Season Reviews

End of season review: Castrol Index vs. PSP player ratings

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

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 the players would be ranked according to the average of the player ratings we do after each game. Subsequently, we’ve returned to the comparison at the midpoint (2013, 2014) and end of each season (2012, 2013). Now that the 2014 season is at an end, 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 final 2014 regular season ranking within the team via the Castrol Index and PSP’s postgame player ratings. (US Open Cup player ratings are not included because the Castrol Index does not track player performances in that tournament.) As was the case with the 2014 midseason comparison, it is readily apparent that there is a great deal of divergence between the two.2014 Castrol v PSP ratings

Castrol Index vs. PSP

While Andrew Wenger, Conor Casey, and Sebastien Le Toux occupy the first three spots in the Castrol Index rankings, Wenger comes in at No. 13, and Conor Casey is at No. 14, in the averages of their PSP player ratings. Below both of them in the Castrol Index, Le Toux is five places above Wenger, and six places above Casey, in the PSP rankings. This divergence suggests a bias in the Castrol Index toward events leading to the scoring of goals. The PSP ratings for Wenger, Casey, and Le Toux are all up compared to their midseason averages, but the fact that the three do not place higher in the rankings of those averages is reflective of difficult starts to the season, boosted by summer surges, followed by end-of-season-stretch dry spells.

The top three spots in the PSP rankings are filled by Vincent Nogueira, Cristian Maidana, and Zac MacMath, players that come in at 10th, 6th, and 13th in the Castrol Index.

Amobi Okugo and Maurice Edu are ranked in the same spots in both the Castrol Index and the averages of the PSP player ratings. In the Castrol Index, this represents no change for Okugo, although his ranking relative to the rest of the league did improve. Edu climbed two places in the Castrol index within the team and moved up 37 spots within the league. In the PSP rankings, Okugo fell one spot and also saw the average of his player ratings slightly decline. Edu moved up three places in the PSP rankings and also saw the average of his player ratings improve. While the minor decline of Okugo’s player ratings average is perhaps reflective of the transition back to the midfield after playing nearly two seasons at center back, Edu’s strong showing in games at center back was a part of the boost in his average.

Coming in above both Ray Gaddis and Sheanon Williams, Fabinho is the top ranked “pure” defender in the Castrol Index, advancing both in his ranking within the team and within the league from his midseason numbers. In PSP rankings, both his player ratings average and ranking dropped from his midseason numbers and he is well below Gaddis and Williams.

Rais Mbolhi and Carlos Valdes are not included in the Castrol Index. Presumably, if not strangely, this is because both joined the Union late in the season. Regardless of why they were not tracked by the Castrol Index, both had the same PSP player rating average of 4.75.

Movement in PSP player ratings averages

Within PSP’s rankings, center back Ethan White made the most obvious advance, which is understandable considering he had no MLS appearances for the Union when we did the mideason comparison.

The biggest gains in the average of their PSP player ratings were Le Toux (+ .65, up three spots to No. 9 in the rankings), Williams and Casey (both at + .60, and both up two spots in the rankings to 8th and 14th, respectively), Wenger (+ .57, up two spots to 13th), and Edu (+ .52, up three spots to 5th).

Though Nogueira remained at No. 1 in the PSP rankings, his player ratings average saw the steepest decline at – .53. Playing almost without break for more than a year will see that happen.

The 15th spot through 26th spot in the PSP rankings are occupied by players with less than 800 minutes in playing time, ranging from 761 minutes (Wheeler) to 1 minute (McLaughlin). Players like Wheeler, Austin Berry, Leo Fernandes, Antoine Hoppenot, and Michael Lahoud saw their minutes already declining by midseason due to injury or form, virtually disappeared from Union game day rosters with the dismissal of John Hackworth and so show little change from their midseason player rating averages. One exception is Lahoud (438 minutes), whose average dropped by .46.

Rookie Pedro Ribeiro did begin to see time with the appointment of Jim Curtin, as did Brian Brown, who joined the team on loan after Curtin took over. Ribeiro’s player rating average came out higher than Brown’s.

Zach Pfeffer played only 98 minutes in 2014, 82 of which came under Hackworth. Still, his average climbed by .42. If you get 17 minutes as a sub in the last game of the season and score, that’ll happen.

Comparing two inherently different systems of ranking players is at best a good conversation starter. Looking at the averages of the PSP player ratings, though, it’s easy to agree with a recent assessment of the Union’s 2014 season at ProSoccerTalk: “Not bad, not great.”


  1. I’ve been a bit flabbergasted all year that Noguiera doesn’t score better in the Castrol index. Given what Castrol is supposed to measure, you’d think a player such as Nogs would score higher.

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