Monday, December 17, 2012

MLS Wants a Cracker

It's a parity - "parroty" joke. Get it?!?!!?1


Anyway, not been updating this much since there's not been much action, but I thought I'd revisit the season by season correlation between MLS and the Premier League with a few free minutes.

I should note that this is all based on final standings, since MLS crowns our Champions sort of  weird (not better or worse, just differently) when compared to the rest of the world.

One thing I do enjoy about the way we do it here is that in any given year you may just have yourself a good home team to watch. Unless you live in Toronto. Or anywhere in Canada, really.

Conversely, Premier League teams tend to generally find a way to stay in the same position as before. You could certainly argue that that sort of league structure makes upsets that much more compelling, and watching "super clubs" a la the Big4/5/6/whatever makes for the most exciting matches, but there's really something to me about the whole "any one can win any game on any given day".

So the question is, can we quanity that?

The answer is, of course, "Yup." With pages and pages of "buts..."

But we're not gonna get into buts here. Unless that's your thing.....

I digress.

I looked at the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 MLS seasons for MLS season-to-season correlation. That is, how well did your performance last year predict your performance for the following year. In a word? Not good. Interestingly though, the 2011 season had a very strong correlation to the 2010 season, with an R value of 0.70. The next highest was 2009 to 2008 at 0.54. The average correlation was 0.38, but average isn't a great way to do it. Instead, I lumped all the seasons together into one data set to come up with a total correlation value. That value was 0.41. That's not very good correlation. I'd note I did throw out inaguarl years for expansion teams, but that should be a given.

In contrast, the Premier League has excellent correlation. Teams generally may move up or down two or three places over the course of a year, but, in general, where you finished last season is a pretty good indicator of how you'll finish this season.

For the Premier League I looked at 2006-2007, 2007-2008, 2008-2009, 2009-2010, 2010-2011, and 2011-2012, throwing out single data points for promoted/relegated teams. Interestingly, correlation seems to be increasing since 2006-2007. The lowest R value of 0.65 occured that year, and has increased in every season since, up to a value of 0.86 for 2011-2012. Could more money be "locking in" teams as player wage wars serve to stratify the league into the Haves and Have-Nots?

Anyway, these numbers might not make much sense, so here's the plotted data sets for both leagues. It's pretty obvious that in MLS, the results are all over the place, whereas in the Premier League, things look very linear.

 MLS Correlation

Premiership Correlation

And... that's all I have to say about that...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Just keep rating... just keep rating. Rating rating rating rating.

So after some discussions on BigSoccer I wound up mocking up a new set of rankings, first as sort of a FINE, LETS SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DO IT YOUR WAY sort of thing, but then after making some raw ratings (i.e. not corrected for playing time) I realized that I could do a similar weighted rating like I did with team averages to maybe come up with something better.

So, here's a list of the top some amount of players, based on both total playing time corrected rating and raw, uncorrected rating.

Full ratings available here

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Rate ALL the players... AGAIN!

So I did this at the halfway point and decided to do it again. I went through and assigned ratings to every MLS player.

Of course, it's all very arbitrary, but the easiest way to do it was to grab their fantasy poitns from the MLS fantasy game and calculate based off those. There's plenty of room to argue that poitns are weighted poorly or that playing time is too much a factor in rating a players worth, all very valid and I would agree. This was just the easiest way to dump a set of numbers in and crank out some kind of result. The formula is basically a players points (modified by playing time to assure that guys who score 2 goals in 10 minutes don't jump to the top of the list) minus the average players points divided by the standard deviation of all player points + 5 (the average player would have a rating of 5.00).

Here's the top 25 players in MLS for the 2012 regular season

Full ratings are available here

They kind of break down for players who play little or not at all. I hesitate to call any one at the bottom of the list "poor", but I guess, if you wanted to, you could look at all players with 1,000 minutes or more of playing time (the average MLS player logged 991.3 minutes this season) and pick the worst player there. If we use that criteria the worst player in MLS this year was... Shavar Thomas of Montreal! Yay Shavar!

Given that the average player logged 991.3 minutes and notched 0.047 points per minute played (roughly 46.7 points) the most average player in MLS this year was... Bryan Meredith of Seattle!

No surprise that Wondo get's top honors, his was a season for the ages.

You can argue that keepers are overrated in this system, and I would tend to agree. Given that most of them play most of the full season they tend to accumulate more standing, so there's that.

I'd also like to hand out an Ironman award. I thought Jimmy Nielsen would be the only player to play every minute of every game this year, but Drew Moor actually did the same thing, and did more than just stand between the posts to do it. Gotta say that Drew definitely worked this year. Respect.

So I guess using these ratings as criteria, MLS awards for me would look like this

MLS MVP : Chris Wondolowski (San Jose)
 - runner up : Graham Zusi (Kansas City)
MLS Defender of the Year : Matt Besler  (Kansas City)
 - runner up : Aurelien Collin (Kansas City)
MLS Comeback Player of the Year : ummm... I guess Chris Pontius (DC)? I always thought this was a weird award...
 - runner up : oh god... ummm... umm... Eddie Johnson (Seattle)! Or do they have to come back from injury and not just wandering in a European wasteland?
Goalkeeper of the Year : Andy Gruenebaum (Columbus). Weird to give it to a keeper on a non-post season team, but Columbus could have been the new Chivas were it not for him.
 - runner up : Tally Hall
Newcomer of the Year : Patrice Bernier (Montreal). This is another silly award.
 - runner up : Lee Young-Pyo (Vancouver)
Rookie of the Year : Austin Berry (Chicago)
 - runner up : Nick de Leon (DC)
Added a few extra tabs to the google doc and took a few minutes to tabulate average team ratings. I did both all players and players >1000 minutes (to avoid "bench" players dragging the rating down), but what actually correlated best with results was taking the average of the two averages (i.e. (all_players_average + players>1000_minutes_average)/2). Correlated reasonably well with season long performance (R^2 = 0.74)... New York surprisingly low and colorado surprisingly high, otherwise seems reasonable. Kansas City probably too high compared to San Jose...

Utterly meaningless in the end, of course... but who doesn't like a big block of meaningless numbers.

Probably more to come later, but for now, that's that...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Power's off!

I guess that title isn't all that funny if you live in the North East... good luck guys! If it gets real bad I might come out there to hand out some bottled water.

No, really, I actually might. That'd be neat.

Anyways, here's the last iteration of power rankings. No real change until you get to the bottom of the table, but then things got a little funky. Take a look and see what I mean.

No real playoff implications there, but interesting to see how things ended up.

Here's your last infographic of 2012. Click for bigness.

And, finally, here's you last flavor of the week numbers.

So... does this mean anything? Well, I do like to try to look at thigns pragmatically, and, if you remember, I actually broken down this same system for use in the Euro tournement and got some interesting results. Called it Spain over Germany, which was almost half right, and then called the Dutch collapse, which I actually thought was kind of impressive. Let's see how the 2012 MLS playoffs will look if we assume that the higher ranked team wins.

So, there you have it. Kansas City loses to San Jose in Buck Shaw... Bummer :(

I'll break down some more numbers later, but for now, that'll just about do it for me this year. I've got plenty of plans to tweak this during the offseason, so don't worry too much! I'll be around!

Friday, October 26, 2012


You know, I'd be remiss if I didn't include a link to Alan's great work putting together a completely awesome infographic detailing the history of professional soccer in America.

It's poster worthy in it's epicness and I highly highly recomend that you go check it out and waste a few minutes exploring it. Lots of great info displayed super well.

The History of Professional Soccer in the United States


And now, a few days late, again, is our Week 31 MLS power rankings.

Actually very little changed in this iteration, so not much to talk about, except that I will say DCs recent form has me feeling a little vindicated that my model didn't drop them too much. I will say they're the team I least want to face in the playoffs, even without DeRo.

Here's how the table looks this week

San Jose unsurprisingly out in front, with SKC at 2, DC hanging in at 3, and New York and Chicago swapping places at 4 and 5.

Toronto is awful.

Here's the handy dandy chart for your veiwing pleasure. Click to embiggen.

And now your five week moving average flavor of the week table. Oh look, it's San Jose at #1. What a surprise...

So there you have it, your penultimate MLS Power Rankings. Next week should be a stats blast as I comb through the numbers and dig out some interesting factoids. Tune in! If you dare.... and if I remember to get everything done on time...

And the award goes to...

Okay, that wasn't too bad. Took a few minutes and tabulated year long player ratings so I could dish out some yummy digital awards. Let's just make the announcements before we hit the actual numbers, shall we?

Here's your 2012 SKC Team Award Table of Glorifying Tableness

ZUEEESSSSSS. People have been calling this his breakout year given his increased role with the USMNT, but I think most SKC fans will tell you he broke out last year, and this is his standard operating level. Which is awesome.

One of the big factors in Zusi's place at the top is that, while SKCs defense has been brillient, it's largely a team effort, with a monster back line and a great keeper. The offense, on the other hand, was hit or miss all year long, but largely relied on service from Zusi, who looks likely to end up as the MLS assists leader this year with 15. He also bagged 5 goals of his own, which isn't too shabby.

Tied on defense were the Nielsen/Besler tandem. I know Collin plays it sexy, and let's face it, he is, but Besler has been a workhorse this year and every bit as effective as Collin while logging almost 300 more minutes. And though we didn't really score on long throws towards the end of the season, his canon arms played a big part in a couple early season goals and kept defenses checking another options whenever SKC wins a throw in the attacking half.

Nielsen played a great season as well, commanding and controlling the back line which gave him a much better sense of positioning in his net, which I think is his strong suit. He doesn't have the reflexes that Hartman had, but his instincts and footwork were solid and his place at the top of the all time MLS GAA average board (4,000+ minutes) is well earned. You could even take that up to 8,000+ minutes and he'd still be #1. That's really a great accomplishment for some one who was thinking about retirement 3 years ago.

Honestly, I've been really impressed with this team as a whole. I think people were worrying about depth at the start of the season, but everytime some one has gone done due to injury, illness, or earning the wrath of the Vermes bench-hammer, some one has always been there to pop in. Even more encouraging is just how young this team is. Things have already been a success in my book for 2012, and 2013 seems like it could start off very well as well.

Of course 2012 is still unfinished. Onward until dawn for the 2012 MLS Cup. It should be thrilling.

Oh, right, I forgot about numbers.

Here's numbers! I will note that in these ratings players are ranked only against other SKC players. I'll have probably "better" numbers at the end of the season when I tabulate ratings for ALL MLS players. Won't that be fun?

October is my favorite month.

Halloween? My birthday? End of the MLS season? What's not to love!?

Well, first and foremost, and, I guess, onlymost for this post (oooo, a rhyme) is that with the last game of the month (and season), it's time to drop the October player ratings. Here's what they look like.

Man of the month goes to none other than Jimmy Nielsen, largely for his performance in New York to keep a clean sheet and make SKCs life just a little easier. Also made a great penalty save against the Union, even if it got slopped up by Hoppenot (who I think could have a breakout year next year).

Will he turn out to be the team MVP? Best keeper in the league? LEAGUE MVP!? Only time will tell.

I'm gonna do annual team ratings and awards next though, so not that much time...

If it wasn't an away game, why was I in Philly?

So I was stuck out in Philadelphia for this one. The fine people at P.J. Whelihan’s put the game on for me and I got to hang out with an old friend I hadn't seen in years, so good all around.

I may have had one beer too many, and I know I was chatting more than watching, so maybe I'm not the best observer for this, but it seems like a lot of local chatter was on how poorly SKC played and how they need to play better in the post season... I personally thought they looked really good. Kept a tight back line (for the most part, there were two almost breakaways I remember that I guess could have turned the game), bossed the midfield, forwards made some good runs into space. I think Philly really never had a chance.

I also noticed a lot of Philly fans complaining about how thuggish SKC is.

I'll be the first to admit a guy like Collin does thug it up. I don't think you can really argue that. But on the whole, SKC is middle of the pack of the league in terms of fouls commited, cautions issued, and ejections. SKC plays a very disruptive midfield which I think other teams don't like, and other teams fans don't like to watch, but it really is a controlled chaos, mosh-pit style of whole team defending, and I, personally, am on board with it.

Philadelphia, on the other hand, is at the bottom of the fair play table, commiting more fouls, getting more cautions, and having more players ejected than almost any team in the league. I saw one Union fan saying he'd rather see SKC win like LA or Seattle, both teams that foul more, get more cuations, and more ejections than SKC does.

I don't really wanna be that guy to Philly fans so I haven't said anything, but I do think a lot of MLS fans don't watch other teams in the league or don't have a good overall picture of what's happening within the league to warrant these comments. If any MLS team is full of thugs and hacks, the stats suggest that it's the Union, not Sporting.

Okay, off my soap box. Let's look at player ratings.

I will say Jimmy's number is inflated due to his pentalty "save" that later went in, but on the whole I think the numbers look about right. Kei with two incredible assists to seal the East for SKC which earns him man-of-the-match honors this week. Kudos, Kei!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Oh Brooklyn Brooklyn take me in...

Let me start off by saying that I hate my laptops keyboard and I'm not going to try to correct any typos that creep into this post.

Let me also say that I really thought about flying out to this game on Saturday since I had to be in New York today (Sunday) anyway, but ultimately I decided I love my family (just slightly) more than I love this team...

Still, snapped a photo of Red Bull Arena while flying in.

I was actually on the plane that brought all the players back. Gave a quick "Great results" to Vermes and Zusi and Collin, but I didn't want to be that fan when they were just getting off the plane. I did get a bit school girl giddy though...

Still, wish I could have been there, I actually think it was a great result, even as penned in as we were.

I think a lot of people are going to say that SKC was outgunned by New York, and they may have been right. NYRB had plenty of chances to win that game, but SKC played the kind of game visiting teams pull at LSP all the team. Balls to the wall, gritty, often lucky defending and a few great chances against the run of play.

I actually personally think Mr. Puma deserves man of the match for this one, but the numbers thought otherwise... here's the breakdown.

So, on the one hand, maybe a bit surprising to see Collin over Jimmy, but Collin had a really good game and I'm glad he's back in the starting 11. I was also a little surprised to see SKC with the slight edge in team average, but a lot of that was due to the great defending efforts.

So, kudos to Collin, and I will say it was also good to see Convey log a couple of minutes. Here's to hoping for a couple more next week.

Friday, October 12, 2012

MASSIVEly late...

Okay, okay, I'll admit I wasn't even going to do player ratings for the Columbus game, but I had a few extra minutes this morning and the bitterness of the draw has sort of went away, so here we go.

Columbus Crew

Andy Gruenebuam
Sebastian Miranda
Josh Williams
Chad Marshall
Nemanja Vukovic
Julius James
Eddie Gaven
Milovan Mirosevic
Chris Birchall
Dilly Duka
Jairo Arrieta
Federico Higuain
Emilio Renteria
Justin Meram
Team Average

Sporting Kansas City

Jimmy Nielsen
Seth Sinovic
Matt Besler
Chance Myers
Lawrence Olum
Roger Espinoza
Graham Zusi
Julio Cesar
Paolo Nagamura
Jacob Peterson
Kei Kamara
CJ Sapong
Team Average

Once again Zusi earns man of the match honors, and I think it's safe to say he's been having the best stretch of playing time in his career over the last month or two. Well earned Zeus, let's keep it up.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

And so begins the end...

Believe it or not, I actually had these done awhile ago, I've just had a hard time sitting down at a computer and posting em up. But I do have the most current version of power rankings and boy are they... something. No real changes, actually. I now can't imagine a scenario where San Jose doesn't finish first, even if they start dropping games 10-0.

Here's how the numbers shook out after last weeks action.

DC playing well again, Toronto still hapless and NY needs to get into panic mode.

San Jose pulls off the double this week as well, earning top Flavor of the Week ranking.

Chivas is just terrible.

And now, lastly, the season long chart. San Jose is almost pushing back up into off the chart territory...

And so, once more, San Jose is on top. Get used to it, I guess? Seeya in the playoffs!

Monday, October 1, 2012

It's Zusi's world

It's about that time of year again... that is to say, October. Which can mean only one thing. No, not that my birthday's coming up (though it is, yay for presents!), it's time to figure out who SKC's best player in September was.

Going into this I thought for sure it'd be Besler until Zusi had a monster of a game on Friday. It was pretty close, but when the dust settled, it was clear that Zusi had had the better month and earns top honors from... me. Which means maybe not a lot, but I've got to think he'd be touched and flattered and such.

Zusi played 449 minutes and recorded two goals and two aissts, and SKC didn't lose in the month. Hard to say our defense doesn't deserve the credit, but Graham helped spark an offense that had been sputtering and his game against Chicago couldn't have been bigger, or better.

Here's the full player ratings for September. Interesting, SKC used only 17 players, with Collin missing a bunch of games. We all know PV doesn't like subs, but he really seems to like the lineup he has on hand going into the post season, so let's hope he doesn't ride them too hard.

Hats off to Graham, let's hope he can keep the offense moving forwards as we enter crunch time.

Down to the wire

Here we go once more, and actually on time as well! Week 29 power rankings are here, and boy are they... something. No surprises really. DC back up to #4 is about it, and RSL maybe, just maybe, staging a late run.

I did learn that anexcel function can only handle 30 arguments though, so that was kinda neat. I may have actually taught myself something. Who knew?

At any rate, here's the table, in handy dandy image form.

 Here comes the graph!

And, finally, hold on to your pants, here comes the flavor of the week numbers. LA finally makes it in to the #1 spot. Woooooooo yeah!

I think once the playoff picture is set it's going to be interesting to see how teams fare, and how these numbers line up with how the final table looks. But we've still got a month to worry about that. Until then... Courage.

We'll All Be...

So the other night I had a couple beers and was going through some old photos while listening to The Maine and thought 'hey, this song and these pictures are pretty cool', so I threw everything in a blender via Windows Photo... Story or something? Windows Photo Story I think. And it spit out a kind of neat but super cheesy video montage. It's all very highschool graduation, but I figured I made it and uploaded it so it may as well get shared.

So... here it is.

That's all.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Firehouse has really good subs

Lots of fun last night. Actually probably going to be the last regular season game I attend, but now that we've clinched a playoff spot, won't be my last of the season. Well, I guess technically it's possible they'd play and lose an away play-in game, but I'm liking our odds going forward...

Anyway, looking through BigSoccer and it seems like the big talking point is... the refs. I've gotta say I didn't think the ref had that terrible of the game. I mean he surely asn't good, but he was missing calls and making questionable decisions for both teams pretty evenly, though I'll concede SJC was probably on the benefitting side a bit more than Chicago, but that's true for any game. I guess the big blown call to me was the second yellow to Segares, but his first yellow was his own dumb fault... Chicago fans also feel they should have had two corners that weren't called due to missed dflections. While I agree to a point, I don't know that they were incredibly clear for the ref to call and he didn't get help from his linesman, plus I read somehwere that Kansas City hasn't conceded a goal on a corner in 55 games, which is insane, so it may not have helped anyway.

Kamara and Zusi both had masterful games and the defense got it done again, without Collin for a second straight week. I believe the team when they say it's not an injury, but man sometimes PVs personnell choices seem weird. No subs used either. Who knows? It's working, so I won't knock it.

Speaking of... knocking it... here's some player ratings.

Chicago Fire
Sean Johnson
Austin Berry
Jalil Anibaba
Gonzalo Segares
Arne Fridrich
Patrick Nyarko
Logan Pause
Alvaro fernandez
Dan Paladini
Chris Rolfe
Dominic Oduru
Sherjill MacDonald
Guillermo Franco
Team Average
Sporting Kansas City
Jimmy Nielsen
Seth Sinovic
Matt Besler
Chance Myers
Lawrence Olum
Roger Espinoza
Graham Zusi
Julio Cesar
Paolo Nagamura
Kei Kamara
CJ Sapong
Team Average

Man of the match unsurprinsgly to Zusi for his brace and excellent performance. Excellent work by the back line and Mr. Nielsen as well.

And now, some photos. I'm loving my new phone :D

Monday, September 24, 2012

A little late...

I started looking at the calender to see if it was time to do the September player of the month and realized I had skipped August... Stupid lousy work.

Considering that it's not that hard to do, and that I don't have to do player of the month until the week after next, here's what we missed in August.

Again, I'd note that a "poor" looking rating likely reflects player playing time and not actual performance. The system I use rewards playing time as well as good performance. "True" ratings will come at the end of the year, when I have numbers for the entire league to compare to.

For those we don't remember, in August, Zusi had a goal and two assists in four games. Not too shaby, all things considered.

Kansas City makes an Impact/tired joke

So on the one hand, after being in New York, I sort of wish I could have gone on to the Montreal game, but after watching it on TV I'm sort of glad I didn't. I mean I can always get some sort of enjoyment out of watching a match, but that was maybe the second dullest game I've seen this year.

That doesn't mean we can't hand out ratings though!

Check 'em.

Once again SKC keeps a clean sheet and once again Mr. Besler wins man of the match. I've got to think he's really earning himself more of a look for future USMNT matches, he's having such an amazing season.

The time is 9:55 AM

You know, I'm just gonna copy-paste this over from Big Soccer today. Because I'm lazy. It's kind of a theme.

So first an apology. I actually thought I was doing great by finishing these up this morning, but then IR ealied there was a mistake in my last ratings. Had the wrong cell selected for one match for almost every team. So the good news is that since it was applied uniformly to every team it didn't make a huge difference upon correction, but there were a few correction. RSL down one instead of down two, columbus down one instead of no chance, chivas down two instead of down one and philadelphia no change instead of up one.

I'm not gonna repost those ratings (unless some one really wants them), but the corrected values are incorporated into this weeks ratings, which should be "accurate", whatever "accurate power rating" means...

Also this is gonna start getting easier to manage as the season winds down so I'm gonna start compiling some stats for teams. If any one has any requests for info they'd like to see, let me know and I'll see what I can grab.

Anyway, at Week 28 not a lot of surprises. New York starting to look like they're rated too high (though their fans seem to be their harshest critics, I still think they're a very solid team), DC starting to look like maybe they belong in the top five after all, and no surprises in the bottom. LA probably has time to climb a bit higher as well, but ratings are starting to level out across the board.

First off, the ratings.


Flavor of the week numbers are unsurprising, Chicago and LA playing dominantly as of late along with San Jose.

And, last and least, the season long graph. I may need to truncate this in coming weeks, but we'll see... I sort of like the big version myself, to be honest, but it is getting pretty unwiedly to look at.