Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Sandy Alomar Jr. > Brandon Webb?

Here at Get Untracked, we're big believers in The Wisdom of Crowds, a theory described by New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki in his 1994 book of that name. The author wrote that when a large decisionmaking body meets four criteria: (a) variety of opinions, (b) independence of members, (c) decentralization, and (d) an effective means of collecting opinions, the resulting choices will produce better results than those obtained by following the suggestions of the smartest people in the group.

In preparing for my fantasy baseball draft, I use ESPN's live draft results as one of many references. The list "displays the average position players were selected by team owners in ESPN Fantasy Baseball live drafts. Only players that have been drafted in a significant number of leagues will show up on this list." I believed that the thousands of people drafting teams would collectively provide a better ranking of players than any single projection system like PECOTA, CHONE, ZiPS or MARCEL. I was wrong.

The list starts out just fine, ranking Albert Pujols first, followed by Soriano, A-Rod, Reyes, Johan and Ryan Howard. But when you get to picks 51-100 (click screen capture to your right), things get a little screwy. Pick 52? Sandy Alomar, Jr. Pick 56? Eli Marrero. Pick 64? Pedro Feliciano. It's like Omar Minaya was choosing guys for his "all-Latin Early-90's" themed fantasy team.

It's clear that ESPN's fantasy draft results page doesn't meet Surowiecki's conditions to be a "wise crowd." Perhaps there is not sufficient variety of opinion, independence or decentralization. All the players listed above have Mets connections so perhaps only Mets crazies have held their drafts. (Or one Mets crazy has drafted 13,248 times.)

What's more likely, however, is that this ESPN page is not a good method for aggregating opinions. The far right column of the list shows what percentage of fantasy leagues each player is owned in. For the top MLB players, this should be virtually 100%. Sandy Alomar Jr. was selected with the average 51st pick, but he is owned in only 0.5% of leagues. This contradicts ESPN's promise only to list players drafted in enough leagues to make the list helpful.

Somebody needs to tell the WWL about the technical glitch on their fantasy site. (Dare I say ESPN is having a Sportsline Moment?) Too bad their hallowed ombudsman is leaving...


Clint said...

This is odd. I'll have to take a look at things when performing my ever important ESPN fantasy draft. Hope it doesn't do that in the live draft box.

Anonymous said...

ESPN only counts leagues in which the players are drafted, so although Alomar and Marrero got drafted ridiculously high in 1 or 2 leagues, it doesn't factor in that they got undrafted in all other league.
I bet some other site has a better formula for live draft results

Anonymous said...

yeah when guys arent drafted, a lot of sites will give them a draft position of like "500" or something, so that way they dont get skewed results for the avg draft position when one or two homer meatheads draft their teams backup catcher in the 6th round.

Anonymous said...

i used to play the ESPN leagues.

here is the deal.

when you sign up for a league, there is a draft date. your draft list comes PRE-LOADED. you have to change the default list or your team will suck.

a lot of players do not do this. they figure they will be there live. but the software sucks and people get timed out, are logging off and logging on, and discover that ESPN switched them to "auto-draft" because they went over their 90 seconds.

then they wind up with whatever schlub was next up on the pre-loaded sure-to-suck draft list.

we called this "getting smoltzed" because it happened to an experienced player the year smoltz got injured in the spring and was out for the year. he was on that pre-draft list very high. the guy lost his connection and drafted smoltz.

repairing ESPN's crappy default draft list is the first order of business for anyone who wants to compete in a competitve ESPN league.

that was the deal a few years ago. i quit playing ESPN because they suck. and they never ever delivered the t-shirts or mini banners that were promised to winners. a friend of mine went to comical lengths to get his mini banner. they fought him every inch. finally he got an XXXL t-shirt about eighteen months after that season ended.

they offer a terrible service and i recommend you stay away from them until they get serious about customer service.

Jose said...

Well in one of the leagues i'm in, we have been doing practice drafts to check the software, and people do all sort of funny drafts like Fernando Tatis in the first round.

So maybe, there are many people doing it, and this reflects that.

f theb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

Fantasy sports + wisdom of the crowds =

Minnie said...

This is great info to know.