Thursday, September 11, 2014

Weaker Crew Opposition Drive Updated KRAMB

KRAMB = Points per Game + Goal Difference earned as a starter

It's been a few months since I updated this measurement that Ryan Kramb (M.S., PhD, Chemical Engineering) and I worked out last year, so here it is. The way it works is, well, the bigger the number the better!

PPG+GD : Player, Games Started
2.13 : Tyson Wahl, 8
2.00 : Adam Bedell, 7
2.00 : Eric Gehrig, 11
1.93 : Ethan Finlay, 14
1.83 : Justin Meram, 12
1.74 : Waylon Francis, 19
1.65 : Federico Higuaín, 23

1.48 : Steve Clark, 27

1.47 : Giancarlo Gonzalez, 17
1.43 : Wil Trapp, 21
1.40 : Michael Parkhurst, 25
1.40 : Héctor Jiménez, 15
1.31 : Tony Tchani, 26
1.19 : Bernardo Anor, 16
1.13 : Chad Barson, 8
1.08 : Jairo Obando Arrieta, 13
1.00 : Joshua Williams, 13
0.50 : Dominic Oduro, 6
0.00 : Ben Speas, 6

Under Five Games...
5.00 : Kevan George, 2
5.00 : Aaron Schoenfeld, 1
1.67 : Daniel Paladini, 3
0.75 : Agustín Viana, 4

Taking it one step further, here is a chart showing how each player lands above replacement, which is a way to say team average (when just looking at one, as I am). Still though... The Crew are currently 10th in a 19 team league so, this could be representative of the league as well.

(click to enlarge)
As soon as I made the table on the left I started trying to figure out why there were not any players in the upper left quadrant. It's the place where we would find players in the negative PPG but + GD (vs team avg). What this means is that the Crew have been good at placing the right players on the pitch to start.

Since I've been tracking this in 2011, the Crew haven't made a habit of winning games late after subs come on - but we did start seeing "super sub" type stuff a couple years ago with Robert Warzycha. While that's good in sports that have unlimited subs, it's not something you want to see in soccer. A "super sub" is a player that should be starting. Leave the 6th man or 12th man stuff for basketball and NFL.

Winning late on a regular basis means you're not starting the right guys.


I've got a good bit of data and history on most of these players so I thought it was pretty interesting that guys like Gehrig, Finlay and Meram were up there. Especially Wahl. After matching it up with average opponent difficulty though, the story became a little more clear. What this chart simply shows is that the easier the opponent, the better the result of each player.

[UPDATED: Chart changed to include all players with at least 10 starts, by season since 2012]

Up to this point, this season has been a story of pre and post injury of players like Williams, Arrieta and Jimenez. Turns out the Crew were playing slightly more difficult teams early in the season when Gregg Berhalter's preferred guys were starting.

This shouldn't take everything away from the work that the guys at the top are doing. Their performance has a part in their opposition dropping in the table.

Here is each player's average opponent difficulty. You'll note the best scores are guys playing the weaker MLS sides. There isn't much difference between a Ben Speas and Justin Meram, for example, but there is between Hector Jimenez and Speas. Three full spots when comparing the former with Finlay.

Average Opponent Table Position : Name
13.75 : Tyson Wahl
12.71 : Adam Bedell
12.07 : Ethan Finlay
10.92 : Justin Meram
10.64 : Eric Gehrig
10.63 : Chad Barson
10.53 : Waylon Francis
10.35 : Federico Higuaín

10.22 : Steve Clark

10.17 : Ben Speas
9.96 : Michael Parkhurst
9.92 : Tony Tchani
9.76 : Wil Trapp
9.62 : Jairo Obando Arrieta
9.47 : Giancarlo Gonzalez
8.85 : Joshua Williams
8.81 : Bernardo Anor
8.67 : Dominic Oduro
8.53 : Héctor Jiménez

Ultimately, this is Major League Soccer and the more time guys get the more they will fall towards playing teams ninth on the overall table.

In the chart above you see sort of a normal distribution curve - the guys falling out of it is what you should look for.

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