"Where would the Blues be without Patrick Cripps?"
It's the frightening hypothetical many Carlton fans shudder at as they contemplate another wooden spoon season.
The fortunes of the Blues and their captain in 2019 couldn't be more contrasting: the team is again at rock bottom with one win and a league-worst defensive record, while Cripps -- until a down game against GWS on Sunday -- is producing a dominant season that has him Brownlow Medal favourite with most bookmakers.
As the Blues slumped to a 93-point mauling at the hand of GWS, their dependency on Cripps was exposed as their premier midfielder was held to just three kicks, nine handballs, one clearance, four tackles and a paltry 32 metres gained against the league's No. 1 stopper Matt de Boer. With Cripps well held, no one else was able to step up for Brendon Bolton and Co.
While some of Bolton's 'green shoots' have sprouted this year -- notably No. 1 pick Sam Walsh, key forward Harry McKay, and the rejuvenated Jacob Weitering -- Sunday's debacle once again made many wonder just what would happen to Carlton if their inspirational skipper missed an extended period of footy.
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Ep. 13 of the @ESPNAusNZ #AFL pod:
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It wouldn't be pretty, judging by Champion Data's Player Ratings points for each club's best and second-best player in 2019.
Player Ratings points measure players' performance across every game using equity. They take into account all stats and assess every single action of every player, determining the impact of each action. A final score -- either positive or negative -- is awarded to player's rating compared to his peers.
This year's stats show the gap between Cripps and the next best Blue, Zac Fisher, is almost 50 percent larger than the next biggest gap between a club's top two players.
Cripps -- the league's No. 1 player, according to Champion Data at 173 Player Ratings Points -- is 65 points higher than Fisher while the next biggest gap, between Lachie Neale and Lions teammate Dayne Zorko, is 44 points.
The ratings also highlight the fact Carlton only have two players with at least 100 points this season - the second lowest in the league (Gold Coast have just 1). North Melbourne have three while every other team has between four and six players in triple figures.
It all adds up to a massive headache for Bolton and the Blues' development team, who must find a way to better support their superstar skipper because the gap between Cripps and his navy blue peers speaks volumes not just about his herculean efforts in 2019, but also the gulf of quality underneath him.