I’ve finally put my finger on why I wasn’t such a huge fan of Soccernomics. I had the wrong expectations of the book.
Beyond the chapter that TSG reader Patrick pointed out on the Champ’s League Final where Edwin Van Der Saar plays a little game strategy with the Chelsea penalty kick-takers, I think one reason I wasn’t enamored is that I wanted more on the in-game play.
What metrics can we put on in-game play, like Billy Beane does with the Athletics, like Daryl Morey does with Houston Rockets, to determine if a player has played a good game or a poor game?
I’m not looking for tendencies, I’m looking for evaluations.
In terms of statistics, we’ve seen a few individual statistics start to creep into the broadcast of the game. The one that pops into mind is showing a player’s “pass completition” when they get subbed out.
I’m not sure how that lone statistic really gives the audience a read on just how that player contributed, or deducted for that matter, from his team’s play.
So in that vain, I’m going to take a shot at some individual statistics that may or may not give you a better idea of how player made an impact on the game:
Saves is a tough one for goalie, a necessary one, but it doesn’t communicate the quality of those saves.
Paries: A judgement call here–much like an error in baseball. A parry is a save where it is ruled that the goalie’s was unable to keep possession on the save because of the quality of the shot. Tim Howard would pretty much lead international competition in these.
Service Possession Maintained/Service Possession Lost: Not sure this one works. You tell me. How would we be able credit a player like Pepe Reina who’s service is a weapon. Let’s remove outlets to defenders from this one; so no defender pass completion in the stats.
When a goalie winds up and punts the ball, does his team maintain possession? I like this one also, because if you’re a goalie you are going to start punting it away from someone, like a Robbie Findley, who’s not going to win that reception.
Tackles Made/Tackles Failed: Make a tackle and earn possession or disrupt the play? +1. Miss a tackle that concedes an offensive chance? -1. That simple.
Attacks Defended/Attacks Conceded: This likely the best wingfull defensive statistic. A winger possesses the ball and initiates an attack. Initiating the attack is important because it’s putting pressure on the defense. If a defender concedes a shot on goal, a cross or a completed pass still in attack to another offender, then it is a Run Conceded. No dice, Run defended.
Offsides Called/Errant Runs/Errant Runs Scored: Love this one. It’s a team statistic, but much like a penalty in football, you can label the guilty party in this one.
First, the definitions. Offsides Called, again self-explanatory. Errant Runs? This is when an offender, like a Charlie Davies, get behind the defense, another offender finds them with the ball and the defender has to track back and make a play or the goalie does. If the player on the run scores, Errant Run Scored.
The box score for a match might look this might look like this:
ER: 3 (Bornstein (2), Spector)
ERS: 1 (Spector)
Now for an offensive one:
Passes Completed Not Under Duress: I’ve been trying for over 6 months to work this “frustration” into a column. One of my biggest frustrations in game play is when a defender who is not under any sort of duress, makes a simple square or just a check down to the goalie that is imprecise and puts the receiver under duress. I don’t understand how players can’t be more precise at the highest level of soccer. It irks me to no end when a team may create an advantage through quick, precise ball play and the simple first pass is off-the-mark and the chance is gone.
Now I have a rather lengthy definition to take care of it for me. Look out Carlos Bocanegra and you too Jonathan Bornstein, you’re under my microscope.
Traditional: Pass Completion?, Assists, Shots, Goals
Chances Created: I don’t know, you tell me who wins this one Xavi? Sneijder? Cesc? A chance created is simply when a touch, a pass, or even a tackle allows for the offense to have a scoring chance. If we need a definition of a scoring chance, it can be any chance where a defender has to make a play to prevent a goal or the offender makes or misses a shot.
Another judgment call here, but players like Xavi who so often “unlocks” the defense would finally have a statistic to be proud of.
Tackles Made/Tackles Failed: See above.
Attacks Initiated/Attacks Completed: The inverse of the defensive definition of Attacks Conceded/Attacks Defensed. Note: An attack completed does not necessarily mean a score.
Traditional: Pass Completion?, Assists, Shots, Goals, Fouls Suffered
Service Received/Service Lost: You would like you this statistic this year to showcase Jozy Altidore’s improvement this year. What about the guys like Altidore, Heskey, Crouch whose primary role isn’t to score goals. Is it really fair to evaluate them exclusively on scoring statistics outright?
Here’s the one, SR/SL, that matters for those guys.
Chances Created: See above.
Attacks Initiated/Attacks Completed: See above.
Possession Time Vs. Shots On Goal Index: There has been much dialogue lately about whether possessing the ball for the majority of the game possesses any advantage itself for the team which does it.
Here’s a simple statistic that should aid in review of the game. How about an index of time of possession vs. shots on goal or chances created.
Easy enough? Too easy. A team that maintains possession in a non-threatening way by knocking it around the back would be very low on this index; where as the United States against Spain in the Confederation Cup would score very high. This one is still a little rough I confess.
Positive Service Percentage: Landon Donovan would likely win this stat in MLS; Sacha Kljestan would not. Essentially a player’s free kick or cross arrived in a location that created a chance. Obviously balls that went directly out of bounds or balls that overshot the peloton of players in the box would be negative.
Stupid Stupid Fouls (SSF): Fouls you shouldn’t have made. I’ve added these in to help evaluate Michael Bradley, Rico Clark and Jonathan Bornstein.