be too high for a MF player in MLS. Or, another way to put that is to say; that if you are a team looking at a offering a contract above $200k... don't, the risk far outweighs the return you will likely get.

As for the contract "Hits" I show Eddie Gaven and Tony Tchani. Now, Gaven is a solid Hit. I rank him as the 3rd best MF in MLS this year. Tchani's hit is a bit of a strange thing, but it makes sense upon closer inspection. MLS is littered with midfield players. Almost 200 different players saw time there (compared with 150 Defenders, 110 Forwards) and a good chunk of them only played in half the games. Only 25% saw more than 2000 minutes compared to 36% of defenders. What this means is the MLS has a lot of midfield players making good money only playing half the time. There are many possible reasons for this, first being that a MF does a lot of running.

That said. This is a 'market value' look at the league so while MLS has a collective problem in searching for the right MF players, Tchani falls into a sweet spot on the list. Here are some of the players around him on my player rating and make similar salary: Gabriel Gomez, Luiz Camargo, David Ferreira, Bobby Convey, Branko Boskovic... Those are some heavy hitters but also some large salaries. All of these players only played in about half their team's games yet make over 200k.

Tony Tchani also has one of these Generation Adidas contracts that tend to out pace player value according to MLS. The difference between his base and guaranteed is $104k and Duka's diff is $130k. That's a lot of added pressure on both player and coach and I can see why MLS is taking a closer look at the GA program (It could be argued that this Adidas program pays correctly and MLS themselves undervalue. I'm not taking that on). Regardless, in my opinion any team with both these players should start them game in / game out. They are talented and will bring wins. Problem with the Crew is that they reached on them before their salary counted towards the cap and now that it does, they realize that, while they are valuable and meet their "Base Salary", they are not worth their heavy guaranteed rates.


Brian Bliss is the Crew Technical Director. On his own, he knows young undiscovered talent (he is connected to that pipeline) but I think he tends to miss on experienced players when he doesn't have the help of folks like Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

Looking up and down the list of Crew midfielders it is circumstance might do in Dilly Duka and Tony Tchani while in my opinion the wise cut might be Mirosevic. If the Crew can rework Duka and Tchani's contracts down to where their guaranteed is at base levels they should keep them as they are both worth that.

One other larger contract th Crew have is Chris Birchall. I'm not sure about him, because he came into the season a little late, if is $109k contract has to be paid in full. I am confident that had he been around all season he would have been a "Hit".

Lastly, we have a trio of lower wage midfielders that contributed well above their league mandated minimums. They were

Kevan George
$33,750 salary : 67,500 HB Value

Bernardo Anor
$44,100 salary : 75,833 HB Value

Cole Grossman (released)
$44,100 salary : 67,600 HB Value

Bernardo could very well end up on the defender list next year even though he's only a defender in the eyes of Robert Warzycha. Note: Ethan Finlay is listed as a Forward by Stats, Inc. I will cover him later with that group.


The MF positions in this league seem to be a revolving door and the Crew is no different. This muddies the waters and makes contract evaluation difficult. My recommendation to the Crew would be to work on a consistent and durable MF lineup (and formation) and work from there. Constant change will only make things more difficult to evaluate and therefore reward/compensate appropriately.

The reason this post is in conversational for is because there is very little to ground these players with. You've got GA players with unbalanced contracts, an aging Chilean who never found his rhythm, a talented young leader who requested out, a skillful gazelle who was put into an unnatural left back position and tore his knee apart, and another who very well could be one of the best MLS midfielders of his generation.

The Crew's problem is here - in the midfield. Not so much in that there isn't enough talent, more that it is probably been misused or there is a disconnect between Brian Bliss and the coaching staff.


As I'm finishing this midfield post up and getting ready to head out to meet friends on this day I can't help but think of Kirk Urso and his family. While I'd give a lot to be writing about his performance and what he would contribute to next year - his life reminds us all of what is really important.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Crew Defense, Market Value (Salary)

Off and on over the past couple years I've been trying to come up with a meaningful way to measure MLS Player Value. I mentioned it in my last post, calling it HB Market Value. What I did with that was pull the median from the 10 salaries above and below an individual performer based on my own player rating model.

I thought the results were interesting and somewhat useful but there were too many strange outcomes. After some digging I found that it was because the difference in what a Forward makes in relationship to what a Defender or Mid-fielder or what-have-you. So, I've taken one small extra step and pulled out the players by position and re-run the 10 above / 10 below median salary.

I'm satisfied with what I've got right now. Here is what happened with Crew Defenders. It is sorted by % Above or Below 2012 Salary:

HB Market Value : $112,500
2012 Salary : $44,100
Difference : +$68,400

HB Market Value : $71,466
2012 Salary : $44,000
Difference : +$27,466

HB Market Value : $160,500
2012 Salary : $140,000
Difference : +$20,500

HB Market Value : $96,250
2012 Salary : $106,209
Difference : -$(9,959)

HB Market Value : $69,313
2012 Salary : $100,000
Difference : -$(30,687)

HB Market Value : $84,571
2012 Salary : $125,500
Difference : -$(40,929)

HB Market Value : $89,303
2012 Salary : $145,600
Difference : -$(56,297)

HB Market Value : $161,000
2012 Salary : $341,250
Difference : -($(174,000)

* Vukovic has was let go earlier this week.

If you add these 8 salaries up and subtract my "HB Market Value" you end up with a overall loss on these players.

$1,040,409 : Total Salaries
$844,903 : HB Market Value
-$(195,506.00) : Difference

I can see why the Crew eliminated Vukovic but removing him doesn't take their backline into overall profitability. Oft injured Marshall, James and O'Rourke are concrete boots to this position. All are excellent players (Danny's work roaming the mid-field is master-class, when he's out there. Thus illo above. I'll include him in my Mid-Field market eval) but (right now) their contracts far outweigh contribution.

The only way to take the Crew backline back into profitability would be to drop Marshall and one of the following; James, Vukovic, or O'Rourke.

Marshall was just resigned a long deal and O'Rourke seems to be staying. With Vukovic gone, this leaves Julius James as the odd man out.


153 different players saw time (according to STATS,INC) as a Defender during the 2012 MLS season. The Median salary for this group was $99,000.

Here are the Players who most outperformed their 2012 MLS contract. On the left is % value above salary.

383% : Connor Lade : (NY)
270% : Chris Korb : (DC)
168% : Jeb Brovsky : (MON)
167% : Tyler Ruthven : (NY)
155% : Josh Williams : (CREW)
155% : Bryan Gaul : (LA)
153% : Steven Beitashour : (SJ)
151% : Raymon Gaddis : (PHI)
150% : Jermaine Taylor : (HOU)
146% : Austin Berry : (CHI)

When I talk "Market Value" I'm talking within Major League Soccer universe only. More specifically the 2012 MLS universe. Trying to determine a player's value to foreign leagues is a completely different species. It's something I would love to take on at some point, but this... that is not.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Crew Drop Three, Grossman to RSL

Olman Vargas, Nemanja Vukovic and Cole Grossman have been dropped.

From "All three players are not eligible for the MLS Re-entry Process and will be placed on the MLS Waiver wire, with the MLS Waiver Draft taking place at 3:30 p.m. ET this afternoon."


1. Grossman was the only player picked from the 43 dropped for today's "Waiver Draft". Real Salt Lake nabbed him, wisely.

2. The Re-entry Process" is a tricky animal as MLS over-engineers player draft rules everything. My understanding is that Vargas and Vukovic are dangling out there once their 2012 contract officially ends at the end of the calendar year. Both are quality players


I've written a lot about Cole here at Helltown over the course of the 2012 season, with emphasis since the end of the Crew season when doing player evaluations. The reason for this is because his metrics were notably good in the short time he played.

Real Salt Lake was smart to pick him up.

For me? He's a $44k a year player who was put into impossible positions when called upon this year. He started against Seattle, DC United, Sporting KC, LA, and Houston and never lost a match with 8 goals for and only 4 against. If you didn't notice; Those are the best teams in the league.

His counterpart, Milovan Mirosevic? He didn't win a single game against a team ranked 1-9 on the table when starting. NOT A SINGLE ONE. 0 Wins, 4 Draws, 5 Losses. 10 Goals For, 16 Against. A main contributer to the club missing the 2012 playoffs was Mirosevic's presence on the pitch when playing better competition.

Let's take a second to break down some of the incompetence that Grossman mentions in his Facebook post today.

Below is a record of the Crew's results when Mirosevic was a starter against better competition:

Round 4: NY. LOSS
Round 6: HOU. DRAW
Round 10: SJ DRAW
Round 20: DC. LOSS
Round 21: LA. DRAW

You would think that during this part of the season the club would have noticed a trend. Why? Because by week 22 Grossman had 3 wins in 5 starts vs top teams to Mirosevics 0 in 5.

The team didn't take notice and started Mirosevic in critical late year matches. He ended up starting in 4, losing 3.

Round 28: NY. LOSS
Round 30: CHI. LOSS
Round 32: SKC. DRAW
Round 33: DC. LOSS

At one of the most important positions on a Robert Warzycha coached team (Defensive Mid-Fielder)... Why would Mirosevic, a player who clearly struggled against better players early on, get time late in the year against quality clubs?

I'm sorry, but it doesn't take a Duke University graduate to figure this one out. A trend is a trend. It should have been sorted. The Crew reacted quickly with Olman Vargas by pulling him early in the season (didn't start after week 10, no wins against top half talent), why not Mirosevic?


RSL is ranked 3rd in over all record over the last 4 years. While it's true that Columbus is 4th in that time, RSL still clocks in at 4th over the last two years. Columbus has tumbled to 9th.

Grossman is going to a better run MLS franchise. The fact that they picked a player like him is a testament to how they measure performance and why they are consistently better than Columbus and the other 15 clubs in the league below them.


I ventured in to the ever increasing dark forest that is Facebook and found that common fans are upset about Vukovic getting dropped. Longer written posts reason out in favor of keeping Cole and there is general indifference to Vargas.


I rate every player. I also keep track of every player's salary. If I take the 10 players above and below an individual on my rating scale I can summize general value (or "HB Market Value" if I may. If you will).

Nemanja Vukovic: $125,500
HB Market Value: $75,000
Difference: -($50,500)

Olman Vargas: $175,000
HB Market Value: $93,300
Difference: -($81,700)

Cole Grossman: $44,100
HB Market Value: $65,000
Difference: +$20,9000

Both Vukovic and Vargas are overpaid. Cole is underpaid by a significant percentage. By picking him up in the MLS Waiver Draft RSL is getting a value.

The Columbus Crew let go of $344,600 today.

The total HB Market Value of these players: $233,300.

Aggregate salary dropped today, by club.

$756,255 : NYR : 9
$463,790 : PHI : 3
$413,256 : SKC : 4

$344,600 : CREW : 3

$292,514 : FCD : 5
$208,502 : COL : 2
$185,600 : TFC : 4
$155,000 : VAN : 3
$149,372 : NER : 4
$111,500 : POR : 3
$103,333 : SJE : 1
$35,750 : RSL : 1
$33,750 : MON : 1

RSL picked up Cole's $44,100 salary, so call it even for them.

Of the 43 dropped today I recommend the following players (other than Cole):

B. Brettschneider: $33,756
HB Market Value: 105,950
Difference: +$72,194

C. Rodriguez: $64,383
HB Market Value: $90,750
Difference: +$26,367

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Make the Right Crew Move, Or Not

With player exit interviews supposedly complete and the last day of club organized 2012 training over it's time take these passing nods and winks coming out of the Columbus Crew press mill and write about it, like any blogger should. "Read the tea leaves," as they say. Fair enough, perhaps I should. Or... how about we take the tea leaves and brew 'em into a poisonous concoction.

Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch is reporting that Defensive Mid-Fielder Cole Grossman's "Future With Crew Uncertain".

Cole Grossman out performed every other Defensive Mid-Fielder on the Columbus Crew in 2012.

1. % of Total Possible Pts Earned as Starter

73% : Cole Grossman
56% : Danny O'Rourke
53% : Chris Birchall
46% : Eric Gehrig
44% : Milovan Mirosevic
38% : Tony Tchani
33% : Kevan George

2. Goal Difference per Start

+1.00 : Cole Grossman
+0.17 : Danny O'Rourke
+0.00 : Chris Birchall
-0.04 : Milovan Mirosevic
-0.14 : Tony Tchani
-0.25 : Kevan George
-0.38 : Eric Gehrig

3. Avg Opponent Rank

5.8 : Cole Grossman
8.9 : Chris Birchall
9.6 : Tony Tchani
10.0 : Kevan George
10.8 : Danny O'Rourke
11.2 : Milovan Mirosevic
11.3 : Eric Gehrig

Some of these players jumped around between the backline and DM, but including them anyway. All have over 5 starts. Enough.

Grossman clearly leads all the 'executive summary' type metrics. Not only did he play the best teams, he did the best. And for the least amount of salary. That said, something not on the summary but one of the other things I track here is "True Value". It's the difference between what a player makes (listed salary in US $) and their contribution to their club's overall record in a given season based on my own rating model. Here is how that looks for 2012:

+$37,879.91 : Eric Gehrig
+$26,519.07 : Chris Birchall
+$19,250.67 : Kevan George
+$16,450.77 : Cole Grossman

-$11,517.74 : Danny O'Rourke
-$35,752.07 : Milovan Mirosevic
-$83,913.39 : Tony Tchani

(Positive is good, negative is bad. This is the estimated amount the player contributed to the 2012 regular MLS season above or below salary. Observation: The Crew tend to stick to playing players as they pay them, regardless of individual form. Example: highly paid get time, lower less - regardless of results. More on this some other time, perhaps. Good job Eric Gehrig.)


After toying around it as [the "Crew's"] secondary formation early in the year, Robert Warzycha and the rest of the band decided that 4-2-3-1 was their thing. How does that formation work? Let us take a look...

Hold six back, let three choose their own adventure and hang one up top.

Keep in mind that this only became the primary formation after Warzycha's "narrow diamond mid-field" 4-1-3-2 fell apart - due, in part, to the injuries mounting at the wing backs and holding defensive mid spots. Also, key injury of target man; Tommy Heinemann and the (arguable) misfire signing of Olman Vargas. It was expected that their pairing with speedy and capable poachers like Renteria and Arrieta would keep the the 4-1-3-2 alive.

The move to a 4-2-3-1 saw the Crew became dependent on two competent "Defensive Mid-Fielders" instead of just one. Look back at 2011 you see players like Danny O'Rourke, Dejan Rusmir, Kevin Burns, Emmanuel Ekpo, or Rich Balchan filling that single CDM spot and now in 2012 it's the folks I list above filling two.


We live in a data rich society where winners and losers will be determined by who understand how to best use it and those that don't. It's not about looking at any small group of numbers like passing % or possession in a single regular season game... it's not even pitting 'data nerds' v. 'old school feel'.

In sports; it's about success. Results. Winning and Surviving within the parameters set before you. Data reliant or not. Results are dependent on extrapolating the important and reliable from what is just noise.

What is important?

For every Nate Silver prediction model - I'd like to think I can provide a Ben Olsen desire to win. Give me a Billy Beane's top 9 and I'll put them up against my seasoned scout's (middling away in North Texas or the Dominican) top 9. How about an Ivan Drago v. Rocky Balboa? It's an extreme, but America lives and breathes in extremes and is undeniably prosperous (historically... and wow, I open up a can of worms in my head).

I'll give into heart and leadership if it is truly earned. I honestly believe in the power of Great Leadership and the power of one to move the many. However, that is rare and it exists not here on the 2012 Columbus Crew. I wish it did, but it does not. Therefore, priority should be placed on results and the numbers behind them.

Always trust the numbers.

This time of year I find myself trying to look past the forced smiles and words from Brian Bliss, Cody Sharrett, Ashleigh Ignelzi and Mark McCullers. It is disappointing that in 2012 moves are still being made without data to support them and logic is cast aside for the dream of the next best thing that will most certainly never be.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Crew Final Player Rating

Below will be how I see things regarding final Crew player Ratings on the 2012 Season. If you look on the right of this blog you will see that I've spent some time with different player rating systems and their take on this past year's Crew team.

You'll notice the headers. "HBR" is my player rating. "Castrol" is the Castrol Index that MLS employs. "Guldan" is the rating SB Nation's Crew blog gave. "HBS Top H" is a score I track. It's a players Points Earned Per Game + Goal Difference. "Diff" is the difficulty of opponents each player faced when on the field.

First up will be the players finishing outside the top 18 in average rating.

Players "19-30" on any Major League Soccer team can be both the most important - and the most meaningless. Over the past few years the Columbus Crew have done a fairly good job in populating the senior team roster with good talent. You'll notice that this list includes young and/or injured players. Big call out: Julius James shouldn't be here and Francis is gone already.

I like the rest on this list. I think Schoenfeld and Heinemann are healthy target players to have in MLS. Arrieta came on strong, but players like him get eaten up by the physical nature of this league. Crew need goals from big men in the box. Gehrig, Anor, Finlay, and Speas are the kind of players you want working to get in the top 18.

Next up is the middle group.

This is the most critical group and here is where you'll probably see the most change. These guys saw significant minutes but received mixed reviews. Call Outs: Mirosevic was picked to be an important leader of the club and for the most part he was. Problem might be that (and this includes my own system) he showed better due to level of competition. He somehow managed to participate in a nearly full season yet rank towards the bottom in playing against top clubs.

Another call out is Olman Vargas. He played against quality competition but struggled. Same with Federico Higuain, in a way. Higuain really benefited from being in the right place at the right time this year but he did outstandingly during his short time. Next year should be interesting.

The polar opposite of Mirosevic is Cole Grossman. He received tepid reviews from me, Castrol and Guldan but over-performed against good competition when evaluating actual results. The reason I include performance against teams in the Top Half is because of Cole (being honest, but you can't ignore the results).

Of this list of players I think Nemanja Vukovic, Emilio Renteria and Tony Tchani are in danger of moving on. Renteria is worth hanging on to, but we'll see.


Up to the final list now, the top guys. One of the things I looked for in regards to player rating over different systems and metrics was variance. I liked low numbers and little difference between them. I saw that with Josh Williams and Chris Birchall. Andy Gruenebaum and Sebastian Miranda also fall in there.

Unfortunately, I think Dilly Duka is on the 'fringe' along with Carlos Mendes. Both these guys probably out performed what most of us saw but circumstance might bite them in the end. For the record, I think both Dilly Duka and Carlos Mendes are players I think the Crew should work to retain. At the very least, both are MLS ready and had great metrics. That alone should keep them on the Crew's list of 2013 roster players.

There is a melancholic feeling to this post for me now that I'm done reviewing the Crew players. It by no means covers everything or every feeling I have about each player. November is generally a big month of change for a lot of Crew players. My thoughts and prayers are with those most affected by the changes.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ten Miles of Snow

Both legs of the DC / NY MLS playoff series were disrupted by weather. After having the 1st leg venue changed from NY to DC because of Hurricane Sandy the 2nd leg had to be postponed due to a snow event.

There is a lot to say about this series but I want to take a closer look at what happened during the 2nd leg snow event.

The game was scheduled to be on Wednesday, Nov 7th and I was all ready to see DC take down NY. I was pretty excited for the game because reports a couple days before were for snow. Snow games, no matter the sport, make for good TV viewing. That in mind, I flipped on the TV and saw that there was indeed, pretty heavy snow falling and covering the field.

Players were in the tunnel ready to go and there were people out on the field trying to clear it off. As time passed NBC Sports started to wander about interviewing coaches and players. There was a certain amount of drama to the situation that I enjoyed. Color Analyst, Kyle Martino's interview with Ben Olsen (DCU coach) was great. Olsen was all for playing. Later Martino found his way over to Hans Backe (NY Coach) who was completely against playing. In the middle was a handful of nervous MLS Executives. Notably: Don Garber, League Commissioner and Mr. Nelson Rodríguez, Executive Vice President of Competition, Technical and Game Operations.

As the snow was falling both Mr. Garber and Mr. Rodriguez could be seen strolling around the facility talking with each other and sometimes talking with Martino on camera. Everyone seemed to want the game to go on but as each of them looked over their shoulder they could see that the field just wasn't getting cleared fast enough by the folks with snow shovels.


Watching these people trying to clear a field 75 yds x 120 yds was painful. At first I figured it was a handful of facility employees and groundskeepers but as camera's closed in it was clear that most were young and in normal attire. Taking a closer look at some of the images shows some folks that look like they are from the front office even. Some with gloves and heavy coats and some without. Even though the forecast days before was calling for moderate snow, everyone working at Red Bull Arena just looked unprepared for it.


Despite the incredible efforts of the people with shovels (some folks running) it was clear the snow clearing effort was not working. While I'm sure most would just say, "heavy snow, cancel the game." Or, "Just play on the snow." I was working out in my head how you clear the snow in 15 minutes and how you clear it in 10-15 minutes at half time.


The field is 225 ft wide x 360 ft long. A close look at the shovels and I see that most were between the 18" or 24" wide variety that some poor soul had to probably run to Lowe's or Home Depot to get in a snow storm.

If one person with a 18" wide shovel were to push the snow by themselves they would have had to cross that field 240 times.

240 field crossings x 225 ft wide field is 10 and a 1/4 miles. An average to brisk walking pace is 135 steps per minute which ends up being about 15 minutes a mile. Most of the people pushing the show seemed to do it with little resistance upon each pass. However, for one person to shovel Red Bull Stadium's pitch with an 18" shovel it would have taken at least 2 and 1/2 to 3 hours.

Clearly, asking one person to shovel 10 miles of snow in 2.5 - 3 hours would take a beast of a woman or man. Even with the math, that seems like a daunting task for many, even with more people. Clearly it was also too tall and order for Nelson Rodríguez, Executive Vice President of Competition, Technical and Game Operations.

It was not too tall an order though...

In order to clear it in less than 10-15 minutes it would have taken around 16 people with 18" to 24" shovels walking a a brisk pace, shoulder to should (or as they say in manufacturing 'nothin' but asses and elbows'). 16 folks with 18" to 24" shovels have now made a 24 to 32 foot wide super shovel that has to cross the field 15 times to clear it.

Each human with a shovel at the end of 10-15 minutes would have walked about 2/3rd a mile. That works out to be about 15 field crossing at a total of 3375 ft.

From what I can tell from images of the night there appeared to be from 12-15 "shovel-ers". Enough to clear that field, if organized, in less than 30-40 minutes. Snow would have continued to fall during the match but player movement would have trampled enough of it down to keep things playable for 45 minutes. Once you got them on it would have been okay.

While they were playing, they could have put a call to Home Depots across the area for more shovels and offer fans $250 to help clear the pitch at half and maintain clear lines in the 2nd half.

I was thinking at first that they could have got a Ariens Professional Series 28 in. Two-Stage Electric Start Gas Snow Blower to clear the lines but it's cost is about 9-10 folks at $250. Plus, this is likely a one time event. Always go with people power over equipment anyway. Good old fashioned muscle and sweat is more reliable, cheaper, easier to program, safe and more plentiful than a machine and machine parts anyway. I also like working with people a lot better than machines. On top of that, can you imagine one of the folks in these pictures operating it? Might be some missing limbs by the end of the night.

Major League Soccer looked lost on a lot of levels on this night and Commissioner Don Garber's message to fans apologizing(?) for mistakes misses the mark. It wasn't the weather that caused the match to be postponed, it was arrogant incompetence. Something which we unfortunately see far to often with this league at all levels.


I don't doubt I'm overestimating speed and ableness - especially when you figure people would get tired after a handful of passes - or you may have to start in the middle of the pitch and work out to sidelines... regardless, solvable problem and I'm a firm believer in the ability of anyone when given clear and achievable goals. Clearing the field was achievable. Afterwards, people might have been sore but in finishing the job they would have been slapping hi-fives and fist bumpin' all around. How great if NBC would have caught that!

Instead, when the word of the game cancellation was passed on to the folks who had been shoveling for over an hour I noticed a few toss their shovels to the ground in frustration. I'm sure a few viewers felt the same.

Playing this game could have been really fun. It should have been played. In better hands it would have been played.

Use the super shovel next time.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Opponent Difficulty, Crew Players

Ever wonder if certain players get the short end of the stick and tossed out against better teams? Me too.

Major League Soccer implemented an unbalanced schedule this year so it's imperative to take into consideration each Crew player's opponent when rating players.

% Appearances v. Top Half of Table : Total Apps

70% : Cole Grossman : 10
67% : Carlos Mendes : 12
65% : Dilly Duka : 20
64% : Justin Meram : 22
61% : Chris Birchall : 18
58% : Julius James : 12
57% : Kevan George : 7
56% : Jairo Arrieta : 18
55% : Olman Vargas : 11
54% : Tony Tchani : 22
53% : Josh Williams : 30

51% : Andy Gruenebaum : 33
50% : Eddie Gaven : 34
48% : Sebastian Miranda : 33

47% : Nemanja Vukovic : 15
46% : Chad Marshall : 24
44% : Emilio Rentería : 27
44% : Aaron Schoenfeld : 9
43% : Danny O'Rourke : 21
41% : Eric Gehrig : 12
40% : Ethan Finlay : 15
40% : Shaun Francis : 10
39% : Federico Higuain : 13
38% : Milovan Mirosevic : 26
36% : Bernardo Anor : 11
33% : Matt Lampson : 3
0% : Tom Heinemann : 1

If you are an avid fan of the Crew this list might surprise you. There are a number of very important callouts.

1. Meram and Duka were literally thrown to wolves. Large, angry wolves. 22 and 20 total appearances - 2/3rds against the top half.

2. Josh Williams (30 apps) didn't get the memo about apps against cupcakes. Look at the difference between him and Milovan Mirosevic (26 apps).

3. Mirosevic. Hard to argue with this. He missed key games against really good teams. Hard to figure his season. All indications from my perspective point towards good dude but that might hide a few nagging game day flaws.

4. No question Higuain came out of the gates in a great way, but very important to consider the opposition. Also consider the fact that opponents were halfway through a long season and he was just starting his.

5. Grossman. Considering how he was used, this season could have ended his career. Instead he finished with excellent metrics against excellent teams. It's not chance. Trust the numbers people. Close your eyes and trust the numbers.

6. Birchall, Tchani, Arrieta; Notable. Good.

[EDITED ON FRIDAY NOV. 9TH, 11:00 AM. Originally Missed: final regular season game for players that participated in it. Last match was against a team in the bottom half. Both % vs. Top Half and Apps have been adjusted and updated]

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Helltown Beer Crew Player Ratings

Over the past few weeks I've covered a number of different Crew (and league) player ratings from the 2012 season. For this post I will list out my own ratings. They will be posted on the right with the rest to compare.


Throughout the year I rate every player in Major League Soccer. My model is based on something I came up with early last year and it has served me well since. I like doing it and is becoming more reliable for me. However, sometime last summer it became fully self aware, took over my computer and now even controls how I think and even feel. I'm surprised it has even allowed me to write this much.


78 : Eddie Gaven : 9
69 : Andy Gruenebaum : 43
68 : Sebastian Miranda : 44
60 : Josh Williams : 74
56 : Milovan Mirosevic : 92
53 : Chad Marshall : 109
48 : Jairo Arrieta : 139
43 : Emilio Rentería : 168
40 : Chris Birchall : 188
40 : Danny O'Rourke : 191
37 : Tony Tchani : 208
35 : Federico Higuain : 226
32 : Nemanja Vukovic : 241
31 : Justin Meram : 251
30 : Dilly Duka : 257


27 : Carlos Mendes : 281
24 : Eric Gehrig : 297
22 : Julius James : 314
22 : Olman Vargas : 316
19 : Shaun Francis : 336
18 : Cole Grossman : 344
18 : Bernardo Anor : 346
16 : Ethan Finlay : 368
16 : Kevan George : 370
14 : Aaron Schoenfeld : 398
10 : Matt Lampson : 449
8 : Ben Speas : 474
7 : Tommy Heinemann : 495

If it looks funny that a 28 is league median, it's because 236 of the 532 players that saw minutes played less than 900. Bad MLS teams love to toss players out on the pitch instead of doing the homework beforehand. Half the league was bad this year. Thus, lots of players.

164 players didn't make it to 450 minutes.

My model takes 16 league stats (that I prefer) - applies value through efficiencies, adds a dash of weight, glances at the league table and conjures up a point total.

I don't take into account things like potential, or perceived talent. It also ignores fan favorites and the dreams of the hopeful - yet, lost.

What is does is tell me who is doing well in MLS and contributing to the team in relationship to the rest of the league, based on actual results. I like actual results, as should you.

I'm building up to a big fat final player grade based on Crew player rating from across the internets.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"The Castrol Index" Columbus Crew

The "Castrol Index" is another Major League Soccer player measurement system. Of the two previous I've mentioned so far it is of the more complex variety. Here is how the creators of the system sum it up:
The Castrol Index tracks every move on the field and assesses whether it has a positive or negative impact on a team’s ability to score or concede a goal.

Seems simple enough, but it is not. Read more about it HERE.

Below is how Castrol ranks the Crew players that saw time this year. On the Left is where the player ranked in the league. On the Right is the Castrol "score".

28 : Andy Gruenebaum : 636
32 : Jairo Arrieta : 607
39 : Chad Marshall : 584
75 : Eddie Gaven : 525
121 : Milovan Mirosevic : 483
135 : Josh Williams : 471
177 : Chris Birchall : 434
194 : Danny O'Rourke : 414
204 : Emilio Rentería : 406
210 : Federico Higuain : 396
213 : Sebastian Miranda : 392


238 : Tony Tchani : 349
255 : Justin Meram : 310
261 : Nemanja Vukovic : 302
273 : Olman Vargas : 271
275 : Dilly Duka : 269
303 : Eric Gehrig : 211
306 : Carlos Mendes : 205
320 : Julius James : 179
331 : Bernardo Anor : 142
341 : Cole Grossman : 126
343 : Kevan George : 121
361 : Ethan Finlay : 85
392 : Aaron Schoenfeld : 53
416 : Matt Lampson : 29
424 : Ben Speas : 20
458 : Tommy Heinemann : 0

I spent some time with this rating model last year and determined it to be not sustainable but at the same time something worth while to pay attention to.

Going back through my notes I also notice that they have changed they way they score. It use to be a "7.65" type score, which I assumed was on a 10 pt scale. Now it is a whole number.

For the purposes of this blog I am going to turn the "league rank" on the left of the players name into a percentage.

Andy finished ranked 28th in the league. 470 total players were tracked. That puts Andy in the top 10%. Or, better than 94% of the league (players ranked 29-470).

I'm going to use the 94% for consistency on this blog - I like my player scores on a 100 pt scale if the entire league is involved.

94% : Andy Gruenebaum
93% : Jairo Arrieta
92% : Chad Marshall
84% : Eddie Gaven
74% : Milovan Mirosevic
71% : Josh Williams
62% : Chris Birchall
59% : Danny O'Rourke
57% : Emilio Rentería
55% : Federico Higuain
55% : Sebastian Miranda

49% : Tony Tchani
46% : Justin Meram
44% : Nemanja Vukovic
42% : Olman Vargas
41% : Dilly Duka
36% : Eric Gehrig
35% : Carlos Mendes
32% : Julius James
30% : Bernardo Anor
27% : Cole Grossman
27% : Kevan George
23% : Ethan Finlay
17% : Aaron Schoenfeld
11% : Matt Lampson
10% : Ben Speas
3% : Tommy Heinemann

Not any different order than the first list at the top of this blog, just a more usable number than... whatever that number is that Castrol uses. This number makes more sense to me. Greater than 50%? in the top half. Less than 33%? Bottom third.

Looking up and down the list, I think it works. I know that they (Castrol Index people) are still trying to come to terms with how much total player minutes steers the player score.

Of note above; Sebastian Miranda, who tallied loads of minutes, down the list. O'Rourke didn't play in over half the games but finish close to the top third of the league.

If it looks like I'm building a model to ultimately give out one gigantic player grade, it's because I am. Right before your eyes! Watch! As I unlink these rings! Still a few more player ratings to post up yet (including my own). To the right of this blog will be all the ratings so you too can be informed about things. Especially going into the "exit interview" part of the MLS season.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Guldan Rating, SB Nation

Patrick Guldan is the Managing Editor of SB Nation's "Columbus Crew community". After most Crew matches he posts a Notes and Grades summary of the previous game. In it he rates the Crew side of the match using the following system (in Mr. Guldan's words):
"Note on Grades: I have set 5 as an average performance. The player had both good and bad events on the field. Under 5 is a disappointing performance. Above 5 is a notable performance."

I've come to enjoy this feature over the past couple seasons as I like that he grounds player performance on average and works off that. A lot of player ratings out there (I see them most often with USMNT) use a 1-10 scale with no indication of average performance.

**I'm going to cut to the chase than explain lower down the post.**

What I did was take the number of times a player rated a 7 and above and divided that by total number of times rated.


55.6% : Federico Higuain : 9
46.2% : Jairo Arrieta : 13
35.3% : Danny O'Rourke : 17
33.3% : Andy Gruenebaum : 27
33.3% : Matt Lampson : 3
32.1% : Eddie Gaven : 28
30.0% : Milovan Mirosevic : 20
21.7% : Josh Williams : 23
21.4% : Dilly Duka : 14
20.0% : Kevan George : 5

17.9% : TEAM

16.7% : Chad Marshall : 18
16.7% : Chris Birchall : 12
15.4% : Sebastian Miranda : 26
12.5% : Cole Grossman : 8
11.1% : Justin Meram : 18
10.0% : Olman Vargas : 10
10.0% : Carlos Mendes : 10
9.1% : Emilio Rentería : 22
9.1% : Eric Gehrig : 11
9.1% : Nemanja Vukovic : 11
7.1% : Coaching : 28
5.6% : Tony Tchani : 18

0.0% : Bernardo Anor : 10
0.0% : Shaun Francis : 7
0.0% : Ethan Finlay : 11
0.0% : Kirk Urso : 5
0.0% : Aaron Schoenfeld : 8
0.0% : Julius James : 9
0.0% : Ben Speas : 1


Another thing I like about Guldan's system is that in the description it doesn't indicate if "10" is even the highest number or even if 1 is the lowest. Up until recently I'd never seen even an "8" given out by Guldan (I talked about that earlier this year).

29 total Crew players were rated 402 times (on average, about 14x a player). Plenty of times to draw valuable information out. Here's how the score distribution looked. On the left is his rating (LOW is bad, like - a 2; High is good, 9): On the right is the number of times that Score was handed out.

2 : 2
3 : 18
4 : 50
5 : 99
6 : 161
7 : 64
8 : 5
9 : 3

No "1" or "10" this year. Again, Guldan's system pivots off a 5 as average rating. What this reminds me of is a Net Promoter Score (NPS). It's a system that simply asks the question "Would you recommend this product to a friend". In the Net Promoter system average scores are thrown out. Which is exactly what I did. The reason being is to eliminate the 'passive' ratings. In the retail / maufacturing world 'passive' customers can be seen as the enemy. Why? I doesn't give you any actionable items. Without actionable tasks you waste a lot of time on nada.

If you have a customer nailing your ass to the wall... you want to focus on that. NOT the folks in the middle, NPS treats that as noise. Same goes for the higher ratings. Growing your company, you want to figure out what works. NPS can be valuable in this way.

What I did to derive a usable number from Guldan's rating system is take the total number of times a player scores a 7 and above and divide that by the total number of times the player was rated. I feel that shows best what Patrick Guldan views as quality.

Duka was rated a total of 14 times by Patrick Guldan. He (Duka) got rated 4 twice, a 5 four times, a 6 five times and a 7 three times. It looks like this:

4 : 2
5 : 4
6 : 5
7 : 3

Dilly didn't recieve any ratings others than those above. What I'm going to do is throw out the anything below 7... take the 3x at a "7" and divide it by total number of times rated, 14.

3 / 14 = 21.4% : Duka

Taking out the "detractors" pulls my number away from true NPS. I did this, in part, because Guldan's rating isn't on a 1-10 scale. Also, NPS has many critics, including me.

Taking the "average" rating of players leaves almost all at around 5 or 6. Removing the middle ground gives me more to go off of. Had a brief Twitter conversation with the great Steve Sirk (@stevesirk) about how the Crew players with the most time naturally find the middle of the road (Team averages). A NPS type score is a simple way of discounting average and bringing important items into focus.

Of course Guldan's rating system isn't the only thing to go off of, nor is only using "NPS" if you are a retail company. Guldan's ratings are an "outsider but almost insider" type rating that should only be taken as such. Meaning, he has contact with team officials and players but isn't part of the payroll. There are hints of favoritism here and there but generally his scores are honest. I'll post this on the right side blog though so you, dear informed reader, can make your own conclusions about things.

If you want to mess with Patrick Guldan's player ratings you can find them HERE. Mr. Guldan didn't rate every week (that I could find) but I pulled as much as there was available on his SB Nation Crew blog. Statistically; it's enough to evaluate how he views the performance of the players this year.

I'm posting it as part of my ongoing evaluation of Crew players.

I appreciate Patrick Guldan's player ratings and look forward to them again next year.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

2012 "Team of the Week" MLS Soccer

Throughout the the year I kept tabs on Major League Soccer's "Team of the Week" (TotW) feature on their website How it works is that their staff selects a team of 11 players each week that they feel played the best over the previous week. On top of those eleven, they also pick another 20 (or so) players and place them under the "Honorable Mention (HM)" category.

It's not perfect. MLS generally uses this feature to generate social interest and do little beyond listing out the players with a short blurb. No historical reference or player tracking. Once it's posted, it's posted and they move on.

Regardless. It can be a valuable feature. All totalled - about 10% of all players week to week get mentioned in the MLS TotW / HM feature.

There were 182 different players and coaches to make the site's TotW out of a possible 348 open starting XI slots + one coach (should have been 408 but MLS got weird with this feature between weeks 13 and 15). There were another 130 players that made the Honorable Mention category.

I tracked: 312 different players and coaches, 929 mentions.

Here are the players with over 9 mentions (TotW + HM = Mentions).

MENTIONS: NAME : (TotW only)

14 : Robbie Keane (4)
12 : Chris Wondolowski (8)
12 : Fredy Montero (3)
11 : Landon Donovan(5)
10 : Chris Pontius (5)
10 : Brad Davis (5)
9 : Marvin Chávez (5)
9 : Dan Kennedy (3)
9 : Andy Gruenebaum (3)

I don't think it's out of bounds to think that Total Mentions, as a subjective list like Team of the Week, can be used general barometer of quality. It passes the smell test as a measurement of quality. More value can be found in that it will also tell you who the league favors (bigger names get more attention). Smaller market teams might get overlooked in these lists but with a league of only 19 teams there you can only hide for so long.

The only player to separate themselves from the rest of the pack as far as TotW mentions was Chris Wondolowski with 8. Five players made the team 5 times (in the list above + Lee Nguyen).

Here is how it looks with the Crew ganked out. On the left are the number of times a player was mentioned. On the (right) is TotW mentions only.

9 : Andy Gruenebaum (3)
7 : Eddie Gaven (3)
7 : Jairo Arrieta (2)
5 : Chad Marshall (1)
5 : Josh Williams
4 : Federico Higuaín (3)
4 : Justin Meram
3 : Emilio Rentería (1)


2 : Robert Warzycha*
2 : Shaun Francis
2 : Tony Tchani
1 : Aaron Schoenfeld
1 : Chris Birchall
1 : Danny O'Rourke
1 : Dilly Duka
1 : Milovan Mirosevic
1 : Sebastian Miranda

* One coach picked per week. More on that later on.

Here is number of TotW (best XI only) by club.


35 : San Jose Earthquakes*
25 : Real Salt Lake*
23 : Chicago Fire*
23 : Seattle Sounders*
22 : D.C. United*
22 : LA Galaxy*
20 : New York Red Bulls
19 : FC Dallas
18 : Houston Dynamo*
18 : New England Revolution
17 : Philadelphia Union
17 : Sporting Kansas City*
16 : Montreal Impact
15 : Columbus Crew
14 : Portland Timbers
13 : Vancouver Whitecaps*
12 : Colorado Rapids
10 : Chivas USA
9 : Toronto FC

Alright. A few metrics here be.

How many minutes it takes to get a MLS "mention" (includes TotW and HM). On the right I put total mentions again.


219 : Jairo Arrieta 7
240 : Justin Meram 4
251 : Federico Higuaín 4
254 : Shaun Francis 2
298 : Aaron Schoenfeld 1
324 : Andy Gruenebaum 9
427 : Eddie Gaven 7
429 : Chad Marshall 5
486 : Josh Williams 5
514 : Emilio Rentería 3


667 : Tony Tchani 2
1073 : Dilly Duka 1
1515 : Chris Birchall 1
1603 : Danny O'Rourke 1
2140 : Milovan Mirosevic 1
2881 : Sebastian Miranda 1

Crew players that didn't make TotW or HM this year, of the guys that saw minutes: Speas, Anor, Mendes, Grossman, Gehrig, Finlay, James, George, Lampson, Vukovic, Vargas. Fair or not; of that list, the only one to play over 1000 mins and not get a mention was Vukovic.

Here are some notable names from the rest of the league in terms of how many minutes it takes to earn a team of the week mention:

162 : Alan Gordon
180 : Robbie Keane
205 : Landon Donovan
212 : Marvin Chávez

All these guys had over 1000 minutes.

Not much to go on here with Managers. Ben Olsen was the only one to get mentioned 3 times. Warzycha got mentioned twice but so did 8 others.

One thing that interested me was how much a "Team of the Week" and "Honorable Mention" were worth. You can, if you figure that there are a possible 9044 eligible players generated by from 19 teams playing 34 matches with three available subs.

9044 total slots / 363 TotW picks = a 25 Share
9044 total slots / 581 HM = a 15 Share

Not perfect but close enough for a feature like TofW, so by that logic here are your top 6 MLS performers as picked by MLS themselves:

268 : Chris Wondolowski
254 : Robbie Keane
220 : Landon Donovan
213 : Fredy Montero
194 : Chris Pontius
194 : Brad Davis

Some interesting things to be found in regards to Major League Soccer's "Team of the Week". If you have questions, you can contact me via twitter @HelltowBeer or email at:

If you are interested in looking over MLS Team of the Week and Honorable Mentions you can find my data HERE.

As with anything, there is an error rate. With this mine happens to be around +/-5%. Reason being; doesn't post this data other than a "conversational" form. They also, because of international breaks and a strange unbalanced schedule, skipped or combined weeks. I had to manually pull this together. It's close enough.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Crew Player Evaluations, GD p90

The Columbus Crew found themselves on a dead even Zero Goal Difference (GD) for the year. Below are players that drove that number up or down for each 90 minutes on the pitch.

GD p90 : NAME : 90 MIN GMs

+0.90 : Cole Grossman : 5.6
+0.66 : Carlos Mendes : 10.5
+0.38 : Justin Meram : 10.7
+0.32 : Nemanja Vukovic : 12.4
+0.27 : Federico Higuain : 11.2
+0.23 : Emilio Rentería : 17.1
+0.17 : Dilly Duka : 11.9
+0.15 : Josh Williams : 27.0
+0.13 : Julius James : 7.9
+0.12 : Sebastian Miranda : 32.0
+0.11 : Danny O'Rourke : 17.8

This Group I includes the players the Crew should be locking up for next year. Notable here is Nemanja Vukovic and Emilio Renteria. Two players, based on how they were used, that are seen as part-time contributors by the club staff. This metric tells us that they contribute positively (both played enough time to make a statistically significant contribution).

The class of this group comes in the form of Josh Williams and Sebastian Miranda. Considering the amount of time the put in, both these guys should be hardwired into next year's plans.

Helltown Hero, Cole Grossman, is so out of control high it's crazy. I don't care that his Blue Devil bball teams beat up on my Campbell U. Fighting Camels on a regular basis... Grossman's club numbers are impressive... On top of that he contributed exactly as I would expect a Duke grad to; Intelligently and confidently - with a passing hint of smugness. He's my favorite type of player. One that knows how to win on the team level - also, cerebral and able to survive outside the sport.

+0.03 : Andy Gruenebaum : 32.4
+0.00 : Jairo Arrieta : 17.0
-0.03 : Eddie Gaven : 33.2
-0.04 : Milovan Mirosevic : 23.8
-0.06 : Chris Birchall : 16.8

Look at the games these guys racked up. These are the guys that drove the whole of the 2012 season. Consistent performers, but like your Crew toiling their craft at the middle of the table? Pick these guys each match.

-0.14 : Tony Tchani : 14.8
-0.17 : Chad Marshall : 23.8
-0.36 : Shaun Francis : 5.6
-0.37 : Bernardo Anor : 5.5
-0.44 : Eric Gehrig : 9.0
-0.54 : Olman Vargas : 7.4

Group III is the bad group. You don't want your name here if you have significant minutes. Especially if your name is Tony Tchani and Chad Marshall.

Below is going to be the guys that didn't see enough time to matter on an individual level. However, as a group, they matter. Just last week a friend of mine sent me an email detailing winning percentage of players in his pickup basketball league. I dug into it and found an all to familiar fact. Players that don't play much hurt your chances of winning. Meaning, The more players you have getting "spot" duty each year the worse off you will be. Since Robert Warzycha took over his teams seem to be hounded by players that pepper the line up.

+1.41 : Ben Speas : 0.7
+0.00 : Kevan George : 4.7
+0.00 : Matt Lampson : 1.6
-0.30 : Aaron Schoenfeld : 3.3
-1.27 : Ethan Finlay : 4.7
-18.00 : Tommy Heinemann : 0.1

Ethan Finlay was dangerously close to topping that 5 game (450 minute) mark. I saw him play a lot this year and am convinced that he is a good soccer player but the way he was jammed into the lineup early on was a mistake. He is too small to play up top, yet he was put there (he actually suffered injury due to that). Finlay can be best used as a player in training behind Sebastian Miranda at Right Back.

The numbers above are only one way to measure performance, though. With something like GD while on the pitch, look for players with over 10 games (900 minutes). They are the guys that drove results.