Eleven games in is no longer "early." A third of the way through the season, patterns have emerged that may not tell a complete story of a team, but that doesn't mean they're not meaningful patterns.
In hockey, where players change on the fly, +/- is a valuable statistic. In case someone doesn't know, in hockey, +/- is the measure of GF vs GA when a given player is on the ice. On the ice and your team scores? You get a +. Gave up a goal on your shift? You get a -. Total it up and interesting trends result. Some players don't score, but they seem to create situations where their team does (and vice versa).
Obviously, this is harder with soccer. The +/- stat depends on substitution to be meaningful. Hockey never has a "status quo" on the ice; shift changes every 40 seconds mean constant new personnel. In our game, only three players a side (sans red cards) won't go a full 90 in a match.
But, substitutes are a different matter. Subs are brought in to change the game. Sometimes it's strictly to not surrender a goal. Other times it's to provide a spark. So, 11 games in, how do the Sounders look?Through Saturday's game, here are Sounders subs this year, ranked by +/-. The number in parentheses is the number of times a player has been subbed in:
I'm cautious to read too much into Cordell Cato and Fredy Montero, as they both got their +2 in Dallas (and Meredith's +1 is really only there in the interest of being complete). Still, one might guess Fredy could be an off-the-bench catalyst. Cato, new to us this year, is something else. Especially compared to Christian Sivebaek, a player who has subbed in more than once, holds a lot of promise, but has yet to be on the field for a goal in league play.
What could be a related pattern to watch: the ratio of even (or heaven help us, under) players vs. "plus" players. Right now, we can make a case that our subs, based on +/-, are helping us score to some extent, but usually holding us even. The more that subs lead to goals on the pitch (thus fewer subs at even, more with plus ratings), we're arguably a more dynamic team, able to make adjustments based on whatever the game presents and score. And hopefully win.
I realize this is only a look at one facet of substitutions. But for all the times we question substitution choices, it looks like, from one statistical angle, the right ones are being made more often than not.