Yes, Counter Logic Gaming is underperforming and yes, some of its players are struggling. Reading too much into their current 1-3 standings in the North American LCS might be a mistake though. Two of their losses came against two of the strongest teams and their numbers are not as bad as a second-to-last win rate would suggest. Given the harsh criticism the team and its members have received over the past week, I thought it would be a good idea to take a closer look at their summer split start and assess CLG’s prospects for the upcoming weeks. I will begin with the negative — the players — before providing some hope for their fans. The data I use is created from the NA LCS match histories and most of it can be found in our Statistics Hub.
With CLG having a standout performance at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, expectations for players such as Huhi and Stixxay, both of whom were questioned during the spring split, were high coming into the summer split. Especially Huhi, who has to make up for his average to sub-par laning-phase by being a team-oriented player, has struggled. His creep score difference at 10 minutes of plus 2.1 were pretty solid during the spring regular season, but has dropped considerably to minus 7.7. While this might be explained by dominant lane-opponents such as Team Solomid’s Bjergsen and Cloud 9’s Jensen, his 63.6% kill participation (KP) — lowest among all NA mid-laners — is painting the picture of a player who is letting his team down. This is a big concern for CLG and it is difficult to tell if this is a temporary slump, a problem that is solved by better macro play or the realization that Huhi’s strengths are not enough to make up for his weaknesses.
Another player not performing to his always-confident standards is Darshan. He did have some decent games, and the shift to more carry-oriented top-laners should suit him, but his impact on the game has decreased since MSI and he is lacking consistency. His Kills-Deaths-Assist ratio (KDA) is 1.9, which is mainly due to the fact that he is often times not involved in important situations (his KP is 54.2%, second-to-last for all NA players!). Given his past performances, I would not worry about him too much though. Darshan has been a standout player for years and his skill and experience will likely allow him to adapt and provide the pressure his team needs to succeed.
Stixxay, Xmithie and Aphromoo, despite not knocking anyone’s socks off, are playing decently and should be able to improve their performances as CLG regains their footing. While bot-lane showings like that in game 1 versus Cloud 9 are unacceptable, one would think that this was a one-time irregularity not to be repeated anytime soon.
There are two main reasons why I predict CLG to perform better in the upcoming weeks. One is that experience matters. Whether it is basketball, soccer, chess or any other type of competition, experience matters. And experience at winning matters even more. CLG is the two-time defending NA LCS champion and second place finisher at this year’s MSI. Having gone through ups and downs and still coming out ahead can be a source of calmness when the going gets rough.
The other reason I think the team is due for improvement in the standings can be found in advanced statistical metrics that give a more detailed look at teams’ performances than wins and losses. While winning alone stands for success, it does not tell the whole story. Standings don’t discriminate between close games and stomps and four best of 3’s can be a very misleading predictor of future success. CLG has played ten games, of which they have only won three. But compared to other teams at the bottom of the NA LCS, they have spent more time with sizable leads where they were in possession of 52% or more of the total gold (from now on called significantly ahead) and less time with 48% or less of the total gold (significantly behind). Furthermore, their gold difference at 15 minutes is close to zero and indicates average early-game performance.
Looking beyond gold, CLG has a dragon control rate of 51.4%, only trailing TSM, Team Envy and C9, and a first blood rate of 50%. While none of the above helped them win many games, they show a team that is putting itself in a position to have a chance. Another way to look at the low KP numbers for some of the players is an overall coordination problem. Their lackluster individual play is aggravated by the fact that they seem to have lost their knack for team-fighting since MSI. We have seen how well CLG can play together and I expect them to improve in that department, lifting up the struggling individuals as they go along. Given a larger number of games and more time to fix macro-related issues in the late game, CLG should come out ahead more often.
After evaluating the team and its players, the remaining aspect to look at is strength of schedule. A close win versus Team Liquid and a loss to a highly motivated Apex is nothing to write home about, but their 1-3 start should be put into the context of matches against early-split powerhouses TSM and C9. Those two rank first and second in percentage of time spend significantly ahead as well as gold difference at 15, which speaks to the dominant fashion in which they have won most of their games. CLG’s performance versus those top teams was not great, but not underwhelming either. In three out of the four games they were able to somewhat keep up in the early game, only to see things go downhill from there.
While this might not boost my confidence in the team’s abilities, the numbers also don’t justify a long-term negative outlook for the team. CLG has been close enough, on average, to warrant hope and despite the uncertainty regarding Huhi’s future performance, a roster with this much proven skill and recent experience is definitely better than its bad start suggests. Expect them to recover in time for a push towards a better playoff seeding.