clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Hey now, is Valeri an MVP?

We crunch the numbers.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Since we’re in the doldrums of the MLS All-Star game PRESENTED BY AT&T (TM), I thought it would be fun to take a few minutes to look at Diego Valeri. Well, beyond his great hair and aww-shucks winning smile that we all love.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Portland Timbers
Look at that grin!
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

With some great performances for the Timbers over the last few weeks there’s been this bit of an underground consensus brewing that Valeri is deserving of league MVP. Our own Chris Rifer has fired out his tweet take, Alicia Rodriguez said “he was quietly building the case”, Jason Davis at ESPN makes note that he deserves MVP Buzz, and to give things an international flair, Valeri made Univision’s list of MVP candidates for what it’s worth.

Although, I prefer to live in a world where takes matter more than facts, it would be remiss of me to not actually go to the numbers. Squawka is great for this, as they have access to the Opta-Stats that make up the Audi performance numbers everyone in MLS is so big about (you can read more about what the performance score is here). The end of July is a good demarcation point, as it’s roughly mid-way through the season, and even compared to previous schedules, players have roughly played the same amount of games.

So, with all those caveats out of the way, let’s see how El Maestro this year compares to previous MLS MVP winners and runners at the same point in the season. The asterisk denotes the eventual MVP winner.

2016 Diego Valeri

Player Performance Score Goals Assists Chances Created
Diego Valeri 624 9 5 70

2015 MLS MVP Race

Player Performance Score Goals Assists Chances Created
Sebastian Giovinco* 1074 13 9 39
Kei Kamara 656 15 4 25
Benny Feilhaber 644 7 7 42

2014 MLS MVP Race

Player Performance Score Goals Assists Chances Created
Robbie Keane* 678 10 4 29
Lee Nguyen 588 8 1 48
Obafemi Martins 364 8 6 29

Two immediate takeaways come to mind looking at this:

1) It is so striking how vital Valeri is to making the Timbers offense actually function. While I realize that’s probably one of the most obvious statements of the century, the 70 chances created compared to the amount other “star” players generated is eye-opening. If the Timbers are a car, he’s not just the lubricant the keeps things moving, he’s basically the entire engine block.

2) Diego Valeri definitely deserves to be in the running for MVP, although there’s not enough differentiation from the pack to guarantee that he’d be the bride rather than a bridesmaid, especially if there’s a freakish outlier like Giovinco. The delta between 2016 Valeri versus 2015 Giovinco comes down to a combination of two factors: A) Valeri has missed a few games more than Giovinco over that span due to injury and B) Toronto is just so much better finishing. While we can’t see the full breakdown of individual actions that make up the performance score, I would postulate that the bulk of the difference comes from Giovinco’s teammates finding the back of the net where Valeri’s let him down. How many times have we seen a beautiful diagonal pass from Valeri to Melano where the shot just can’t be put home? Don’t actually answer that.

Alright, enough of this looking at the past, as it is fundamentally moot (sorry for sounding like a self help novel). Let’s see what the future holds by comparing Valeri to some of the other players assumed to be in the MVP race:

2016 MLS MVP Race:

Player Performance Score Goals Assists Chances Created
Diego Valeri 624 9 5 70
Sebastian Giovinco 856 11 7 36
Ignacio Piatti 633 12 3 37
Bradley Wright-Phillips 246 9 3 23
David Villa 578 13 1 29
Giovanni Dos Santos 518 7 2 20
Cyle Larin 271 10 3 17

Giovinco once again has a performance score that’s a slight outlier, caused by his recent hat-trick that netted him roughly 140 Opta points. Even with that bump, his statistics are not that far removed from Valeri’s. If anything, this chart shows the beginning of what should be an exciting three man race for some extra silverware at the end of the season between Giovinco, Piatti, and Valeri.

So, now that we’ve laid out the numbers into pretty tables, give us your best takes in the comments.