Saturday, March 19, 2016

Fantasy Football Running Back Success by Division

Fantasy football is a simple game that too many people over-complicate in trying to get clever. One of the most egregious examples of this (and one that I, too, fall victim to) is playing the match up rather than the player. Great players will typically get theirs, so sitting a running back just because he has to go to Seattle will only leave you saddened by trying to guess some level of production from the committee in Tennessee. Even so, it's worth taking a look at the match ups in 2016 to gauge the marginal worth of players against each other.

The AFC North was far and away the toughest division to start running backs against. And when you look at the defenses in the North (Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh), even the casual fan is left unsurprised. Similarly, the NFC East was awful, and running backs scored more fantasy points per game against the likes of the Giants and Redskins.

The chart below contains the average rushing, receiving, and total scores a defense gave up against all running backs, as well as the net scores (which accounts for fumbles). Fumbles are not included in the rushing and receiving columns - simply yardage and touchdowns. The net score is what determines your final score at the end of the day, so that's the number we're primarily interested in.

Running Back Points Allowed, by Division (Standard Scoring)
Division
Rushing
Receiving
Gross Average
Net Scores
AFC North
11.2
5.0
16.2
13.9
NFC West
12.0
5.6
17.6
15.4
NFC North
12.8
5.2
18.0
15.7
AFC East
11.8
5.5
17.4
15.7
AFC West
12.4
5.5
17.9
15.7
AFC South
12.8
5.2
18.0
15.8
NFC South
13.1
6.6
19.6
17.2
NFC East
14.8
6.2
21.0
18.7

I don't play in a ppr league and typically ignore these stat lines, but some people do, and there are some major differences once receptions are accounted for. The AFC East drops from number 4 against running backs to dead last, which shouldn't come as a complete surprise us as we see the division did well against the run but gave up more points to running backs through the air. 

The NFC West also takes a tumble, dropping from number two to number six. The knock against the Cardinals (and to an extent, the Seahawks) all season was that although they defended the run well, they couldn't contain screen passes, and this seems to reinforce that notion. Otherwise, the AFC North is still the best, the NFC South is still awful, and everyone else falls somewhere in between.

Running Back Points Allowed, by Division (1 PPR)
Division
Rushing
Receiving
Gross Average
Net Scores
AFC North
11.2
9.7
20.9
18.7
NFC North
12.8
10.6
23.4
20.3
AFC East
11.8
9.9
21.8
20.5
AFC South
12.8
10.4
23.2
20.5
AFC West
12.4
11.1
23.5
21.1
NFC West
12.0
11.3
23.3
21.1
NFC South
13.1
12.2
25.3
23.3
NFC East
14.8
12.0
26.8
24.3

What are the practical impacts of this? Running backs matched up against NFC East opponents should, as a general rule, fair better than those pitted against the AFC North. Here are the intra- and interleague match-ups for 2016:

Intraconference
Interleague
AFC North vs. AFC East
AFC East vs. NFC West
AFC South vs. AFC West
AFC North vs. NFC East
NFC North vs. NFC East
AFC South vs. NFC North
NFC South vs. NFC West
AFC West vs. NFC South

Using standard scoring, it's immediately obvious which two divisions are going to run into brick walls this year: AFC East teams are matched up against the #1 and #2 divisions from 2015. Given the uncertainty at the position in the East anyway (is Forte entering into a shares situation in New York? What will McCoy's legal status be? Can Ajayi establish himself in Miami? Have you been satisfied drafting a Patriots running back), I'm steering clear. NFC East teams aren't much better, going against the #1 & #3 divisions from last year. That division has almost as much uncertainty (frankly, I'm not touching the backfields for the Giants, Dallas, or Washington this year), and the sledding is equally rough.

Conversely, the NFC West, AFC North, AFC West, and NFC North all avoid the top tier of divisions while being paired with at least one of the two worst. Not that I think you should should buy into the running back situation in Detroit, but I'm a little less frightened of Eddie Lacy.

Division
Intraleague Opponent
Interleague Opponent
Combined Ranking
AFC East
1
2
3
NFC East
3
1
4
NFC South
2
5
7
AFC South
5
3
8
NFC West
7
4
11
AFC North
4
8
12
AFC West
6
7
13
NFC North
8
6
14

If you've gotten this far, you may be asking why I looked at divisional strength, rather than just examining strength of schedules. SOS demonstrates the difficulty of every team on the schedule and should be the way we determine these matters. The first answer is that I was interested in looking at Divisions, because they're easier to manage than a list of 32 teams. The second is I didn't realize that would have been smarter until an hour into this analysis, and by then I was too far gone. You're welcome.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

So Donald Trump is in the News Again


When fascism comes to America, it will be ̶w̶r̶a̶p̶p̶e̶d̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶f̶l̶a̶g̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶c̶a̶r̶r̶y̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶ ̶c̶r̶o̶s̶s̶ wearing a toupee.

But probably also promoting those other things.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Does Immigration Make US Healthier?

There are two common barriers cited in discussing what prevents Americans from eating healthier: cost, and convenience. This issue takes an interesting twist in the face of immigration reform and who is allowed to work in the United States. It's possible that migrants play a positive role in the consumption patterns of Americans, and limiting their presence would make us an even larger (waist-wise) nation.

While the statement "they do the jobs Americans won't" is largely correct, it requires an addendum: Americans won't do those jobs at the wages those jobs offer. If picking cherries offered $15/hour and health insurance, college graduates would be sending in their resumes to the orchards of northern Michigan. But that's not what menial farmwork pays. And if it did, the cost of produce would rise. This is a second-level consequence of further constraining immigration we generally recognize.

Low-cost produce obviously doesn't help with the convenience issue - supersodium frozen dinners and fast food meals will always be more convenient than steaming your own vegetables. But as long as those vegetables are affordable, more people will buy them.

Would the Great Trump Wall and tightening of legal immigration actually make the county less healthy? Probably not any more than a marginal degree. It's still an interesting unintended consequence to consider.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Another Health Insurance Market Failure

I remember during the conversations during Obamacare's construction, one of the more obscure issues was how insurance companies don't have clients for that long, so insurance companies do a poor job of encouraging long-term health (I couldn't find the statistic, but I believe the average person has the same company for somewhere in the area of three or four years).

This seemed to be a reasonable criticism of America's state of health affairs, and I could argue it in the abstract. After all, approaches that achieve long-term health benefits are investments that save money in healthcare coverage down the road, but if the insurance company isn't likely to reap the benefits, why should it make the investment? This is obviously a market failure, because the market could operate more efficiently, but providers (justifiably) are acting in their self-interest (in this sense, public health is arguably a tragedy of the commons our system has manufactured). However, I never had an explanation of how this works in practice.

I've now encountered my example, and it's frustrating experiencing how it works. I recently completed the final physical therapy session my insurance company will allow me to partake in, although my ankle has never fully healed. There's a decent chance that with another month of work I'll be much better off, but my policy doesn't allow for it. The hell of it is, spending some extra money now should pay off in the long-term, as the current state of my ankle leaves me in line for arthritis and other issues down the road.

No one refutes this. My physical therapist is the expert saying it will happen, on a logical level I agree with him based on my limited understanding of how joints work, and the insurance company likely understands. But I'm unlikely, statistically, to be with Blue Cross of New York in 20 years when my ankle becomes a real problem, so there's no rational reason to invest in therapy now. It will be someone else's responsibility at that point. Even if future surgery is way more costly than extra PT sessions this year, someone else will foot the bill.

I get the contra - if my insurance company allowed me unlimited visits, my physical therapist would be inclined to continue scheduling sessions even after they were no long necessary in order to make more money. Some providers would resist this temptation, some would be bad actors, and some would schedule unnecessary visits merely for the sake of erring on the side of caution. So even in a  system that pays for preventative care, there would still be concerns. Answers may be difficult to definitively determine, but our system is undeniably prejudiced against long-term economic decision-making.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

That Time The New Yorker Incensed Me Into Writing the Editor

While I find John Cassidy’s concerns on the evolving  (devolving?) value of higher education largely on point (“College Calculus,” September 7), I question what appear to be potshots aimed at Kansas State University (full disclosure: not an alumnus, but I am native to the State and support the school’s research and extension mission). Cassidy is concerned that colleges are enticing students with specialized degrees that may sound exciting and even offer short-term reward, but fail to provide lifetime value. He then holds up Kansas State’s major in Bakery Science and minor in Unmanned Aircraft Systems as examples. While understanding of drone technology holds obvious value as the robotics become more ubiquitous in society (a fact the article fails to acknowledge), Cassidy condescendingly suggests that the purpose of the Bakery Science major is to “run a bakery.” Were this the purpose of the degree, it would well buttress his argument that students are increasingly taking on student loans to obtain unnecessary degrees. Unfortunately for Cassidy, it’s not. K-State’s Grain Science program has been in operation for over fifty years, suggesting it is far from a fly-by-night scheme to bring in additional tuition dollars. The program enjoys 100 percent placement (a statistic Cassidy may find dubious), and graduates earn the highest starting salary of all College of Agriculture graduates (a more difficult fact to quibble over - K-State’s College of Agriculture is consistently ranked among the top ten in the nation, signaling a semblance of worth in the degree.).

The irony is that the bakery program appears to be imbuing students with specific skills that make them more marketable in the workplace. Graduates are trained to work for Kellog’s, Nestle, and King Arthur Flour – not the local donut shop. As genetic science continues modifying the protein composition and nutritional nuances of grains, this training will only increase in value. We now want sweet foods without the sugar content and savory foods without the cholesterol – who do you think develops these products?

This article is dog-whistling at its finest. Cassidy fears that college degrees may only be used for signaling, thereby failing to provide specific training that makes a graduate worth more. He then purposefully singles out a program that provides specific training that makes students more knowledgeable and marketable, but condescendingly suggests these students are only good for running local bakeries. There are undoubtedly examples of narrowly focused degrees with inherent risk that can be mocked. I like to think an Oxford/Columbia/NYU-educated journalist didn’t simply single out a funny-sounding degree from a seemingly Podunk institution in Kansas and decide this was the perfect example without actually doing any research into the program, because that would be really lazy. I like to think this wasn’t a play to an overly educated East Coast audience readily willing to join the mockery of a public school in Kansas, because that would also be really lazy. Unfortunately, the author appears willing to do exactly that. I’m personally familiar with better examples on the East Coast, but we must apparently consider where our readership lies – in the ivory towers of the original colonies, and not the plains of the Midwest.


What's unfortunate is, I otherwise completely agreed with the article.