This is week two in HPN’s series on new metrics to evaluate the performance of AFL players and teams. Last week we looked at the Player Rate Statistics.
Raw statistics, such as kicks, handballs and marks, have a easy understanding at face level for most punters. However, different teams play at different paces, and have different strategies in order to outscore their opponents.
To that end, HPN has developed a suite of measures that look at the involvement of each player within the total contributions of their side – a group of measures we call Player Team Contribution statistics. We’ve got a glossary at the bottom of this post, and a list of links to the years we have uploaded so far, but what better way to introduce these measures than some charts?
Are the Swans too reliant on Franklin?
Whether out of want or necessity, no side relies on one player to score as much as the Swans do with Franklin. As our team statistics have shown over the past five years, while sometimes passable and sometimes mediocre, the Swans have never risen to be top tier in overall forward-line efficiency, despite the presence of the best forward in the game. They were 4th on this measure in 2017, but sat in a pack with Geelong, West Coast and Hawthorn, and well behind the leading group.
Last year Lance Franklin contributed over 20% of Sydney’s total score. This was a whisper above the share of Brown’s contributions to North and Kennedy’s output at West Coast, albeit with Sydney having the higher overall offensive strength. This year’s early has been more extreme:
In the first two rounds this year, Franklin has scored 40% of the Swans points which is not sustainable. It’s also not really a sign of a healthy forward line. At the other end of the scale, the Bulldogs have generally had the most balanced forward line in terms of score contribution, but this may be out of a lack of a solid forward structure (and actual forwards).
The two best forward lines of 2017, namely the Crows and Bombers, had a more balanced spread across their top six, with a high level of output evenly distributed. For the Swans forward line to lift to the level of their rest of their side, they at least need to find a couple of more effective and consistent scoring options up forward. Last year’s two most valuable secondary contributors to the Swans offence were Papley and Reid. Reid has been injured but Papley has only kicked 1.3 and failed to register a goal assist so far.
Hogan makes a huge difference for the Demons
The difference between the 2017 chart of marks inside-50 shares for Melbourne and the 2018 version is stark. The Dees were perhaps the most even of any club in 2017.
But things have changed:
This is explained by the presence of healthy Jesse Hogan. Without Jack Watts or Tom McDonald, and with Cam Pedersen returning to human form after a surreal 2017, the Demons are going to be relying heavily on Hogan and Jeff Garlett as targets up forward to keep the score ticking, and for Hogan that means marking the ball a lot.
Even when he gets beaten one-on-one, Alex Rance still cleans up a lot of mess
Alex Rance has spent a four year cycle of being first underrated, then overrated, and publicly scorned for being overrated, and finally then underrated once more. Rance isn’t a stellar (or perhaps even average) one-out defender, but with David Astbury and Dylan Grimes Richmond don’t often need him to be. Rance just needs to be there to bail them out when they get into trouble.
That big patch of “1” on the Richmond bar is Rance, and shows his importance to their defence, albeit in a slightly abstract way. The 1%er statistic is often maligned as a hodgepodge of obscure items, but among public stats it’s one of the few that can show the specific value of defensive players. They are made up of knock-ons to advantage, spoils, smothers and shepherds. A lot of Rance’s 1%ers would be the spoil variety – despite his ability as an intercept mark, he also can effectively kill contests as well.
That big contribution for Port in 2018 is Dougal Howard – a player identified by PAV as one of the most valuable in a small sample size in 2017. In fact, when adjusting for games played (using our mPAV measure) Howard was one of the top 10 defenders in the league last season; which we thought at the time was a glitch in the system. However, his early returns in 2018 have suggested that his brief shining performance in 2017 might be more sustainable over the longer term.
The big three inside men – Dangerfield, Mitchell and…Neale?
If many were to guess the most dominant Fremantle inside midfielder, most would opt for former Brownlow Medalist Nat Fyfe, contested ball numbers at Freo last year suggest that the relatively unheralded (to the South East Coast Media Cycle at least) Lachie Neale is the key to the purple engine room.
This year, Mitchell has gone to another level, as has Patrick Cripps. The value of contested ball is furiously being debated, but part of that debate is knowing which players are tasked with the extraction job for each club.
Dayne Zorko carries several Lions on his shoulders
As well as being the Lions best forward option (Hipwood is promising and young, but not fully arrived), Dayne Zorko is also the best player at getting the ball forward for the Lions. Zorko is the type of modern midfielder who can win his own ball, go forward and either set-up teammates or slot goals; a crucial skill for a flawed side like Brisbane. The elite of the competition are at the top end of this measure – think Martin, Dangerfield, Franklin. Zorko belongs in that company.
Gold Coast have no ball hogs
It’s early days, but a lot seems to have changed at the Suns this year in terms of game style and work off the ball. However so far one trend has held firm.
Gold Coast’s spread of disposal counts last year was the most even of any club, with their top ten having less than 50% of all disposals. Aaron Hall, Gary Ablett and Jarryd Lyons sat as the top 3 among a band of relative equals such as Miller, Martin, Harbrow, Rosa and Swallow.
This year that’s looking similar in the absence of Ablett, with Lyons, Swallow and Harbrow joined by Fiorini. Lyons and Swallow could start to assert themselves and gain relatively more of the ball, but their disposal spread could also be a stylistic marker. It is certainly something to keep watch for.
Will Robbie Gray keep helping his friends?
Port Adelaide, a team our models have been pretty bullish on for a while, will be firmly looking for a top 4 berth this year. In 2017, they had a notably high number of goal assists coming from Robbie Gray, as he spent a fair bit of time closer to goals than he had in previous years. Gray gave off more goal assists as a portion of his club’s total than any other player in 2017, demonstrating that his value up forward was indirect as well as direct.
This year he’s only played one game and didn’t give off an assist, with Wines, Boak, Wingard, Motlop and other-Gray all producing assists in his stead.
Gray played in the middle for chunks of round 2, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can keep up the help to teammates forward of centre.
More rebound is being channeled through Laird
In 2017, Rory Laird was the leading rebound-50 player at the Crows, with Brodie Smith second and Jake Lever third. These were the players entrusted with sending the ball back out of the defensive zone, a role usually served by players with good offensive instincts and skilled penetrative kicking.
In 2018 so far, Laird’s share of the duties has increased with the loss of Smith to injury and Lever to the big city lights. Kelly and Brown have also been asked to take up some of the slack, taking bigger rebound roles than last year.
Glossary of the new measures
We haven’t included all 11 new measures in this range above, but they are all explained below.
- TDC – The player’s proportion of a team’s total disposals across the season.
- TCPC – The player’s proportion of a team’s total contested possessions across the season.
- TSC – The player’s proportion of a team’s total score across the season.
- TIC – The player’s proportion of a team’s total inside 50s across the season.
- TMC – The player’s proportion of a team’s total marks across the season.
- TRC – The player’s proportion of a team’s total rebound 50s across the season.
- TCC – The player’s proportion of a team’s total clearances across the season.
- THC – The player’s proportion of a team’s total hitouts across the season..
- TMIC – The player’s proportion of a team’s total marks inside 50 across the season.
- TOC – The player’s proportion of a team’s total 1%ers across the season.
- TGAC – The player’s proportion of a team’s total goal assists across the season.
Where can I find them?
Up on the top menu there is a link to Player Statistics – this range of measures is called the Player Team Contribution Statistics. At the moment they are available for each year back to 2014 – but we will try to add back to 1999 by the end of the year.