Sunday, October 31, 2010

On the MLS Draft Part Two

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.

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