Monday 24 July 2023

Post Matchplay thoughts

So Aspinall's probably gone a long way to retaining a Premier League spot for next season, with an absurd 13-1 run from what was a fairly close game at the second break. How much of it was Nathan though? The third session wasn't bad, the first four legs saw a break and hold in four visits, and the same in five, but after that? If Clayton had have thrown a fifteen darter in ANY of the legs that Aspinall had the throw in, he breaks - every single one took six visits. Perhaps an example of how something that looks good wasn't quite as good in the aftermath? Jonny would have still had work to do, but Fifteen Dart Bot takes it from that 9-5 point and leads 14-10, rather than being out of the game. Jesus.

New FRH rankings:

1 Michael Smith
2 Michael van Gerwen
3 Nathan Aspinall (UP 4)
4 Luke Humphries (UP 1)
5 Peter Wright (DOWN 2)
6 Jonny Clayton (UP 3)
7 Gerwyn Price (DOWN 3)
8 Rob Cross (DOWN 2)
9 Dirk van Duijvenbode (DOWN 1)
10 Dimitri van den Bergh
11 Danny Noppert
12 Joe Cullen (UP 2)
13 Damon Heta
14 Dave Chisnall (DOWN 2)
15 Ross Smith
16 Andrew Gilding
17 Ryan Searle
18 Chris Dobey (NEW)
19 Gabriel Clemens (DOWN 1)
20 Josh Rock (DOWN 1)

Schindler drops out for quarter finalist Dobey, while it's remarkable that someone who has been throwing the best stuff of anyone for the last twelve months, as well as this season as a whole, isn't even in the top six. Simple fact is he doesn't have any massive scores that are counting for much in this ranking - his worlds has long since dropped off, and in terms of major finals he has less than six months left of the third Slam win and the Grand Prix final counting. Sure, last year's Matchplay will still count for a while, but in terms of how this list is calculated, it's already only counting 60% of what it did at the outset.

We've now got the summer break, at least at the highest level. There's a couple of Players Championships in the bank holiday weekend, but before that, all there is is World Series stuff, the next Challenge Tour weekend and the final Development Tour weekend. That's it. There's a few WDF events over August, but there's no guarantee we'll get data from them (or, for that matter, whether they'll run, given how many WDF events continue to fall off the calendar).

But for now, here's something I said I'd do a couple of posts back, namely the next players to win something. Let's go:

Next five players to win a PDC major title

1) Luke Humphries

Don't think we're going to be too far off this to be honest. The numbers in 2023 are at a top three level. The titles at Euro Tour level continue to flow, and he's continuing to push on to the business end of majors more often than not. He's also further boosted by the fact he's been bumped slightly in the rankings, so he now aligns against Wright instead of Price provisionally at the Grand Prix, which is an enormous boost.

2) Dave Chisnall

Very easy to suggest he becomes another Terry Jenkins and never wins one, but playing at a top ten level statistically, picking up Euro Tours which are every bit a big stage event as a lot of majors are, it probably only needs a good draw or someone doing him favours for him to push deep, and then who knows. A solid back end to the Euro Tour season would see him seeded extremely high for the European Championship, that could be the opportunity he needs.

3) Chris Dobey

No, the Masters does not count as a major, but it's an important stepping stone. Seems as if Dobey is getting more and more comfortable on the TV, with a record in ranking majors over the last twelve months of three quarter finals and one semi. Plus he didn't exactly do badly in the Premier League, at least in terms of averages if not results.

4) Dirk van Duijvenbode

Feels like he's getting extremely close to getting over the line in a big one - the Euro Tour would be a logical next step, given he hasn't actually won one of them yet, but I think his level of play is enough that it's not out of the question that he does a Ross Smith and jumps straight up to major title level. That he's outside the top 8 won't help seedings in the Grand Prix, but his numbers are only fractionally outside a top 10 level this year (Dobey is tenth, Dirk is 0.01 a visit behind), and he's getting the winning feeling with three Pro Tours, nobody's won more legs this season in my database than van Duijvenbode has.

5) Joe Cullen

Seems like there's plenty of ways I could have gone with this last one - Heta was close, and a couple of players I'll list in the Euro Tour list were also close, but Cullen's done pretty much everything he can without winning a ranking major - one dart off the Premier League, he has a non-ranking TV title, the numbers are extremely steady and he seems to make the most of what he's got in terms of generating results.

Next five players to win a Euro Tour title

1) Josh Rock

Could very easily have pushed Rock up to the next tier, but I'll keep him here as the most obvious player (outside of Dirk?) to push through at this level. Scoring remains at an elite standard lying just outside of the top five, he has got through to a final already this season and was only just outplayed by Clayton there, it seems only when, rather than if, Rock gets his hand on a bigger title than just a Players Championship, and the amount he's accumulated is going to keep him seeded nicely for a fair bit.

2) Ryan Searle

Seems unreal that Ryan not only hasn't won one of these, he's not even made a final yet - indeed, it was only this year where he actually made his first semi final. But we all saw what Ryan can do with his demolition of Barney at Blackpool, the numbers are all right there in terms of good enough to be able to win one, he has Pro Tour titles and a major final in his locker, this is the next natural step.

3) Gian van Veen

Might appear a bit forward given he's still looking for a first title full stop, but he is playing that well. He might be a touch limited in opportunities given he's still working his Pro Tour rankings up and will need to qualify for the foreseeable future, but nobody can question his potential, nor his scoring - only Price, Anderson, Humphries and Clayton are outscoring Gian this year. That's title winning sort of potential - quite possibly sooner rather than later. He's already got to two final sessions, he already has a tour final in the bank, and is looking very good to get a bunch of TV experience if he can hold off Littler and claim the Development Tour title this season.

4) Martin Schindler

Another player who's not actually won a title, it seems easy enough to upgrade Martin to this level. He's not been far off pushing through to the sort of spots where he can win at both the Pro Tour and Euro Tour level, has been a regular in TV majors for a decent chunk now, is seeded for these, and has the obvious advantage that he will have a favourable crowd for, barring a radical redesign of the Euro Tour, the foreseeable future.

5) Stephen Bunting

Seems like Stephen has been around forever, given it's nearly a decade since he switched to the PDC. But oddly he's not been able to accumulate more than a couple of Pro Tour titles. He's just keeping himself to himself, and continuing to play a very high standard of darts much below the radar - he's scoring an identical amount per turn as Dimitri this season for example. Probably the only thing that's holding him back from doing more is a relative lack of explosive scoring power (everyone above him in the scoring charts is winning over 10% of their legs in twelve or better, with Bunting actually below 8%), but if he can get some consistent finishing into his game he has the capability to force opponents to beat him, rather than giving much away.

Next ten players to win a Pro Tour title

1) Gabriel Clemens

Feels like he's been at the top of, or near the top of, this list since forever. Feels as if the game is coming together for Clemens, he's playing well enough to put himself into positions where he has a chance to win them, and is accumulating enough to comfortably made all the majors for some time, with which comes Pro Tour seedings and the chance to avoid big guns early, there's only Schindler that's ranked higher than Gabriel in the Pro Tour rankings right now.

2) Richard Veenstra

Flyers has been around darts for an age now, but only recently made the full PDC switch, and is already making an impression at the next level up - scoring is at a very respectable 91 this season, he's solidly within the top half of the worlds Pro Tour qualifying spots, and he has that pedigree from the BDO/WDF system of being able to navigate big fields - something that caused me to pick Jim Williams in this list last time I did it right after he won the Challenge Tour, and he converted to a title.

3) Mike de Decker

Mike's been steadily improving for several years, previously being somewhat up and down but now closing up his game to the point where he's pushed on to a Pro Tour final already this year, and is consistent enough that he made the Matchplay and is looking good for the Grand Prix. Numbers are sound, he's not too dissimilar to what de Sousa is doing right now, and he's not too far removed from having won a major.

4) Cameron Menzies

This is more a "look just at numbers" pick rather than a look at anything he's actually done in terms of results. His numbers this year are in and around the level of Dimitri, Gurney, Clemens etc, and a real good consistency score points to him perhaps having been unlucky in terms of draws. I seem to recall similar in 2022, while he could do with a decent second half to secure a card going forward (he's currently outside the worlds spots, and is only just provisionally retaining his card), he would surely be a big favourite to regain if it came to it.

5) Luke Littler

He's not going to win one this year for obvious reasons, but next year he's looking almost a certainty to get a tour card through the Dev Tour (assuming he wants it, and there's no indication he doesn't), where he's been looking extremely strong - winning four already, outscoring Barney this season over a solid 200+ leg sample, and showing the stamina to be able to win three games in the UK Open in one day then come back in the evening and average over a ton over 18 legs. He's only 100/1 to win the worlds this year for crying out loud.

6) Steve Lennon

This is a tricky one, given Lennon missed the worlds last year and is in no way guaranteed to make the worlds this year, although he's provisionally in as of right now, so it could be the case that, like Menzies, he needs to regain tour card status. But while he's lacked results, his scoring level has been consistently good for a very long time now, heck it's more than five years now since he reached a European Tour final. Think he's a player where he just needs a bit of a run to gain confidence, the game is there, just needs some winning in the system. There's certainly been worse players to reach finals and even win in recent memory.

7) Keane Barry

We stick in Ireland for this next one, and it's a player who's been under the radar over the last two to three years as other players have made more of a splash coming through the youth and development systems and surpassing Keane, which might lessen a bit of the expectation there was when he initially broke through into the PDC, and was added back again with the UK Open semi final last season. Nothing wrong with how he's been playing, not too dissimilar to Lennon in his profile, still got to have the sense that he can improve his level of play somewhat easily and hit a hot run to go deep in an event.

8) Ricardo Pietreczko

Someone who's really impressed and developed extremely rapidly over the last twelve months, Ricardo's gone from someone who we saw occasionally on the Euro Tour, to someone who many thought might just be another Steffen Siepmann and just be one and done before back to Q-School, he's now a player who's hit the final session of a Euro Tour and going consistently deep enough on the floor that he was one spot off making the Matchplay, and is currently in a Grand Prix spot, albeit only on countback and he's going to need a decent month or two to close out the big TV debut. Statistically he's basically the same player as Jermaine Wattimena right now, someone who's been very close to winning events himself, and is clearly improving to the point where a breakthrough at this level doesn't seem unreasonable.

9) Luke Woodhouse

Luke's been in and around the PDC system consistently for half a decade now, never putting up bad numbers, always being someone who's capable of shoving in a big average but just not quite having enough to get over the line. This might be changing soon though, as Woodhouse of course recently made the breakthrough to the final level, looking like he had run out of steam against his stable mate Heta, but that might have cleared somewhat of a mental block potentially, maybe he will actually push through soon. He'd certainly have the double benefit of that clearly putting him over the line for a Grand Prix debut, him being one of a number of players fighting for the last spot (currently a bit of a gap from 15th to 16th), that could be all the incentive he needs to get the job done.

10) Mario Vandenbogaerde

Little bit of a left field one here, but there's a bit of a lack of obvious names to fill out the field, so I'll go with the Belgian, who checks a number of boxes that makes me think it would not be the strangest thing. Mario had a very solid BDO base, so can win through a big field like Veenstra further up. Scoring is above 90 for the year, not overly dissimilar to his compatriot Kim Huybrechts, who of course has won one this year. Is in the mix to make the Grand Prix, so given a moderate lack of Euro Tour success is clearly making some progress on the Pro Tour. Lots of things to like about his floor game, it would be a bit of a surprise if he was to win one, but it wouldn't be absurdly crazy.

Expect a bit of downtime for the next few weeks given the advertised lack of darts in the near future.

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