Chalk Talk: These injuries are KILLING us... or are they?

COMMERCE CITY, CO - MAY 26: Referee Mark Kadlecik delivers a yellow card to Tyrone Marshall #34 of the Colorado Rapids. Marshall tried to reason with the referee that he's not even supposed to BE here today. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

You've heard it before, all around the sports world and probably from every single team that ever played: "We would have had a good year except for all these injuries." Injuries, injuries, injuries. I don't believe the conversation end there; rather, I think that should begin a conversation on depth.

How important, really, is that player who is injured? I decided to take a look at a few players this year whose injuries have been called detrimental, or whose absence has been cited as the reason for a poor performance. Namely, I want to look at Marvell Wynne, Conor Casey, and Omar Cummings.

Alright, so let's look at our strikers first and see if anything major comes up. Full disclosure: my hypothesis going into this is that players individually don't make a huge impact, their fluency in a system makes a difference. For example, I think we in Rapids Thug Life would be pleased as punch to get Lionel Messi, but I also think we would be surprised that he may not have as much of an impact right away or play as well for us as he does for Barcelona (see also, Argentina) and that might make us a bit disappointed. The reason, I believe, is that players aren't some kind of interchangeable commodity; like most of us, we have to get used to a new system. We need time to gain fluency, and how we fit in that system is a key part of our performance.

So, with that disclosed, was I right? How much of a difference does it make?

Note: I'm not using the Dallas game, it's too flukey. Not going to use those statistics, so before you accuse me of stacking the deck... don't.

When the Rapids did not have Conor Casey (which was most of the season) we had about 149 attempts on goal. Since that's most of the season, I decided to work with averages. Our attempts per game average was about 15. Now, when Conor Casey finally DID break into the 11 and played some significant minutes (which was only two games, but if injuries matter so much, then we should see a big turnaround) we had 28 attempts on goal which gives a nice even 14 attempts per game average.

With Conor Casey, we scored 2 goals. So if we want to have some kind of number to work with, let's just get a percentage. Let's call it the likelihood that an attempt will turn into a goal. The final stat there would be 7.1%. With Casey, our shots had a 7.1% of being a goal. But WITHOUT him, we scored 15 goals in 149 attempts, so without Casey, our shots had a 10% change of being a goal...

Wait a minute.

What the f'ing F? I thought Casey was supposed to be our big bald monster? I thought he was supposed to carry this team and his injury is what's been holding the team back?

Well, at the very least he's got to be better than Omar Cummings, whose been totally lost this year, right? Yeah, lazy Omar Cummings, the guy who can't be counted on for anything...

With Omar Cummings, the Rapids had 112 attempts on goal, averaging about 13 attempts per game. 13 of those attempts became goals. Which gives us an 11.6% chance of it being a goal.

WHAT? But... But...

That' a pretty big difference. But the really screwed up part is that without Omar, the number gets even bigger: our attempts per game goes down to 12.3 and our chance of having a shot become a goal is a whopping 13.5%. And without Omar OR Casey (the Montreal Impact match) our shots had a 33% chance of becoming goals. I know, I just did that one for fun. The Montreal game kind of skews the numbers a little, but no more that the Philadephia Union game, which I included.

What does that MEAN though? Honestly? it doesn't mean anything. What I'm saying is that it doesn't matter which one of them is injured, our depth is good enough at forward to keep up production and keep up goals. Our depth at forward is actually quite good, so an injury to one or both of them isn't terrible provided that those who are ready to take their spot are fluent in the system (which neither Cummings nor Casey had gotten quite yet).

What about Marvell Wynne? How do we judge his absence. Kind of in the same way, the stat that mattered to me was shots against us, and how many of those shots became goals, and then pull a percentage out of that one. Simple stuff.

With Marvell Wynne, the Rapids had 104 total shots against, and 13 shots against per game average. Without him, the Rapids have 58 shots against them, and 14.5 shots against per game average. So like, 1.5 shots more. That's a difference, but that's not the big difference.

With Wynne, we had 10 goals against us, averaging about 1.25 GAA (acceptable for a playoff team). Without Wynne though? We have 8 goals against us, but averaging 2 GAA (don't even think about going to the playoffs). With Wynne, a shot against us has a 9.6 chance of getting in the net. Without him, though? It's 13.7%

What does this tell you? The Rapids have near to zero depth at Center Back. I don't even want to think about what the numbers would be if we lost Drew Moor. This is why we have the Palgutometer: the Rapids back line is ridiculously thin, and that lack of depth is costing us with a GAA of 2. I'm of the mind set that a goal keeper shouldn't have the busiest job in the match, so we're not going to be pointing a finger at Matt Pickens--whose performances have been consistently heroic.

The Rapids KNOW about this. They have to. They have professional statisticians who sit there and do this kind of stuff all the livelong day. This is possibly why Bobby Burling has gotten a look from us. They are trying to reinforce the back line, which is a great idea, and a step in the right direction.

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