Moneyball on Soccer Pitches

Moneyball on Soccer Pitches
Published: 2020-10-09

Bill James defined his Sabermetrics which inspired the book and movie Moneyball this way:

“Sabermetrics is the search for objective knowledge about baseball."

On the soccer pitch we’ve adapted the concept too - objective knowledge about football.  

For each level of competition, a coach is trying to form the strongest possible squad. Each year a club, college, or amateur team has to replace some players.

At Life University we work this season according to a methodology, inspired by Moneyball, where we assess players each week and give them the opportunity to score points in several categories. I will explain how this system works. A player can score a maximum of 5 points. He or she will be judged on the following categories:

Technical Ability Tactical Insight/Soccer intelligence Physical/Strength Speed Character/Effort/Mentality

The first point is built up as followed: receiving of the ball, passing, heading, finishing, and dribbling. A player can score 0.2 points for each of these subcategories.

So when a player is technically sound, physically strong, and has reasonable speed this player quickly is receiving 3 points. Often players who are technically sound also have more tactical awareness so 4 points can be achieved. If the player has the right mentality as well and works hard, he or she scores the maximum points available.

Soc1

These 5.0 players are rare at any level and it is the art of recruiting/scouting to find these type players. By working according to this system and philosophy we can now somewhat predict the outcome of our season. At Life University at this moment in time, we have our starting 11 scores an average of 3.85. We have won 9 out the 12 games played and the 3 losses were all by small margins. Our win percentage is .750 at this moment and this is in line with the following win percentage model we have developed:

Score of 0.0 -1.0 means a win percentage of 0 - .100 Score of 1.0 - 2.0 means a win percentage of .100 - .250 Score of 2.0 - 3.0 means a win percentage of .250 - .500 Score of 3.0 - 4.0 means a win percentage of .500 - .750 Score of 4.0 - 5.0 means a win percentage of .750 - 1000.

If your players and team score in the last category then count on competing for a championship and many of those players will advance to the next level(s) of competition (pro, NT, etc. in our case).

The system is spot on and we are using it in our recruiting efforts as of this year. It is no coincidence that we are currently fighting for the conference championship and beyond. Many of the newly acquired players this year score in the 3.5-5.0 ranges and are contributing to the success of the team.

In the Netherlands, AZ Alkmaar also works according to a system that was developed by them and is based on the same principles. Based on data and facts/stats. Each position of course has its own rating and score.

So take the emotion out of scouting/recruiting players and let your coaches/scouts work according to this simple money ball system. Another plus is you can give players immediate feedback and you can predict your season somewhat. A win-win for everyone.