Fact Check: Daniel Sperry

August 22, 2016

Last Word on Sports and (apparently now) Quakes Epicenter writer Daniel Sperry offered a rebuttal article on my Simon Dawkins piece. This came on the heels of my offering to host any article of rebuttal on my site, of which Sperry chose to write his piece for Quakes Epicenter instead (a slight jab at me?). Unfortunately much of his information is inaccurate, and as Sperry himself points out, as journalists “it is our job to tell the whole story” (another slight jab at me?).

The first piece of misinformation Sperry lists is Dawkins’s positioning on his goals, citing Dawkins scores centrally (“Take a look at the three goals that Simon has scored. Each one came from a central position“). In fact, two of Dawkins’s three goals have been scored not from the center, but the wing: Toronto and Vancouver. In Toronto, Dawkins receives a pass and is playing wide left of the 18 yard box, cuts in a few yards, and shoots six-eight yards wide of the near post to the far post. In Vancouver, Dawkins is playing in the left-most position on the pitch outside of Godoy and Quintero, beats his defender on the left and hits a far post shot. If you click on the links, you can see the shot chart for yourself, as well as the formation used. So no, Dawkins hasn’t scored all his goals centrally. The majority of his goals have come from the left.

Second, Sperry mistakenly assumes that Dawkins’ numbers are the result of bad positioning: playing left-wing versus a central role. He claims if he were playing his natural position (center-mid), the numbers would be different (“Is it his fault that Dom Kinnear’s system isn’t a direct fit?“) There is absolutely no evidence to speculate Dawkins would play better centrally (YET!). One cannot speculate how a player would perform in a CAM role until he’s played the position for a few games. Furthermore, as Sperry believes Dawkins seems to perform better centrally, the fact remains that Dawkins has scored more on the wing than in the middle. So by Sperry’s own criteria–goals scored–Dawkins is better on the left than the middle. Personally, I do believe Dawkins would be better in a central role, but what I think should not be the evidence I use, nor should it be Sperry’s.

Third, Sperry writes “Simon Dawkins has the third best conversion rate of any of the players on the list . . .” when analyzing shots. This is entirely wrong. Dawkins is last on shot conversion by a wide margin. The following are the shot conversion rates of each player on the list this season. They are sorted by conversion rate. For your convenience, I included links to each player’s MLS player bio which has their 2016 stats so you can proof-check me.

  • Lampard: 26 shots, 16 on goal: 61.5% conversion
  • Morales: 39 shots, 21 on goal: 53.7%
  • Piatti: 32 shots, 66 on goal: 48.5% conversion
  • Kljestan: 30 shots, 14 on goal: 46.7% conversion
  • Gashi: 29 shots on goal, 71 attemps: 40.8% conversion
  • Kaka: 37 shots, 15 on goal: 40.5% conversion
  • Gerrard: 29 shots, 11 on goal: 37.9% conversion
  • Valeri: 82 shots, 29 on goal: 35.4% conversion
  • Higuain: 40 shots, 13 shots: 32.5% conversion
  • Zusi: 26 shots, eight on goal: 30.7%
  • Mauro Diaz: 35 shots, 10 shots on goal: 28.5% conversion
  • Pirlo: 22 shots, five on goal: 22.7% conversion
  • Dawkins: 45 shots, nine on goal: 20% conversion (side note: Dawkins is being out-performed by a 37-year-old in terms of shot conversion)

This is a note to Daniel: you have to fact-check your articles and provide evidence. Don’t just claim Dawkins has the “third best” conversion rate. You’re a journalist; you need to research and provide the evidence in your article.

Fourth, the Quintero comparison. Not only does Sperry agree that Quintero is very similar to Dawkins in terms of offensive production, and Quintero is better defensively (“Quintero’s numbers at their root are entirely similar to Dawkins, on the offensive side of things. Defensively they are better.”). Sperry makes the argument that Quintero is a two-way player while Dawkins is not, hence why he’s better on defense. Call me crazy, but if Quintero is just as good as Simon on the attack, and better than Simon on defense, wouldn’t that make Quintero better than Simon in general? If so, then Quintero has been producing DP quality numbers and no one has noticed, or Dawkins isn’t. Also, why claim that Quintero is “slightly” better on defense without proving it (again)? Quintero averages three times more interceptions, and two times more tackles. That’s more than “slightly” better, that’s being wholly outclassed.

Fifth, the point of the article is not to speculate as to why Simon’s numbers are what they are (They don’t factor in the “being played out of position” or “being asked to do things not typical of your playing style” things that greatly affect how a player plays), but state the facts as they stand now. Speculation isn’t a refutation.

Sixth, the point of the article is to show Dawkins is not producing DP-quality numbers. I compare Dawkins to other attacking midfield DPs and to the production of a non-DP teammate. Not only do the numbers show Dawkins is performing worse than other DPs, he’s being out-performed by a non-DP on his own team. That was the point of the article, and the point at which the rebuttal should come. Nowhere does Sperry offer any evidence to show that Dawkin is in fact producing the numbers worthy of DP, just excuses as to why he may not be producing them: “Imagine Wondo as a Central Mid. Would his numbers look the same?” Completely off topic to the argument at hand. If you want to rebut evidence, use evidence, not statements like “Imagine . . .“.

Seventh, the reliance on stats. I first started playing soccer in 1983. I’m not new to the game. I know stats don’t tell 100% of the story. That’s not the point of the article. Nor was the point of the article to say that Dawkins is a terrible player. He’s a *good* player with flashes of brilliance. But, and I have to repeat myself here as people tend to “read into” my article as an attack on Dawkins as a player, the ENTIRE premise of the article is to examine Dawkins as a DP attacking midfielder, compare him to other DPs and non-DPs (and the only way to compare players is by *gasp* their stats!), and let the numbers tell the tale. That’s what I did. If you have any other evidence that shows Simon is out-performing other DPs or his teammates (pass percentage might help!) in order to show why he should be a DP, please present it! Conjecture (“Dawkins is best suited in an “inside forward/wing” role“) and excuses (“you have nearly an entire season of Dawkins being played out of his pure, natural position. Stats don’t account for that though“) are not evidence.

In sum, the rebuttal written by Sperry not only contained numerous errors, it was ridden with conjecture about Simon not playing his “natural” position as an excuse for the numbers themselves. His rebuttal never disproves the numbers or offers other stats/explanations that might paint a different picture except his “shot conversion” stat which was completely wrong. Instead, he reasons that positioning is the reason why the numbers are the way they are. He even agrees Quintero, a non-DP player, is playing better despite the Quakes having one of the worst offenses in the West. If that doesn’t prove my argument that Dawkins isn’t putting up DP numbers, nothing will.

Finally, to Daniel: This isn’t an attack on you. This isn’t a vendetta. You are a colleague and (hopefully) a friend. I hope you are able to see this piece for what it is: an examination and refutation of your evidence which attempted to disprove my premise that Simon Dawkins is not producing DP-quality numbers. I quote your article numerous times to address your claims and offer the evidence which disproves them. I would ask nothing less of you when you critique mine. I wish you nothing but the best as a journalist and fellow Quakes fan.

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