Season Reviews

Midseason review: Castrol Index vs. PSP Player Ratings

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Toward the end of the 2012 season, comments from readers led to a post comparing the ranking of Philadelphia Union players in the Castrol Index to how players would be ranked according to the average of their PSP player ratings. We returned to the idea at the end of the 2012 season, at the midway point and end of the 2013 season. 18 games into the 2014 season, we do so again.

The Castrol Index is designed to be an objective measure of player performance in which “every move on the field” is assessed based on “whether it has a positive or negative impact on a team’s ability to score or concede a goal.” Player ratings, while informed by objective measures such as match statistics, are an inherently subjective assessment of how a player performed in a game. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see where the two ratings systems converge or diverge.

The chart below lists Union players according to their current ranking within the team via the Castrol Index and PSP’s postgame player ratings.

Castrol v PSP 2014 midseason FINALIt is immediately apparent that there is a significant divergence between the Castrol Index rankings and the rankings based on PSP’s player ratings.

Comparing the top five players in each ranking, only Amobi Okugo makes both lists. The top five players in the Castrol Index rankings are Conor Casey, Andrew Wenger, Leo Fernandes, Amobi Okugo, and Danny Cruz. In PSP’s rankings, Casey comes in at No. 16, Wenger at No. 15, Fernandes at No. 14, Okugo at No. 3, and Cruz at No. 9. PSP’s top five of Vincent Nogueira, Cristian Maidana, Okugo, Zac MacMath, and Ray Gaddis, come in at No. 12, No. 6, No. 4, No. 13, and No. 11 in the Castrol Index. Looking at both rankings, only five players — Maidana, Okugo, Cruz, Edu, and Carroll — make the top ten in both lists.

Longtime observers of the Castrol Index will be aware that the Index is biased toward scoring and assisting goals and does not adequately address differences in playing time. For example, after being an unused sub in the first game, Fernandes started four of the next seven games and was subbed on three times, scoring 2 goals and an assist. Over the next ten games, Fernandes had only 3 starts, was subbed on three times, and was an unused sub four times, with no goals or assists. In other words, that his season-beginning hot streak has long since cooled off isn’t reflected by the Castrol Index.

Similarly, Casey has a relatively low ranking in terms of his average PSP player rating. After not playing the first three games of the season, Casey has 12 appearances including seven starts (he didn’t play in two games during that stretch). It wasn’t until his ninth appearance that he scored two goals against Chivas USA, the 15th Union game of the season, following that up with another two-goal performance against Vancouver the next game (he has no assists). Despite this, he is the top ranked Union player in the Castrol Index, coming in at 20th in the league. It seems obvious that the comparatively low rankings of both Casey and Fernandes according to their PSP player ratings reflects the long dry spells of both players.

The question of playing time can also come into play when looking at the PSP rankings. For example, Michael Lahoud, with only two starts from four appearance for a total of 239 minutes, comes in at No. 6. Both starts, and three of his four appearances, have come in the last three games.

As described above, comparing an “objective” ranking system such as the Castrol Index with a subjective system such as player ratings can be difficult. At best, doing so is simply a good conversation starter. For example, would most Union fans agree with Nogueira coming in at No. 12 on the Castrol Index (and 190th in the league), or would they agree with him coming in at No. 1 in the PSP player rating averages? Has Brian Carroll, at No. 7 in PSP’s rankings, been better than Sebastien Le Toux at No. 12? Do you think Zac MacMath belongs in the top 5 of Union players, as he is in the PSP rankings, or do you think he belongs outside of the top ten, as he is in the Castrol Index?

In the end, you can decide. Share your thoughts and your own rankings below.


  1. Let us all take a moment to lament the ridiculous missed opportunity this year. The WC was a success, the Phillies suck … and the Union suck.

    Could you imagine if the Union where one of the best teams in the league?

  2. Other than Corben Bone and Pfeffer, I think the Castrol Index misses every time. I know lumping Zach in will get me comments from the “I’m a Pfeffer,You’re a Pfeffer,Wouldnt You Like to Be a” crew, but the reality is he has looked tentative and lost in his (albeit limited)playing time.

    I’ve said this before, any index that doesn’t recognize Nogs as the best or one of the top 3 players on this team doesn’t deserve mention.

  3. Well, if u look at the midseason review for 2013, zac macmath is in 6th place. This year he is in 13th… Considering he probably deserves the “most improved” award, the Castrol Index isnt very accurate. I personally think he deserves to be in the top 5. Your ratings make a lot more sense.

  4. Bob the Used Car Salesman. says:

    The Castrol Index is terrible. If there are 189 players that have played better than Nogueira, the MLS must be on the same level as effing Bundesliga.

  5. The simple fact that Casey(20!), Wenger(31!!) and Fernandes(61!!!) are all ranked above Nogueira, Okugo and Macmath tells me everything I need to know. And yes, Macmath easily belongs in your top 5 or even 3.

  6. Jonathan Tannenwald says:

    Justin Mapp! Justin Mapp! Justin Mapp!

  7. My left foot! My left foot! My left foot!

  8. If we are truly out of the playoffs. Why not pull a phillies of 1974 and put in the youth. Get them MLS minutes….and get rid of Cruz.

  9. Question, how are you averaging rankings for players? In particular, what is the denominator you use. Are games weighted by minutes, for instance, is an appearance for 90 minutes weighed the same as one for 20?

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