Photos by Jeff Bell, Scobel Wiggins and Burt Granofsky – Ultiphotos.com
– Tim Brubaker, MLU Statistician
With three seasons of MLU play in the books, trends have started to develop across the league. The Whitecaps will be good, Morgan Hibbert will play until he is dragged off the field, and the Rainmakers will give you a new goal celebration every week.
For now, we’re going to delve into statistical player trends. More specifically: players that have been in the league for all three season. While general statements will follow, so too will breakdowns of individual players over the three years, looking just at the regular seasons.
445 athletes have played at least one point in the MLU, but only 68 of them have the distinct honor of playing in each of the first three seasons.
To help put everything in perspective, we’ll start with playing time. Over three seasons (120 games) there have been 5,346 active players for regular season games (each team is limited to 25 active players per game). During 40 games in a season, the average game had about 22 players getting field time. Our 68 three year veterans have amassed 1,725 active games of their own. At that rate, a third of the players on the field at any given time have been around for all three season.
Peter Prial, a third year player, is the only player to win 2 MLU titles with different teams (Boston ’13, DC ’14) – Photos by Kevin Leclaire and Pete Guion (Ultiphotos.com)
Essentially, these veterans play, and play a lot (another shout out to Vancouver’s Morgan Hibbert: the “Ironman of the MLU”, who has played just under 1% of every point played).
Breaking this down even further, a very clear distinction emerges: Vets play on the O-line. From the 2014 to 2015 season vets have played on 9.92% more O-lines, bringing them to 40% for all three years. By contrast, D-line appearances by veterans fell 17.62% in the same year giving them only a 30% share for the league’s history.
So we’ve seen that veterans play (a lot), but now we’ll look what they’re doing when they are out there.
While you may be happy when Philadelphia Spinners‘ third year Captain Nick Hirannet has 45 throws for your fantasy team, consider that 57,000 more have been thrown in the MLU. To compare as before, vets have thrown over 38% of those: 21,852 total.
68 MLU players have thrown 38% of passes in league history. The other 377 players: 62%.
They have efficiency to match. League-wide, 90.66% of all throws have been completed over three years. Third year players are up at 91.01%. While 0.35% might not seem like the end of world, at this scale, that’s 76 turns erased. Only two players have more turns than that in their entire career.
The next thing to looks at in this category is TPOP: Touches Per Offensive Possession. The league average TPOP is 0.6272. The “68”, the third year players: 0.6746. Again, while this doesn’t seem like the biggest difference, the trend of veterans to O-line shows this gap could get even larger as the “68” had a .7126 TPOP in 2015, an 8.97% increase from 2014.
Mark Burton of the 2013 Seattle Rainmakers, moved to the Portland Stags in 2014, before returning to the Rainmakers in 2015. He reached the Western Conference Final in all three seasons. Photos by Scott Houghtaling, Scobel Wiggins and John King (Ultiphotos.com)
At this point we know our vets are playing, and we know they’re getting and moving the disc efficiently, but now we’ll look for the numbers that mean the most at the end of the game: Goals and Assists.
Looking up a paragraph or two, these 68 compose around 32-38% of most of the league’s stats. However, when it comes to putting digits on the scoreboard, that trend changes. 120 games in, we’ve seen 4463 goals and 4449 assists (Different numbers?! Unfortunately you don’t get an assist for throwing a Callahan). Of those 8912 points the 68 have 3679. That’s 41.28% of all-time scoring from 68 players (15.28% of active players).
Let’s look deeper into that number. This past season the “68” scored 3.85% more goals than the previous year, and threw a whopping 16.32% more assists. However, over all three years those numbers are in sharp contrast. Compared to 2013, the “68” scored 10.27% LESS goals and 10.74% MORE assists. While this does follow from our O-line trend, it’s directly in line with the more throws trend.
With the broad stats covered, we can look at a few specific players from our pool of 68 who have their own trends:
Grant Cole has increasingly become a major part of Portland’s defense, from 58 points played in 2013 to 162 points played in 2015. Photo by Scobel Wiggins (Ultiphotos.com)
The first of these players is Grant Cole. A D-line specialist, he’s trending in the best way possible: UP! In every category discussed above, Grant Cole has improved every year. Even more important to his role, his blocks also increased every season. While Cole has seen a downward trend in two areas, it was in Drops and Fouls, two categories you don’t mind seeing fall. Cole’s rise in every positive statistical category no doubt helped the Stags go from a 1-9 team in 2013, to a 8-2 team in 2014, all the way to a 9-1 team in 2015. This also leaves the Stags as the only Western Conference team to finish with a better record every year.
The second player we’ll look at is Brian Zid. While the end result is positive, his three years have taken more of a trench trend. This would presumably come from his reduction in time on the field. Dropping from 147 points played in 2013 to 114 in 2014 and to 89 in 2015, he’s seen a 40% reduction in playing time. While this did slow his production down a bit in 2014, it only meant he has had to be more efficient in 2015. Despite losing the additional time on the field from 14-15, Zid increased his numbers in all but one offensive category. While the increase may seem slim (4 more points, 5 more completions), the increase to his TPOP shows where the efficiency increase came. Going up more than .2 points, 2015 saw Zid’s TPOP go from 0.404 to 0.610. Looking at this, 18 of his 25 lost points where on the D-line. Why waste the talent there? Zid’s ability to use his field time to the benefit of the team represents the kind of player that makes a good team into a Championship team.
When faced with decreasing playing time from 2013-2015, Brian Zid turned himself into one of the more efficient pieces of the 2015 Championship Whitecaps. Photo by Burt Granofsky (Ultiphotos.com)
The final player to look at is Morgan Hibbert. Similar to Cole, Hibbert has increased in every mentioned statistical category both years except for one: Blocks. While it may seem disappointing to see someone like Hibbert dropping in blocks, you need to consider that he went from the 2nd most blocks ever in a season to 5th most, leading the league both times.
The impact of Hibbert’s growth can be seen most clearly in his points played. In 2014, Hibbert played 147 more points than the previous year, 122 of which were on the D-line. 2015 saw an additional 57 points played from 2014 and although D-line points dropped by 58, O-line points went up by 115. If you correlate points and throws to offensive points, and blocks to defensive, Morgan’s stats line up perfectly. Perhaps what this shows most of all is the versatility of Hibbert’s game: Whatever role you need him to perform he will do so at a league-leading level.
Morgan Hibbert truly is the “Ironman of the MLU”, playing 284 points in 2015 (74 more than anyone else), also leading the league in Assists (34) and Blocks (Tied at 17). Photo by Jeff Bell (Ultiphotos.com)
Statistical trends help keep people informed whether it’s a coach deciding who to start in a game or a fan deciding who to start in fantasy.
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