Leonard LaPadula - CEO

In my previous two posts, I recapped how The Machine performed both for users and for the three leagues I managed. Active users that drafted with The Machine concluded the season with a 21% probability of winning and my teams were highly competitive despite the high level of competition, the bad starting point in my keeper league, and my lack of time to stay on top of the latest NFL news.

Although I’m proud of our 2011 results, our 2011 season was far from perfect. We are committed to deliver an even better product in 2012. In this post I will briefly recap our accomplishments and then acknowledge some of the issues you might have seen that we have identified as opportunities for improvement.


Accomplishments in 2011

In addition to the successes we had with The Machine in 2011, we are proud of the following key accomplishments.

  • Completely rebuilt The Machine and gained a 10X runtime improvement compared to 2010
  • Obtained results that prove the core mathematics in The Machine are working very well
  • Added CBS Sports and RealTime Fantasy Sports, joining MyFantasyLeague, to the list of league providers that The Machine is integrated with; all including real-time draft synchronization
  • Implemented all target features of The Machine as depicted in the following figure:

Opportunities for Improvement in 2012

Now I want to acknowledge some issues you might have experienced in 2011 so you know we are addressing them and so you will have greater confidence in The Machine – Fantasy Football 2012.

  1. While the core math of The Machine proved to be sound, we found two issues which we have already fixed for 2012:
    • In leagues where a position was used only as a part of a flex position, The Machine did not utilize the weaker position correctly. The most common situation occurred when a league had multiple flex WR/TE starters, but no WR-only or TE-only starters. In this case, The Machine was not giving correct consideration for the TE.
    • All mathematics in The Machine is an approximation for which we trade-off between performance and accuracy.  The playoff mathematics was not fully-optimized and we now have a more accurate algorithm for simulating the playoff part of the season.
  2. We discovered a core architecture issue late in the season which occurred from after the first NFL game started on Thursday night to when the last game completed on Monday night. The waiver recommendations function was assuming all players could be swapped in the current week starting lineup and did not account for the locked players.  We have enhanced our league data structure and league integrations to account for the players that are locked so waivers recommendations will give better recommendations after the first kickoff of the week.
  3. We missed delivery of the complete projection “blending” function we envisioned.  We didn’t fully grasp the issues at the beginning of the season and made adjustments along the way.  In the end, we only blended AccuScore with projections from CBSSports Jamey Eisenburg and Dave Richard for the current week.  We have gone back to the drawing board and re-architected a powerful new system called The Projection Station, for which the basic function has already been implemented in The Machine.  The complete solution is complex, and we will be delivering a full version around the beginning of the NFL season. Here is a preview of what the basic functionality will look like:

  4. In 2011, we completely depended on full league configuration information coming from league-provider APIs. CBS Sports, MyFantasyLeague and RealTime Fantasy Sports have great, in-depth information available from their APIs. However, The Machine utilizes much more league configuration than any previous product.  We did our best to come up with the best configurations from the information provided, but some of the setups still required manual overrides, which were not savable and had to be repeated each time you loaded The Machine. For 2012, all three league providers are working with us closely to improve API information, we are improving our side of the integration, and now all manual overrides can be saved.
  5. Some complex leagues with separate scoring rules for ST and D or certain types of complex flex positions were not being interpreted correctly.  These issues are now fixed.

Despite running into these issues in 2011, The Machine still proved to be an excellent source for analysis and recommendations. However, by identifying the addressing the issues we found, we are certain to provide users with even better accuracy and performance.

In my next post, I will introduce the new Pre-Draft features that will be available soon for those of you that play in keeper or dynasty leagues or like to trade picks prior to the Draft. Stay tuned!