Week 4 – @NFLFantasy PPR Play/Bench Using #MachineLearning

Week 4 – While it is 5am on Sunday and gameplay kicks off at 9:30am today (love those London games), I am technically getting this posted before the start. Ok, well, I missed Thursday – fair enough. But we are getting there:

League 1 (PPR):

Week4-@NFL-PPR-League1-@NFLFantasyAs I mentioned in my Week 3 post, there are some things that even the best algorithmic usage cannot predict (today); injuries are one of those things that today are sort of hard to determine unless player has a propensity or an existing / underlying issue that one is tracking – Very soon, I believe that the development of the RFID program that each player’s’ uniforms now carry will yield better and better data points that can, in fact, become the Minority Report of the NFL season and predict the next great injury, based on biometric + performance + known medical history with a fair degree of certainty. But we are not there yet (at least, what is being provided to those of us NOT connected to the team’s/NFL <– a girl can dream about this kind of data coming from this type of connection, can’t she?)

You’ll notice I have Jordan Reed in my line up – this is a hard one. He is expected to play but at what level? I picked up Charles Clay as my backup but unfortunately , Reed doesn’t play until Monday; Clay plays at 1pm today. So, I will refresh my model and then see if Reed drops any in the ranking. If nothing else, it will give me a better picture on points earned potential IF he were to play with his existing injury (albeit healed or otherwise).

I swapped out Doug Baldwin who is also questionable this week in terms of his health; and slotted Adam Thielen in. I also picked up Alvin Kamara off of the waiver wire. I have a feeling about him; as does my model. This week, he ranks right next to Terrance West given the matchup and alternates on my bench (oh woe is my RB situation) – Thank goodness for a stout WR lineup, even with injuries et al.

All in all, I am most worried about this matchup. This might be a week for a loss, even if numerically, it looks like a win on NFL.com. I guess I can thank Ty M. for making it a possibility. But O’dell B Jr. might have something else to say about that. Oh that and Melvin Gordon questionable status: if only it were so…Again, I love to dream…

League 2 (Standard): What made me thankful in League 1, has plagued me in League 2 (oh, Ty!) – In this league, I have already pulled out Jordan Reed because E. Engram ranked higher in my weekly ranking anyway. I am also taking a chance on Jarvis Landry this week (it is New Orleans after all. The point differential +/- standard deviation for Standard format sent Landry into the top 10 for the week – fingers crossed xx – #trustthemodel).

Oh yea, this is also the league where I have incurred 1 loss so far – 2 wins / 1 loss. ūüė¶ And that loss was to none other than my man; we are competing in both League 1 and League 2; he beat me by 1.9 points Week 1 – somehow I don’t remember him feeling as bad for me with my loss that week as I did for his loss against me in Week 3…

In fact,¬† I think he did a victory dance perhaps akin to Tom Cruise in ‘Risky Business’ – but maybe that is too much information for a Sports ML blog posting :0):

Week4-Standard-@NFLFantasy-@NFL-@Laura_E_Edell

Week4-Standard-@NFLFantasy-@NFL-@Laura_E_Edell

League 3 (Standard): After Thursday night, I am doing ok РI predicted 12.5 +/- .75 st dev for Jordan Howard and he earned 12.30. So, pretty spot on. Aaron Rodgers came in at 23.06, which I predicted 23.60 (what, is that my dyslexia at play; no, there was also a        + / Р1.5 st dev at work, so again, spot on in terms of accuracy.  So, maybe, my 3 wins and 0 losses will become 4 wins after this week. But I am not counting any chickens ever before they are hatched. Just look at what happened to my opponent / my man in Week 3 (154 points for me; 45 points for him in PPR format- that is what we call, just brutal people). 

Week4-Standard-League3-@NFL-@NFLFantasy-@Laura_E_Edell

Week4-Standard-League3-@NFL-@NFLFantasy-@Laura_E_Edell

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Win @NFLFantasy PPR Leagues w/ ML

So, the past 3 years I have been using #machine-learning (ML) to help me in my family based PPR #fantasy-football league. When I joined the league, the commissioner and my partner’s father, said I would never win using statistics as the basis of my game play. Being cut from the “I’ll show you” aka “well, fine…I’ll prove it to you”¬†cloth that some of us gals working in the tech industry dawn as we break down stereotypical walls and glass ceilings, is something I’ve always enjoyed about my career and love that there is an infographic to tell the tale courtesy of mscareergirl.com (only complaint is the source text in white is basically impossible to read but at least the iconography and salaries are legible):

glass-ceiling-2-620x400

infographic provided by Danyel Surrency Jones on mscareergirl.com

I’ve never whined that in my industry, I tend to work primarily with the male species or that they are “apparently” paid more *on average* because some survey says so. ¬†My work ethic doesn’t ride on gender lines — This train departs from the “proven value based on achievements earned & result in commensurate remuneration” station (woah, that’s a mouthful). ¬†I take challenges head-on not to prove to others, but to prove to myself, that I can do something I set my sights on, and do that something as well, if not better, than counterparts. Period. Regardless of gender. And that track has led to the figurative money ‘line’ (or perhaps it’s literal in the case of DFS or trains – who’s to say? But I digress…more on that later).

Money_Train

So, I joined his league on NFL.com, so aptly nicknamed SassyDataMinxes (not sure who the other minxes are in my 1 woman “crew” but I never said I was grammarian; mathematician, aka number ninja, well, yes; ¬†but lingualist, maybe not.

Year 1, as to be expected *or with hindsight*, ¬†was an abysmal failure. Keep in mind that I knew almost absolute nothing when it came to Pro Football or Fantasy sports. ¬†I certainly did not know players or strategies or that fantasy football extended beyond Yahoo Pick ‘Em leagues, which again, in hindsight, would have been a great place to start my learning before jumping head 1st into the world of PPR/DFS.

At its core, it requires you pick the weekly winning team from 2 different competitors and assuming you have the most correct picks, you win that week. If there are no teams on BYE that week, you have 32 teams or 16 games to “predict outcomes” ; a binary 0 or 1 for lose or win in essence. Right? Never, she exclaims, because WAIT, THERE’S MORE: you have to pick a winner based on another factor: point spread. Therefore, if 0 means lost and 1 means won, you get a 1 per win EXCEPT if the spread of points is less than what the “book makers” out of Vegas determine to be the “winning spread” – You could technically pick the winning team and still get a goose egg for that matchup if the team did not meet their point spread (ooh, it burns when that happens). The team that wins happily prancing around the field singing “We are the Champions” while you are the loser for not betting against them because they were comfortable winning by a paltry lesser amount than necessary – Ooh, the blood boils relieving those early games – especially since my Grandmother who won that year picked her teams based on cities she liked or jersey colors that her ‘Color Me Happy’ wheel said were HER best COOL tones; the most unscientific approach worked for her so many times I now think she actually IS A bookie running an illegal operation out of her basement, which fronts as ‘her knitting circle” – Yah, as if any of us believe that one, Grandma :)! (She is a walking football prediction algorithm).

So, something as seemingly simple as Yahoo Pick ‘Em can actually be harder than it appears unless you are her. But, still…markedly easier than a PPR league; and light years easier than DFS/Auction style fantasy leagues when it comes to predicting gaming outcomes at the player, weekly matchup and league perspectives.

Hindsight is such a beautiful thing (*I think I have said that before*) because to espouse all of these nuggets of knowledge as though I am the Alliteration Arbiter of All –> The Socratic Seer of Scoring Strategies…And again, as always I digress (but, ain’t it fun!).

OK, let’s continue…So, we’ve established that fantasy football gaming outcomes requires a lot of *something* — And we’ve established that just cuz it seems simple, or did, when trying to predict outcomes along a massively mutable set of variables ¬†*wait, why didn’t I just READ that sentence or THINK it when I started! If I could go back in time and ask my 3 year younger:

“Self,¬†should I stop this nonsense now, alter the destination or persevere through what, at times, might seems like a terrible journey? *HUM, I think most pensively*.

And then answer myself, just like the good only-child I am:

“NEVER – Self, nothing worth getting is easy to get, but the hardest fought wins are the most worthwhile when all is said and done and remember, ¬†don’t let the bedbugs bite; YOU’RE bigger than them/that.”

Or something along those lines, perhaps…

NEVER was my answer because in 2015 and 2016 (Years 2 and 3),  I was #1 in the league and won those coveted NFL.com trophies and a small pool of money. But what I won most of all was bragging rites.

Champion

Oh baby, you can’t buy those…

Not even on the Dark Web from some Onion-Routed Darker Market. Especially the right to remind a certain commissioner / neighsayer du jour / father-in-law-like that my hypothesis of using ML & statistics ALONE could beat his years of institutional football knowledge and know-how. I also won a 2nd NFL-managed league that I joined in Year 3 to evaluate my own results with a different player composition.

So Year 1 was a learning year, a failure to others in the league but super valuable to me. Year 2 was my 1st real attempt to use the model, though with much supervision and human “tweaking” ; Year 3, non-family league (league #2 for brevity sake; snarky voice in head “missed that 4 paragraphs ago” – Burn!), I had drafted an ideal team, rated A- .

Year 3 being a double test to ensure Year 1 wasn’t a double fluke. ¬†Two leagues played:

League #1 with the family, was a team comprised of many non-ideal draft picks chosen during non-optimized rounds (QB in round 2, DEF in round 4 etc). But the key in both Year 2 and 3, was spotting the diamonds in the rookie rough – my model bubbled up unknown players or as they are known to enthusiasts: “deep sleepers” that went on to become rookie-of-the-year type players: in 2015, that was Devonta Freeman (ATL); in 2016, that was ‘Ty-superfreak’ Hill aka Tyreek Hill (Chiefs) and even better, Travis Kelce (who had been on my roster since 2015 but rose to the occasion in 2016, BEEEG-TIME) . ¬†That has always been a strength of my approach to solving this outcomes conundrum.

So, that all being said, in this Year 4, I plan to blog PRE-GAME with my predictions for my team with commentary on some of the rankings of other players. Remember, it isnt just a player outcome, but it is player outcome in relation to your matchup that week within your league and in the context of who best to play vs. bench given those weekly changing facets. Some weeks, you might look like a boss according to NFL.com predictions; but in fact, should be playing someone else who might have a lower-than-you-are-comfortable-putting-into-your-lineup prediction. Those predictions folks HAVE ISSUES – But I believe in the power of model evaluation and learning, hence the name Machine Learning or better yet, Deep Learning approaches.

Side note: reminds me of that “SAP powered” player comparison tool:

fantasyimageswhich was DOWN / not accessible most of the aforementioned season when it was being hammered on by fans in need of a fantasy fix (reminds me of an IBM Watson joke but I was keep that one to myself ) – whomever is at fault – you should make sure your cloud provider “models” out an appropriate growth-based capacity & utilization plan IF you are going to feature it on your fantasy football site, NFL.com.

Next posting will be all about how I failed during Year 4’s draft (2017) and what I am planning to do to make up for it using the nuggets of knowledge that is an offshoot of retraining the MODEL(s) during the week – Plus, I will blog my play/bench predictions which will hopefully secure a week 1 win (hopefully because I still need to retrain this week but not until Wednesday :)).

In a separate post, we’ll talk through the train…train…train phases, which datasets are most important to differentiate statistically important features from the sea of unworthy options sitting out waiting for you to pluck them into your world. But dont fall prey to those sinister foe…They might just be the “predictable” pattern of noise ¬†that clouds one’s senses. And of course, scripting and more scripting; so many lines of code were written and rewritten covering the gamut of scripting languages from the OSS data science branch (no neg from my perspective on SaS or SPSS other than they cost $$$ and I was trained on R in college *for free* like most of my peers) – well, free is a relative term, and you take the good with the bad when you pull up your OSS work-boots –> R has its drawbacks when it comes to the viability of processing larger than life datasets without herculean sampling efforts just to be able to successfully execute a .R web scraping script without hitting the proverbial out of memory errors, or actually train the requisite models that are needed to solve said self-imposed ML fantasy football challenges such as this. Reader thinks to oneself, “she sure loves those tongue twisting alliterations.”

And gals, I love helping out a fellow chica (you too boys/men, but you already know that, eh) — Nobody puts baby in the corner, and I never turn my back on a mind in need or a good neg/dare.

Well, Year 4 — Happy Fantasy Football Everyone — May the wind take you through the playoffs and your scores take you all the way to the FF Superbowl ūüôā

Eye Tracking & Applied ML: Soapbox Validations

Anyone who has read my blog¬†(shameless self-plug: http://www.lauraedell.com)¬†over the past 12 years will know, I am very passionate about drinking my own analytical cool-aid. Whether during my stints as a Programmer, BI Developer, BI Manager, Practice Lead /¬†Consultant or Senior Data Scientist,¬†I believe wholeheartedly in measuring my¬†own success with advanced analytics.¬†¬†Even my fantasy football success (more on that in a later post) can be attributed to Advanced Machine Learning…But you wouldn’t believe how often this type of measurement gets ignored.
eyetracking
Introducing you, dear reader, to my friend “Eye-Tracker” (ET). Daunting little set of machines in that image, right?! But ET is a bonafide bada$$ in the world of measurement systems; oh yeah, and ET isn’t a new tech trend – in fact, mainstream¬† ET systems are a staple of any PR, marketing or web designers’ tool¬† arsenal¬† as a stick to measure program efficacy between user intended behavior & actual outcomes/actions.

In my early 20’s, I had my own ET experience & have been a passionate advocate since, having witnessed what happens when you compound user inexperience with poorly designed search / e-commerce operator sites.¬† I was lucky enough to work for the now uber online travel company who shall go nameless (okay, here is a hint:¬†remember¬†a little ditty that ended with some hillbilly singing¬†“dot commmm”¬†& you will know to whom I refer). This company believed so wholeheartedly in the user experience that they allowed me, young ing√©nue of the workplace, to spend thousands on eye tracking studies against a series of balanced scorecards that I was developing for the senior leadership team. This is important because you can ASK someone whether¬†a¬†designed visualization is WHAT THEY WERE THINKING or WANTING, even if built iteratively with the requestor. Why, you ponder to yourself, would this be necessary when I can just ask/survey my customers about their online experiences with my company and saved beaucorp $$.

Well, here’s why: 9x out of 10, survey participants, in not wanting to offend, will nod ‘yes’¬† instead of being honest,¬†employing conflict avoidance at its best. Note, this applies to most, but I can think of a few in¬†my new role who are probably reading this and shaking their head in disagreement at this very moment.

Eye tracking studies are used to measure efficacy by tracking what content¬†areas engage users’ brains vs. areas that¬†fall flat, are lackluster, overdesigned &/or contribute to eye/brain fatigue. It measures this by¬†“tracking” where & for how long your eyes dwell on a¬†quadrant (aka visual / website content / widget on a dashboard) and¬†by recording the path¬†& movement of the eyes between different quadrants‚Äô on a page. It’s amazing to watch these advanced,¬†algorithmic-tuned systems, pick up even the smallest flick of one’s eyes, whether darting to or away from the “above-fold” content, in ‘near’ real-time. The intended audience being measured generates the validation statistics necessary to evaluate how well your model fit the data. In the real-world, receiving attaboys or “ya done a good job” high fives should be doled out only after validating efficacy: eg. if customers dwell time increases, you can determine randomness vs. intended actual; otherwise, go back to the proverbial drawing board until earn that ‚ÄėAtta boy’ outright.

What I also learned which seems a no-brainer now; people read from Left Top to Right Bottom (LURB). So, when I see¬†anything that doesn‚Äôt at LEAST follow those two simple principles, I just shake my head and tisk tisk tisk, wondering if human evolution is shifting with our digital transformation journey or are we destined to be bucketed with the “that’s interesting to view once” crowd instead of raising to the levels of usefulness it was designed for.

Come on now, how hard is it to remember to stick the most important info¬†in that top left quadrant and the¬†least important in the¬†bottom right, especially when creating visualizations for use in the corporate workplace by senior execs. They have even¬†less time & attention these days to focus on even the most relevant KPIs, those¬†they need to monitor to run their business & will get asked to update the CEO on each QTR, with all those fun distractions that come with¬†the latest vernacular du-jour taking up all their brain space: “give me MACHINE LEARNING or give me death; the upstart that replaced mobile/cloud/big data/business intelligence (you fill in the blank).
But for so long, it was me against the hard reality that no one knew what I was blabbing on about, nor would they give me carte blanche to re-run those studies ever again , And lo and behold, my Laura-ism soapbox has now been vetted, in fact, quantified by a prestigious University professor from Carnegie, all possible because a little know hero named Edmond Huey, now near and dear to my heart, grandfather of the heatmap, followed up his color-friendly block chart by building the first device capable of tracking eye movements while people were reading. This breakthrough initiated a revolution for scientists but it was intrusive and readers had to wear special lenses with a tiny opening and a pointer attached to it like the 1st image pictured above.
Fast forward 100 years…combine all ingredients into the cauldron of innovation & technological advancement, sprinkled with my favorite algorithmic¬†pals: CNN & LSTM & voila! You have just baked yourself a popular visualization known as a heat/tree map (with identifiable info redacted) :
This common visual is  akin to eye tracking analytics which you will see exemplified in the last example below. Cool history lesson, right?

Even cooler is this example from a travel website ‘Travel Tripper’ which published Google eye-tracking results specific to the hotel industry. Instead of a treemap that you might be used to (akin to a Tableau or other BI tool visualization OOTB), you get the same coordinates laid out over search results in this example; imagine having your website underneath and instead of guessing what content should be above or below the fold, in the top left or right of the page, you can use these tried and true eye tracking methods to quantify exactly what content items customers or users are attracted to 1st and where their eyes “dwell” the longest on the page (red hot).

So, for those non-believers, I say, become a web analytic trendsetter, driving the future of machine design forward (ala “Web Analytics 3.0”).

Be a future-thinker, forward mover, innovator of your data science sphere of influence, always curious yet informed to make intelligent choices.