Rating Player Ratings

The international break is upon us. With that comes a wealth of high tension, low quality match-ups.  We also get treated to another round of Mexican soccer related heart palpitations. Who's excited to see another El Tri slog-fest?  Nobody? Ok, then.  I could give you the line-up options for Vucetich. I could again call out the absurdity that is Maza and Torrado in the starting eleven. But I don't want to write it, and you don't want to read it. Yet, I still have a rant that's ready to be rolled out (release your deep sighs of relief now).

 International soccer often brings heightened fan interest. When a nation's team is in play, pride (probably misplaced) and patriotic feelings swell. However, there's only so much that can be said and/or written about the national team. Little can be said about a team that only plays a handful of matches every few months. It leads to repetition ad nauseam.  Yes, Mexico could use Carlos Vela. No, it doesn't matter who starts in goal for El Tri. Yes, Mexico continues to be let down by the play of their midfield. Blaa blaa blaa.

There's something coming this weekend that irks me even more than Torrado's non-defensive, defensive midfielder role[1]. A side effect of so few competitive matches with the national teams is an over analysis of each game. We break down ninety minutes like we are a lit class dissecting Faulkner. Every aspect is picked apart to the point of ridiculousness, and inevitable my least favorite form of analysis rears its ugly head.

Player ratings are a joke.

It's somewhat preposterous to assume that someone could give eleven players on the field a grade for their performance. If the writer is lucky enough to be at the game in question, I'm assuming they only possess one set of eyes. Perhaps a cyborg of some kind might be able to watch all players to the extent that they could be assigned a reliable grade. However, I doubt that cyborg would be programmed to assign arbitrary number grades.

If you are watching on television, assigning ratings to all players on the field is necessarily shortsighted.  Unless there are some sort of channels that aren't in my cable package that show the entire field through the full ninety minutes, assessing players can only be piecemeal. The camera generally follows the ball. With the exception of scoring or big plays, viewers at home aren't able to see how plays develop and player movement away from the ball.

Perhaps a defender is draping all over an opposing scorer and restricting the flow of the ball through the player. We are unlikely to see a lot of this match-up in the camera frame. Perhaps a speedy winger continues to make great runs and beat his man but has teammates who fail to get him the ball at the right time. Will we see all those killer runs or will we just see all of the linesman's flags after the mistimed passes? And while these plays are taking place, who is watching the winger on the opposite side either getting in a dangerous position or not?

The point is that we can't watch everything that is happening on the field to the point of individual analysis. Certainly, focusing on a few players and their activities throughout a match and providing focused insight has validity; assessing the full set of players does not.  

The failure of player ratings doesn't come from the rater as much as the impossibility of making accurate judgments.  The rater is forced to judge what they see. Big plays that get replayed repeatedly get extra weight. The steady defender that led the back line, pushed the defensive line up and stifled play through the middle of the field will be judged on the one play where he got caught too far up the field. This could be fair if all of the play away from the camera could be taken in to account as well. It normally can't.

Player ratings focus on the big plays. They focus on what was clearly seen. What if the player wasn't seen much? Do they get a low rating? Probably. We can say they were absent. They didn't take advantage of the opportunity. Yet, this can fail to take into account the interconnectedness of this game. Might this have something to do with the tactical approach of the manager? Couldn't this be related to the play of the teammates around him? Maybe, a combination of these things are factoring in to the results that are seen in the television frame.  Even the most conscientious rater would need to speculate on these things.

And there's the real issue. If you enjoy reading someone's guesses and speculations about the individual performances of each player over ninety minutes, have at it. You should just move past the grain of salt in your pocket and start lugging a satchel of sodium to digest these ratings.

Then again, you could get angry about the assigned numbers and call out the rater as some kind of moron with vision issues. Whatever works for you.

** the photo is used under a Creative Commons license from marsmet547   

[1] not true 




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