Stats Analysis: Doubles For Dough

Stats Analysis: Doubles For Dough

Christopher Kempf, the statistical analyst of the PDC, takes a look at the importance of double percentages in 2018.

He knows he doesn't need to break his own world record average to win matches.

Michael van Gerwen, who hit 46.75% of his treble 20s in the six World Series events of the past months, draws upon his unique scoring talent to race ahead of his opponents and win matches on a game of attrition.

By securing more darts at doubles than his opponents who are less proficient scorers, the Dutch star can usually put more legs on the scoreboard even if his doubles percentage is below par.

In the first few months after the retirement of his great rival Phil Taylor, a new era of dominance appeared to be unfolding as MvG effortlessly won more than a dozen titles across Europe.

But with his first-round exit at the World Matchplay, and his disappointingly small share of the World Series prize fund, something has changed.

Van Gerwen is playing less efficiently; his countless trebles are going to waste in legs where he misses doubles, his 170 finishes no longer make a difference in his matches, and he is losing by wide margins to players who will not be broken.

The rest of the top players are catching up to Van Gerwen, and it's starting to show in the statistics.

Consider, for example, the changes in players' finishing doubles accuracy between the 2017 season and the first eight months of 2018.

The majority of the PDC's top 16 players have increased their accuracy on the doubles between 2017 and 2018, and the overall PDC stage doubles percentage has increased from 37.75 in 2017 to 38.11 this year.

Yet MvG's percentage has fallen to 43.24 this year - barely more than five points above average, compared to nearly seven last year.

Dragged down by his often sub-par doubling in the World Series (where he hit 41.6% of them), Van Gerwen no longer leads the PDC in that statistic among players with extensive TV and European Tour exposure.

While Kim Huybrechts and Adrian Lewis have not played as many legs as MvG, they have both bested the world number one's doubles percentage over the span of more than 200 double attempts.

Ian White challenged MvG throughout 2017 for the honour of topping the doubles leaderboard, but eventually finished the season with the second highest percentage among the top players in the PDC.

No other player, despite a major title victory or a breakthrough season for their career, managed to come within three points of Van Gerwen. Now the gap is far narrower.

Peter Wright's 42.11% puts him 1.13 percentage points behind MvG, up from 40.71 (3.53 behind) in 2017.

Rob Cross, who drilled an excellent 43.58% of his doubles in the World Series, is only 0.66 percentage points behind MvG in 2018 after finishing 4.08 behind last year.

Even Raymond van Barneveld, who is still searching for his first TV title since May 2015, has brought himself from five points behind his Dutch compatriot to almost one.

While other players have broken new ground on their favourite and go-to doubles, Van Gerwen's previously prodigious double 16 and 20 percentages have declined substantially, not recording noteworthy percentages on any of the double mainstays.

James Wade and Michael Smith have both reached 46% accuracy on double ten, Wade's favourite and a staple of Smith's game.

Gary Anderson's 46% on double 20 has resulted in him winning 161 legs on that double this year on stage, more than any other player on any other double.

Cross' staggering 53% on double 18 has helped him record a PDC-leading ten ten-darters this year. Yet MvG's accuracy on double 16 has fallen by 1.03 percentage points, and his accuracy on double 20 by a troubling 3.82 points, well out of step with the PDC's overall trend.

This means that the best player in the world is putting himself under more pressure by not only missing almost three additional darts at double per 100 legs, but also forcing himself to sweat through more situations in which his opponent gets a chance to steal the leg where last year the referee may already have called out "Game shot" in his favour.

In those situations, MvG is facing opponents who are more accurate on doubles and more likely to take advantage of the few opportunities that one gets with which to vanquish Van Gerwen.

While MvG has improved his percentage on the bullseye substantially this year - his 27 stage bullseye checkouts in 2018 lead the PDC by some distance - with opponents better poised to take advantage of misses, it is partly out of necessity that he has boosted his accuracy on the board's smallest target.

Even that improvement has not compensated for the missed doubles elsewhere - just one or two can halt MvG's momentum and turn the tide of a match.

Both he and Cross won 129 legs in the World Series, but Van Gerwen missed darts to win 39 more, while Cross only failed to win 30 due to missed doubles.

With the World Grand Prix - and its unique double-start format - fast approaching, a doubles percentage of 42.28 on double 20 may not be good enough for MvG to get ahead of a player like Gary Anderson, who, at this moment in 2018, holds a large advantage over the world number one on the starting double.

Getting those percentages up will surely be a focus for every player between now and October.

Follow Christopher Kempf on Twitter through @Ochepedia