Proactivity Doesn't Mean Success in 2015 / by Jared Young

By Jared Young (@jaredeyoung)

For more on Pscore, see last month's post.

As April comes to a close, Orlando City is still, by a fair margin, the most proactive team in MLS. They are joined closely by Montreal, NYCFC and Columbus. Unlike last year, where the top seven most proactive teams made the playoffs, this season proactive play is no guarantee for success, with only Columbus playing well in the top half of the East.

Each month I’ll change up the table to give some different looks. I’ll also try to look at how Proactive Score relates to other statistics to see if Proactive Score is making sense in a larger context.

This month I split the PScore between home and away. Last month I pointed out that Portland, Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City were all playing more reactively than in past seasons. What’s interesting is that they are all playing more reactive at home than they are away. On the flip side, Toronto FC was a very reactive side last year but look like they could ultimately be one of the more proactive teams. Despite no homes games this year they currently rank 7th in the league.

Team Rank Last Pscore PPG Pscore Home Pscore Away Home Dif
ORL 1 1 7.5 1 7.3 7.8 -0.5
MON 2 2 6.8 0.5 9 6 3
CLB 3 10 6.4 1.6 7.8 4.7 3.1
NYCFC 4 12 6.4 0.8 5.8 7 -1.3
NYRB 5 3 6.3 2 7.7 5 2.7
CHI 6 4 6 1.5 5.8 6.5 -0.8
TOR 7 7 5.8 1 5.8
SEA 8 5 5.7 1.9 5.8 5.7 0.1
LA 9 11 5.6 1.5 7 4.3 2.8
NE 10 15 5.4 1.8 5.5 5.3 0.3
POR 11 16 5.4 1.1 4 6.8 -2.8
DC 12 6 5.3 2 4.8 6 -1.3
VAN 13 13 5 1.8 5.6 4.3 1.4
COL 14 14 4.7 1 6.3 2.7 3.6
SJ 15 18 4.7 1.3 5.3 4.3 1.1
HOU 16 9 4.6 1.3 4.8 4.3 0.5
PHI 17 8 4.3 0.7 5.5 3.4 2.1
SKC 18 20 4.1 1.3 3.8 4.5 -0.8
RSL 19 17 3.9 1.3 3.7 4 -0.3
DAL 20 19 3.5 1.8 2.8 4.7 -1.9

This month we’ll start with a fairly easy comparison of PScore against pass completion rates and possession. Not surprisingly PScore and pass completion are strongly correlated with an RSquared of .63

Given PScore is built on long passes and backward passes it stands to reason that teams that prefer short backwards passes will complete a higher percentage of their attempts. Orlando City is the team in the upper right. This chart highlights why a team like FC Dallas can be so good but complete the 3rd lowest percentage of passes in the league. The reason is because they attempt a higher volume of forward and long passes than the rest of the league. 

Here is the comparison of pass completion rate and possession:

And here is the comparison of PScore and possession. 

It’s interesting that PScore predicts possession levels just as well as pass completion rate. But something else pops for me here that is worth tracking in the future. Look at the two data points for Orlando City and Montreal. Their PScore level indicates they should be enjoying a much higher level of possession. Both those clubs are underperforming in the bottom half of their conference. On the flip side, FC Dallas is enjoying much more possession than their PScore suggests they should be, and they are performing very well in the West. The other two data points well below the line and to the right of FC Dallas are Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City. Both of those clubs have had rocky starts this year but are perennial contenders.

It’s another interesting angle to watch. If we look at how proactive a team is and compare that to the possession they should expect to have, can we assess how well the team is performing? I ran a quick regression that looked at the error of possession and Pscore relationship and compared it to points. The Rsquared was just 6% but trending in the right direction. One of the issues is there are many points with very little error. It may only be useful when looking at large error levels. 

Next month we’ll revisit the importance of being more proactive or reactive than your opponent.