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Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Three Biases

There were three little piggies and only one big bad wolf, but in the fantasy world it's the opposite.  You are the little piggie and the three biases are the big bad wolves aiming to blow your house in.

There are three things you have to constantly check yourself against regardless of what fantasy sport you are playing.  It could be fantasy football, baseball, basketball, hockey, NASCAR, Oscar Awards... whatever.  Regardless of the game you have got to be on the lookout for the three biases because they can ruin you at any time, without warning.

Think about it for a second.  What biases do you have?  What biases do everyone have?  The big one is that you've got your favorites.  Beyond that, there are probably some predictions or guesses you've made, and if you are anything like every human in the world you'd probably prefer that your guesses turn out to be true.  In addition, there is a little thing that is a part of human nature where we look at what has happened most recently as the biggest indicator of what is to come.

These biases are called: Hometown Bias, Confirmation Bias, and Recency Bias.  Since basketball season just kicked off I'll use this as an opportunity to name some of my plant a flag players as examples, but trust me when I say that you can apply this to any sport.  Yes, even Fantasy Oscars.

A few of my play a flag guys in the NBA this year include Andre Drummond, Joe Johnson, and Jimmy Butler.

Hometown Bias - Okay, so I'm from Baltimore but growing up I never got into the Washington Bullets (now the Wizards) too much.  It was the late 80's and the Detroit Pistons really grabbed my attention, and my fandom has mostly been rewarded these past 26 years.  This year you can get Andre Drummond pretty cheaply.  I am all in. 

In my heart he figures out how to shoot free throws this year and sinks about 68% of them.  In my heart he'll lead the league in rebounds.  In my heart he'll score 20 a game and toss in about two blocks and four assists.  My heart lies.  All of that stuff isn't going to happen. 

What you've got to do when you evaluate guys is to gather information from third party sources.  I can't be objective with my Pistons and you can't be objective with your Chicago Blackhawks, or the Dallas Cowboys, or Hugh Jackman.  You may have to dig in pretty deep, but do your homework and make sure you aren't just leading with your heart.

Confirmation Bias - I believe that Jimmy Butler will be great this year and you can grab him really late in your drafts or for just a couple of bucks in an auction.  He closed out last season really strong and should be counted on pretty heavily in 2013-14.  So, I've planted a flag on Butler and I would really, really prefer to be correct about that.

But it doesn't matter if my prediction is correct and there is no honor in going down with the ship.  The alert here is that you need to compare your guy to two things: (1) The real statistics; and, (2) Other similar players (especially guys on the waiver wire).

Look, everyone wants to be able to say, "Jimmy Butler.  I told you guys.  Jimmy Butler.  You should have listened to me because that guy is awesome, and I knew it all along.  Jimmy Butler.  Told you guys."  That is way more fun than stopping in late November, taking stock, and saying something like, "I was sure Butler would be great this year but he's not hitting the numbers I projected.  What's worse, there are three guys on the waiver wire who are out-performing him so far."  That may not be a lot of fun, but you've got to be vigilant. 

Confirmation Bias will have you looking for any shred of evidence that "proves" your prediction.  "The points aren't there and the other stuff might be you know, whatever... but check out the assists.  His assists are even ahead of where I thought.  Jimmy will figure out the rest if he can get the assists.  Assists are like the hardest stat to get anyway.  Jimmy's got this."  See that?  You just used one solitary statistic to "confirm" what you hope will be true.  But, the fact is that Jimmy is underperforming your prediction everywhere except assists and now even his minutes are starting to lessen.  The facts are telling you that you should cut bait... Don't make this a precious thing.  It's better to cut bait and try to win the league than to go down with the ship.

By the way, I'm not saying that you do the opposite.  You may look at Chris Bosh and say that he's really missing a lot of free throws so maybe he's not so good this year.  Dude, he's doing great everywhere but he's only hitting like 60% of his free throws.  Maybe this is a down year for Bosh on FT%, but he's still performing for you everywhere else, so he's still valuable to you.

Recency Bias - This year I'm thinking that if Joe Johnson can get enough minutes that he will perform.  I really believe in his skills and I really think that he'll find a way to shine in the Brooklyn offense.  But here's the issue - Joe could have a few great games and "prove" that he's in for a great year.  Unfortunately, that team is super deep and it may not continue.

Don't let yourself form an opinion about a guy on what he just did.  Keep evolving your opinion of the player and look at how he is being used, especially when it comes to players on deep teams because circumstances could change.

The reverse can be true too, especially with rookies and younger players.  They could be emerging from a rough stretch.  If the matchups are getting better maybe things will start to get better.  Don't let recency bias tell you how to value a player.