Monday 7 May 2018

Sindelfingen aftermath

Mother of god, how good was van Gerwen playing? Let's put it into numbers - of the 33 legs he won, twelve of them were in twelve darts or less for a 36% clip - if you consider that the average of the PDC as a whole this season is 8.5%, and that van Gerwen himself this season is in the low 20's (and the only player with a sample size to be above 20%), it tells you how dominant he was. Only eight of the legs he won took more than fifteen darts, and in the legs he lost he averaged over 103. That's an incredible standard. Nobody apart from Darren Webster was able to get remotely close to him - the best player in terms of points per turn and FRH ranking he played was Michael Smith, who didn't even get a leg!

James Wade made the final, continuing his impressive start to the season and getting himself back among the Euro Tour seeds for events 7 and 8, while Danny Noppert made the semi final to close in on a possible Matchplay spot.

It was also a Challenge Tour weekend - sadly messing up Ratajski (it really would have paid for him to get back after going out first round by any means necessary), but Barnard won another two to go massively clear at the top of those rankings. Cody Harris grabbed one, which would put him very close to being able to get into Pro Tour events if he's over here - not sure what his status is, but if he is able to play he could do some damage, his stats when playing the UK Open qualifiers (and the UK Open itself, where he went out to, oddly enough, Michael Barnard) were good enough that he should be in or around the board final stage. The remaining event was won by Adam Huckvale, who's been in or around the latter stages of these for the last few weekends - he's not been too bad on the senior tour (looking at the figures, he's very similar to Peter Jacques and Jason Cullen to give you an idea), and we'll see him in Zwolle next weekend, so let's see if this gives him confidence to win his first round game.

New FRH rankings:

1 Michael van Gerwen
2 Rob Cross
3 Peter Wright
4 Phil Taylor
5 Gary Anderson
6 Daryl Gurney
7 Michael Smith (UP 1)
8 Mensur Suljovic (DOWN 1)
9 Simon Whitlock
10 Gerwyn Price
11 Dave Chisnall
12 Ian White
13 James Wade
14 Darren Webster
15 Raymond van Barneveld
16 Jonny Clayton
17 Alan Norris
18 Kim Huybrechts
19 Joe Cullen
20 Jelle Klaasen

Not as much movement as I'd have thought, but Smith's able to get past Suljovic, although making any further gains is going to need a couple of Euro Tour wins or a big run in a major (at least until Taylor drops, his (and everybody's) worlds score will start to degrade this week), as he's nearly 100 grand behind Gurney. Wade is very close to White for the England #4 spot, while Cullen is now less than a grand away from Huybrechts, and Jamie Lewis' quarter final run leaves him less than two grand behind Klaasen for the last spot. Noppert is up into the top 70 with his semi final run, Nicholson making the final day pushes himself up into the top 80, while Razma making day two and continuing to pick up cash here and there leave him less than 10 places outside the top 100.

Betting was acceptable. Schindler managing to get the one break he needed against Cullen would have made it excellent in a game where every leg went with throw, but Joe didn't leave him many chances.

A question that often comes up is who will be the next player to win some level of tournament - I'll give you my picks for a few categories based off of the FRH rankings and how players are actually playing this season. If someone's won something in a "tier" above I'm not going to consider them, so while the correct answer for next new person to win a European Tour event is Rob Cross, as he's won something slightly more important, I'll ignore him.

Next to win a PDC ranking major:

1) Michael Smith - He's been knocking on the door for a while now, but finally seems to be getting it at that level, up in the top five of points per turn this season and the highest rated player in the FRH rankings not to have grabbed a major title, he's surely at the top of the list.

2) Mensur Suljovic - No, the Champions League exhibition does not count as a major, certainly not a ranking one, but his ratings are incredibly similar to Smith's (less than two tenths of a point per turn below Smith, only two grand behind him in the FRH rankings), with the game that's able to shut anyone out if needed.

3) Corey Cadby - Controversial on the FRH ranking side, but that's only because he's not played a great deal of PDC darts recently. That said, he's already made one major final and is already a ranking title winner, and when he has played he's been at the level of both of the above players. He is the real deal.

4) Dave Chisnall - After the first three there's a little bit of a gap, but I've got Chisnall as just above the rest of them - only recently dropping out of the top ten of the FRH rankings, Chizzy has a level of scoring to match anyone in the game. It just needs a couple of things to happen - Dave not to miss doubles in quite the number that he has been known to do, and for the draw to open up a bit for him perhaps. Probably his best shot would be at something like the UK Open or the Grand Slam where he may not run into van Gerwen automatically as he has done a lot when he's a #8/#9 seed in a tournament.

5) Ian White - He is playing that well right now - in the legs he's winning he's averaging more than Gary Anderson, he averages over 91 in the legs he is losing, and the overall points per turn this year has him eighth. He may well have blown the best chance he'd have in the UK Open that Wright won, and still hasn't managed to crack that quarter final ceiling, but we all know that if he can put things together over one tournament there's nobody he can't beat.

Next to win a European Tour event:

1) Gerwyn Price - It was close between Price and White for who to put as number 5 above and number 1 here, given neither has won on the European Tour, and maybe I should have put Price higher as he's at least reached a major final, but I'll go round this way on account of Price simply not playing at quite the level of White right now, so if someone does burst through out of nowhere and nick a premier title very soon, it'll probably be White, while long term I'd think Price may be the more likely. Still, Price has made one final this year and looks to be getting the Premier League behind him. Should have just picked Durrant at number 5 above as he's better than both White and Price and despite only getting one shot per season, while it would be a surprise, I don't think it would shock anyone.

2) Joe Cullen - He's just been there or there abouts in these so often, that it just seems a matter of time before he takes the step up from winning on the Pro Tour to winning on the European Tour. Making every quarter final this season is no mean feat, he mainly needs to tighten up consistency as there's still too many legs where he simply doesn't score enough, get rid of those and he becomes a lot more formidable.

3) Dimitri van den Bergh - The current world youth champion and world quarter finalist is still doing that thing where he has inexplicable losses (Padgett this weekend, Rosenauer in the Zwolle qualifier), and his averaging when losing has dropped a fair bit over the last couple of weeks, but he still scores over 95 points per turn when winning (in a group with Cadby, Gurney and Chisnall separated by less than a tenth of a point for fifth in the PDC) and over 92 points per turn overall (11th in the PDC). It'll click at some point and do so sooner rather than later.

4) Kyle Anderson - Quietly in the top 20 for points per turn this season, Anderson's won a ranking event, he's won a non-ranking TV title (albeit a very minor one), he's been real close to making a major final and can bring his best game to the stage. He could certainly do with getting back up to the seeded positions.

5) Jeffrey de Zwaan - He's won on the tour this season, reached two further finals, eliminated the world number one from a major tournament in a longer distance game - would it really surprise anyone if de Zwaan's rapid rise continues and he binks one on the European Tour? He's in the top 16 this season for points per turn so he's got the game to do so. The only real problem (and that goes for Dimitri as well) is that he's a long way off the seeds so will need to come through congested European qualifiers, and while he should get through it's pretty easy for these two to run into a van der Voort/Reyes/Wattimena/Noppert type of player (or, for that matter, each other) and miss an opportunity.

Next to win a PDC ranking title - I'll go for ten here as there's lost of names in contention:

1) Jamie Lewis - The world championship semi finalist hasn't, you might be surprised to learn, won a tournament any higher than the Challenge Tour. He's reached two quarters and a semi this season, is scoring an overall 90+ points per turn, and is the highest ranked player in the FRH rankings not to have won a ranking title.

2) Steve West - Solidly in the FRH top 30, West is up in the top 20 on points per turn this season, the only player other than Cody Harris (who is 19th, one spot ahead but with a much smaller sample) not to have won a PDC title. He's been close several times, most notably the final where he lost a deciding leg to Michael van Gerwen which caused an upturn in his form, and you do wonder whether starting to put it together on the TV stage will help his floor game, and vice versa.

3) Chris Dobey - Slotting in one place behind West on points per turn is Dobey, who after a pretty disastrous 2017 managed to reach a second final this year, losing to van Gerwen like most do, but it's a good sign that his game is coming back together. The stats show it, and we saw in 2016 that he's incredibly dangerous if confident, which he should be right now.

4) Nathan Aspinall - This is another one looking at points per turn primarily, placing in the top 25 with very similar statistics to, say, Johnny Clayton without quite the same level of explosiveness. The former world youth finalist has been playing at a good level for a while now, doing well enough to make the European Championship despite not having a tour card, and while he's not managed to make a really deep run in a senior PDC event to this stage, he's at the level where he could do at some stage.

5) James Wilson - Lethal Biscuit's been knocking on the door for a while now, making the last final of last season (the one Clayton won) and has made it through to five quarters this year. A top 30 position in points per turn so far this year, with very similar statistics to Aspinall, he's definitely in contention to get one.

6) Danny Noppert - Just above 90 points per turn in all legs, the Dutch switcher has been making gradual improvements since joining the PDC, putting together a good run of making board finals and just this weekend bursting through to the semi finals on the European Tour. He'd need to tighten up the number of legs won in par which is at a pretty low 52%, as with it being that low he could simply give up too many breaks.

7) John Henderson - Averaging exactly 90, it'd need a good combination of circumstances as he's fairly inconsistent, is a bit lacking in ability to fire in the really quick leg if needed (less than 10% of legs won in twelve darts or less), but if it does click it could happen.

8) Cristo Reyes - He's been mediocre for a while now, and isn't even the top ranking Spaniard in averages this season, but while he's dropped out of the top 32 in the FRH rankings, we know what he can do, and if he can get something to spark and rediscover his form, then he's perfectly capable of getting a title. Still being above 11% in twelve dart legs shows the scoring power is there, it's everything else that needs cleaning up.

9) Martin Schindler - Now that Hopp has broken the whole German duck, what's to say that Martin can't do the same? He was ranked ahead of Hopp in the FRH rankings until Max binked that title, has a good rate of winning in twelve darts at over 10% and his points per turn is over 90, a whole point better than Hopp. He's clearly trending one way.

10) Ryan Joyce - Rounding it off with a complete wildcard, Joyce is doing very well where we've seen him so far, winning his board on six out of ten attempts in the Players Championship events, with some great numbers as well - twelve dart legs are up in double figures and fifteen dart legs are in the high fifties. Overall points per turn of 91 is very respectable, and we'll get to see a European Tour debut this week to see how he looks on the stage.

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