We need to talk about Eamonn Brophy
written by: @TheGersReport
A quick look at the basic stat-line for Eamonn Brophy suggests that he is having a very good season. He has scored nine goals (which is in the top ten) & averages 0.51 goals per 90.
However, rule #1 in fitba analytics is to strip away penalty goals from a player’s scoring rate. This is not a new idea, but it still is one that folks are still getting used to…
Remember how Eamonn Brophy averages 0.51 goals per 90 minutes…well, he averages 0.29 non-penalty goals.
He has nine goals this season & four of them have been penalties.
No…that is definitely not good.
The visual below will give you a sense of what 0.29 goals per 90 for a forward looks like in context. It shows the Goals Above Average per 90 for each forward who has played at least 1,000 minutes this season. These are players that teams have leaned on heavily to lead the front line.
Goals Above Average (GAA) measures how many more goals per 90 a player scores above the average rate for a forward in that league. The average goals per 90 for Scottish Premiership forwards since the 2013-14 season is 0.325 - Eamonn Brophy has averaged 0.285 non-penalty goals per 90 which translates to a GAA of -0.04. His production has been that of a below average forward.
For the record…the most ‘average’ forward in recent seasons was Rangers’ Joe Garner back in 2016-17 - his GAA was +0.009.
That’s the definition of an average forward in the Scottish Premiership.
I first introduced Goals Above Average back in the summer of 2017 as a means of evaluating the signing of Alfredo Morelos. We had read about his goal scoring record in Finland….but let’s face it…not many of us really follow that league closely & who knows…maybe people score goals for fun in the Veikkausliiga.
His Goals Above Average as a 20 year old was +0.70 (nearly double his current rate of +0.37).
Morelos was beyond elite for Finnish football & since then he’s shown that he is probably too good for the Scottish Premiership as well. Recently players like Moussa Dembélé, Liam Boyce, & Louis Moult have proven to be too good for Scottish football & their top GAA rates were +0.29 for Dembele & +0.22 for both Boyce & Moult. Last season, Morelos’ rate was +0.17 & this season it’s +0.37.
Of course, Eamonn Brophy is nowhere near those rates yet still has been linked to a move down south as recently as this past winter transfer window. That’s largely based on his age & a pretty good season last year &….four penalties.
As Kilmarnock prepare for the summer, they need to decide whether to keep investing minutes in Brophy or to look to move the 23-year old while his market value is still relatively high.
A stat like Goals Above Replacement (GAR) may help with that decision.
In that same Morleos blog post, I introduced Goals Above Replacement. It’s not as easily digestible as Goals Above Average…but could be much more useful for clubs as they make decisions in the summer about their forwards.
The concept of being above average is pretty easy to understand. But what about Goals Above Replacement?
From a statistical point of view, a replacement level player is outproduced by 80% of forwards in the league. Basically, you could slot in any forward from the reserves or even from a lower league & expect him to produce at this level.
Dawson Sprigings, who used to write about hockey analytics under the handle of @DTMAboutHeart & is now a consultant for the Colorado Avalanche (one of the surprise teams in this year’s NHL playoffs), explained why he prefers using the replacement level in his player analysis. “I chose to baseline my statistic to ‘above replacement’ instead of ‘above average’ because it provides a quick way to decipher if a player is fit for an NHL roster spot.”
If a forward is barely scoring above a replacement level player – do you really want him in the lineup? Last season, Stevie May’s output was that of a replacement level player (his GAR was +0.02) & his underlying numbers suggested that there would be little to no improvement this season.
Well, given that he has not scored a non-penalty goal this season…his Goals Above Replacement is -0.20.
Another example of a forward with a negative GAR last season was Eduardo Herrera.
Need I say more?
Back to Brophy…let’s see where his numbers fall in the Goals Above Replacement universe this season.
A replacement level forward averages 0.20 goals per 90 & Brophy averages 0.29…so his GAR is +0.09.
There are forwards above that clearly need replaced (Rakish Bingham, Curtis Main, & Christopher Kane) & there are some that are said to be such a handful that goals scoring can be overlooked (Tony Watt, Dolly Menga, Uche Ikpeauzu).
Then there’s that group who are slightly above being replacement level forwards - Florian Kamberi, Danny Mullen &……Eamonn Brophy.
Someone may want to slip Modern Fitba into Lennon’s DMs next time. The numbers pointed out that Kamberi’s scoring rate wasn’t going to be repeated but also suggested that he would still be a good forward for this level. Of course, numbers can’t influence a player’s reaction to constant negativity from his “leader” & his numbers plummeted this season.
Danny Mullen has made a steady career progression from League One & the Championship with Livingston & then St. Mirren (despite basically being an average forward at the Championship level - his GAA ranges from +0.03 in 2014-15 to -0.07 in 2017-18).
Then there’s Eamonn Brophy, a player who had a breakthrough last season with Kilmarnock & a Goals Above Average of +0.13 (basically on par with Louis Moult in 2016-17 & Anthony Stokes in 2014-15).
So, who is the real Eamonn Brophy? We should start with looking at his career goal rates & then should analyze the underlying numbers to see what they tell us about his prospects moving forward.
Below you’ll find the annual Goals Above Replacement & Goals Above Average rates for Eamonn Brophy…from his dominant spell as an 18-year old in League Two on loan with Queen’s Park, to his years with Hamilton & then to his breakout with Killie last season.
Brophy’s goal scoring rate in League Two was the best for any forward since 2013-14…which quickly flagged him as being ready for top flight football. However, outside of last season, the youngster has yet to truly produce as a top forward in the Premiership (or even the Championship during his brief spell with Dumbarton).
Given that Brophy is still so young & is now only entering the prime years of his career…the question becomes what his true ceiling as a goal scoring forward will be. When you look at this season in isolation…there is some real concern.
The visual below shows where Brophy ranks with the other forwards in the Premiership who have played at least 700 minutes.
This really is a bit of a clusterfuck. His goal rate is actually above average for forwards (this season) & his Projected Goals (explained here) is at an elite level for Scottish Premiership forwards. But then…everything else is basically in the red - signifying numbers that are either below average or at a replaceable level.
I’m as confused as those of you who actually stuck around this long to keep reading this.
Basically, it looks like Brophy’s goal rate (as “meh” as it is) is largely driven purely by shot volume. He averages 3.08 shots per 90 (4th amongst forwards with 700+ minutes) & averages 0.74 Scoring Chances per 90 minutes (which is the 12th best rate).
That’s the beginning of our disconnect.
Brophy gets on the end of a lot of shots…but there may also be a lot of noise there. Only 24% of his shots are high percentage chances (which ranks 31st!!!!!!!!! among forwards).
Basically, Brophy has a shot selection issue.
When I reviewed footage of Brophy’s shots this season…beyond the obvious ‘hope & a prayer’ shots from outside the box, I noticed a lot of shots that were inside the box - but at a bad angle - like the one above. Brophy does get this shot past the defender…but given where he’s taking it — he’s gonna need a wonder goal to beat the keeper.
This helps explain why ALL of Brophy’s finishing rates above are so very, very bad.
Brophy has scored on 7% of his shots, his Expected Conversion Rate is only 12% (both are bad for a forward at this level).
His Shot Accuracy is beyond bad…20% of his non-penalty, non-free kick shots are on target. 20%!!! His Expected Shot Accuracy (based on the kinds of shots he takes) is 42%…which is the 27th best rate for forwards (& I use the term ‘best’ very loosely here).
When Brophy does manage to get shots on target…his Shooting Percentage (the rate of shots on target that are goals) is 29% which is basically aligned with his Expected Shooting Percentage (xSh%) of 31%. His xSh% is the 28th best rate for Scottish Premiership forwards. Twenty……..eighth…….
This number caught me the most off guard. When Brophy does get a shot on target to test the keeper…his expected success rate is really, really low. This made me look back to the rate from last season…when he was among the best forwards in the league.
In 2017-18, Brophy actually only scored on 28% of his shots on target which basically aligned perfectly with his xSh% of 27%.
The scoring regression actually did come…once Brophy began missing the target more - his poor shot selection came more to the fore. Maybe, given his lack of size, he was unable to live off of creating chances from more dangerous areas & when the randomness of football caught up to Brophy…we found a striker hoping to score from low percentage areas on the pitch.
I decided to stroll over to Matt Rhein’s cubicle in the Modern Fitba offices to see what he thinks & he replied by whipping up Brophy’s shot map this season.
Ultimately, I remain hopeful that Brophy is a player that can be among the better forwards in Scotland. His agility & quickness gives him a skill-set that should be able to exploit defenses who are still anchored by slower center-backs who retain their roles due to their aerial dominance in a cross-heavy league. Smaller, quicker forwards could thrive as they play at a speed that forces defenders to play on their heels while trying to defend the likes of Brophy.
The red flags mentioned above regarding his underlying numbers should trigger a process of performance analysis that can lead to coachable moments - both in the video room & on the pitch. Why is it the shots he does get on target lead to such a pitiful Expected Shooting Percentage? Shot selection is definitely part of it…but why isn’t Brophy getting more of his higher percentage shots on target?
This is the kind of inquiry that data can trigger within a club to help young players, like Brophy, meet his apparent potential.
Stats are courtesy of data provided by Ortec Sports.
Stats don’t include this past weekend’s matches.
Florian Kamberi is another one whose numbers are being dragged down by his inability to regularly test the keeper this season (that & the fact that he is only averaging 1.97 shots per 90 - which is in the bottom half of forwards in the league).
I just noticed that the link to Dawson Sprigings’ blog post has been removed from the world wide web…that often happens when analysts get hired by teams (can’t give away the secrets). I’ll leave the link up just in case it ever gets republished.
Here’s a visual aid to see how many forwards have scored at the different Goals Above Average rates over the past five full seasons. It can help give you a sense of what’s elite, what’s very good, & what’s really bad when looking at the GAA rates in this post.
I got called out online a little bit for suggesting that Kyle Lafferty would suck this season & despite the fact that he kind of has (just ask his manager)…his actual goal rate is surprisingly high. His Goals Above Average, albeit in limited minutes is actually, +0.15 - which you see in the visual above is really good.
This was written under the influence of the new Fat White Family album, CSNY, & KARP.