Nov 16, 2012

Fair Play Awards--or the XBOX Award for Year of Undetected Crime

Back when I was in the Navy, enlisted personnel could received a Good Conduct Medal every four years for, well as the name implies, good conduct.  It was a good reward and allowed for points toward promotions.  The award was jokingly referred to as the award for Four Years of Undetected Crime.  The unofficial moniker was clearly tongue-in-cheek, but sometimes not far from the truth.  The XBox Fair Play Awards could be thought of as the MLS version of the Good Conduct Medal, the "Stealthy Fouler Awards" or something similar.  

The Xbox Fair Play awards focus on some fairly objective criteria, which is very different than many other awards.  MLS selects the finalists for these two awards based upon the objective criteria of games and minutes played, fouls committed, and cards received.  But there is also a subjective criteria of general sportsmanship.  

In all seriousness, this is an award that should have more play in both the media and among MLS types.  I would like to see big fat bonuses from MLS on this one, on the order of $100 for every average minute of foul-free play for individual players and a big fat team bonus for the team award winner.  But that maybe the referee in me talking.

On the the finalists:

Xbox Individual Fair Play Finalists

  • Ante Jazic (Chivas USA)
  • Logan Pause (Chicago Fire)
  • Heath Pearce (New York Red Bulls)

Let's take a look at the numbers:  

Jazic started and played 27 games this season for a combined 2,379 minutes.  During those minutes, Jazic received no yellow or red cards and committed 8 fouls according to MLS stats.  That is one foul every 297.3 minutes.  So putting that in different numbers, Jazic was committing about every FOURTH game.  He never got a booking--ever--during the season.

Pause started in 31 games and played in 32.  He logged 2,242 minutes in 2012.  During that time, he too was never booked by the referees.  Pause committed 11 fouls, for an average of one foul every 220.4 minutes.  Very good numbers for a man who was playing defensive midfield for most of the season.

Finally, Pearce started and played 18 games for the Red Bulls this season and a further 10 games for Chivas before being traded.  His total minutes for the year were 2,504, during which time he committed 9 total fouls and received one yellow card.  On average he was committing one foul for every 278.2 minutes.  

Okay, now it is time to start thinking about what matters.  I could easily toss Pearce for having gotten a yellow card since the other two finalists did not get booked, but Pearce played with two different teams in two very different playoff outlooks.  You could also toss Jazic because he did not have as many games or minutes as the other two and he was playing on a team that was more or less eliminated from the playoffs by the end of June.  You could toss out Pause because he committed more fouls than the other two players but he did it playing in Defensive midfield.  

But I think I need to be objective on this one and go with Jazic.  Objectively, he was playing more fairly (or not getting caught as often depending on how you look at it) and minutes player per foul average is very impressive.  The discrepancy between the minutes played is, frankly, not all that significant (the span of just over a game and a half.  

Ante Jazic, hats off to you, if I had my druthers, you would be getting at $29,730 bonus.  But I don't make that choice.

Xbox Team Fair Play Finalists

  • Chicago Fire
  • Houston Dynamo
  • New England Revolution 
This is another very stats driven calculation, working from MLS's stats, where games played and minutes played are equal, after all the teams played the same number of games and accounting for discrepancies as a result of having players sent off, the minutes played are going to be essentially equal, or at least within near enough tolerances as to be largely insignificant.  Here is what we have in terms of numbers:

Chicago Fire: the Fire actually committed the fewest fouls of any team in the MLS, 349.  That comes to an average of just over 10.2 fouls per game.  Not bad.  It should be noted that Chicago were ith in the league among fouls suffered (421).  But of these three teams nominated, Chicago collected 45 yellow cards and five red cards, a total of 50 bookings (1.47 cards per game), and that comes to one card for every 6.8 fouls.  So you could say that Chicago got the most bang for their buck in terms of fouls or looked at from another viewpoint, the fouls they committed tended to be harsher or more prone to sanction.  (Note however, the MLS stats do not differentiate between a yellow card for dissent, for example, and a yellow card for a reckless or studs up challenge).  

Houston Dynamo:  Houston were third on the list in terms of fewest fouls committed, 372, which means they committed 10.9 fouls a game.  Games with Houston involved look to be pretty even as the men in orange suffered 377 fouls(3rd fewest in the league).  However, Houston collected 34 yellow cards and only one red card this season, (1.03 cards per game).  The fouls to cards ration is one card for every 10.6 fouls.  

New England Revolution:  The Revs come in second in terms of fouls committed, 360 for the year, or 10.6 fouls per game).  Revs players also suffered a goodly number of fouls as well, 483 for the season (3rd on the list in the league behind Vancouver and FC Dallas).  The Revs collected 40 cards, 37 yellow and three red cards).  That puts there cards per game ration at 1.18 cards per game.  The Revs received one card for every 9.0 fouls (a nice even number by happenstance).

Because this is, I would like to think, a largely stats based comparison, then Houston should walk with this prize.  The Dynamo picked up fewer cards for the year and that to me is important.  New England picked up 14 percent more cards that Houston and Chicago picked up 28 percent more cards than Houston.  Houston's games, at least statistically in terms of fouls were largely equal.   

In keeping in with my notion that Fair Play, as a team, should be handsomely rewarded, I think the winning team should receive a team bonus of $200,000 to be divvied as they see fit.    Congrats Houston

Frankly, the one thing about these awards is that I am not sure how the subjective "overall sportsmanship" criteria is developed.  I would be fine with the latter being tossed out and let this be simply an objective criteria award.  Alternatively, I would suggest that only referees and assistant referees be permitted to judge the subjective criteria side of things, because referees take a lot of stick of players and often listen to a lot of whining, whinging and haranguing before issuing a dissent yellow card. 

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