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Thread: Extracting Value in Fantasy Hockey: Overview (Part 2)

  1. #1
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    Default Extracting Value in Fantasy Hockey: Overview (Part 2)

    Welcome to the second installment of Extracting Value in Fantasy Hockey. Part One of the Overview offered three basic principles that must be used when performing player valuations. To recap, they are:

    1. You will never perfectly identify a player’s true value
    2. Player valuations change as soon as new information arrives
    3. The same player must be valued differently in a different league


    Keeping these principles in mind, this article is going to introduce the effects of cognitive biases on fantasy sports. It will identify four of the main “brain hiccups” we consistently make in our everyday lives, and how they apply to the fantasy teams we work so hard to perfect. There is a lot of content to go over, so let’s get right into it.

    Extracting Value from Cognitive Biases

    Whenever you have to make a decision in life, you will likely be influenced by at least one cognitive bias. While a simple Google search will bring up a vast spectrum of cognitive biases, there are four of them in particular that are vital to successfully extracting value in fantasy sports. Before we dive into any of them, let’s take a moment to discuss what cognitive bias actually is and why it’s stopping you from making better decisions about your fantasy hockey team.

    In its simplest definition, a cognitive bias is an error in our methods of processing information. Sometimes your brain likes to take shortcuts when there is a little too much information to sift through and you are trying to make a decision faster than your brain can process it all. However, as much as I’d like to think I’m a psychologist (or any other expert) from reading too many articles on Wikipedia, all I can really share with you is how each of the following confirmation biases can be applied to fantasy hockey so you can finally win that championship that has been eluding you.

    Confirmation Bias (Oh, you agree with me? Tell me more…)

    When someone adds a new player to their fantasy team, they tend to start looking for positive affirmation that they have made a strong acquisition. More often than not, they become selective about the articles they read and try to focus solely on the upside of their players while ignoring any negativity associated with them. Whether they post their new acquisition in a forum to get feedback or brag about their new player over a beer while watching a game with friends at a bar, they are actively seeking accolades for their move.

    How can you extract value from this? Well, you need to think outside the box on this one. If your opponent has just acquired a top tier right winger (let’s call him RW1) that they are really pumped up about, their valuation of this player is likely sky-high at the moment. It’s not in your best interest to try to trade for this player. However, the players you should absolutely target are the former top two right wingers (let’s call them RW2 and RW3) who have just moved down your opponent’s depth chart. While the value of those players haven’t really changed from an absolute perspective, your opponent’s confirmation bias may have unknowingly devalued the RW2 and RW3 because they are relatively less valuable than the new RW1. By acquiring the RW2 or RW3 at a discount, your team will be better off while your opponent is still beaming about the acquisition of his/her RW1. That’s how you can extract value from confirmation bias.

    Status Quo Bias (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it)

    If a player has been underperforming for three-quarters of a season, how likely are you to notice if he finishes the last twenty games with strong numbers? Not very likely, unless the player is already a household name. The poster boy for this bias is none other than Steven Stamkos in his rookie season. If you recall, Stamkos was the first overall pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning back in the summer of 2008. Contrary to high expectations, he had an abysmal first half of his rookie season. His performance was so underwhelming that a lot of fantasy owners had all but written him off before the season was over. This write-off was due in part to status quo bias. However, if you paid close enough attention to Stamkos’ stats that year, you would have seen that he went from a shooting percentage under 5% for the first half of the season to an astounding 20% for the second half.

    Many fantasy owners had all but written Stamkos off before his rookie season was over. They surely paid the price for not digging into his stats and selling him at such a low value. However, fantasy owners weren’t the only ones who succumbed to status quo bias. In fact, Stammer finished 9th in Calder Trophy voting that year, which shows that even the people who cover the NHL for a living had likely overlooked just how strong a second half Stamkos truly had. Of all the bargains you can find in fantasy hockey, there are few better than what some GMs received when they bought low on Stamkos. These GMs are likely still reaping the rewards of someone else’s mistake. That’s how you can extract value from status quo bias.

    Status quo bias can also be found in a variety of other ways. Do you ever wonder why the top-seeded team gets beat out in the first round of playoffs more often than they probably should? After all, this was the team that destroyed everyone in the regular season, and they just got upset by a team who barely qualified for playoffs! One of the biggest contributing factors to this is the status quo bias. This bias is commonly applied with the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. However, in order to understand what needs to be fixed, you must first understand what is broken. In fantasy hockey, that can be very hard to do sometimes.

    The problem with first place teams is that they have the most difficulty of any team in determining if their team is actually “broken” as playoffs approach. They are usually so far ahead of the pack that even if they drop down a few spots in the standings, they are still within a stone’s throw of first place. The cushion they had built up in the first half of the season ironically becomes an obstacle in their way of determining whether their team is still producing at a top tier rate. On top of this, the first place team is also likely experiencing confirmation bias that their team is next to unbeatable. You can be sure that someone who owns a top tier team has likely posted the team in a few different forums asking for some feedback and quietly hoping for abundant praise. Because of the successes they have enjoyed thus far in the season, their decision-making abilities have become at least a little bit hindered.

    So how can you extract value from this? Well, if you are the first place team, you absolutely need to break the season down into twenty game segments to monitor your performance versus other teams. Just because you are in first place doesn’t mean that people aren’t catching up to you. It is entirely possible that the lowest-seeded team who qualifies for playoffs has actually outperformed the top team for an entire month leading up to playoffs, but this outperformance is masked because the main standings page most people look at are too broad for anyone to notice underlying trends.




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    The forum wouldn't let me post my entire article (too long). See the next post for the last two cognitive biases.


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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Extracting Value in Fantasy Hockey: Overview (Part 2)

    Great Information here. Status Quo bias is one of the biases that advanced stats can really help to eliminate.
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    Default Re: Extracting Value in Fantasy Hockey: Overview (Part 2)

    This is well written, and a great topic. If you post the article one after the other, does the forum combine them?
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Extracting Value in Fantasy Hockey: Overview (Part 2)

    Correct, the forum tries to combine the two posts into one post, and then it tells me the post is too long. Kind of humorous


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    Default Re: Extracting Value in Fantasy Hockey: Overview (Part 2)

    Great read! +1 to you.

    Cheers.

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