Anecdotes and unsolicited punditry ruled fantasy gaming conversations. Then the math nerds crashed the party. Here’s a look at the impact of sports analytics.
It may have started off as a bit of chiding banter amongst friends, an addictive hobby online for people to gloat over their predictive sporting acumen. But today, it has become one of the world’s fastest-growing industries, attracting a new user base each day through its myriad choices.
The fantasy gaming industry has grown leaps and bounds in the past 10 years, emerging as a viable avenue for income for a few sports-crazed data nerds; and a major contributing factor for that growth is the advent of sports analytics and big data.
Sports analytics has peculiarly helped both the fantasy gaming industry and fantasy gamers to profit.
For industry experts, player performance data directly influences betting and gaming companies to make odds or create virtual games.
In football, metrics like shot accuracy, pass completion, tackles won, and so on end up determining player values for season-long fantasy games. Studying existing player data, fantasy game creators are able to pick a correct price range for players who are new to the respective leagues.
Similarly, for cricket-based fantasy games, player values are determined after a deep dive on pitch and venue statistics, opponent specific past performances, form, and the likes. This helps ensure game makers don’t underprice the top performers, making contests more engaging and competitive.
Sports analytics has been equally important for fantasy gamers, revolutionizing the industry and tilting it further towards a game of skill and not chance. For most, fantasy gaming may just be a weekend recreation, but for the hardcore sports nerd, it is a viable income option.
“The edge in fantasy sports, a lot of times, is taking that data and information and being able to parse out what’s meaningful, what’s not meaningful, and make projections and derive actionable information from that,” says Micheal Leone, a data scientist at leading American sports streaming company.
Being fellow sports fans, fantasy gamers tend to insert their own biases into picking their teams and also get influenced by what’s doing the rounds in the media. Being swayed by phrases which have no empirical proof, phrases like “he is in good form” or “he is struggling after that knee injury” is the biggest mistake fantasy gamers can make.
To counter that, fantasy gamers in the United States have built specialised software that filter out players based on specific stats, and also automatically enters hundreds of line-ups in different guaranteed prize pools.
In the 2015 baseball season, 91 per cent of the profits of fantasy games made by DraftKings and FanDuel was won by just 1.3 per cent of all players. Cory Albertson - a former poker player from America - made his own algorithm that tracks several real-time statistics and player projections, including for those that factor in the weather conditions and stadium dimensions.
John Hermsmeyer- an American football writer and analyst - pioneered a metric called WOPR (Weighed Opportunity Rating) which is considered as the most accurate predictive statistic for fantasy gaming.
WOPR helps capture a wide receiver’s true usage and predict their future fantasy football performance. It helps the stats nerds curate the ‘down-on-their-luck players’ and buy them on the cheap and reap rewards when they start performing.
This strategy is most helpful for players who compete in daily fantasy tournaments where the key to performing well is altering line-ups as much as possible for games being played in a short span of time. Therefore, predicting players who have underperformed but have high opportunities is crucial.
The use of analytics can be seen in cricket games as well. For instance, if Jasprit Bumrah who easily bowls 90 miles an hour for most of the match, tends to pick up more wickets with a yorker, the data nerds can track back data to see how often the Indian pacer prefers the yorker, and if there is a pattern to his bowling. Similarly for an attacking batsman whose trademark shot is a switch hit or a paddle scoop.
From being the sports fan’s irrational recreation to making it the data nerds' perfect vocation, sports analytics has revolutionized the field of fantasy gaming. And as the industry grows larger and larger, so will be the scope for sports analytics, cohabitating each other.