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More Substitute Statistics

One of the things we’ve been playing around with recently is a method for measuring the success of substitutes.  We all know that a substitute can help change the tenor of the game:  adding the spark for a late goal, calming nerves, or just improving the level of play.  But none of that is really captured in traditional statistics.  So we decided to start compiling some of our own.  (As we’ve stated before, anything new is old.  If you happen to know that these were used by someone else first, we’d be glad to acknowledge it.  But to the best of our knowledge, we haven’t seen anything like this before.)

We’ll use Men’s National Team players’ statistics from January 1, 2008 through the June 25, 2009 Spain match.

Points-Based Statistics

If we think of each match in terms of its points (3 for a win, 1 for a tie, 0 for a loss), we can compile a couple statistics: Points Saved; Points Earned; Points Lost.  For example, if a player enters during a tie game and the game ends in a tie, that player saved 1 point.  If a player enters a tie game and his side ends up winning it, he has earned 2 points and saved 1 point.  Conversely, if a player enters when the game is tied and the team ends up losing, he has lost 1 point.

Now, this creates a little imbalance:  one goal in a tie match can either earn your team two extra points or cost them only one.  But, that’s the reality of soccer.

Applying this to the U.S. team, here are our leaders over the past two years in each category:

Points Earned:

  • Benny Feilhaber (2)
  • DaMarcus Beasley (2)
  • Frankie Hejduk (2)
  • Jose Francisco Torres (1)
  • Jozy Altidore (1)

Points Saved:

  • Eddie Lewis (13)
  • Sacha Kljestan (12)
  • Benny Feilhaber (11)
  • Freddy Adu (10)

Points Lost:

  • Brad Guzan (1)
  • DaMarcus Beasley (1)
  • Charlie Davies (1)
  • Frankie Hejduk (1)
  • Josh Wolff (1)

Ties Preserved & Ties Converted:

Coaches generally are assumed to bring subs on in tie games for two reasons: (1) to not give up any goals and (2) to try, if possible, to help the team score the go-ahead goal.  So, one measure of a substitute’s effectiveness would be to measure both how many times they entered a game in a tie and kept at least the tie and how many times they were on the field when the team converted the tie into a win.  Right now, a Tie Converted is also a Tie Preserved… so you get a sense of how many tie games they’ve entered.  We could break it up into Ties Entered; Ties Converted; Ties Preserved; Ties Surrendered/Lost.  But since converting the tie adds only 2 points to your score, it seems reasonable to keep Ties Converted the way it is.

Ties Preserved

  • Benny Feilhaber (2)
  • Maurice Edu (2)
  • Eddie Lewis; DaMarcus Beasley; Frankie Hejduk; Freddy Adu (1)

Ties Converted:

  • Benny Feilhaber; DaMarcus Beasley; Frankie Hejduk (1)

Goal Differential:

One of our favorite hockey statistics is the +/- which is used to get a sense for what happens on the ice when the player is there, even if the player doesn’t technically get credit for a goal/assist/or given up goal.  Because soccer’s such a team sport and often times a player has an important, but indirect, effect on the game, we thought it would be fun to try and apply it to soccer.  Here are the U.S. leaders in Goal +/-

  • Freddy Adu (7)
  • Jozy Altidore (6)
  • Jose Francisco Torres (5)
  • Eddie Lewis (4)

And at the bottom, Brad Guzan (-2) who conceded goals to both England and Spain as a second-half sub for Tim Howard.

Card Differential

Recent events have reminded US fans of how large an impact yellow and red cards can have on a team.  And it is our theory that sometimes substitutes help calm things down.  And other times that they rile things up.  So we decided to try the +/- with Card Differential (Yellow = 1 card; Red = 2 cards).  It is calculated so each of our cards is minus the appropriate points and each of their cards adds to the total.

The best American subs in Card +/-

  • Sacha Kljestan (6) . . . which is odd considering he is the only American substitute to be carded (2 yellow cards)
  • Eddie Lewis (3)
  • Six players tied at (1)

The worst American subs in Card +/-

  • Benny Feilhaber (-4)
  • Conor Casey (-3)
  • Josh Wolff (-2)

That’s what we have for now.  We welcome your feedback.

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