As Phil Taylor prepares to play in his final tournament - the 2018 World Darts Championship - we assess his performances in recent years…
Taylor’s gradual decline in results is not necessarily a result of his own displays dipping, but according to the numbers, his rivals have improved to stop his long-held dominance.
A cross-section of Taylor’s past 17 World Darts Championship reveals an overall average of 100 on the nose, which remarkably is higher than the likes of Michael van Gerwen or Gary Anderson, 98 and 97 respectively, despite their much shorter and more compact careers.
Even a long-time rival like Raymond van Barneveld, one of Taylor’s longest-serving oche opponents, has an overall average of 96 since 1995.
That stat is made even more remarkable when Taylor’s win percentage is considered, across the past 17 installments of the competition. He has won 91 percent of matches which is streaks ahead of Van Barneveld, on 80 percent, who has comparable longevity.
Taylor’s win percentage is miles ahead of the rest (Adrian Lewis is closest, with just 80 percent including two world title victories) and, perhaps surprisingly, Van Gerwen has won just 75 percent of the time.
Van Gerwen’s tenure at the top has obviously been far shorter than Taylor’s and included two world titles already yet the numbers prove that, at Ally Pally, ‘The Power’ is still a dominant force.
Breaking down those numbers into more manageable timeframes further evidence Taylor’s consistency – from his early days, through his peak years, and now into the period that critics might claim is his weakest.
Let’s analyse the five-year span from 1995 to 2000 when Taylor won every World Darts Championship trophy, thereby owning a 100 percent win percentage. Through those years (and 25 matches) his overall average was 98, the highest in the field.
His nearest rival Van Barneveld averaged 94 over the five year span with an 80 percent win percentage, nowhere near enough to challenge a peak Taylor.
In the next five year time-frame, between 2000 and 2005, Taylor won four out of five World Darts Championship titles giving him a win percentage of 96 percent.
But the key issue is that his overall average calculated through these years remained at a steady rate, just shy of 100 (the exact same number as Taylor’s average across the past 17 years).
Between 2000 and 2005 Taylor’s closest rival was again Van Barneveld, who averaged 97 over five years, but the likes of Ted Hankey (94) and Richie Davies (93) achieved a much inferior average across half the amount of matches.
This demonstrates how Taylor’s average of just below 100 was once good enough to dominate the World Darts Championship until the numbers posted by his rivals gradually improved.
It’s the same story in the next segment of five-year time-frames between 2005 and 2010 when Taylor won four out of five world titles at Ally Pally. His average actually improved slightly to 102 across the five tournaments while Van Barneveld’s, still his closest challenger, fell away slightly to 95, the same as Lewis’.
This span of time represents Taylor being the furthest clear of those chasing him. But suddenly, in the past seven years, a dramatic change in the statistics tells a fascinating story.
Taylor, as we have discussed, remains consistent but the statistics posted by a newer generation of players began to usurp him.
‘The Flying Scotsman’ Anderson lead the way between 2010 and 2017 with an average of 100 and an 85 percent winning record having collected the top prize twice. Van Gerwen, also a two-time champion and last year’s winner, is behind Anderson with an average of 99 and has an identical winning percentage.
Taylor’s numbers are steady but, even behind him, the chasing pack caught up with Van Barneveld particularly closing the gap (the same average of 98 and a winning percentage of 75, just one percent behind ‘The Power’ despite not winning the tournament during this period).
Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright, a new and colourful contender who is yet to win the top trophy, matched Taylor’s average of 98 across the past seven years.
Taylor’s average remained the same as in previous timespans, around 98, but his winning percentage between 2010 and 2017 plummeted, evidencing how his decline in success is due to his opponents’ improvements rather than his own poor performances.
A winning average at the World Darts Championship that had been in the 90s throughout his record-breaking career suddenly fell to 78 percent, owing to six defeats in the past seven years. Incredibly that is only one defeat more than Van Gerwen, Anderson or Lewis since 2010 which speaks volumes of the increasingly fine margins at the summit of the sport.
Anderson and Lewis had an 85 percent winning record in that duration, and Van Gerwen 83 percent, which soars them past Taylor. Over the course of the past 17 years Taylor has the best winning percentage (91) of any player who has competed in at least five matches.
Anderson (83), Lewis (80) and Van Barneveld (76) trail him considerably but, unfortunately for Taylor, he can no longer rely upon statistics that encompass his entire career. He has robotically remained steadfast, for all his brilliance and for all his flaws.
But only now is Taylor having to deal with such high-level opponents who are limiting his success.
This year he will likely play to the same level as he has always played – but, as he has found at the past seven tournaments, there are now players who can play better than him.