Sunday, May 3, 2015

Updated MLS Facts, Figures... Rules (finally)

The Montreal Impact haven't reached that all important fifth game yet for me but I'm going to go ahead and start updating my facts, stats and figures for the 2015 MLS season.

Since 2011 I've been tracking a handful of important stats over on the right hand column of this site (desktop version). They are updated about once a week. This is the first time I'm updating them for 2015, so here are some notes on the season thus far:

• This year marks the 5th anniversary of my Helltown Player scores
• 24% of the MLS season is complete (81 of 340 games)
• Games are averaging 2.27 goals, still a little low
• Penalty goals low (5.4%) - correction from last year perhaps
• After 8 games Crew SC are in a familiar mid-table spot (9th)
• Crew SC goals way up 3rd in GF, 2nd in GD... 9th in GA
• Defense rules this year, 16 teams allowing under 1.34 goals per game


We have a lot more information of which to evaluate players in different positions these days but this is always a fun one to keep an eye on. In a league like MLS where any given week can see games SIX games apart in games played you have to use metrics. Aggregate does you absolutely no good.

Goals and Assists (sans penalties) per 90 minutes played is a great way to get at how is contributing on the offensive side of the ball. My "mile markers" though out the year are 450 minutes played (five 90 minute games) and 900 minutes (10 games). The figures below are players with a minimum of 450 minutes.

Goals + Assist / 90s
1.03 - Sebastian Giovinco (TFC) $New
1.01 - Fabian Castillo (DAL) $76,250
0.92 - Javier Morales (RSL) $300,000
0.90 - Kei Kamara (CREW) $New
0.86 - Blas PĂ©rez (DAL) $359,250
0.83 - Obafemi Martins (SEA) $1,753,333
0.80 - Justin Meram (CREW) $91,827
0.69 - Ethan Finlay (CREW) $65,847
0.67 - Harrison Shipp (CHI) $95,000
0.65 - Dillon Powers (COL) $127,650
0.63 - Benny Feilhaber (KC) $337,187
0.63 - Giles Barnes (HOU) $241,158
0.60 - Octavio Rivero (VAN) $New

Highlighted yellow are Crew players. They are starting out where they left off last year. Took a while for Finlay to get a goal but his contributions were coming via assist (Kamara being the beneficiary). The wages are from 2014. Most of these names are familiar. I am expecting measurable pay increases for Castillo and Finlay. Shipp may jump into Powers land.

If you are unfamiliar with this stat, in MLS is goes:

>0.80 = Need to be playing in a better league (unless old)
>0.60 = Very good attacking player
>0.30 = Replacement level attacking player in MLS
>0.29 = Not an attacking player in MLS


Here are league leaders in a two basic categories I find important to success in MLS. They take a lot of heat from pundits during games (for that particular game) but if you look at them over time... :

1. Possession
Possessing the ball well in one game or two doesn't tell you much. But doing it over the course of a season? It's huge. Opta tracks possession as number of passes, not actual stop watch time of possession. Making more passes means you can, well, pass good and trap good and shield the ball well and make better decisions...

57.2 : New York Red Bulls
53.9 : Columbus Crew SC
53.9 : New York City FC

2. Shots on Target per Game
Gotta get the ball on frame for it to go in. It's a constant argument in my head on the importance of this stat. Over the years I've observed that teams that score more than one ever four shots finishes towards the top. The more you get, the more goals you have. It's like keepers have a secret society where it's written that they have to let 1 in 4 go by.

5.3 shots per game: NY Red Bulls
5.1 : Seattle Sounders
4.9 : DC United
4.8 : Columbus Crew SC


It looks like The Castrol Index is taking the year off from Major League Soccer which takes the number of league player raters down to just three. Me, Squawka and In the past I've used fantasy soccer scores to add some color to ratings but, well, we'll see this year.

Crew SC off to a strong start ratings wise again this year with two players in my top 20 right now in Kei Kamara (3rd overall) and Ethan Finlay (20th). Steve Clark, Michael Parkhurst and Emanuel Pogatetz are also in the Helltown top 25%

Over at Squawka I see that there rating system loves the Crew. Kamara, Tchani, Meram, Clark, Parkhurst and Pogatetz all in the top 10% of all players. WhoScored likes Kamara, Tchani and Meram.

With that, I decided to to a quick rating combining all three systems. This is the type of analysis I would use if I wanted to get to issues quickly. Time is always short and this moves aside players like Kamara, Tchani, Meram, Finlay and the center backs. It puts them in a "good" bucket to evaluate later. Guys like Saeid, Klute, Steindorsson and even Higuain and Francis are guys that I'd be asking questions about.

Since this list includes all players with regular season minutes you want your guys falling in the top half. Anyone around the middle group and below are ones that I would do a deep dive in to.

Here is how this works:

100 pts : Top 10% of players
75 pts : Top quarter of all players
50 pts : Top half of all players
0 pts : Bottom half of all players


The league finally posted their rules and regulations. As mentioned above, a quarter of the season gone. This is the way of MLS still, after 20 years, unfortunately. The little things are what this league kills you with and the can't even get their own details figured out. How much time does the league spend on this? Unnecessary.

More rules this year but as always I keep a copy of the basic roster rules housed here at Helltown under PAGES.

All I've got for now.

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