Previously we’ve looked at which teams tend to do well in the MLS Superdraft so I thought it would be fun to look at the relation between managers and the universities that are developing the players. I’m using percentage minutes played as a proxy for the quality of the draft pick. I’ve restricted the data to draft picks from the first two rounds from the last 5 years. There isn’t enough data yet for the 2011 season (rookies tend to see more playing time later in the season) so I have excluded that from the set. Also, to facilitate displaying the graph, I’ve restricted the set down to the current set of managers, not all of whom have draft picks from the first two rounds prior to 2011. I used to previous linear regression to set a baseline for whether or not a draft pick is under-performing based on their selection number. The color and size of the nodes indicates on average if draft picks for that entity under or over perform (red=under, white=average, blue=over perform). The color and size of the edge represents a single draft pick (for example, the thick line between Hans Backe and St. Louis University is Tim Ream).
Archive for SuperDraft
Here’s part 1 and part 2 of our series on analyzing what a team can expect given a certain pick in the draft. So far we’ve looked at picks 11-20 and 21+ so now it’s time to take a look at the cream of the crop.
Here’s what we found:
- Only 10% of players never started a game in MLS
- 16% of the class are no longer in the league. Of that, half moved on to play in Europe.
- 42% of picks were starters in their first season, with a further 22% growing into starters.
- Expected starts are 12.09 per season
So how does the Top Ten compare to the rest of the draft picks? Here’s a look at how our three segments compare to each other:
Not surprising, the top ten picks do extremely well in MLS. Up next is a look at the tradeoffs of combining picks to move up in the draft. Stay tuned…
Previously we looked at what the Sounders could do with their 2nd round picks by examining picks greater than 21 from the last 5 years. You can find the results here. That gives us a good idea of what the Sounders could get if they keep all 3 picks, but not what they could get if they trade for higher spots in the draft. Today we’ll be looking at spots 11-20 in the draft. The Sounders currently have the 11th pick.
For picks 11-20 in the last 5 years:
- 32% have not started a game in MLS. However, unlike spots 21+, some of these guys drafted in 2009 and 2010 are still with the league and could see time this season
- 48% are no longer with the league, however, that figure includes Jozy Altidore who was sold to Villarreal and Dominic Cervi who opted for Europe instead of playing in MLS
- 26% see an increase in games started and “grow” into starters, 42% are starters for at least a season
- 2009 was the best performing class, in stark contrast to their performance in spots 21+
- All classes except 2006 saw growth year over year. 2006 was flat due to most players not surviving in the league for 5 years
- Expected starts is 6.80 games per season
If the Sounders were to trade all 3 of their second round picks for a pick in the 11-20 range, they would have a slightly better chance of getting a starter, but they also increase the probability that their pick will never play in MLS. The shotgun blast approach to the draft is akin to diversifying an investment portfolio and mitigating risk. However, there are other concerns such as roster size and salary cap that make diversification a less appealing strategy. In a later post we’ll look at different draft strategies to see which is the optimal approach the Sounders should take with their picks.
In a previous post, I examined the overall trends of the last 5 years of the MLS Superdraft and created a linear regression to estimate the expected number of minutes played a given draft selection would contribute. This worked reasonably well, but it didn’t tell you much about player growth. There is a myth that even though the later picks don’t contribute right away, a lot of them can grow into starters. Given that the Seattle Sounders currently hold the 21st, 27th and 29th picks of the 2011 MLS Super Draft, I decided to take a deeper look at 2nd round picks from spot 21 and lower to see how likely it is that the Sounders can find someone who can grow into a starter.
In order to normalize across the different drafts, I decided to look at the data based on number of years in the league, where t=1 is their rookie season, t=2 is their second season and so forth. What I found was:
- The expected number of games started for a player is 5.63 per season
- 52.5% of players never start a game in MLS and are out of the league within 3 years
- Of all the seasons played by all the players, only 19% of them had 15 or more games started (majority of games given MLS’s 30 game season)
- Players either contribute in their first season, or don’t contribute at all. Only 10% of the picks increased their number of games started over the 5 years. Those players are Corey Ashe, Marc Burch, Andrew Jacobson and Peter Lowry.
- On average, year over year growth is flat or negative across the draftees, with the exception of 2008
- Much like the 2011 draft class, the 2009 draft class was regarded as being loaded with talent, yet that talent doesn’t seem to be evenly distributed. The late 2nd round picks from 2009 performed the worst out of the last 5 years and only two players started games (5 and 3 games). Those same two players are also the only ones who are still under contract with the league.
Given the information above, if the Sounders were to keep their picks there is
- 14.5% chance that none of their 3 picks ever start a game in MLS
- 38.8% chance that at least one of their picks becomes a starter
- 46.7% chance that they end up with several role players
38.8% of drafting a starter might sound like decent odds, but the question is, can the Sounders improve those odds by trading up? Stay tuned as we take a look at the draft odds for spots 1-10 and 11-20. In the meantime, take a look at our previous draft posts.
I decided to take a look at how last year’s draft class was doing. Specifically, I was wondering if I would see the same patterns in year two or if last year’s class was behaving differently. More or less the same patterns appear for the universities producing the draftees. Overall, the same exponential decay seems to happen with playing minutes as the selection number increases. However, we don’t see the same pattern of defenders taken late in the draft out performing their expected minutes. Instead we see defenders outperforming for middle picks instead of just in the tail. For the class of 2009, the tail is almost completely filled with players who were cut from their team before ever making their MLS debut. In fact, 13 out of the 30 players taken in 2009 had little to no minutes in their first 2 seasons. The fact that they are no longer with their MLS clubs rules out the theory that they will provide future value to the club. Basically, MLS teams are really bad at figuring out who is good enough to play in the league. It will be interesting to see how these numbers change with the reintroduction of the reserve league and larger rosters. Teams might be more patient with developing young players and have the roster space to do so.
I’m going to continue to track how draftees perform over time with the end goal being a model to estimate the value of a draft pick given its position. For example, Seattle traded Stephen King to DC United for their 2nd round pick, 19th overall. Based on my preliminary findings, it looks like this player should expect to play about 15% of the time. You can also look at the variance of the playing time to estimate the probability you’ll find someone who could be a consistant starter vs. someone who will be complete rubbish. With this sort of information, it becomes easier to make data driven decisions. Did Seattle make the right call trading King for a draft pick? Seeing as he was down on the depth chart and getting 0 playing time, the Sounders were able to give themselves a shot at getting someone who could crack the lineup.