Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Would This Be an Indicator of the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Prognosticator?

Over the last couple of years, I've done a few posts regarding fantasy football projections, which you can see here. here. here and here. I have a pretty strong bias that fantasy football magazines aren't significantly more accurate than just predicting what happened last year would happen this year (at least for quarterbacks). Do I buy fantasy football magazines? Of course! Hey, it's fantasy football season! Now I do recognize that I am paying for historical information and a nice paper-based reference. I am not paying $7.95 for rare insight. Nowadays you can get pretty good fantasy info for free.

With regard to accuracy, I've been thinking of what indicator could be a good "tell" that the magazine or publisher might have more on the ball than the competition. Yes, being accurate in every player and position is the objective, but if you could choose just one position and if that accuracy was good, could it be an indicator? I've got an idea here that I will share and you can determine if it has any merit.

I'm thinking that the fantasy prognosticator that does the best with regard to projecting kickers is likely to be accurate with the other positions as well. The reason I say this is that the kicker generally participates in every scoring drive, offensive or defensive. Of course, kickers on good offensive teams will likely score more points, but would they score the most kicker points? Maybe not.

For example, if Kicker 1 on a good team and Kicker 2 on a not so good team are playing each other this week. Team 1 beats Team 2 28-16. Kicker 1 scores 4 extra points or 4 points. Kicker 2 gets 3 field goals and 1 extra point or 10 points. See? Kicker 2 generates more fantasy points.

If a prognosticator gets kicker rankings (and maybe even point projections) correct, they are likely to get other position rankings correct. If they can determine that a kicker is going to get a good number of field goal opportunities but not extra points, that will help paint the picture with regard to quarterback, receiver and running back stats for that team as well. Get the kickers right, and the other positions will follow suit.

That's what I am going to look at this year. I am going to do a follow-up post to lay out a few fantasy football magazines and their Top 15 kickers. We'll see how accurate they are.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Horse Racing Article That Is Right But Wrong

BloodHorse.com has an article that discusses various means by which racetracks can counter declines in handle. I took a look at the article, penned by a couple of authors known in the industry. There are a couple of decent points made, but nothing in the article is that innovative or new. Stating conventional wisdom may fill some pages in a magazine, but doesn't do much if you are a racetrack executive looking for sage advice.

The secondary headline - how to move beyond a broken model - isn't really a "news flash." The decline in handle and the profitability pressures being endured by tracks are well known. For those so inclined, my "critically acclaimed" analysis of the racetrack industry can be found here. The revenue model for horse racing doesn't work anymore given the explosion in competing forms of gaming available to US consumers, compounded by the stupidity of the horse racing industry to not see the threat or even react to it, other than complaining, whining and fighting among the various industry constituencies for an equal or larger share of a decreasing pie.

There really isn't anything wrong with the pari-mutuel wagering method. It's been used in the US and around the world for around a century. If there was some kind of flaw, it would have appeared by now. If the argument is that takeout is too large, perhaps there is an argument. I am of the opinion that takeout should be somewhat lower, on the order of 15% for all types of wagers, straight and exotic.

The article discusses three concepts: reduced takeout, new pari-mutuel wagers and betting exchanges. Again, some decent points are made but miss the mark and in and of themselves aren't likely to be the "killer app" that will save the industry. In addition, some of these concepts have been discussed before in other industry venues, such as RTIP. Nothing new.

The biggest error in the article is the argument that betting exchanges will supplant the pari-mutuel betting model. Not a chance. The reason is obvious. If the industry can't survive with tracks, horsemen, ADWs and state and local governments fighting over how to split a quarter, how is it going to survive with the same folks fighting over how to split a few pennies? If handle, which is declining, would have to double if takeout was reduced to 10%, what about requiring handle to increase by a factor of 7 to obtain the same takeout with betting exchanges? Yeah, right.

Betting exchanges for horse racing aren't a high probability. Betfair can hope and pray and lobby all they like, but I think a snowball has a better chance in the nether regions than betting exchanges for horse racing being approved in the US. Couple that with their purchase of TVG with its ADW operation, what makes Betfair think that the purchase of an ADW would make them more endearing to the tracks?

All these approaches miss the salient point which is that bettors have other options and options they know. They are not horseplayers. The core attractant is the event, not the betting method. Do you really think that people will flock to horse racing just because of a betting method? Hardly. People bet on SOMETHING. It's the SOMETHING that attracts them and they bet on it. If the SOMETHING isn't interesting, they are not going to bet on it given the other SOMETHINGS that exist that have proven to be interesting to bettors (e.g. sports, poker, lottery, casino).

The final paragraph is classic stating the obvious. It reads, "imaginative strategic thinking, multiple tactical approaches, calculated risk-taking, and perseverance in the face of barriers are the ways forward. No single line of attack is a panacea, but maintaining the status quo is untenable." Wow, such wisdom. Too bad the authors didn't mention any of those in the article. I guess they're saving that for the racetrack operators that hire them as consultants. I sure hope that their clients get their money's worth.


Shanklin, W. & Christiansen, E. (2010, July 10), Beyond Pari-Mutuel Wagering, BloodHorse.com.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fantasy Sports a Recession-Proof Industry

The Huffington Post, of all sources, had a story this week listing ten recession-proof industries. Fantasy sports was one of them. The article is correct. Fantasy sports is a great fit for a recession-proof industry. Why, you ask? Here's why:

In tough economic times, entertainment is a great escape. Movies did exceptionally well during the Depression - so did sports. Of course there are more entertainment options today given the advances in gaming. Sports is just as popular as ever. What fantasy sports adds is the ability to allow the fan to utilize their skill to prognosticate performance of sports players and to pit those skills against others for bragging rights and even cash prizes. With the poor economy, the ability to get some additional cash is just a sweetener. Fantasy sports adds a bonus to the entertainment and escape value of sports.

There are fantasy games for just about every sport available. Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, golf, auto racing - even fishing have fantasy games. Research from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimate almost 30 million Americans play fantasy sports.

In these tough economic times, fantasy sports is something that can expand the entertainment value of sports viewership, extending the involvement of the fan to cover the entire week. That is a very good value.

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