Raúl Fernández vs Kevin Hartman: Crunching the Numbers

Photo taken from FC Dallas' announcement of Fernandez signing: http://www.fcdallas.com/news/2013/01/fc-dallas-signs-goalkeeper-ra%C3%BAl-fern%C3%A1ndez

Using career statistics to weigh FC Dallas' old and new keepers

Whenever a new player signs with FC Dallas it's nice to see if their career stats can offer insights into their general level of play. That was difficult with Pipico (mostly played in lower leagues where stats are rare) and Peter Luccin (defensive midfielders' cocontributions are hard to quantify). Raul Fernandez is another matter, though.

Thanks to Aaron Nielsen of ENB Sports, an excellent statistical resource (@ENBSports on Twitter), we have some useful stats for Fernandez. Of the 160 matches listed below, 146 were played in the Primera División Peruana (mostly for Universitario de Deportes), 12 more Copa Sudamerica matches for Universitario de Deportes, but appeared in Ligue 1 twice for OGC Nice.

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The last row is simply RF/KH for desirable stats and KH/RF for undesirables. It's quite clear that clubs with Fernandez in goal have fared better than those with Hartman between the pipes. However, we are somewhat lacking in context here. In all likelihood, Universitario was much more dominant in Peru than really any club can be in MLS. At the same time, those shutout and goals allowed figures are so much better that it's hard to argue against Fernandez when comparing these keepers. Fernandez is certainly due credit for not only contributing to his club's accomplishments, but also for earning a starting spot on such a successful club in the first place.

Some have been very concerned by Raul's lack of playing time during the last 18 months. In the summer of 2011 he went to Nice, were he became stuck behind the Colombian National Team's #1 keeper, David Ospina. Sure, that situation isn't ideal, but compare it to Brad Guzan's recent career. Guzan left MLS in 2008 but mainly languished on the bench until this year at Aston Villa where he has shown that he became a much better player during that time. That's far from an unrealistic outcome for Fernandez.

There's always risk in showing a respected veteran the door and replacing him with someone outside of the organization. However, when you look at Fernandez accomplishments, consider that he is 11 years younger than Hartman, and see that he starts for a very respectable national team in Peru, it seems a very wise gamble. At the very least, Raul Fernandez' past achievements should force most naysayers to at least retreat to a wait-and-see position.

Here's a clip of Fernandez in action: Youtube is massively overrated as a player evaluation tool, since it pretty much defines selection bias, but not just any keeper can look that good in highlights. Some Peruvian fans have said that they like to refer to him as Blooperman for his Robert-Green-esque moments. However, Fernandez' stats imply that those bad moments are probably quite rare. In all likelihood Fernandez isn't Superman or Blooperman, but a very good keeper somewhere in the middle.

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