Can you Moneyball in lolesports scouting?

CLG head Coach Weldon Green believes in applying moneyball tactics to the LCS. However, many do not believe that is the case. In fact, many frown at the idea of statistics as a scouting method in lolesports.

Why is that the case?

While moneyballing lolesports scouting is unheard of, it is not impossible. Moneyball tactics can be a thing when people nail down on a central structure to win games. Once that structure of winning is there, the moneyball method will make much more sense moving forward with lolesports scouting techniques.

Prior to the Oakland Atheltics, on base percentage was not even a statistic that people could see on baseball cards. Now, it is one of the most highly coveted titles to win and for good reason. Teams cannot score runs if people are not on base. On that same note, hits are not the only way to get on base.

In baseball, that structure is through high on base percentages to win games, but that obviously is not the solution for lolesports scouting.

statistics are the driving factor behind the greatest sports teams in traditional sports. The Oakland Athletics would never make playoffs without statistics and a minuscule budget. Not every team can build their dream roster. This is because money is not a toy and players are unpredictable. Being reliant on surprise overperformances is not a structural approach to scouting. While it is certainly nice to have those moments with players, that is not consistent.

However, it is very possible to spur more of these events.

A team like Cloud9 is notoriously known for developing talent across multiple esports titles. In fact, Cloud9 are the only team in LCS Academy to make semifinals every single split. They are the most successful Academy system and for good reason, they know how to scout players. Cloud9 know how to build a great team. However, they do not use either or to scout and neither did Weldon.

Weldon Green uses a player feedback loop that is responsible in scouting Ruin to CLG.

“We did peer feedback again. We talked to his opponents, his ex-coaches, his ex-teammates, and talked to Korean coaches as well to get that perspective, and then obviously, we ran the numbers.”

CLG Top Laner Ruin prior to a game against Cloud9 via lolesports flickr. Photo by Colin Young-Wolff.

Prior to joining CLG, Ruin was a top laner for 1907 Fenerbahce, Giants Gaming and SK Gaming at one point. The korean top laner recently found success on 1907 Fenerbahce, attending his very first international tournament as a player. Now, he is enjoying an amazing turnaround split for Counter Logic Gaming.

There is a lot more that goes into developing the moneyball tactics in League of Legends. In fact, Weldon Green scoffs at the idea of Clutch Gaming’s claims to be a statistics based team. That is because random statistics and numbers can also be bad for scouting. If lolesports scouting became based around unimportant factors like kills, that would be bad for lolesports scouting. Instead, Weldon and CLG have a sustainable approach to their roster decisions moving forward.

Statistics in esports are important because they make esports consistent and player scouting more efficient. Without statistics, esports teams will continue to be luck and connection based without looking at certain statistics. If we continue to judge players through word of mouth, lolesports will become one big networking event. That is something that needs to be avoided.

However, statistics are not always the answer. Statistics can also be the downfall to scouting talented players. That is very likely why we do not see statistics being used very much. Unfortunately, there is no proven method that works. All that is known is that there needs to be a balance between the two. While we cannot just solely rely on eyeball scouting tactics anymore, we cannot rely on statistics. A good combination of both will ensure a healthier format to finding players. With a perfect balance, like Cloud9, you will see academy players entering LCS more. We need to follow this format for developmental systems and low budget teams to find success. This is necessary for the growth of lolesports scouting.

The future of lolesports scouting is a marvel in itself. With developmental leagues like Scouting Grounds and amateur leagues, statistics are everywhere in league. However, if we continue to use wrong statistics, a negative perception about them will continue in lolesports scouting. Finding a balance between both eyeball scouting and statistics based scouting is a must. That balance may not even be 50-50 for some teams. However,  it should never be 100 percent one or the other anymore. Whether that perfect balance is skewed towards one or the other will be interesting to find. With a growing landscape of various people from different backgrounds, the moneyball question will eventually unfold itself. Until then, teams will need to play things by ear in order to find what lolesports scouting tactic works best for their team.

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