Monday 2 January 2017


It's amazing how darts is probably the single sport that is most easily analysed, given that any given throw, visit, leg etc can have accurate scoring applied to it. You hit treble 20? That's 60 points, no questions asked. This isn't football where you have a shot and it tells you nothing - there you're barely past the stage whereby you just look at whether a shot is on target or not, some people are actually realising that a free header from two yards out shouldn't count the same as a 40 yard speculative effort, and even then there's so many subjective questions that can be asked about the quality of the chance.

So why is darts still fascinated with the three dart average? The very obvious answer is that it's simple - you throw three darts, this is how much you score. Given the target audience typically is mostly interested in chanting Kolo/Yaya Toure and saying that the tables are boring/the stands are poor, it's really not necessary to go into much more detail than that. Also, it is very convenient that 100 is typically thought to be a good score, so Clark can go 100 good, 105 better, 109 HOW IS BARNEY LOSING THIS???

To answer that one, it's actually quite simple. I'm a mediocre pub player typically averaging around 50. Let's say that I can refine my technique to the point where I can hit big numbers with 100% certainty. Let's also say that I have worked out the following strategy on doubles, which I can also hit 100% of the time - my darts stand up a lot like a Lewis, van de Pas etc - so I chuck the first two just above tops, which create the greatest marker in the world and the third one goes in every time.

Effectively I'm now Dartbot 1.0, and kill legs in 27 darts every single time. My first seven visits are all 60, this leaves 81, I now hit a further two into single 20 and a single 1 on visit 8, and then visit nine I checkout tops third dart. What's my average?

Well, despite throwing exactly the same darts in every leg, it depends. If I'm playing against Colin Cantthrow, the worst darts player in the whole wide world, then my average is going to be 55.67 - 501 points every nine visits. Now let's say I'm playing Michael van Gerwen, who at the time of writing at lunchtime of the 2017 final, is playing quite well and has won all but one of his legs in this world championship in 18 darts or less. If we ignore that, my average is 60 - a whole four points higher as I'm playing a better opponent. Why? Because I'm not shooting at doubles. van Gerwen last night hit nine 12 dart (or better) legs. What's Barney going to do there? At most, throw 12 darts. For which, unless you're also playing very, very well, are all going to be at big trebles. Increasing the ratio of darts at treble:darts not at treble will increase your average.

It's similar to just before when Bunting switched - one of the Sky talking heads (almost certainly was Harrington, but I can't remember) was looking at his stats after the PDC final, going back to when he beat Wilson 7-0 in the World Masters final, seeing the average was 96 and saying he'll need to put 10 points on that to compete in the PDC. I wonder what would happen if Wilson was a bit more competitive and took more legs that Bunting won? It's hard to average 100 if your opponent, as may be typical in the BDO, isn't hitting that many 15 darters - you need to kill in 15 every time yourself, which requires great finishing, great scoring, or a mixture of the two. If Bunting goes 140-100-140-96 against the darts by missing bull for a 12 darter, in the PDC it's quite likely that your opponent isn't going to let you throw at 25. In the BDO however, you're going to have to waste at least two darts to clean that up, possibly three. Even if it's two, that drops the average for that leg from 119 to 107.

So what can we do to make a better overall metric for how someone's playing? I'll come to that in another post.

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