MoneyBolt: Assessing what value Usain brings to the Mariners

Tony Hodges Roar Rookie

By Tony Hodges, Tony Hodges is a Roar Rookie

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39 Have your say

    The commonly held takeout from Moneyball is that Billy Bean was a genius at recognising talented players that other managers missed. He was, but that wasn’t his key insight.

    His key insight was that when putting together a baseball team, you have to focus on paying for the thing that you need to win games – runs – and not paying for anything else.

    Now, baseball lends itself to detailed stats in a way that football doesn’t. Still, the core thinking remains useful: how do you put together a team that will generate enough goals that, on average over the season, will score more than you concede and thus win more games than you lose?

    With that in mind, could Usain Bolt be good value?

    That’s quite a different question to whether he is a good footballer.

    Let’s start to answer that question with what his strengths are.

    He’s quick (duh). More importantly, he’s quick over the sorts of distances footballers run. It’s true that Bolt was never the quickest over the first 30 metres on the track, but no matter – he was near enough that he could catch and thrash his opponents over the next 60 metres or so.

    He’s tall, and he’s strong. I’d hazard a guess that his vertical leap is not too bad, either.

    So, there’s definitely some strengths to work with, but they’re all physical, and while physical advantage is important, it’s far from definitive in football.

    How about weaknesses?

    Not even his biggest boosters are expecting much from his touch. I’d hope for agricultural at best. He doesn’t have a career of matches either, so it’s safe to assume his positional play will be weak. There’s then the question of his cardio fitness – building short muscle for explosive sprints doesn’t leave you with a body good for tracking 12 kilometres over the course of a match.

    Could someone with those strengths and weaknesses contribute to building the core metric for winning seasons: goals scored over goals conceded?

    Safe to say Bolt’s not your man for keeping ‘goals conceded’ low. Being strong is important in defence, but positioning is everything, and Bolt won’t have that.

    So, is there a way an enterprising manager could use his skills to add to the ‘goals scored’ side? Maybe. Someone 195 centimetres tall with a good leap has value as a set-piece target and decoy.

    He’s not going to be gliding around defenders with the ball at his feet. You’d be looking for long releases in behind defences, so he can run on to the ball and leave defenders behind.

    In essence, here’s the question: how many long balls on the break would you need for Bolt to get a decent-enough first touch; how many of those would he need to get a second to set for a shot; and how many times would he need to be one-on-one with a keeper for a bash to end up in the goal?

    That doesn’t sound like pretty football, and it’s not new, but it could be effective. Long ball and hope is a perfectly legitimate tactic, especially if you’ve got someone on each end of the pass to reduce hope part.

    Usain Bolt

    Usain Bolt (photo: AAP)

    Let’s say for every 12 long balls hit, he gets a touch toward goal on half. Let’s say he gets in a readying touch on half of those six. That gives him three decent cracks at the goal for every 12 long-balls forward. If you’re hitting eight of those long balls a game, how many goals will that get you?

    How many goals would Bolt need to add in this way to be worth having? How much would any of those proportions need to be off, on average, to make the difference between a meaningful addition to goals scored and non-meaningful?

    Sides would take steps to make this tactic as weak as possible, of course. You’d imagine the last line of defence would sit deep, and keepers stand up, to keep the run-on space shallow. That would reduce the effectiveness of the long-ball tactic, but has advantages of its own. There’s nothing wrong with forcing sides to adapt to your style of play, and space between the lines means opportunity for the midfield.

    As long as the long ball to Bolt is adding to your scoring options, and not replacing them, is there enough added value?

    If you can find a way to make Bolt’s strengths give you value against the only metric that counts, and that comes relatively cost-free because most of his salary is coming from the marquee fund, you’d take him and all the marketing boost that came with him in a blink, wouldn’t you?

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    The Crowd Says (39)

    • Roar Rookie

      August 10th 2018 @ 5:57am
      Tim Carter said | August 10th 2018 @ 5:57am | ! Report

      In other words, an even less talented Matt Simon. They already have one of them.

      • August 10th 2018 @ 7:54am
        Tony Hodges said | August 10th 2018 @ 7:54am | ! Report

        Ouch. Poor Matt Simon.

        I guess the question is less who is the more talented and more who will bring you more goals, and the answer isn’t necessarily the same person.

      • August 10th 2018 @ 5:01pm
        MQ said | August 10th 2018 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

        Yes, well summed up. From the minimal vision I’ve seen, Bolt’s first touch is even worse than Brett Holman’s, but it looks like he can sink the slipper into the middle of the ball with a fair bit of venom (not sure about his ability to control its direction).

    • August 10th 2018 @ 8:17am
      Nick Symonds said | August 10th 2018 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      1) “He’s quick (duh). More importantly, he’s quick over the sorts of distances footballers run. It’s true that Bolt was never the quickest over the first 30 metres on the track, but no matter – he was near enough that he could catch and thrash his opponents over the next 60 metres or so.”

      2) “There’s then the question of his cardio fitness – building short muscle for explosive sprints doesn’t leave you with a body good for tracking 12 kilometres over the course of a match.”

      So he’s an average sprinter over 30 meters and he can’t run long distance, then if he focuses on improving his endurance he becomes weaker at sprinting.

      At best he sounds like he’ll come on as a sub at the end in a cameo role. But I’m sure he’ll be good publicity value for CCM regardless of performance, he already is.

      The A-League really needs new pathways for local players that can only come from more teams:

      • August 10th 2018 @ 8:26am
        Tony Hodges said | August 10th 2018 @ 8:26am | ! Report

        Oh no – he’s very, very quick over 30m. Just not compared to the people he ran 100m finals against, who he’s unlikely to encounter on the football pitch.

        • August 10th 2018 @ 11:17am
          Nick Symonds said | August 10th 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

          I wonder who the fastest players in the A-League are?

          Former A-League players Leckie and Kruse came in equal 13th of the fastest players in Russia, both recorded a top speed of 33.1 km/h.

          Bolt’s highest ever speed was 44.72 km/h in 2009 with an average over 100 meters of 37.58 km/h.

          • August 10th 2018 @ 11:33am
            Tony Hodges said | August 10th 2018 @ 11:33am | ! Report

            That’s a good question. I think the other question is how fast people get to that speed. Being quick over 100m is a lot less useful on a football pitch than being quick over 20m or 30m.

            • August 10th 2018 @ 3:49pm
              Nick Symonds said | August 10th 2018 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

              “Bolt was never the quickest over the first 30 metres on the track”

              I think it might be because of his inertia since he’s larger than the other runners which is why people wrote him off initially as a sprinter. But once he gets going they can’t catch him because of his power.

              You only have to look at the image below to see what I mean –


              Oddly, his right leg is actually half an inch shorter than his left as a result of scoliosis (twisted spine) which gives him an asymmetrical stride. The following New York Times article about his stride is quite interesting –


            • August 10th 2018 @ 5:03pm
              MQ said | August 10th 2018 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

              The other important point is: it’s irrelevant how fast his first 20-30m sprint is, what’s more important is how fast his 60th, 70th and 80th sprint is.

              • August 10th 2018 @ 5:13pm
                Nemesis said | August 10th 2018 @ 5:13pm | ! Report

                “The other important point is: it’s irrelevant how fast his first 20-30m sprint is, what’s more important is how fast his 60th, 70th and 80th sprint is”

                You’re kidding, right?

                Or, do you honestly not know what physical work is done by an athlete to win 8 Gold Medals in, possibly, the most highly competitive sporting event on the planet?

                If you were even a hack track runner in your youth, you’d know that 100x 100m training was pretty normal during pre-season.

                For 200m some coaches like Franz Stampfl used to get his 200m kids (and, I literally mean kids, u14 years old) to do 100x 300m repetitions.

                So, yeah. I reckon Usain would be faster after his 100th 100m sprint than any pretend Olympians in any other sport.

              • August 10th 2018 @ 8:55pm
                MQ said | August 10th 2018 @ 8:55pm | ! Report

                The opportunity for recovery on the training track is a little bit different to the opportunity for recovery in a real game out on the football pitch…

              • August 12th 2018 @ 11:39am
                Nemesis said | August 12th 2018 @ 11:39am | ! Report

                “The opportunity for recovery on the training track is a little bit different to the opportunity for recovery in a real game out on the football pitch…”

                Again. This statement suggests you never did any training for athletics over your lifetime. I suggest you go down to your local track & see what sort of training the sprinters are doing during the winter break.

              • August 12th 2018 @ 12:08pm
                MQ said | August 12th 2018 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

                Again, you don’t appear to understand there is a difference in the sort of fitness a 100m sprinter has, compared to the sort of fitness a 10,000m runner has compared to the match fitness required to run out a 90 minute game of football (where you are expected to do a bit more than just run, and where you need it on tap for the duration, and where a player with better football intelligence and anticipation is going to be first to the football even if he is much slower than Bolt.

              • August 12th 2018 @ 2:57pm
                Nemesis said | August 12th 2018 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

                Agree, there’s a difference between match fitness & track fitness. Same as it is for every player in every sport.

                The rest of your post is meaningless.

                Footballers (I’ll only deal with outfield players) come in all broad athletic groups.

                There are footballers with physical & aerobic capacities
                a) suited to long distance running (more 5-10 km than marathon athletes); others
                b) more suited to middle distance running (800-1500m) and others
                c) consistent with sprinters.

                Different roles in football (I presume in many team ball sports) require different aerobic & endurance types.

    • August 10th 2018 @ 9:02am
      Nemesis said | August 10th 2018 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      Mike Mulvey has won the ALeague Double. He was in charge of MVFC Women’s Team that went from a rabble to top of the Table the season he took over & Brisbane’s ALeague team poached him during the season. He was the Youth Coach at Gold Coast that produced one of the most exciting young groups of players I’d seen in the NYL.

      I hope Mike Mulvey is aware of all the sound advice being offered about how to assess unknown football talent.

      Will Usain Bolt be any good? Who knows. That’s why we have trials at professional clubs.

      Unknown players from Australia get offered trials at Euro clubs all the time.

      Some get a professional contract & have a decent professional career (e.g. Bailey Wright)
      Some get a professional contract & fail to make it & give up the dream of pro football. (e.g. Kaz Patafta)
      Some get a professional contract & fail to make it & try again until they succeed. (e.g. Aaron Mooy)

      Some do not get a professional contract. (e.g. Too many names to mention)

      Many pathways to a career in football.
      Usain is embarking on his path.

      • August 10th 2018 @ 9:15am
        Lionheart said | August 10th 2018 @ 9:15am | ! Report

        “Brisbane’s ALeague team poached him during the season”
        Credit where credit is due. Nemesis, sometimes you are the funniest guy who posts on here.

        • August 10th 2018 @ 10:29am
          Nemesis said | August 10th 2018 @ 10:29am | ! Report

          Was there anything factually incorrect about that sentence? If, not; what’s the joke?

          • August 10th 2018 @ 4:12pm
            Lionheart said | August 10th 2018 @ 4:12pm | ! Report

            you just never stop Nemesis, despite the extremely long list of players, coaches/assistants that MV have signed mid-season from Roar. One signing of a junior coach mid-season from MV and you never let it go. It’s your way of getting back at Roar, a denial of sorts to make yourself comfortable with success you have picked up from Roar over the years. You’re just funny Nemesis, always a good laugh.

      • August 10th 2018 @ 12:15pm
        chris said | August 10th 2018 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

        @Nemesis – Mike is a good coach who has been around a long time. I’ve heard him give lectures and I got an insight in to how he thinks and coaches. He didn’t come across as someone who can be bullied into picking a player who isn’t good enough but would be good for the exposure etc.
        Good luck to both Mike and Usain. Seriously if you followed what some of the posters on here advised, no one would ever do anything, ever.

        • August 10th 2018 @ 4:13pm
          Lionheart said | August 10th 2018 @ 4:13pm | ! Report

          recall Mike at the Gold Coast when Clive tried to bully him around.

    • August 10th 2018 @ 10:28am
      BrainsTrust said | August 10th 2018 @ 10:28am | ! Report

      Baseball is a pure statistical game just like cricket, because its mainly a contest between two individuals at any one point in the game and you gain statistics easily on every game. Thats why its easy to analyse with statistics. Football is harder to analyse, because there are so many complex interwoven factors and statistics are so hard to produce anyway.
      Moneyball is about using statistics as the way to recruit players.
      What has this got to do with Bolt, Bolt hasn;t played to generate any statistics anyway.
      The purpose of Bolt s for publicity, When they paid Tomic a million to appear on Celebrity jungle, they didn’t so for his his ability to chomp through a set of lizards and insects, they would have got Bear Grylllis in if it was about performance.

      • August 10th 2018 @ 11:41am
        Tony Hodges said | August 10th 2018 @ 11:41am | ! Report

        While it’s certainly true that the stats-based analysis that let the team at the Oakland A’s target the runs they needed so precisely is more difficult in football, it’s also true that the basic insight was that most managers were valuing players for the wrong things. The stats were a tool for measuring that value, but they weren’t the insight themselves.

        In the case of Bolt, applying the Moneyball lens means looking past the things that might blind us to value he could bring. That’s not the same as saying he’s good value. It’s saying he might be, if he adds the things you need.

    • August 10th 2018 @ 12:42pm
      sam said | August 10th 2018 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

      “Assessing what value Usain brings to the Mariners?”
      His blooper reel should sell well for the A League supporters shop!

    • August 10th 2018 @ 1:58pm
      Midfielder said | August 10th 2018 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

      Boy O Boy there are some Football snobs out there.

      It reflects the recent negativity that prevails Australian Football today, not only must it be Baca –est it must meet the requirements say expected of large European club… O sorry he did trail there as well.

      Lets look for the positives … I understand this will break the rules … i.e. negative only and never think other than negative … but I will break the negative only rule …please in the name of the holy mother forgive me for looking at the positives…

      The day he said he was coming over 130 million view world wide…. The Mariners have a sponsorship que a mile long, not bad for the bank.

      Now for other positive [sorries again] he is a world class athlete and will bring an attitude to training and hard work that will rub off on our very young side… he played Football & Cricket well into his teens from childhood and choose running but its not like he has never played….. he will be living on the Central Coast during his trail period and this will bring lots of media…

      Sorry again, but Bolt being on the Coast has some quality players also looking at us that would not have been.

      He is costing nothing during his trail, he is paying his own way.

      He is a person driven to succeed and he is determined to prove to the world he can play.

      We have the former Man U trainer on the Coast to develop his skills.

      Bolt himself to protect his own imagine will not want to play unless he is good enough as it would hurt his imagine.

      People on the Coast who have never talked about the Mariners are now talking about Bolt.

      He is not getting on the park unless he is good enough and thats for both his sake and the clubs sake.

      Hope the mods don’t ban me for looking at some of the positives … anywho back to your negative thoughts and comments.

      • August 10th 2018 @ 2:33pm
        Kangas said | August 10th 2018 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

        Spot on middy about bolt

        I wish the mariners well this year . We desperately need to get away from the Sydney/ Melbourne centric A league

        • August 10th 2018 @ 3:32pm
          Midfielder said | August 10th 2018 @ 3:32pm | ! Report


          Agree re Sydney / Melbourne…what really gives me the “”Hunter Brits”” is the in-creditable lack of knowledge of many A_league fans of our history… especially the history of Football in the Hunter …

          The Hunter / Newcastle area is a shared heartland between RL & Football but there is almost no disrespect for Football like almost everywhere else in Australia….

          If the Jerks have a couple of decent seasons expect 16 to 20 K crowds from a small city ….

          People talk of the ethnic fans in western Sydney as something magical but never of the ANGLO fans from the late 1800’s in the broader Hunter / Newcastle.

          In the 80’s whatever the team was called i.e KB united, Rose Buds etc they had bigger crowds in those days than most RL teams in Sydney…

          This is a vid from 1979…. look at the crowds …

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