Fantasy Sports : Since their invention, fantasy sports have allowed fans to feel like they are running their own sports team.
Sports fans are always anxious to prove that their sports knowledge is more accurate than that of other people, and fantasy sports puts that to the test. As always, when there is competition, people go to great lengths to win. This has led to the growth of analytics and computers in fantasy sports.
The most popular forms of fantasy sports are fantasy football or fantasy basketball. In these formats, a group of fans each draft a team of real life athletes. Each team’s performance is dependent on the real world performance of the athletes, meaning that choosing the right roster of players for your team is key.
As the fantasy draft occurs before the real sport season begins, fantasy sports players are effectively trying to project the future performance of professional athletes. In an effort to gain an edge in this fortune telling exercise, fantasy sports players have turned to analytics and machine learning.
Analytics have always been important in sports. After all, the most popular sports in the world all have scores, and scores themselves are statistics. However, in recent years, there has been a push for more advanced metrics that can accurately display how to win, and in team sports, how much individuals contribute to a team’s performance.
As success at the highest level comes down to the finest of margins, the sports world has begun using this information to its advantage. This rise of analytics has completely changed practice in many sports, leading to new strategies and methods of player evaluation.
The most famous example of this is the rise of the three point shot and the death of the midrange in basketball.
The analytics and computer boom in professional sports has been mirrored in fantasy sports. Many companies have gone so far as to invent completely new metrics simply to predict fantasy success.
Some of these metrics, like Yards per Route Run in Football, (A measure of how many yards a receiver gains for his team per attempt,) have useful applications in the actual sports that fantasy sports are based off of. Not only that, some companies have built machine learning algorithms in order to predict future performance.
For example, before the latest NFL season, sports analytics company Pro Football Focus published their predictions for the statlines of elite NFL wide receivers. As fantasy athletes continue to strive for the slightest advantage, more and more predictive analytics and machine learning models will be created.
It is no longer uncommon for fantasy sports fans to quote advanced statistics in order to justify their choices, and as metrics become more and more intricate, so will the decision making process that fantasy sports fans use to make their decisions.
Perhaps the best example of this is the March Madness Bracket challenge. In this fantasy sport, fans try to correctly predict the outcome of every single game of the NCAA Basketball tournament. Famously, Warren Buffet has offered a million dollars per year to any employee of his who correctly guesses the perfect bracket.
Now, if somebody were to guess every matchup randomly, their odds of getting the perfect bracket would be 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,780,000.
If you were to follow the advice of the committee that decides the matchups and guess the higher seed every time, you would raise your odds to 1 in 55,400,000,000. Obviously, these are incredibly slim odds.
However, some companies have created machine learning algorithms to predict the outcome of each game.
Notably, Nate Silver’s 538 has created a matchup predicting model that raises their accuracy to the point where their odds come close to about 1 in 1-2 billion.
Obviously, this is also incredibly low.
However, as machine learning improves, it is possible that we see models built that can improve accuracy to the point where a perfect bracket occurs in our lifetime, and one lucky sports fan is set for life.
However, as the saying goes, if you’re good at something, never do it for free. The companies with the ability and means to create accurate predictions of fantasy success all charge money in exchange for the information.
But, as fantasy sports is a 70 billion dollar industry, these companies have no shortage of customers. In fact, fantasy sports, traditionally an American pastime, have spread to the biggest sport in the world: Soccer.
The official Premier League website now boats over 5 million active fantasy athletes, and this number increases every year. Notably, this website offers extremely advanced data based analysis, further demonstrating the rise of analytics in fantasy sports.
Overall, the future of fantasy sports is similar to that of real sports. More data being analyzed by more and more complicated computer programs in order to get an edge over the competition.
Written by Luca Vernhes
Edited by Calvin Ma