LINK: Scars of the Game

Screenshot 2015-10-06 10.11.37The New York Times has a surprisingly engaging photo essay about elbows, Tommy John surgery, and the scars that are left behind.

Today’s Daily Fantasy Sports Controversy

I first learned about it from industry friends, who pointed to a story in today’s New York Times.  The story originally broke in a discussion forum at Rotogrinders.com.

It seems a Draft Kings employee who writes about ownership percentages (how many Draft Kings players rostered particular NFL players in any given week) at Draft Kings finished second in a Week 3 contest at FanDuel and took home $350,000.

This same DK employee had accidentally published the ownership percentages before the DK games had locked that same week, demonstrating that some individuals have access. This wasn’t known before.

Big fantasy tournaments have thousands of entries, and there is a competitive advantage in avoiding commonly-rostered players. So the first question is whether the employee was using his Draft Kings information at FanDuel?

The second question is who actually has access to his information and, while they’re not allowed to play on the sites they work for, do they use it to play on other sites?

The answers are, perhaps not unsurprisingly, murky. Daily fantasy sports is an unregulated (so far) business. And while that seems likely to change, for now players are reliant on their trust of the game makers themselves.

The website legalsportsreport.com has an excellent What we know now about the situation, which attempts to answer all the questions raised here.

It’s hard for me to believe that these games are intentionally crooked. There seems to be too much money to be made for them to cut corners, but it is also true that if there is a way to get an advantage somehow someone is going to figure it out and take it. Which is why the legal gambling industry works hard to maintain a squeaky clean reputation. Trust is important.

Trust is unraveling in DFS, today, and the operators are going to have to work to earn it back.

The Ecstasy and Agony of Daily Fantasy Baseball.

My friend Ron Shandler does a good job describing the daily fantasy game in this story at Shandler Park, about a near-win in Tout Daily at FanDuel last week.

justinbourThe question is whether he did better because he put more time and effort into making those picks. It looks to me like you can certainly make bad picks by taking guys who don’t play that day, for instance, but there is so much variance from day to day that the reasonable picks (Bour versus Adams, on any particular night) are essentially a crap shoot.

Once you throw out the bad picks, the way the games play gives winners the illusion of control, while losers can only wish they’d picked better.

 

LINK: How To Stay Sane in Baseball

Former Cub Adrian Cardenas has a piece at the New Yorker’s website about the mental issues that come up for players playing baseball. There’s a much bigger story out there, but he does a good job of mixing his personal story with a wider perspective.

You can read it here.

LINK: New Improved Fantasy Baseball Team Name Generator

Screenshot 2015-02-26 16.55.30Last year we linked to the Fantasy Baseball Team Name Generator, which makes up fantasy baseball team names from MLB and player team names, and random memes in the zeitgeist, or something like that.

There is a new and updated version of the Generator up now, in case you’re in need of a name.

LINK: Making the Most of the LABR Mixed Draft!

The LABR Mixed Draft was held this week, and Josh A. Barnes makes an excellent point over at FakeTeams about how to make use of it. In a nutshell, ignore the guys who went higher than expected, since those picks may be the ravings of a single lunatic, but look closely at the guys who dropped below expectations. These are the guys the experts are collectively cool on.

While fine tuning my projections, I’m going to take a closer look at some of these guys, like Adam Wainwright, Josh Harrison, Felix Hernandez, Justin Upton and Mark Trumbo, today over at PattonandCo.com. Read Barnes’ story, for sure, and stop by at Pattonandco.com to get another take.

Can Something New Be Said About the Choice Between Running and Passing on Second Down in the Super Bowl?

As the clock counted down to the end of the Super Bowl Sunday night, the announcers speculated that maybe Bill Belichick should stop the clock, to give his team a chance to march the length of the field after the inevitable TD. But Belichick didn’t.

I would like to say that I assessed the situation and determined what the right thing to do was, for everyone, but mostly riding on the giddy head of Jerome Kearse’s insane catch moments before, all I was thinking was that the Seahawks were going to win in a most improbable manner. No way could they fail, I was thinking.

Iwouldbutidied

After the interception the social media blew up with astonishment that the Seahawks didn’t give the ball to Marshawn Lynch, and let him run for a touchdown. That seemed like the safe thing to do, and it certainly would have covered Pete Carroll’s ass, but Matthew Iglesias explained on Vox yesterday why throwing the ball on second down made good sense. In short, and ignoring the significant third possible outcome, a pass would have led to a Touchdown or a stopped clock, which would have allowed the Seahawks, if they didn’t score, to either run or pass on third down—since they had only one timeout left. In other words, by passing, the Seahawks would have time for three plays. If they ran they would have had time for two (or would be obliged to pass on third down, with everyone knowing the pass was coming).

Now, this is kind of true, but not only didn’t Pete Carroll use this explanation after the game for his decision, but such rational thinking about the situation gets in the way of game theory, and the need to mix it up in order to keep your opponent off balance.

Justin Wolfers explains in today’s New York Times that good and effective strategy depends on randomizing one’s choices. If the best choice is to run, and you always run, your opponent will defense against the run and running will no longer be your best choice.

Which raises the interesting question: If Belichick is so smart, shouldn’t he have realized that the Seahawks better strategy was to pass? And if he realized that, wouldn’t he assume Pete Carroll would also realize that? And, if Pete Carroll thought passing was the better strategy and he assumed that Belichick would also assume so, wouldn’t he be obliged to change up his plans and call for a run?

It’s important to remember that game theory helps us figure out the competing motives, but before time runs out a decision has to be made.

That it was to pass was fine, I think, but I wonder about throwing the ball into the middle of all that stacked defense. Why not throw over the head of a receiver running to the corner after a play action? Or have Russell Wilson roll out and throw if a receiver was open, with at least the option of carrying the ball in if they were defensed?

What we know for sure is that, no matter what the coaches were thinking, Malcolm Butler saw what was happening and stepped up at the right time. Nice play.

LINK: Baseball is Dying! Again and again and again!

BYD-BostonBaseballNavy_largeGrantland’s Bryan Curtis visits baseball historian John Thorne, and surveys the literature of baseball is dying stories. The first one dates from 1868.

In a HardballTalk story from September, Craig Calcaterra showed the fallacy of  current baseball is dying stories, over and over and over.

The Royals

They’re in the World Series, and the usually critical Joe Posnanski does a good job of rolling back the years, and finding a sliver of possible evidence that Ned Yost is responsible for some of the Royals’ post season run.

For me, the evidence is that when player’s play good things can happen. The bad possible thing is if a manager gets in the way.

The Ned Yost story seems to bear that out. His basic impulse is good. Empower the players so they do their best. Which is powerful, since his in game sense is weak. But maybe that isn’t as important, especially when you’re on a run.

At this point we really have no idea. Joe’s anecdotal piece makes a strong anecdotal argument that the manager is happenstance, mostly. But we don’t really know, as Joe’s history of Royals managers, a part of the story, seems to lay out quite vividly.

 

Map of US Baseball Players’ Birthplaces

Screenshot 2014-10-08 09.01.24What if you took the birthplaces of all the US born major league baseball players since 1900 and mapped them into 50 states of equal size?

And what if you gave them cute names based on a famous ballplayer who was born in that imaginary state?

You would have this map. If you did it for current ML players, you would have this map. I was born on either Long Yastzremski or Markakis York.

And you would have this story that maps the birthplaces of NLF, NBA and NHL players, too.