Sunday, March 4, 2012

The £ 50 million Minor League Decision : What to do with Torress

For those of you who have followed the company blog for a while, you know I try to diversify the topics I write about. And I’ll do my best with this soccer post. I love soccer, and have begun to really focus my efforts onto this emerging sports. But don’t let me get ahead of myself.
I have a friend from Peru whom I discuss a lot of soccer about. Despite his beliefs about how statistics will ruin the sport, I still do my best to use stats to predict the outcome of games. This friend of mine, once had a discussion about why I believe professional soccer needs a legitimate minor league system. My biggest argument was Fernando “I hate to score” Torress , who has struggled to score in his last 24 starts. For a professional soccer player who cost 50 million British Sterling Pounds, they expect a little more results from him. Lets take a look at a graph.
Stats / Graphs:

This represents Torress’s Goals 3 game Average and his Shots 3 game Average[1]. Now if we look around his 78 mark we see a pretty deep drop off from his normal pace. This is because 80 appearances ago Torres got injured. At the time, Torress was with Liverpool, who played him back very quickly. The team was looking for anything they could get. The team was in downfall, trying to scrape points. But we learn from hindsight is that sometimes players need to “gain” their confidence. Think of this way, if you were going to train for a marathon, you wouldn’t start your first practice against Steve prefontaine. That is what Professional soccer has a problem with, starting players against the best competition, you need to ease these things back. Ever famous American Athletes go through rehab by playing against lower competition, even Derek Jeter did this.[2]  This with the fact that Derek Jeter cost the Yankees 220,159,364 (over some years, but still).
Ok , back to the graph. When you look at this, you see that Torress’s shots did not really change, but he isn’t thinking about shooting, he is just taking the shots. His “touch” is rushed, and he isn’t taking his time taking the shots, he is just hoping the ball goes in. This is typical of someone desperate for success, [I mean even the cast of the Jersey Shore shoots until they hit]. Lets break this down by the numbers.
 Above is a table showing you the Average amount of goals per game that Torress has scored per game, this is broken down from Pre-Injury and Post Injury, then the next column is Shots. See something different, there is a much larger gap between Goals than there is shots. Shots seem to be about the same, where goals he seems to have dropped. Lets get Nerdy, and drop the real statistics.
The Difference between Goals has a P-value of .001 , where the P-value of the difference in shots is .6 ; all in all this means there is no difference between the amount of shots per game he is taking, rather his conversion of those shots to goals has declined.
Why is this so concerning? It’s because a £ 50 million should not be sitting your bench, and should be called to his national country. I spoke two several soccer statisticians while at the MIT Sloan Sports Conference, and most of them agreed that we need a time to shoot metric. I assume, this statistic would look somewhat normally distributed. People that rush the shot will generally miss, and those that over think the shot will generally miss as well, its finding that golden middle that will allow yourself to score.
Back to main question and point, if sports are such “feeling it” art, than we need to make sure a player gets back on pace even if that is lowering his competitive standards. It is very likely that Chelsea is going to lose money on Torress, but they can stop the bleeding. He has talent, he has fitness, but he lacks the confidence to put the goals away, and until he regains that it will be a dry spell for the Spaniard. Hopefully the new Chelsea Manager can fix things.

[1] In soccer, we get the complaint about all the noise. To avoid this, we look take a Moving average, its quite common in time-series.

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