Stats Analysis: Assessing the remarkable rise of Luke Humphries

Luke Humphries (PDC)

In his latest column, PDC stats analyst Christopher Kempf analyses the remarkable rise of Luke Humphries, comparing his trajectory to Dutch superstar Michael van Gerwen over the last six years...

Humphries v MVG comparison

Darts commentators of 2017 could only watch a 22-year-old Luke Humphries rack up titles on the Development and Challenge Tour without knowing much of the calibre of talent that the darts world had on its hands.

Such was the uncertainty of the pre-DartConnect era of PDC darts that, apart from brief glimpses of young players in ProTour events, little statistical information could be gathered about promising young talent. 

Averages from Humphries' 2017 Youth Tour campaign have been lost to history, but they were sufficiently impressive to earn him five titles and a PDC Tour Card.

Cool Hand's professional career thus begins at the dawning of the DartConnect era, making him the first top-five player to have had every one of his darts thrown as a PDC professional recorded for posterity.

Now that Humphries has won three ranking TV events in dominant fashion, it's worth taking a look back on the six-year rise of this Newbury master. 

His debut as a PDC Tour Card Holder was massively overshadowed by the World Championship triumph of Rob Cross, who is only four-and-a-half years older than Humphries.

At the time, attention paid to youth darts was focused mainly on UK Open runner-up Corey Cadby and BDO World Youth champion Justin van Tergouw. 

Meanwhile, Humphries - eliminated in the preliminary round of the 2018 World Championship - did not reach a ProTour quarterfinal until October 2018. 

Darts history is replete with promising young players who achieve extraordinary things at an early age, but never fulfil their promises later in adulthood, and it was unclear through 2018 whether this player from Newbury had the potential for PDC stardom.

By compiling a list of the more than 7000 legs played by Luke Humphries in ProTour events, Tour-Card qualifiers and senior TV tournaments, and taking the average of his last 200 legs played on every day in which Humphries played a match, we can for the first time see the trajectory of a player's evolution from talented youth tour alumnus to #1 form player in professional darts.

Few players over the past six years have shown such improvement. In the first two years of his Tour Card, Humphries rarely exceeded a 95 average for any consecutive 200-leg period.

He also spent much of the summer and autumn of 2018 closer to a 90 average, below the median for a PDC Tour Card Holder. 

But all the while, the trend line of his graphed averages was pointing up: Humphries' averages have increased by 0.09 points per month as a general trend. The impact of that improving standard, however, has not obeyed the same linear relationship. 

The world number three’s prize money has approximately doubled every year since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 100 average over 200 legs with which he finished his successful campaign puts him on a PDC-best OChE rating of 68.79.

This indicates that Humphries would win more than 2/3 of all legs played against ProTour opponents in general on current form.

Humphries' trajectory is even more striking when compared with that of Michael van Gerwen over the same six-year period.

In 2018, Van Gerwen averaged 112 in a Premier League final and had reached a 104 average over 200 legs on two occasions, while Humphries was trying to secure his Tour Card. 

The trend lines of the two have converged ever since, with the Dutchman falling off by 0.05 points every month from his historic best and Humphries improving at nearly twice that rate to the point that in late September 2023, Humphries' trend line has crossed over MvG's, suggesting that on current trends, Humphries will continue to be on better form than the three-time World Champion. 

In an individual head-to-head match, however, only a few missed doubles [as shown in Minehead] prevented a very different analysis of Van Gerwen's recent performances from being written, after he appeared to be on the cusp of an 11-5 win against Humphries. 

Their budding rivalry will continue to define the best in professional darts performance, and Van Gerwen will always be capable of nine-darters and astonishing averages, but the long-term trend suggests that a changing of the guard is taking place.

In the Grand Slam final, though he managed to replicate some of the form which contributed to his heroic achievements of early 2018, Rob Cross was soundly beaten in a 24-leg match by Humphries and his 104.69 average. 

Humphries has already developed from a promising young player into an elite, tournament-winning professional through six years of consistently improving form. 

The only question remaining is: how much longer can that trend continue? Pushing toward the 200-leg 105 average approached by Van Gerwen will not only mean more trophies to keep in his cabinet, but a brush with immortality.