A look at the top 15 goal scorers this season & which ones can make it last

courtesy of Ian MacNicol (Getty)

courtesy of Ian MacNicol (Getty)

written by @TheGersReport

I have a bad habit of writing too much when I write.  I’m aware, I want to change…but it’s a struggle. 

This post will be an attempt at that.  My goal is to present mostly visuals to start a dialogue that can happen elsewhere online…without me typing hundreds of words just to be met with…

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An actual comment to our site this week….not sure it was directed at me or not (probably was). 

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You can see above, the top 15 scorers in the league this season based on non-penalty goals per 90 minutes averages.  Alongside that data, is each player’s Projected Goals.  I rolled out this stat back in June, which basically projects how many goals a player should score if they:

  • Get their shots on target at the average rate of players in the Scottish Premiership, based on the kind of shots that they take (Expected Shot Accuracy)

  • Beat the keeper on those shots on target at a league average rate, again based on the types of shots they get (Expected Shooting Percentage).

For example, here is how Kyle Lafferty’s scoring rates break down:

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The numbers here (along with the stats from last season) suggest that the goals will dry up for Lafferty soon.  Since moving back to Rangers, he hasn’t played all that much - but when he has, he’s added some real timely scoring. He may keep doing that, but if he sees consistent stretches of matches in which he’s playing - his scoring rate will normalize.  For more on why the stats don’t like Lafferty’s prospects moving forward, I suggest reading this

Ok…already too many words already.  If you get how the above graphic works, you can make your own conclusions.  Once you see how a player’s actual Shot Accuracy & Shooting Percentage compared to their Expected rates - you see what’s driving their results & can make some predictions about future output.

courtesy of Getty

courtesy of Getty

Let’s start with guys who I could easily see keeping this up & being among the top goal scorers this season:

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Last season his Projected Goals per 90 was 0.51 & his actual rate was 0.76.  I think I see a pattern & even if his scoring rate drops to 0.51 - he’d still be good for a goal in every other game.  That’s really good.

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I use a 40% Shooting Percentage (Sh%) as a bit of a benchmark.  Normally, once a goal scorer goes beyond that rate…regression is around the corner.  That’s what originally inspired me to begin utilizing Expected Shooting Percentage (xSh%).  Why simply guess which players could sustain a high Sh% when you could apply xG to the process. 

Last season, Shaw’s xSh% was 0.407….get this kid in the lineup more!!

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Last season his xSh% was 0.374 - so his xSh% has been pretty consistent to that rate so far. His Sh% was 0.467…so I still expect a slight regression but I’d say he’s a very safe bet to end with his goals per 90 in the 0.40s.

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Those shooting statistics don’t look very inspiring, so why does the Motherwell striker have a Projected Goals rate on the level of Edouard & Shaw? Shot volume.  Johnson leads the league with 4.58 shots per 90 & that, in conjunction with shot quality, is what leads to consistent goal scoring.

So what drives consistent goal scoring? It’s not so much finishing...it’s volume & shot quality. Players shots per 90 & xG rates tend to be pretty consistent from season to season.
— modern fitba (August 2018)

Now let’s look at those who are in the top 15 for goals per 90, that probably won’t be there at the end of the season. You can use the Kyle Lafferty breakdown above as the case study of what to look for. His xSh% is 22%, but his actual rate is 50%. His numbers are the most extreme case, & I think he’ll return to being a league average forward & have a goal rate closer to 0.30 per 90. I also wouldn’t be surprised if it’s lower than that (despite his scintillating start).

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The fact that his actual goal rate more than doubles his Projected Goals is a pretty clear indicator of where his goal output will start to trend.

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I really like Stewart’s play in the final third, but I also don’t like his chances of averaging 0.55 goals per 90 this season.

courtesy of Kenny Ramsay (The Sun, Glasgow)

courtesy of Kenny Ramsay (The Sun, Glasgow)

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Mallan has been pretty sensational this season & this was initially the prediction I wasleast confident in.  His ability to pick out the corner from long range is uniquely good for Scottish football & it’s not a new thing.  Back in 2015-16, I tracked the stats for the Scottish Championship.  That season he scored seven goals from outside the box & his Conversion Rate on unblocked shots from distance was 17% (more than triple the normal rate).  But even then, his goals per 90 was 0.27 - which won’t get you in the top 15.

Now for the players who aren’t in the current top 15….but will be by the end of the season.

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courtesy of Sammy Turner (SNS)

courtesy of Sammy Turner (SNS)

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I honestly don’t know much about Horgan, but I’m trusting the numbers here.  He averages 2.74 shots per 90 & if he can start getting them on target - I really like that xSh%.

Some notes…

  • This post was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.  Additional stats are courtesy of InStat Football.

  • I wrote a few posts this summer in which I applied Expected Shooting Percentages & Projected Goals to make some predictions about who would see the biggest changes in their goal scoring rates.  Let’s see how I’m doing…very early in the season.  Where I was right, I could still end up being very wrong & hey, where I’ve been wrong so far - well…

    Here are the players I tabbed to see noticeable increases in scoring.

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  • Billy McKay was my prediction for Scottish Championship Player of the Year & well, yeah.  Players like Erwin, Dembele, & Murray have left Scotland but are scoring at elite levels so far for their new clubs.  Rogic averaged 0.28 goals per 90 last season, so the bump in scoring wasn’t going to be all that much.  For Sinclair, I think he’s a strong candidate to breakout again - but I’m not 100% sure he’s going to get his chance to play regular minutes.  For the record, his Projected Goals so far this season is 0.49 per 90.  So far, so wrong on Storey.

    Now, here are the players I predicted would see noticeable declines in their goal rates in 2018-19.

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  • Obviously, I’ve been very wrong about Lafferty (so far), but I think the numbers will even out as the season goes on. I was clearly wrong about Naismith as he’s basically matched his goal rate from last season. Kris Boyd averaged 0.58 goals per 90 last season, given his Projected Goals & his age, this was a pretty safe prediction. Bowman’s current Projected Goals per 90 is 0.12, so I’d be pretty surprised if he maintains his current rate (which is still very below average for Scottish Premiership forwards). Schalk & Milinkovic were both players I touted last season while also predicting declines in their goal rates. They’ve since left Scotland & are still looking for their first league goals.

  • When I originally started looking at xSh% I tabbed Florian Kamberi for a decline in goals. Then, when I stumbled upon the concept of Projected Goals…I quickly took back that prediction & wrote a whole post on why he was a great investment for Hibs.

  • It’s time for Aberdeen to put their faith in 20-year old Bruce Anderson. In 138 minutes, his Projected Goals per 90 is 0.59. Obviously it’s a microscopic sample size, but the eye-test of just about everyone not named Derek McInnes also supports this claim. He also was one of the highest rated forward prospects I wrote about this summer.

  • This was written under the influence of Liars & Idles.