3-cushion should have an ELO-rating. Oh wait… it has.


Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on December 12, 2014

Bert van ManenMeet Philip: he’s a fun guy, but he does his thinking and talking in reverse order regularly. That can be annoying in some, charming in others. He gets away with it, thanks to a streetwise sense of humor. And he’s a strong player. I never get tired of telling that story of him, “explaining” his average. “I did just under 0.900 last season, which is poor for me. But I won 17 of my 22 matches. I say, if you are a team player, you should not care about innings. I play defensive when I have to, because the game is all about winning. I can average 1.100 for a season, easily. But in the league, It’s not about your vanity, it’s about the team result. I don’t play for average, I play to win.”

It all sounded high and mighty, and I think part of his audience at the bar was buying it. He ordered another round of drinks, and that did not hurt the exit polls. The vote went up, more people agreed. I kept a straight face. Being – probably – the only person in the room who knew that “just under 0.900” was 0.838, and that he had won 15, drawn once, it wasn’t easy.

What my 3-cushion playing colleague “Philip” had in fact said, was this: “I could play a much higher average, but then I would lose more matches”. I hope one day he will listen to himself, and a blush will creep up. It is of course, the kind of statement that comes from people who wear straitjackets in padded cells.

Average is not 100 % identical to playing strength. But it’s close. No matter how twisted your logic, no matter how hard you try to make yourself into something you are not: every 0.800 player is a better 3-cushionist than every 0.600 player. Match averages sometimes mean little or nothing. Tournament averages can tell only part of the story. But year averages hardly ever lie. The bigger the numbers, the more solid the truth. Take your last 400 points, and it does not even matter if you took 300 or 1100 innings to make them: that average is your playing strength. You can’t talk your way out of it. Yes, there was that one 70-inning match when you had the flu. And the cloth in your home room should be changed more often. You’re still getting used to the other cue.

Yada, yada, yada.

The only players who have a right to look down on averages, are the ones whose averages are the highest. In World Cups, there is no reward for spectacular scoring. Remember Jae Ho Cho in Guri? He made 120 points in 41 innings (2.926, and that is truly outrageous) but he was just an anonymous loser in the quarterfinals. European players fly to Korea, Asian players come to Egypt, sometimes to play 13 or 14 innings. And even if their play is brilliant, if they never make a mistake in the entire match, it is instantly forgotten if they lose.

The question I asked myself this week was: what would our world ranking list look like if it was not based on wins, but on average? Wouldn’t that be the closest thing to an ELO-rating? It was very easy to answer the question: all I had to do was add up the top players’ points and innings from the last two seasons. Which is what I did, and here’s what I found.

– The top – 12 would only change in one spot. K.R. Kim would be out, Q.C. Tran would be in.

– Sanchez is currently ranked 12th, but his average suggests that he deserves to be ranked quite a bit higher. He missed two tournaments in 2013.

– Blomdahl has really made the most of his 1.753 to lead the world ranking, being only sixth on the average list.

– More or less the same goes for Sung Won Choi, the world champion. Third in the ranking, eleventh in average.

– Caudron and Jaspers neatly tied, in the lead at 1.900. I placed Caudron on top, because he made more points (1391/732 for FC, 1138/599 for DJ). He may not be the world champion anymore, and not the nr. 1 in the world either, but I would still call him the best player in the world today.

– To even have a shot at a top-12 position, you need to play well over 1.500, that much is obvious from the list.

– The Vietnamese guys could have been even higher up if they had played every tournament in the past two years. The results of Diaz and Nady mean little or nothing, their position in the top-30 completely depends on the confederational win (80 pts).

– Where would Horn be, if he had not quit? Where will Sayginer be, once he’s had two seasons to re-establish himself? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’ll say this: Semih has a lot of work to do. Based on today’s playing strength, I can’t see Horn out of the top-15 and I can’t see Sayginer in it.

– Where’s Philip? He’s somewhere in the 400’s. But he could be in 300th place, easily, if he spent a little less time playing defense.