Evaluating Gspurning By The Numbers

We know what Sigi thinks:

I think there's a consensus in this league that somehow thinks that [Sporting Kansas City's Jimmy] Nielsen is the Goalkeeper of the Year. I think if you look around, Michael Gspurning's goals against average is better than Nielsen's. I don't know where he is when you look at the amount of shutouts he has to games played, but he's probably at a higher percentage. I don't know where save percentage is, but for me, Michael's been everything we've hoped for and everything we expected of him. For me right now, he's the Goalkeeper of the Year in this league. I think he's the goalkeeper that's been the most consistent. We had one bad stretch, that was the stretch where he was injured. When you look at our record when he's played, I don't there's a goalkeeper that can match that record.

(Credit to the SaH RSL@SEA Highlights, Stats, and Quotes article for the transcription)

What do the numbers say? Looking just at MLS play, Sigi is absolutely right on most counts. Below are the numbers for goalkeepers in the top 50 on the Castrol Index (hey, I had to come up with some criteria to pick the top keepers). Rave Green indicates the best in the category, Super Cyan is second place. Shots and saves are given first and second based on shots/saves per minute, where lower is better.

Minutes Games Record Goals Allowed Shots Saves GAA Save% Win% Point% Shutouts Shutout% Castrol Index Rank
Michael Gspurning 1665 18.5 10.5 - 3 - 5 13 70 54 0.70 77.1 57.9 65.8 8.5 45.9 21
Tally Hall 2856 31.7 13 - 8 - 10.7 38 128 88 1.20 68.8 41.0 52.2 12 37.9 24
Andy Gruenebaum 2740 30.4 12.5 - 10.9 - 7 37 155 117 1.22 75.5 41.1 48.8 8 26.3 27
Troy Perkins 2587 28.7 8 - 13.7 - 7 42 137 91 1.46 66.4 27.9 36.0 6 20.9 28
Nick Rimando 2790 31 16 - 11 - 4 33 116 83 1.06 71.6 51.6 55.9 12 38.7 31
Jimmy Nielsen 2880 32 17 - 7 - 8 26 94 70 0.81 74.5 53.1 61.5 14 43.8 32
Dan Kennedy 2880 32 7 - 17 - 8 54 167 109 1.69 65.3 21.9 30.2 7 21.9 46
Zac McMath 2610 29 10 - 14 - 5 35 122 84 1.21 68.9 34.5 40.2 8 27.6 49
Ryan Meara 1620 18 9 - 5 - 4 27 90 59 1.50 65.6 50.0 57.4 3 16.7 50

Just below the cutoff were Sean Johnson and Matt Reis, at 51 and 52 respectively on the Castrol Index. I'll be happy to add other keepers if people think I've missed a good candidate for Goalkeeper of the Year. Point% is the percentage of possible points the team has accrued while the keeper is in goal - not necessarily the most direct measurement of a keeper's contribution, but it does give some value to ties where Win% doesn't. Also note that my numbers will vary from those found on the MLS website slightly. Here, keepers are only given credit for the portion of the game they played - so, for instance, Gspurning is only credited for half a win and half a shutout for the game he came out of earlier in the season. It's not a perfect solution, in some cases a keeper may have come out while ahead, and the substitute keeper could have blown the game, and the starting keeper will be charged for part of a loss. But credits Gspurning with a win for that half-game, but not a shutout, which isn't ideal either.

What do we see? When it comes to the big ratios - GAA, Save%, Win%, Shutout%, etc - Cerberus leads the league. He is behind in shots/minute (he's actually 3rd of those on the list) and saves/minute (he's fourth), but those really reflect the performance of the defense rather than the keeper. And while we're at it, can we give some props to the Sporting KC back line? Only 94 shots faced by Jimmy Nielsen all year to this point - 2.94 shots per game - is impressive. For the sake of comparison, Gspurning has faced 3.78 and poor Dan Kennedy has faced 5.22 shots per game. It can't be denied that Jimmy Nielsen's numbers are impressive - he's first or second in every category except save percentage, where he's a very close third - but it's difficult to give him all of the credit thanks to just how well his back four have protected him this season. Or, alternately, you can give him credit for organizing that back four.

This is the challenge of evaluating players for Goalkeeper of the Year (or any position, really). Statistics only tell part of the story - a refrain that will be only too familiar to those who listened to the most recent Nos Audietis episode. A keeper's ability to organize, to position themselves, to intercept crosses, and to distribute the ball to start the attack (hey! Gspurning's got an assist from that! (and so does Gruenebaum)) all play a role in evaluating the effectiveness of a goalkeeper. But that doesn't mean they can't play a role in helping to identify the standouts, and it really looks to come down to Gspurning and Nielsen from that standpoint, with honorable mentions for Rimando and Gruenebaum.

FanPosts only represent the opinions of the poster, not of Sounder at Heart.

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