The New Data-driven Revs Need to Better Forecast the Impact of Injury on Performance

Jay Heaps
Will the Jay Heaps experiment work? Yes he has nearly 300 games in a Rev uniform but having 10,000 frequent flyer miles does not make you a pilot.

The Revs announced today the 6th coach in team history is former Rev defender Jay Heaps. While many of the most hardcore Revolution fans were quick to question this high risk, high reward decision considering Heaps has zero coaching experience.

Zero. Coaching. Experience.

However, as odd as this decision may seem, Jeff Lemieux on the Revs’ blog pointed out the Revs are embracing a recent MLS coaching trend of teams hiring “new school” young, passionate ex-MLS players like Jason Kreis at Real Salt Lake and Ben Olsen in DC. Kreis won a MLS Cup with RSL and Olsen won 4 as a player with DC. Considering Heaps graduated from Duke in 3 years and has a background in finance, he would therefore not be a stranger to making data-driven decisions. He will hopefully embrace the opportunity to use data to analyze this season’s performance and then improve specific areas of the team by finding the right personnel to accomplish the strategic objectives.

Predict and Mitigate Impact of Injury on Performance

A good place to start is to more accurately forecast the impact of injuries on midfield possession and ultimately, performance.

Heading into the 2011 season, many Revs fans will remember that one of the on-field strategic objectives was to improve midfield possession % from 2010. Maybe the Revs planned to use data to analyze 2010 midfield possession then make decisions on which players would improve possession the most this season. Sounds good. Makes sense to me. They go out and sign Ousmane Dabo, figured he ought to do the job here.

Then Dabo got hurt. This is where the strategy breaks down.

Since the FO plans to be more reliant on numbers to inform decisions about players that ostensibly would accomplish this strategy and Dabo was probably on their shortlist of players that would improve this area, my specific criticism for the FO is failing to anticipate how an injury would impact 2011 midfield possession.

Given the drop off in terms of talent after key injuries, how is it possible the Revs’ talent decision makers could justify such a collection of poor passers (Nyassi, Tierney)? The invisibility of their forward corps (Ski, Lekic)?

Surely they had enough historic data on players like Nyassi, Tierney, Ski and even predictive data on Lekic before he was signed to anticipate poor possession and invisibility of these players. The gap between reaching the strategic goal of improving possession (and results) remains large; Burns and Heaps have their work cut out in order to more accurately anticipate the impact of injury on all areas of the field and plan accordingly.

High Risk, High Reward Move

This move is gutsy by the Revs. It has potential of being a train wreck or working out surprisingly well. The data can forecast results; only time will tell us how accurate the forecast is.


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