"1most adj \ˈmōst\ : greatest in quantity, extent, or degree <the most ability>"
"1valu·able adj \ˈval-yə-bəl, -yə-wə-bəl, -yü-ə-\ 2 b : of great use or service <valuable advice>"
In the real world, that is the most literal definition of the words "most" and "valuable." When combined, they simply mean "greatest quantity of use or service." In the sports world, the phrase is most commonly used when discussing the "most valuable" of all players on a team, or league-wide.
But, so often times, that phrase gets misconstrued into something completely different, based on the opinion giver's biases and/or understanding of what makes a player "most valuable." We're all guilty of it, which is why I have decided to take the 2010 MLS Most Valuable Player race, and break it down into the most literal sense of the term: which team has the "most value" to his team, also to be looked at as: which player did more for his team in the 2010 season, thus making him "more valuable."
In an effort to keep all personal biases and/or my own personal knowledge, or lack thereof, from clouding my own personal opinion of "most valuable," and to compare two very deserving players objectively, I went to the one thing that can not tell a lie. The stats.
If you have followed MLS at all this season, and especially if you're going to take the time to read this post, you probably know that the three finalist for league MVP are: Edson Buddle, forward, Los Angeles Galaxy; David Ferreira, midfielder, FC Dallas; Chris Wondolowski, forward, San Jose Earthquakes. For all intents and purposes, and with all due respect to Mr. Ferreira, it is no secret that this is a two horse race between Buddle and Wondolowski. So, let's get it on!!
Disclaimer: I am not, nor will I ever claim to be, superior in the use of statistical data and/or the workings of number and formulas in the world. But, for my own simpleton brain, this make sense
Basically, what I did, was I took four key statistics that I felt determined "value" of a player to his team, and compared one to the other.
Percentage of team's goals: If a player scores a higher percentage of his team's goals, then they are obviously worse off without him, so that makes him "more valuable," at least in my mind.
- Goals per 90 minutes: Sounds simple enough, right? How often can a forward do his job and put the ball into the net? For the record, it only gets more complicated from here.
Percentage of team's goals scored (not by a particular player), while said player was on the field: Short story long, here's what I did, and why this matters: You have a total number of goals scored by the team on the season. You have a total number of goals scored by a particular player, thus the reverse gives you the total number of goals scored NOT by that same particular player.
At first, I wanted to see what the percentage of goals not scored by someone was, but then even my simple math brain realized that's the opposite number of the percentage of team's goals. So, to make it relative to a player's "value," I went through all 2010 MLS league match game logs on ESPN Soccernet (blame them if any of my numbers are wrong) and counted up the number of goals scored by each player's team while he was NOT on the field. What that tells us is how capable his team is at performing without him on the field. Again, if a team can't perform to the same level without a player, he's obviously "more valuable" to the team.
So, to determine percentage of team's goals scored (not by a particular player), while said player was on the field, I took the number of goals scored without the player on the field, and divided it by the total number of goals scored by the rest of the team for the entire season. That number (in percentage form) was taken out of a full 100 percent and the percentage of goals (not by that player) while he was on the field was found.
Quickly, whay this matters: The point is to judge how often the rest of a player's team can score, when he's not doing the scoring. If they can do so at a higher rate without him, his "value" is obviously less. If the rest of the team scores at a higher rate with him on the field, he obviously positively affecting the rest of the team, his "value" to the team is higher. Every team has a total number of goals scored, minus a particular player of anyone's choosing. It's not hard to figure up. You can do it for Birahim Diop if you want. (It actually tells you just how ridiculous his scoring surges are, and how little they meant to the 2010 Kansas City Wizards.)
Cruciality of goals: How important are the goals a player is scoring to his team? A goal scored while your team is ahead 3-0 isn't nearly as important as one scored in a tied game, right?
My simple way of measuring this: a very simple point system.
- 3 points of "value" assigned for any goal scored to either, a) give his team the lead, or b) tie the game for his team. Each scenario gives that player's team more points in the standings than before said goal, if the game were to end at that moment.
- 2 points of "value" assigned for any goal scored to either, a) extend a lead from one to two, or b) cut a deficit from two to one. These two scenarios are weighted equally because it either gives further assurance of earning three points, or pulls the team within just an equalizer of earning one point.
- 1 point of "value" assigned for any goal scored to either, a) extend a lead to more than two goals, or b) cut a deficit to two or more. These two scenarios are weighted equally because, while a goal is a goal is a goal, a goal scored while ahead by two already, or down by more than two already has less "value," and in some instances would be called "padding the stats." Cruciality is the key.
There are my four measurables. Now, let's see who comes out on top in each.
As you can see, of the four key measurables I used, Buddle and Wondolowski came out even, at two a piece. For the tiebreaker, I will subjectively, based on my own bias and/or knowledge of the game of soccer, choose which of the four I feel best quantifies a player's "value" to his team. I mean, in the end, what else is the point of a "Most Valuable Player" award? We're all going to choose who we want anyway.
But, wait. Wasn't that the whole point - to not choose subjectively? Yeah, but what sense would their be in that. It is, after all, a "Most Valuable Player" race.
Edson Buddle is my MLS "Most Valuable Player" for the 2010 season.