Ruiz and running

On message boards sometimes people have had a dig at me for using statistics. I do understand the limitations of statistics in football, honestly I do. But I also understand that sometimes they tell us things that we wouldn’t otherwise know. They supplement what we see with our eyes. I understand that most people aren’t after “the truth” and aren’t that bothered that they need to see a statistical counterpoint to their dearly held belief, but while we have all these debates it always seems worth considering a variety of angles. And increasingly that means statistics, too.

As various books tell us (most famously now, Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking: Fast and Slow”) the human brain is actually pretty bad at evaluating a lot of things. It takes shortcuts all the time, which is important in so far as it helped man evolve into what it is today, but which can lead to evaluative issues. We all make snap judgements about footballers, and if we get it in our minds that “Ruiz is always losing it” our brains get excited when we see this happen in a game. So while Ruiz might only get caught on the ball twice in a match, that’s what we’ll take away because it conforms to our “Ruiz code”. our dominant image of Ruiz’s contribution will be him getting caught on the ball. So the other night I saw Ruiz probing and attempting lots of forward passes; another poster on TiFF said that he and his friends had noted how frequently Ruiz passed up the opportunity to play forwards. We were both looking at the same thing, but both looking *for* different things.

And for another thing, there’s really so much going on on a football pitch that we simply can’t keep up. I mentioned in passing yesterday that Bryan Ruiz, in contrast to popular perceptions, had run as far as anyone in Costa Rica’s games. We’ve been here before: I noticed in an away defeat at Southampton that, contrary to a lot of observers’ reports, Ruiz, while not involved, was hardly standing still. He was doing the exact opposite, making long and circular runs that were more or less useless. He wasn’t not trying; he just wasn’t making very intelligent attempts to get involved. Or put another way, he was probably trying too hard.

Which is why statistics can help. In this World Cup, FIFA is making available all kinds of information. So we know how far Bryan ran, and, despite Spigs’ challenge, we actually know that he wasn’t going at 5mph while running all this way. We also know that Ruiz passed forward and backwards, and that against Greece, for example, he found Joel Campbell 11 times, twice as often as anyone else did.


7 thoughts on “Ruiz and running

  1. One thing that stands out to me is that, despite Ruiz noticeably running out of energy late in the match vs. Greece (at one point in extra time I was confused and thought he’d been subbed off because he wasn’t getting up into the attacking third), he was still only just shy of Celso Borges in terms of total ground covered. People’s eyes might tell them that Campbell was working hard (and, to be fair, he was) because he made more sprints and reached a higher top speed, but he also spent more time resting (higher percentage of low activity level than anyone other than the keeper).

  2. I am not a fan of stats, but what you see above is that he spent more than 50% of his time in the opposition half in each match. Now despite the fact that he is an attacking player, it highlights that as we at Fulham know to our cost, we rarely tracks back to help out in defence.

  3. An attacking player spends more than 50% of his time in the opposition half?!! Shocking news…

    Defence starts from up front…I seem to remember that Ruiz had some pretty decent defensive stats in terms of interceptions, tackles etc when he was with us.

    1. Really? I don’t recall any, and that was what most people complained about him, but there you go, that’s the problem with stats you can just about prove anything.

      1. IIRC, he “did more stuff” defensively than a typical forward, but still significantly less than a typical midfielder. Which is about what I would expect.

  4. You give good reasons why stats are worth considering as part of the whole picture, so keep at it in general. How long to do so in any single case, however, depends (doesn’t it?) on the chances of the exercise ultimately getting us anywhere that provides a bit of cheer, satisfaction or enlightenment.

    In this case, there’s no prospect of cheer or satisfaction, as Bryan is an ex-player (who really expects otherwise?), who never fulfilled his potential here, under several managers, with many varied teammates, wherever he was played. As nobody disputes. Therefore no diagnosis as to why that proved the case stands any chance of offering cheer or satisfaction to Fulham supporters. By definition, we are lumbered with our Fulham-centricity — he’s the one moving on, we won’t be.

    That does leave the possibility of a purely-for-its-own-sake wish to tease out reasons, presumably your motive. There’s a kind of nobility to that, and you shouldn’t be traduced for it, but when the exercise starts to edge into masochistic territory…..

    Keep at it in general! This isn’t yer typical case.

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