Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Best Among the LPGA's New Blood, January 2014 Edition

This is the 1st time I've ranked the LPGA's rookie classes of 2009, 2010, and 2011 together--the LPGA generation I'm calling "New Blood" for now because its top player, Ji-Yai Shin, has decided to focus on the JLPGA in 2014--using the formula and spreadsheet I debuted last July.

Before going over the actual ranking, let's take a look at the key factors in it and see who's doing the best in each category.

Career Majors
T1. Ji-Yai Shin, Stacy Lewis (2)
3. Anna Nordqvist (1)
T4. [everyone else in the generation] (0)

Career Victories
1. Ji-Yai Shin (11)
2. Stacy Lewis (8)
3. Beatriz Recari (3)
T4. Anna Nordqvist, Michelle Wie (2)
T6. Hee Kyung Seo, Mika Miyazato, Azahara Munoz, Jessica Korda, Ilhee Lee, Jennifer Johnson, Mi Jung Hur (1)

Victory Rate
1. Ji-Yai Shin (10.89%)
2. Stacy Lewis (6.56%)
3. Beatriz Recari (3.23%)
4. Michelle Wie (1.89%)
5. Jessica Korda (1.82%)
6. Anna Nordqvist (1.79%)
7. Jennifer Johnson (1.69%)
8. Hee Kyung Seo (1.45%)
9. Ilhee Lee (1.37%)
10. Azahara Munoz (1.03%)

Top-3 Finish Rate
1. Ji-Yai Shin (22.45%)
2. Stacy Lewis (15.57%)
3. Michelle Wie (10.38%)
4. Azahara Munoz (7.22%)
5. Mika Miyazato (6.60%)
6. Caroline Hedwall (6.38%)
7. Hee Kyung Seo (5.88%)

Top-10 Finish Rate
1. Ji-Yai Shin (46.94%)
2. Stacy Lewis (43.44%)
3. Anna Nordqvist (27.68%)
4. Michelle Wie (23.58%)
5. Mika Miyazato (21.70%)
6. Beatriz Recari (21.51%)
7. Hee Kyung Seo (20.59%)

Think of this stat like batting averages in baseball when it comes to identifying all-time greats on the LPGA!

Top-20 Finish Rate
1. Ji-Yai Shin (70.41%)
2. Stacy Lewis (57.38%)
3. Anna Nordqvist (55.36%)
4. Mika Miyazato (43.40%)
5. Azahara Munoz (42.27%)
6. Caroline Hedwall (40.43%)
7. Beatriz Recari (36.56%)
8. Michelle Wie (35.85%)

Total Finish Rate (no MC, WD, or DQ)
1. Ji-Yai Shin (96.94%)
2. Anna Nordqvist (94.64%)
3. Stacy Lewis (87.70%)
4. Caroline Hedwall (85.11%)
5. Mika Miyazato (83.96%)
6. Hee Kyung Seo (83.82%)
7. Azahara Munoz (83.51%)
8. Jodi Ewart Shadoff (82.98%)
9. Pornanong Phatlum (82.43%)
10. Jessica Korda (81.82%)
11. Beatriz Recari (80.65%)
12. Chella Choi (80.56%)

Think of this stat like free-throw shooting in basketball!

Winnings per Start
1. Ji-Yai Shin ($62.7K)
2. Stacy Lewis ($49.4K)
3. Hee Kyung Seo ($31.9K)
4. Anna Nordqvist ($29.2K)
5. Mika Miyazato ($28.3K)
6. Michelle Wie ($27.8K)
7. Azahara Munoz ($26.9K)
8. Caroline Hedwall ($23.5K)
9. Beatriz Recari ($21.1K)

Winnings per Finish
1. Ji-Yai Shin ($64.7K)
2. Stacy Lewis ($56.4K)
3. Hee Kyung Seo ($38.1K)
4. Michelle Wie ($36.4K)
5. Mika Miyazato ($33.7K)
6. Azahara Munoz ($32.2K)
7. Anna Nordqvist ($30.9K)

Some patterns emerge among the top 7 players in the generation:
  • Ji-Yai is even more dominant in her generation than Ya Ni Tseng is over the rest of the Tseng Dynasty, finishing 1st or T1 in all 9 categories;
  • Stacy is T1 in 1 of the categories, 2nd in 7, and 3rd in 1;
  • Anna is is 2nd in 1, 3rd in 3, 4th in 2, 6th in 1, and 7th in 1;
  • Michelle is 3rd in 2, 4th or T4 in 5, 6th in 1, and 8th in 1;
  • Hee Kyung is 3rd in 2, T4 in 1, 6th or T6 in 2, 7th in 2, and 8th in 1;
  • Mikan is 4th or T4 in 2, 5th in 5, and T6 in 1;
  • Azahara in 4th or T4 in 2, 5th in 1, 6th or T6 in 2, 7th in 2, and 10th in 1.
As I pointed out last July, though, what we really need is a formula we can use to rank all the top players in the generation, whether or not they appear in the above lists or not.  The problem is, counting by rank in each statistical category evens out what can be extreme distances between the players within them.  Better to develop a point system that tracks actual performances and weights them according to their relative significance.  So I came up with the following formula:  100 points per major, 40 points per win, 32 points per victory rate percentage point, 16 points per top-3 rate percentage point, 8 points per top-10 rate percentage point, 4 points per top-20 rate percentage point, 1 point per total finish rate percentage point, and 1 point per $100 in winnings per start and per finish.  Using it, we arrive at the following ranking:

Simply the Best
1. Ji-Yai Shin (3376)

The Contender
2. Stacy Lewis (2702)

The Next Best
3. Anna Nordqvist (1447)
4. Michelle Wie (1357)
5. Hee Kyung Seo (1259)
6. Mika Miyazato (1227)
7. Azahara Munoz (1181)
8. Beatriz Recari (1164)

Quantum Leap Candidates
9. Caroline Hedwall (997)
10. Jessica Korda (862)
11. Chella Choi (782)
12. Ilhee Lee (726)
13. Gerina Piller (692)
14. Jennifer Johnson (688)
15. Jodi Ewart Shadoff (663)
16. Jenny Shin (638)
17. Pornanong Phatlum (604)
18. Mi Jung Hur (597)

The Best of the Rest
19. Haeji Kang (548)
20. Vicky Hurst (506)
21. Mina Harigae (426)

Those who have been following the way I ranked players within each of the 3 classes in this generation will note that this list differs from my actual rankings.  The difference is, in my posts of the last few days, I decided to take into account recent trajectories and future membership statuses.  But to avoid overvaluing those recent trends here and keep this post as objective a career comparison as possible, I decided to stick with the results from the formula and not to reshuffle players within each category myself.  I'll leave that to you!

One final comment:  if you compare these figures to those in my ranking of the Tseng Dynasty (the rookie classes of 2006, 2007, and 2008), you might be tempted to think that the New Blood generation as a whole is a lot less impressive.  Think again.  The 1st few years of an LPGAer's career are always the toughest, if you don't enter the tour as a world-beater (and often, even if you do).  Players who don't dominate right out of the gates can take up to 6 years to really figure out what kind of golfer they are and how best to compete on the LPGA against most of the best female golfers on the planet week in and week out.  Members of the Tseng Dynasty not only have had time to do this, but they've also been around long enough to get and stay hot for extended periods of time.  My ranking system rewards golfers who have had one or more of these kinds of career surges.  Think of golf careers like the tides.  Once you've set a high-water mark or established a long-term pattern of higher water marks than most, the usual ebbs and flows in the shorter term matter less.  So in the next 3 seasons, look for the top players in the New Blood generation to set some marks of their own!  And not just those who have already surged (Shin. Seo) or are surging (Lewis, Hedwall, Recari) or are showing real signs of doing so (Choi, Phatlum, Lee)....

In short, New Blood has not yet begun to fight!  (And it's a good thing for them that the best is yet to come, as they're surrounded by a really tough older generation and a younger generation that's shaping up to be pretty tough, itself!)

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