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Graphic Content: Whitecaps FC Performance Vs. Cost

As the 2013 starts to wind down, it's now time to start looking at some of the cumulative data. This week, the 86 Forever team does a cost-benefit breakdown of the Caps in at-a-glance fashion. Are the big money guys getting it done? Who's a bargain, and who hasn't delivered this year?

Michael Dodge

The visualization below provides a look at 23 Whitecaps players, plotting cost (base salary) against performance (MLS Castrol Index ranking) thus far this season. Salary data has been drawn from the MLS Players Union website, while the Castrol rankings can be viewed on the MLS website.

In short, the Castrol Index is a ranking of Major Soccer League players, based on their performance to date. MLS and OPTA data is analyzed for each match, incorporating discrete match event information such as a player's location on the pitch, whether their action positively or negatively affected the team's ability to gain/retain possession, attack, or defend.

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The size of each bubble is indicative of the player's base salary relative to his teammates' salaries. Kenny Miller's paid a cool 1.15 million a season, roughly three times the next biggest earner, Jay DeMerit, at $325,000. And those tiny bubbles? That's where you'll find the journeymen, the not-yet-fully-proven talent earning the league minimum $46,500.

The lighter the colour, the higher the Castrol ranking - i.e. the better the performance. Suffice it to say you don't want to be a guy in a big, dark bubble. Having said that, let me point out that in this viz, Jay DeMerit is an exception. See this excerpt from the Castrol Index FAQ:

"All players are ranked irrespective of how many minutes they have played in the season.

Those who have not played a specified amount of minutes each month (equal to approx 60% of season game time) will have their Castrol Index score divided by that amount of minutes, there penalising players who are either injured, not selected or suspended for a considerable period of time."

Considering that DeMerit's been injured for what? Something like 98% of the season so far, you can disregard the midnight blue on his bubble. By the same token, Tommy Heinemann no doubt deserves a lighter shade of pale, due to his limited action - same goes for Carlyle Mitchell. In the case of Greg Klazura, I don't think any CI penalty would make much difference, if any.

Some interesting results here, to be sure. First off, it should be clear to everyone that Brad Knighton's the biggest bargain since my wife found a pair of pristine Pradas at the bottom of the sale bin at Army and Navy. He's tops among the keepers performance-wise, and far cry cheaper less expensive than either Cannon or Ousted. Coming in at 106 on the CI, he's the third-best performer on the team behind Camilo and Kenny Miller. Incidentally, you can mouseover each bubble to find the player's salary and Castrol Index rating.

Y. P. Lee, Daigo Kobayashi, Nigel Reo-Coker, and Andy O'Brien are pulling down roughly the same pile of cash, but you can see that Lee's performance has been significantly poorer. Surprisingly, Kobayashi turns up only five spots lower in the rankings than Reo-Coker. It's not clear to me whether Kobayashi's been better than we all thought, or Reo-C's been pulling the wool over our eyes. Giveaways must be penalized harshly in the CI calculations.

I'd love to see a more drilled-down view of each player's ranking. Did Manneh rank 334th more on the basis of not many selections, or was it something else in his game that needs improving? To me, there's a much bigger difference between Manneh and Hurtado (351st) than the fine folks at Castrol seem to think. What is it I'm missing.

Speaking of missing...small bubbles and longish names don't jive very well. the lone bubble without a name? Tommy Heinemann. And sorry, Rituro, "Caveman" wouldn't have fit anyway.

*Salary info for David Ousted now corrected.