|The Power of Numbers|
Ryan Ma digs deep into the numbers, prepping you for the second half. A must read.
Back from a bit of a hiatus from Fantasy Hockey and “real-life” catching up with me. Those who have followed my columns throughout the years, pretty much know what I’m all about, Numbers and Data! In this day and age, data is everywhere. I would probably even argue that all it’s essentially in every aspect of our lives. Heck, being a school teacher as my “day job”, I’m constantly bombarded with data driven criterion to hit. In order to become an “effective” educator you need to do this with data, to better your teaching look at your student’s data, you need to use data to “know” your students… So if data is everywhere, and Fantasy Hockey is largely driven by it (number of goals scored, how many shots did player A take, what’s the GAA of the goalie), then why do some poolies continue to ignore the importance of data? I still observe plenty of poolies on the forums who go by their “gut feel” or other random non-data related justifications (“skating mechanics”, “prior draft lineage”, “trust me I watch a lot of their games” or “they’re my favourite player”), the interesting thing with that is 300 years ago we would have called that witchcraft, in this day and age we anoint it as “justifiable opinion”. Now don’t get me wrong, I value differentiated opinions just as much the next guy, but what I want to see is tangible substance-based evidence to justify a point rather than someone who is out there just to make noise. I’m hopefully here to do the former rather than the later. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!
A couple of weeks ago I created a thread on the forums about first-quarter numbers. I proposed how numbers in Fantasy Hockey generally fit a certain model and how you can take advantage of those numbers in order to help you win. This is the second instalment of the series and we’ll take a look back at my first quarter predictions and next week we’ll give you an insight into my predictions for the second half of this campaign, but first here’s a quick recap.
Bullet points from the thread (if you don’t have the time to sift through it.)
- Based on my research during the last 6-7 years, I've basically narrowed point production for all players down to 3 key factors which is, time on ice, PP time on ice and shots on goal.
- Those 3 factors are basically the most important factors in terms of correlation to point production, as with all cases, there's always going to be outliers (highly talented rookies who are handcuffed), pass first players (Jumbo Joe) and veterans who are being "managed" (Selanne, Iggy and Alfredsson) being the most significant, so the data doesn't always fit 100% of all fantasy players.
- With forwards, the strongest correlation to points is PP TOI which has a correlation co-efficient of a whopping 0.87, which is huge! Second is SOG with a correlation co-efficient of 0.85 and third is overall TOI with a correlation co-efficient of a whopping 0.84. (In the revision of 1st half numbers, those numbers are now 0.89, 0.88 and 0.87 respectively, which indicates an even stronger correlation)
- With defenseman the strongest correlation to points is SOG which has a correlation co-efficient of a whopping 0.80, which is not as strong as the forward stats, but good enough in our scenario. Second is PP TOI with a correlation co-efficient of 0.78. (In the revision of 1st half numbers, those numbers are now 0.88 and 0.84 respectively, which once again indicates an even stronger correlation)
Using FrozenPool (a tool that I can’t speak more highly of), I analysed the three factors which has the greatest effect on point production and looked at players who were over and under achieving based on those factors at the time. I earmarked and labelled a few of these players and here are the results from the data that I analysed. Green were players that I tabbed who were due for an increase in production, yellow and red were players who I identified for a decrease in production.
A few hits from this list, Giroux, Staal, Voracek and Simmonds were gimme picks, so it wasn’t at all surprising to really see them pick up their game during the second quarter.
Vanek’s boost could have been attributed to the trade from Buffalo to New York, which was probably expected. Brouwer was a big hit given the PP responsibility that he is given! Higgins saw a nice boost, but probably would have been nicer if he saw just a couple more points to pad the stats.
Ennis and Kesler were my big misses, given their ice-time and role with their clubs they should have seen more than a “keep pace” rate from the first quarter. I stretched a bit on Purcell, but given that he was only averaging just 15:54 at the time, his production rate probably wasn’t going to skyrocket.
A couple of nice hits in this list. Scheifele, Atkinson, Ryder, Henrique, Santorelli, Read and Barkov made for great waiver wire additions. Bergeron, Sedin, Ribeiro all kept pace with slight increases but nothing to write home about.
Whiffed on a few “big named” guys. Laidlaw is probably right on Heatley being a “corpse”, but I still can’t shake the feeling to write him off completely. Brad Richards took a bit of an offensive hit, but I still consider him a huge 2nd half pickup given his role of responsibility in NY.
Buffalo still perplexes me, how can a player average close to 20 mins a game but score at less than 0.2 point-per-game pace? If they ever figure it out, Ott could be a huge bust out candidate for the second stanza.
The FLA pairing of Fleischmann and Huberdeau also bucked the trend while putting up some unimpressive numbers taking into account the responsibility that they’re being given. They’re shaping up to be an “offense-by-committee” team with equal sharing of ice-time, so be wary of them moving forward.
Most of the players from this list fell into place. A lot of the “hot” starters came back down to Earth in the 2nd quarter. Steen still managed to post 12 points in 14 games before sustaining a concussion. His point production fell to 70 percent of what he produced in the first quarter. If he continues to post a point-per-game rate of 0.86 for the remaining 43 contests, he’ll finish the season with roughly 75 points, which is a nice total in itself, but the major damage is already done. If you’re still hanging onto him, I’d maximize value the best I can and see if you can pawn him off to an unsuspecting owner. Duchene is still chugging along near a point-per-game pace despite averaging just over 18 minutes a game. With Paul Stastny heading into UFA status, the Avs could be open to moving him at the deadline, which will free up the 18:40 to be distributed throughout the line up.
Hossa and the Hawks continue to defy historical numbers, as he’s posting point-per-game numbers despite limited (18:16) overall and PP (2:11) ice-time. His stats are buoyed by the fact that Chicago is averaging a crazy 3.67 goals per game. If the offense dries up, Hossa could be the first to feel the wrath. Consider him a strong “sell high” candidate for the 2nd half. Cogliano could be classified in the same boat. I thought a 0.4 point-per-game pace was elevated for a player of his status, but he’s shocked me by increasing that to 0.78 in the 2nd quarter. The Ducks’ secondary scoring is ridiculous at the moment, but that should taper off as the season progresses.
More on the next page...
Frolik and Marchand are in similar situations, as both saw a decent 2nd quarter production given their allotted ice-time. Given how deep each of their respective teams are, look for these two to trend downwards as the season progresses.
King saw a boost in production during the 2nd quarter thanks to a Jeff Carter injury. He really used that to his advantage as he’s seen his average ice-time climb from 14:46 in the first quarter to 15:51 in the second quarter. He’s essentially cemented himself in the Kings’ top-nine. A 0.5 point-per-game rate the rest of the way is definitely achievable.
A few hits on this list. Hagelin, Kadri, Kreider, Penner, Vrbata and Backes were the most notable ones as they all took sizeable hits in terms of production in the second quarter. Backes was a career 0.61 point-per-game producer prior to this season, so his hot start of point-per-game production was always going to regress. 0.64 is probably the expected production from here on out. Same could be said for “Pancakes” Penner.
Grabovski continues to defy trends. He’s producing at a 0.79 point-per-game clip, despite averaging less than 16 minutes per contest (also only 1:37 on the PP). I’m not sold on him keeping this pace at all, but with that said Ribeiro did post point-per-game numbers last season while garnering just 17:50 per contest, so something must be could be up with that 2nd line center slot in Washington. The key difference Ribeiro appeared in 63.4 percent of the Caps PP chances last season compared to Grabovski’s 29.7 percent rating this campaign.
The Bruins duo of Soderberg and Smith are also tipping the scales. Both are seeing a decent portion of PP chances, 40.9 and 33.8 percent respectively, but the 13:37 and 14:14 TOI average will catch up with them sooner or later. Expect the point production to be closer to Soderberg’s 0.56 numbers than Smith’s 0.94 moving forward.
A couple of veterans round out our list with Roy and Alfredsson. Roy’s 27 points so far this campaign has been largely been propped up by his 13 PPP. If that Blues’ PP efficiency slumps, so will Roy’s numbers. Alfy’s production is slightly elevated, but given his responsibility, and his experience, the 0.94 point-per-game pace probably isn’t that far-fetched.
Gonchar’s slow start was always going to turn around. So his big boost in production is not surprising at all.
There’s nothing special about Kulikov, Goligoski, Timonen or Letang’s 2nd quarters, but at least it appears that the situation is on the way up. They might be building towards a stronger 2nd half.
Streit and Markov have seen a decent point production rate, but there’s still plenty more to give in my opinion. Now that the Flyers’ offense has woken up, Streit’s production is following suit. Markov is getting his points chewed up by Subban, if he can manage to reclaim that “top dog” status, his points could really skyrocket.
Garrison, Chara, Josi, Irwin and Gardner have seen some really nice increases in the 2nd quarter. Garrison has really benefited from Edler’s injury and Chara should see more responsibility with the absence of Seidenberg for the remainder of the year. Josi and Irwin both have fairly favourable schedules in the 2nd half, so they should keep pace the rest of the way.
Del Zotto and Hamonic are two players who struggled immensely in the 2nd quarter while posting just three and one point respectively. More on them in next week’s column.
Three notable hits in this grouping: Bieksa, Bouwmeester and Leddy all experienced their expected drop offs in production. Bouwmeester’s production is still propped up by the Blues’ out-of-the-ordinary offense, so that could take a tumble if St. Louis runs into scoring troubles.
Seabrook continues to rack my brain, but much like what I mentioned about Hossa above, the Hawks could be in trouble if the offense dries up. I would strongly consider moving him in “points only” leagues. His current 55-point pace would clear his career-high of 48 by a fair margin. His current 0.67 point per game rating is well above his career average of 0.41.
Hedman has recorded 20 of the Lightning’s 70 points from the blue-line, but is appearing in only 28.1 percent of their PP chances. The puck luck is bouncing his way at the moment, but it probably won’t continue.
Pretty much the entire list fell into place as a lot of these “hot starters” regressed in the 2nd quarter.
Now there’s been a lot of banter on the forums regarding the “predictable power” of data. I will be the first to accept the fact that when looking at numbers, you are looking at it from a “summative” perspective (it’s already happened) and that there’s absolutely no certainty that the situation will necessarily change for the future. What I would argue is that, numbers tend to “normalize” to some degree and the proof is in the pudding. If you look at my predicted lists above, 57 percent of the data fell in the “correct” direction with definitive margins, and 75 percent of the data falling on or in the “correct” direction. Just like everything in life, there’s always a margin for error, and for every three that I get “right” I’ll miss one. But if you ask me honestly, I’d take a 75 percent efficiency rating any day of the week. It’d certainly hold more water than a lot of the various reasons being tossed around out there.
Hopefully with this article I’ve turned you into a stronger believer into looking more deeply at the numbers and perhaps you can use my findings, to better your position in your fantasy leagues.
Want to know who the outliers are? Stay tuned for next week’s article as I go through my greens and red players for the 2nd half.
This is just some of the gold you will find to set yourself up for the second half - pick up the seventh annual Midseason Fantasy Hockey Guide here and seize victory!