Winning record but no playoffs

Steve Sirk dives into the quirky numbers behind Crew's 2012 campaign

Celebration

Photo Credit: 
Jamie Sabau - Getty Images

MR NUMBERS NERD: GOOD BUT NOT GOOD ENOUGH EDITION
(This is a preview of Sirk’s Notebook)

The 2012 Columbus Crew accumulated several rare or improbable achievements over the course of the season. On the plus side, the club finally beat Seattle Sounders FC for very first time after four years of trying. And the Crew did it in Seattle, no less. The Crew also had that astronomically improbable (and exhilarating!)  stretch of five consecutive game-winning goals that found the net in the 86th minute or later, including back-to-back stoppage time winners.  On the negative side, after being undefeated since 2007, the Crew finally lost a game on Canadian soil. (But not in Toronto, of course.) And then there was that baffling matter of being eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup by a third division club….that was winless in the third division at the time.

But at season’s end, when the all of the positives and negatives were tallied and accounted for, the Crew did something unprecedented in MLS history—the club became the first team in MLS history to miss the postseason despite finishing three games over .500 or averaging at least 1.5 points per game. The 2012 Crew finished with a record of 15-12-7 (52 points), averaging 1.53 points-per-game.

"I think we are very disappointed that we didn't make the playoffs,” said Crew head coach Robert Warzycha after Sunday’s season-ending 2-1 victory over hapless Toronto FC. “I don't think we can say that the season was successful because we didn't make the playoffs; we didn't win the [Lamar Hunt] U.S. Open Cup.”

Officially becoming The Best Team in MLS History to Ever Miss the Playoffs™ may not have offered much consolation, nor could it give the season the stamp of success based on the club’s expectations, but it sure as heck made for some interesting number-crunching. What follows are some statistical notes about the Crew’s dubious accomplishment.

WINNING RECORD BUT NO PLAYOFFS

The 2012 Crew is only the fourth (but really third) team in MLS history to miss the playoffs with a winning record. The 1999 San Jose Clash finished 19-13, but that was a mirage created by the League’s initial insistence on resolving tied games with shootouts. Counting shootouts as the ties that they were, the Clash finished 9-10-13. Even with the points boost of counting all shootout losses as draws, San Jose still finished with just 1.25 points-per-game.

In terms of a true winning record, the 2012 Crew joined the 2005 Kansas City Wizards and 2009 D.C. United as winning teams who missed the playoffs.

Here’s how those teams fared:

2012 CLB: 15-12-7 (1.53 PPG)
2005 KCW: 11-9-12 (1.41 PPG)
2009 DCU: 9-8-13 (1.33 PPG)

INVERSE PARADOX

The Crew finished with its sixth-best points-per-game mark in the club’s 17-year history, but missed the playoffs for only the sixth time in 17 years. Even when adjusting shootout records to true records, the 2012 Crew still finished tied for the seventh-best points-per-game mark in club history.

Here’s the points-per-game list, adjusted for shootouts.

1.) 2008: 1.90
2.) 2001: 1.73
3.) 2010: 1.67
4.) 2009: 1.63 /// 2004: 1.63
6.) 1998: 1.56 [adjusted]
7.) 2012: 1.53 /// 1999: 1.53 [adjusted]

WINNING

The 2012 Crew became only the third team in club history to earn 15 three-point wins in one season. Not that it got them to the playoffs.

1.) 2008: 17 wins
2.) 1998: 15 wins /// 2012: 15 wins
4.) 2010: 14 wins
5.) Many tied with 13 wins

BETTER THAN THOSE WHO MADE IT

The 2012 Crew became the fourth team in MLS history—and the second team in Crew history— to miss the playoffs with more points than a playoff qualifier. In doing so, the team set the record for the largest gap between its own point total and that of the last playoff qualifier.

2012:
Out: CLB 52
In: VAN 43 (-9)

1999:
Out: SJ 37
In: TB 32 (-5)
In: MIA 29 (-8)

2004:
Out: DAL 36
In: NE 33 (-3)

2003:
Out: CLB 38
In: LA 36 (-2)

Also of note, in 2005, Kansas City tied Colorado and Los Angeles with 45 points, but missed the playoffs despite having a better goal differential (+8) than the Rapids (+3) and Galaxy (-1).

2012 CREW VS. MLS CUP CHAMPIONS

As mentioned, the 2012 Crew finished with 1.53 points-per-game. That mark is equal to or greater than six different MLS Cup champions, even when adjusting 1996-1999 records to give those teams credit for the points lost in shootouts.

Missed playoffs:
2012: CLB 1.53

Won MLS Cup:
2010: COL 1.53
1996: DCU 1.53 [adjusted]
2006: HOU 1.44
2005: LAG 1.41
2004: DCU 1.40
2009: RSL 1.33

 Questions? Comments? Hate math more than ever now? Feel free to write at sirk65@yahoo.com