Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks, plus a look back at The Valspar Championship

by thesanction1

Here we go… Tomorrow is probably one of the most exciting Thursday’s of the year – the Arnold Palmer and the NCAA tournament both kick off mañana. The Valspar Championship was fun, and I obviously love watching golf but there’s just something special about the NCAA.  For those of you who love computation and are participating in a March Madness bracket, I found this great site for creating small programs to fill out one’s bracket computationally: I’ll be entering the bracket created by my 20 line little program in the Buffet Bracketology Billion-dollar Blowout (name not trademarked), can’t wait to see how it goes. 

Look back at Valspar Championship

The same caveats as always apply to this analysis.  

As usual the comparison picks are from Notorious at, a very well respected name in the daily fantasy sports industry. If you don’t know what these graphs are showing (and you care) then just go to first fantasy golf post that’s hyperlinked above – it contains all the explanations of the relevant concepts used in this analysis. 

Below is a grid showing Notorious’ draft street points projections (DSP), the rescaled draft street points projections (RescaledDSP), the machine’s RescaleDSP and the actual RescaleDSP’s:

Picks_Valspar Championship_2014_MFP_Grid

Last week was somewhat indifferent from a prediction standpoint. The average prediction was actually quite good – but I just feel like the myth of parody is rearing its ugly head. If you picked any of the last four winners on tour, well, you’re a liar! John Sendon? Really?! Where’s Adam Scott, Dufner, Luke Donald, Justin Rose? Wasn’t there some guy named after a jungle-animal that was pretty good at one point? I mean, the household names are really falling flat thusfar this year, but I don’t think the right thing to do is to go against the statistics and start picking no-names. In fact, I’d argue that money has probably shifted hands from sharps to fish in this first part of the PGA season – which bodes well for the back half of the season assuming the world becomes more rational again.  The point is that even a highly diversified sharp would probably not have a squad with John Senden on it last week, or even Patrick Reed the week prior week given the strength of the field at the Cadillac.  Of course – and according to one of my favorite adages in finance – the market can always stay insane longer than you can stay solvent. But I don’t recommend jumping ship because you haven’t picked a winner this year; I don’t buy the parody argument (yet), and I look forward to the best golfers re-establishing themselves moving forward. Hopefully it starts with Scott this week!

Anyway – on with the analysis… Looking at the RMSE, this week the Machine did extraordinarily well when compared to Notorious on this measure (and you can think of RMSE as a measure of the ‘general goodness’ of the predictions):

Picks_Valspar Championship_2014_RMSE_Grid

It turns out that no blending with Notorious’ methods produced the optimal RMSE last week – but there’s a valuable lesson to be learned hiding in the details of this statement. Check out the blending curve below:

Picks_Valspar Championship_2014_Blending_Plot

The farther left you are on this line, the more of the machine’s projections you are using, the farther right here represents Notorious. So last week was a rare example where the Machine outperformed Notorious on average such that blending the two predictions would not provide any average lift in the resulting RMSE. But that’s a very loaded statement.

Fantasy sports is not always about making the best average prediction.  It’s often times enough to have 4-6 excellent predictions: if you project 6 golfers perfectly as finishing in positions 1-6, and those are the golfers that make up your team, it really doesn’t matter how well you predict the other 144. The overarching theme here is that more accurate average predictions do not necessarily translate to better fantasy performance in a world where total diversification is impossible. Unfortunately for people like myself I don’t get to pit my predictions for every single golfer against every single other persons predictions for every single golfer. I make the best predictions I can, and then pick a group of 6-12 from different points in the salary range that I’ve predicted to do well (alas, John Senden didn’t make the cut last week) and try to setup some semblance of diversified rosters using that group. Did you catch the absurdity there? I have what I consider to be state of the art projections for 144 golfers and but only 12 of them really matter to me in a given week… yikes… it’s an open invitation for increased variance – but there’s only so much time in the day and, to be honest, trying to follow the performance of more than 12 golfers during a tournament gets annoying.  

Here’s the cut percentage for both of us:

Picks_Valspar Championship_2014_Made_Cut_Grid

As well as the machine did at RMSE reduction, it was ousted by Notorious in the percentage of golfers correctly projected to make the cut. So the interpretation here is that Notorious’ method did a better job of predicting the rank order in terms of fantasy performance, while the Machine did a better job at predicting the actual performances. 

Finally for those less mathematically inclined an idea of how many of the ‘top-n’ players were predicted correctly in each method.  Keep in mind all the caveats around who gets included in this analysis… If I get the comment ‘But, so-and-so didn’t finish in the top 10!’ I’m going to be very disappointed, dear reader. 

Picks_Valspar Championship_2014_TopN_Grid

I’d say we both had an average to below average predictive outing.  Predicting 1 of 5 top fives is nice – but only predicting 1 of 10 top 10’s is average at best.  Notorious bested the Machine in picking the top 25, but I wouldn’t say either of us is too excited with 50% or less in this category. 

Ok, glad to be back on track with the Notorious comparisons, and the more detailed analysis of the projections. The next interesting thing I’d want to explore is how the projections are different in specific cases; while on average the Machine does well, it might be the case that the bulk of its errors are, for instance, related to players on the Champions or tour who are ‘playing up’ on the PGA. Or, perhaps, the Machine is going wrong wherever the data is very thin about a golfer – giving them too much or too little credit. Unfortunately these types of investigations will have to wait for another day (my next vacation!).

At this point everything is leading up the to Masters, where DraftStreet has already announced the first ever $100K guaranteed tournament for fantasy golf (they are running satellites into this tourney this week for the  Arnold Palmer Invitational).  DraftKings answered the call with their $300K Spring Golf Classic, maintaining their spot in my mind as the premier golf offering in the DFS space.

There are indeed great things to come, but right now we’ve got ourselves an Arnold Palmer Invitational to dominate!

Picks for the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Here they are:

Picks_Arnold Palmer Invitational_2014

The red line here represents the cut, based off of these projections (the cut being returned to its normal 70 count). 

I’d be remise if I failed to mention that the top projected golfer here as withdrawn from tournament; if you have Tiger on your squad tomorrow you absolutely cannot point the finger my way 🙂 (and God help you, he’s expensive). 

Other notables – Scott and Mahan I always like, other notables include Patrick Reed (who the machine seems to be taking quite seriously after the win), as well as Will-Mac, Molinari, and Every. 

At any rate – time is still short, but I’m happy to get back on track with the blog and I apologize for the delays during the transition from %MFDSP to RescaleDSP – those bugs were easier to fix than I imagined but 15 minutes can be hard to scrounge up these days. Good luck everyone in your contests.  Talk to you next week.