He's not going to be MLS's MVP, but Bradley Wright-Phillips has finished the season as the top player on the Castrol Index - and he's got the trophy to prove it.
New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) November 20, 2014
Statistical analyses often skew toward confounding conclusions: let us not forget the earnest effort to let the numbers prove the existence of the "Henry effect" earlier this season. In the case of the Castrol Index - which claims to "assess every player's actions for positive or negative impact on his team's ability to score or concede a goal" - the statistical focus would appear to heavily favor activity in the attacking third.
The top 20 players of 2014 include just one goalkeeper (D.C. United's Bill Hamid) and one defender (LA Galaxy's Omar Gonzalez). The remaining 18 are all, broadly speaking, attacking players - mostly out-and-out forwards. Wedged between Hamid (fourth on the overall ranking) and Gonzalez (eighth in the final analysis) are Fanendo Adi, Joao Plata, and Will Bruin. Deshorn Brown and Chris Wondolowski round out the top 10.
It would appear Castrol's calculations favor players who make an impact close to goal. And that impact is measured in ways that eluded the analysis of the majority of this year's MVP voters.
Of the top three candidates for MLS's most prestigious end-of-season player award, Robbie Keane ranks highest: third, behind Clint Dempsey and BWP. Obafemi Martins is 12th (behind Dom Dwyer). Lee Nguyen is ranked 23rd by Castrol, below Giles Barnes, Quincy Amarikwa and Andrew Wenger (among others).
The Index has historically failed to predict the league's MVP. In 2011, its first year ranking MLS players, it anointed Chris Wondolowski, who won with a cumulative score of 9.31. Assuming the current points total is calculated on much the same basis, just out of 100 instead of 10, Wondo's 2011 is the best MLS full-season performance on the Castrol Index in its brief history (BWP's 2014 total - 918 - is second-highest). The league's 2011 MVP, Dwayne DeRosario, was ranked 31st by Castrol; Wondo didn't make the top three on the shortlist.
In 2012, Wondo's 27-goal season was sufficient to win MLS MVP, but he was second to Robbie Keane (who wasn't among the final MVP candidates) on the Index.
In 2013, Castrol deemed Donovan Ricketts and Marco Di Vaio the joint-top players in the league. MVP voters chose Mike Magee, who finished two points behind the Index leaders.
Although Di Vaio finished third in MVP voting last year, Ricketts was not considered among the league's three-best players for the season. As such, BWP's 2014 award continues a proud tradition for Castrol: its top MLS player of the year has never won the league's top honor, and tends not to be among the front runners.