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Precision GuessworkPrecision Guesswork
A History of Draft Value in Major League Soccer
By Howard Hamilton
CASSIS 2016 2
What is a MLS draft pick worth?
50% never appear in league50% never appear in league
50% out of MLS within 4...
CASSIS 2016 3
Talk Outline
●
The Draft in Context
●
How do we value a
draft pick?
●
How have draft
values evolved?
●
Which...
CASSIS 2016 4
MLS Player Data Set
Biographical
Data
Initial Acquisition
Data
Financial
Data
(2007-2015)
Performance
Data
P...
CASSIS 2016 5
Analysis Overview
Normalization of Draft Position
α=
k−1
N−1
α:[1, N ]→[0,1]
Survival Analysis
S(tij)=Pr[Ti>...
CASSIS 2016 6
Draft Declining In Influence –
But Still Important
Golden Age
of the
Drafted
Player
Current
Reality
of the
D...
CASSIS 2016 7
Contribution of Draftees to
Goals Scored in MLS
CASSIS 2016 8
Contribution of Draftees to
Goal Assists in MLS
CASSIS 2016 9
Contribution of Draftees to
Clean Sheets in MLS
CASSIS 2016 10
Draft Mortality
48% of draftees
never appear!
Year 3 or Bust!
What percentage of draftees never appear in M...
CASSIS 2016 11
Draft Mortality of MLS Clubs
CASSIS 2016 12
Draft Classes Have Short Half-Lives
Median tenure of MLS draft class: 3.68 years
CASSIS 2016 13
Club Draft Classes' Are Even Shorter!
CASSIS 2016 14
Draft Position Explains
Expected Tenure
CASSIS 2016 15
Only Early Draft Picks Can Expect 100-
Game MLS Careers
CASSIS 2016 16
Given this environment for drafted players,
what is a draft pick worth?
40% of all players40% of all player...
CASSIS 2016 17
Valuing MLS Draft Picks
Player Value Expression Player Value
Scope
Time Horizon
Minutes
Minutes + goals + a...
CASSIS 2016 18
Draft Pick Valuation Models
Training Data
Career value of drafted player
Career value of drafted player up
...
CASSIS 2016 19
Evaluating MLS Draft Picks
●
Create draft value curve by local regression → V()
●
Value differential: diff...
CASSIS 2016 20
Draft Pick Value Model
Omniscient, Infinite Horizon
CASSIS 2016 21
Draft Pick Value Model
Omniscient, Limited Horizon
CASSIS 2016 22
2009 Draft Pick Value Model
Current, Limited Horizon
CASSIS 2016 23
2009 MLS SuperDraft Value Card
Pick Value Pick Value Pick Value Pick Value
1 100 16 34.7 31 31.9 46 14.9
2 ...
CASSIS 2016 24
2013 Draft Pick Value Model
Current, Limited Horizon
CASSIS 2016 25
2013 MLS SuperDraft Value Card
Pick Value Pick Value Pick Value Pick Value
1 100 11 20.8 21 0.7 31 0.5
2 91...
CASSIS 2016 26
Relative Draft Value
Lack of Time Horizon Overvalues Late Draft Picks
CASSIS 2016 27
Expected Draft Value
Omniscient Model Yields Optimistic Estimates
CASSIS 2016 28
Expected Draft Value
Drafting Clubs Don't See Most of Drafted Player Value
CASSIS 2016 29
Early Draft Picks' Competition:
Other Domestic Signings
CASSIS 2016 30
Expected Salary Cost of
SuperDraft Picks
CASSIS 2016 31
Draft Performance Extremes:
Present Draft Valuation Model
Year Pick Player Position Club
1997 29 Kevin Hart...
CASSIS 2016 32
Draft Performance Extremes:
Club Draft Valuation Model
Year Pick Player Position Club
1997 29 Kevin Hartman...
CASSIS 2016 33
Draft Performance Extremes:
Defenders (Present Model)
Year Pick Player Club
2004 60 Jeff Parke New York Red...
CASSIS 2016 34
Draft Performance Extremes:
Forwards (Present Model)
Year Pick Player Club
2002 50 Davy Arnaud Sporting Kan...
CASSIS 2016 35
Draft Performance Extremes:
Goalkeepers (Present Model)
Year Pick Player Club
1997 29 Kevin Hartman LA Gala...
CASSIS 2016 36
Draft Performance Extremes:
Midfielders (Present Model)
Year Pick Player Club
2003 43 Jack Jewsbury Sportin...
CASSIS 2016 37
Which MLS Clubs Find Draftees Who
Have Productive MLS Careers?
MLS College Draft/SuperDraft, 1997-2013
CASSIS 2016 38
Which MLS Clubs Find Draftees That
Benefit Them?
MLS College Draft/SuperDraft, 1997-2013
CASSIS 2016 39
Middle Draft Selections
Hard to Get Right
CASSIS 2016 40
An endangered species in a crowded player
acquisition environment.
Low lifetime costsLow lifetime costs
Lon...
Thank You!Thank You!
Soccermetrics Research, LLC
www.soccermetrics.net
@soccermetrics
Howard H. Hamilton, Ph.D.
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Precision Guesswork: History of MLS Draft Value (CASSIS 2016)

Extended slide deck of presentation given at 2016 Cascadia Symposium on Statistics in Sports. In this study I create valuation models to answer the question "What is a draft pick worth?" and look at how those values have changed over time. I use those values to assess the payoff of specific picks, evaluate the performance of teams in the draft, and understand recent decisions to bypass the draft altogether.

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Precision Guesswork: History of MLS Draft Value (CASSIS 2016)

  1. 1. Precision GuessworkPrecision Guesswork A History of Draft Value in Major League Soccer By Howard Hamilton
  2. 2. CASSIS 2016 2 What is a MLS draft pick worth? 50% never appear in league50% never appear in league 50% out of MLS within 4 years50% out of MLS within 4 years 55% don't achieve expected55% don't achieve expected career value for their teamscareer value for their teams If you knew what a draft pick is worth, what would you do with it?
  3. 3. CASSIS 2016 3 Talk Outline ● The Draft in Context ● How do we value a draft pick? ● How have draft values evolved? ● Which draft picks stand out? ● Which clubs stand out in the Draft?
  4. 4. CASSIS 2016 4 MLS Player Data Set Biographical Data Initial Acquisition Data Financial Data (2007-2015) Performance Data Player Name(s) Date of Birth Nationality Default Position(s) Acquisition Year Acquiring Team Acquisition Path Draft Path: Draft Type Round Selection Number Generation Adidas (N=1813) Contract Year Contracting Team Compensation: Base Guaranteed Minutes Appearances Substitutions Yellow/Red Cards Field Player-specific Goalkeeper-specific All players acquired by Major League Soccer between 1996-2016 (N=3250 players) Data Sources: MLS Players Union (Financial Data), ENB Sports Soccer Player Database (Performance Data), Major League Soccer (Acquisition Data)
  5. 5. CASSIS 2016 5 Analysis Overview Normalization of Draft Position α= k−1 N−1 α:[1, N ]→[0,1] Survival Analysis S(tij)=Pr[Ti> j] Event: Final exit from Major League Soccer Censored Observations: Active MLS players All Players Drafted Between 1996-2015
  6. 6. CASSIS 2016 6 Draft Declining In Influence – But Still Important Golden Age of the Drafted Player Current Reality of the Drafted Player
  7. 7. CASSIS 2016 7 Contribution of Draftees to Goals Scored in MLS
  8. 8. CASSIS 2016 8 Contribution of Draftees to Goal Assists in MLS
  9. 9. CASSIS 2016 9 Contribution of Draftees to Clean Sheets in MLS
  10. 10. CASSIS 2016 10 Draft Mortality 48% of draftees never appear! Year 3 or Bust! What percentage of draftees never appear in MLS?
  11. 11. CASSIS 2016 11 Draft Mortality of MLS Clubs
  12. 12. CASSIS 2016 12 Draft Classes Have Short Half-Lives Median tenure of MLS draft class: 3.68 years
  13. 13. CASSIS 2016 13 Club Draft Classes' Are Even Shorter!
  14. 14. CASSIS 2016 14 Draft Position Explains Expected Tenure
  15. 15. CASSIS 2016 15 Only Early Draft Picks Can Expect 100- Game MLS Careers
  16. 16. CASSIS 2016 16 Given this environment for drafted players, what is a draft pick worth? 40% of all players40% of all players 20% of incoming players20% of incoming players 50% never play in league50% never play in league 3.5 years with drafting team3.5 years with drafting team
  17. 17. CASSIS 2016 17 Valuing MLS Draft Picks Player Value Expression Player Value Scope Time Horizon Minutes Minutes + goals + assists (Field players) Minutes + goals allowed + clean sheets (Goalkeepers) Average Maximum Career Cumulative to previous year Up to N years before previous year V = √( M Mmax ) 2 + ( G Gmax ) 2 + ( A Amax ) 2 3 , field players V = √( M Mmax ) 2 + (1− GA GA ,max ) 2 + ( S Smax ) 2 3 , goalkeepers All College/SuperDraft Selections Between 1997-2013
  18. 18. CASSIS 2016 18 Draft Pick Valuation Models Training Data Career value of drafted player Career value of drafted player up to current year Cumulative value of drafted player while playing for drafting club up to current year Omniscient Model Present Model Club Model
  19. 19. CASSIS 2016 19 Evaluating MLS Draft Picks ● Create draft value curve by local regression → V() ● Value differential: difference between expected and actual career values R= Δeα ,Δ>0 Δe 1−α ,Δ<0 Δ=∑V p−V (α) Draft Performance Rating Value Differential Scaled by Draft Position
  20. 20. CASSIS 2016 20 Draft Pick Value Model Omniscient, Infinite Horizon
  21. 21. CASSIS 2016 21 Draft Pick Value Model Omniscient, Limited Horizon
  22. 22. CASSIS 2016 22 2009 Draft Pick Value Model Current, Limited Horizon
  23. 23. CASSIS 2016 23 2009 MLS SuperDraft Value Card Pick Value Pick Value Pick Value Pick Value 1 100 16 34.7 31 31.9 46 14.9 2 94.5 17 33.2 32 31.1 47 13.8 3 89.1 18 32.3 33 30.0 48 12.7 4 83.8 19 31.8 34 28.7 49 11.6 5 81.2 20 31.6 35 27.9 50 10.9 6 75.2 21 31.4 36 26.3 51 9.7 7 71.7 22 31.4 37 25.4 52 9.0 8 66.5 23 31.4 38 24.0 53 7.9 9 61.4 24 31.7 39 22.6 54 6.8 10 58.3 25 31.9 40 21.8 55 6.1 11 52.9 26 32.3 41 20.4 56 4.8 12 50.0 27 32.6 42 19.7 57 4.3 13 45.5 28 32.8 43 18.5 58 3.3 14 41.0 29 32.8 44 17.3 59 2.2 15 36.9 30 32.5 45 16.1 60 1.1
  24. 24. CASSIS 2016 24 2013 Draft Pick Value Model Current, Limited Horizon
  25. 25. CASSIS 2016 25 2013 MLS SuperDraft Value Card Pick Value Pick Value Pick Value Pick Value 1 100 11 20.8 21 0.7 31 0.5 2 91.6 12 14.8 22 0.7 32 0.4 3 83.2 13 10.1 23 0.7 33 0.3 4 75.0 14 7.0 24 0.7 34 0.2 5 66.8 15 4.8 25 0.7 35 0.1 6 58.8 16 3.3 26 0.7 36 0 7 50.9 17 2.3 27 0.7 37 0 8 43.2 18 1.7 28 0.6 38 0 9 35.7 19 1.2 29 0.6 10 28.2 20 0.9 30 0.5
  26. 26. CASSIS 2016 26 Relative Draft Value Lack of Time Horizon Overvalues Late Draft Picks
  27. 27. CASSIS 2016 27 Expected Draft Value Omniscient Model Yields Optimistic Estimates
  28. 28. CASSIS 2016 28 Expected Draft Value Drafting Clubs Don't See Most of Drafted Player Value
  29. 29. CASSIS 2016 29 Early Draft Picks' Competition: Other Domestic Signings
  30. 30. CASSIS 2016 30 Expected Salary Cost of SuperDraft Picks
  31. 31. CASSIS 2016 31 Draft Performance Extremes: Present Draft Valuation Model Year Pick Player Position Club 1997 29 Kevin Hartman GK LA Galaxy 2002 50 Davy Arnaud F Sporting Kansas City 2005 35 Gonzalo Segares D Chicago Fire 2010 51 Sean Johnson GK Chicago Fire MLS College Draft/SuperDraft, 1997-2013 Year Pick Player Position Club 1998 3 Ben Parry D San Jose Earthquakes 2005 1 Nik Besagno M Real Salt Lake 1997 2 Mike Fisher M Tampa Bay Mutiny 2011 1 Omar Salgado F Vancouver Whitecaps Draft Busts Draft Gems
  32. 32. CASSIS 2016 32 Draft Performance Extremes: Club Draft Valuation Model Year Pick Player Position Club 1997 29 Kevin Hartman GK LA Galaxy 2002 50 Davy Arnaud F Sporting Kansas City 2005 35 Gonzalo Segares D Chicago Fire 2010 51 Sean Johnson GK Chicago Fire MLS College Draft/SuperDraft, 1997-2013 Year Pick Player Position Club 1998 3 Ben Parry D San Jose Earthquakes 2001 1 Chris Carrieri F San Jose Earthquakes 1997 2 Mike Fisher M Tampa Bay Mutiny 1999 1 Jason Moore M DC United Draft Busts Draft Gems
  33. 33. CASSIS 2016 33 Draft Performance Extremes: Defenders (Present Model) Year Pick Player Club 2004 60 Jeff Parke New York Red Bulls 1998 30 Joe Franchino LA Galaxy 2005 35 Gonzalo Segares Chicago Fire 1998 8 Mike Petke MetroStars MLS College Draft/SuperDraft, 1997-2013 Year Pick Player Club 1998 3 Ben Parry San Jose Earthquakes 2000 9 John Wilson Sporting Kansas City 1999 10 Tony Soto LA Galaxy 1999 9 Matt Chulis Columbus Crew Draft Busts Draft Gems
  34. 34. CASSIS 2016 34 Draft Performance Extremes: Forwards (Present Model) Year Pick Player Club 2002 50 Davy Arnaud Sporting Kansas City 1998 9 Jeff Cunningham Columbus Crew 2004 53 Alan Gordon LA Galaxy 2005 29 Chris Rolfe Chicago Fire MLS College Draft/SuperDraft, 1997-2013 Year Pick Player Club 2011 1 Omar Salgado Vancouver Whitecaps 1999 7 John Wolyniec MetroStars 1999 8 Andrew Mittendorf Colorado Rapids 2007 8 Jerson Monteiro Chicago Fire Draft Busts Draft Gems
  35. 35. CASSIS 2016 35 Draft Performance Extremes: Goalkeepers (Present Model) Year Pick Player Club 1997 29 Kevin Hartman LA Galaxy 1998 26 Matt Reis LA Galaxy 2000 35 Nick Rimando Miami Fusion FC 2002 23 Jon Busch Columbus Crew MLS College Draft/SuperDraft, 1997-2013 Year Pick Player Club 2008 8 Josh Lambo FC Dallas 2008 12 Dominic Cervi Chicago Fire 2002 22 Bryheem Hancock LA Galaxy 2002 24 Mike McGinty DC United Draft Busts Draft Gems
  36. 36. CASSIS 2016 36 Draft Performance Extremes: Midfielders (Present Model) Year Pick Player Club 2003 43 Jack Jewsbury Sporting Kansas City 1998 14 Carey Talley DC United 1998 13 Pablo Mastroeni Miami Fusion FC 2002 3 Brad Davis MetroStars MLS College Draft/SuperDraft, 1997-2013 Year Pick Player Club 2005 1 Nik Besagno Real Salt Lake 1997 2 Mike Fisher Tampa Bay Mutiny 2007 6 Nico Colaluca Colorado Rapids 2008 5 Ciaran O'Brien Colorado Rapids Draft Busts Draft Gems
  37. 37. CASSIS 2016 37 Which MLS Clubs Find Draftees Who Have Productive MLS Careers? MLS College Draft/SuperDraft, 1997-2013
  38. 38. CASSIS 2016 38 Which MLS Clubs Find Draftees That Benefit Them? MLS College Draft/SuperDraft, 1997-2013
  39. 39. CASSIS 2016 39 Middle Draft Selections Hard to Get Right
  40. 40. CASSIS 2016 40 An endangered species in a crowded player acquisition environment. Low lifetime costsLow lifetime costs Long time to high valueLong time to high value Low value after Round 1Low value after Round 1 The MLS Draft Passing on late rounds of MLS SuperDraft becomes understandable.
  41. 41. Thank You!Thank You! Soccermetrics Research, LLC www.soccermetrics.net @soccermetrics Howard H. Hamilton, Ph.D.

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