We’ve already established that I’m not normal. In this piece, we’re going to verify that I’m an *sshole.

This is the 35th installment of The Labyrinthian, a series dedicated to exploring random fields of knowledge in order to give you unordinary theoretical, philosophical, strategic, and/or often rambling guidance on daily fantasy sports. Consult the introductory piece to the series for further explanation.

Tom and His Dangerous Daughter

That was the shortest intro in the history of this series, so we’re already on unfamiliar terrain. Let’s venture further into the unknown.

I’m not normally one to make fun of nine-year-old girls — and right now you are probably very worried about where this is going — so let me assure you that in this piece I don’t (really) make fun of a child. You’ll be pleased to know that instead I make fun of her father, Tom.

Of course, Tom, if you are reading this, know that I mean all of this in a very good-humored way. Also, if you’re reading this, you probably know that you’re name isn’t “Tom.” (Tom is very buff. I have a great childhood story about Tom as a senior in high school threatening to beat the sh*t out of a guy named “Jon,” who was in my eighth-grade class and had bragged to some of our classmates about how he had fooled around with the Tom’s sister. Actually, it’s not that great of a story. I basically just told you the story.)

Anyway, I had another article all mapped out, and I’ll probably get to that one eventually, but then last night I saw a series of photos that Tom had posted on Facebook over the weekend, and I knew immediately that I couldn’t write any other article for today other than the one I’m writing now.

One Bullseye Does Not a Katniss Everdeen Make

Let me describe the photos to you. First of all, I’m originally from a small town in Texas, and Tom still lives in that town. Secondly, I’m slightly embellishing the story. If at any point in what follows you read something that seems unreal, just remember these two facts:

  1. Small-town Texas
  2. Slight embellishment

In the first of these photos you can see a girl who is about nine years old. She’s holding a bow and arrow and aiming at something that is off camera. The caption for this photo is “Katniss Everdeen!” — except with at least five different spelling errors that spellcheck wouldn’t even allow me to reproduce. Also, I don’t know much about archery, but I know enough to know that she’s holding the bow wrong. Cattnise Everdeane she is not.

The second photo is actually a beauty. Of course, I say this as someone who knows sh*t about photography. But at least the photo looks cool. Tom was able to capture his daughter releasing the arrow, which you can see leaving the bow. You can actually see the blur of the string snapping and the arrow bending slightly. I’m happy for Tom that he caught that image on his phone. It’s one that he will cherish forever, especially if he never A) reads this article, B) permanently deletes his Facebook account, and C) drops his phone in a lake while fishing.

The third photo is the one that entirely slayed me. Tom’s daughter isn’t seen at all. Instead, you can see the object at which she was presumably taking aim in the previous photos: A bale of hay. And, no, I didn’t make up all of this story just so that I could make some sort of bad Jonathan Bales of Hay pun. That’s not my style. Well, that’s my style — but this story is still mostly real.

And even if this story weren’t real — even if Tom and his daughter didn’t exist — I can assure you that they would still be very real in spirit. As weird as this may sound, in Texas it’s not all that unordinary for a dad to teach his nine-year-old daughter how to aim a weapon and fire it at a bale of hay. I’m sure that somewhere in Texas it’s happening right now.

The Bale(s) of Hay-lariousness

Anyway, in the photo is the bale of hay. And on the bale of hay is a piece of paper on which is printed a simple version of a shooting target. That this piece of paper is the girl’s target might be funny to some. What’s even funnier (to me) is this fact: In the bale of hay, surrounding the paper but not piercing the paper, were about 20 arrows. Seriously, who needs that many arrows? Not even medieval archers carried that many arrows in their quivers.

Also, how had not even one of the arrows managed to touch the piece of paper? Statistically, the odds of aiming and firing at the paper from that range that many times and not hitting it are ridiculously low. Hell, the odds of firing 20 times in the direction of the paper and not hitting it once even if one is not aiming — those odds are pretty low too. Perhaps the problem was that she actually was aiming . . . but that’s kind of another matter.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t also say that on this fated shot, captured so beautifully in the second photo, the odds finally evened out. She hit the paper. And not just the paper. She hit the very center of the target.

The photo’s caption was “Bullseye!!!”

I seriously laughed for about five minutes at this photo. My wife finally had to come into my office and tell me to be quiet because some of the people in this house actually have real work to do.

I’m a lucky man. And speaking of “real work” . . .

Randomness in DFS

Let’s bring this little story back to DFS.

What struck me as so hilarious about this final photo was the randomness in it. The girl, as an inexperienced archer, has aim that is . . . how should I say this without being an *sshole? Let’s try this: She currently has aim that isn’t as good as it will be after her dad reads this and has her practice shooting at pictures of my face 21 arrows at a time.

That this sweet-looking, weapon-wielding girl happened to hit a bullseye means nothing. It was bound to happen randomly at some point. I’m happy for her that she hit it. But that she hit it doesn’t mean that she actually did anything right. It just means that she fired enough arrows at a bale of hay that happened to have a piece of paper on it.

But that’s not the part that I really found humorous. What struck me was Tom’s seeming obliviousness. I hope that one day, if I have a child who randomly happens to hit bullseyes, I will be stupidly proud. I also, though, hope that I have the sense to remove the 20 random arrows from the bale of hay before I take the photo and post it to Facebook. And, deep down, I hope that I have the sense to know that the child got lucky, even if I say otherwise.

I think that a lot of DFS players are like Tom and their lineups are like their nine-year-old daughters. Those lineups exhibit a lot of randomness. Those lineups don’t often hit whatever they are aiming to hit. And when they do periodically hit a bullseye, as they are bound to do if enough arrows are fired, that occurrence is taken as a sign of improvement and skill instead of the randomness and eventual certainty that it is.

I hate to say this, but winning a tournament or 100 percent of your cash games in one slate doesn’t mean that you are skilled at the art of DFS archery.

If the arrow in the bullseye is also surround by other arrows that hit the target, then one is probably good at shooting arrows. But if the arrow that hits the bullseye is the only one to hit the target at all, then one is probably just shooting arrows at random.

If you are consistent — if you are accurate and precise — then a bullseye means something. It is a signal. If you are random, the bullseye means nothing and in fact is misleading. It is noise.

Legolas: Flat Character, Fantastic Archer

When my wife walked into my office to tell me to stop laughing, she found me holding my copy of Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise. I had the book open and was looking at this image:

Accuracy and Precision

D*mn right, I took the time to scan it in!

My wife looked at the image and said, “I don’t get it.” I gave her my phone and showed her the three pictures on Facebook. When she saw the picture of the hay bale littered with random arrows, one of which happened to be a bullseye, she instantly got it. She even smirked. And then she handed my phone back to me and walked out of my office, saying, “Don’t be such an *sshole. She’s like, what, nine? How good of an archer were you as a little girl?”

By the way, my wife is a professor and one of her fields is women’s studies, so when she says something like that she says it with full irony. Also, her least-favorite character from The Lord of the Rings is Legolas. She’s more of a Katniss fan. One day, one of her students told her, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Katniss Everdeen?” That was one of the greatest days of my life. None of that is highly relevant, but it does add texture to this story.

Anyway, my wife immediately understood why I was laughing: Success is just noise if it doesn’t occur within a larger context of accuracy and precision. Pretending otherwise is foolishness.

Accuracy and Precision in DFS

If we look at the image from Silver’s book, we will notice that Tom’s daughter was neither accurate nor precise. By the way, if Suzanne Vega ever writes a sequel to her hit song, I hope that she name’s it “Tom’s Daughter.”

For a DFS player who is neither accurate nor precise, hitting a bullseye is perhaps the worst thing that can happen. Sure, it’s good because winning money is good. But it’s bad because it will likely cost this random DFS player more money in the long run. Hitting a bullseye will encourage such a DFS player to believe that improvement has been made and more success is imminent. It will encourage such a player to stop examining the process that led to so many scattershot lineups before the bullseye. In these circumstances, the random DFS player will confuse errancy for ability.

Of course, as one can see from Silver’s diagram, although accuracy is better than randomness, it need not be much better. One can be accurate without being good. Let’s say that in playing cash games the accurate DFS player has the goal of always reaching the cash line. In this scenario, the cash line is the bullseye. Now, let’s say that this DFS player is accurate in that he is able to hit in the vicinity of the cash line a high percentage of the time. That’s great — but the problem is that he can’t do so with any precision. For instance, the player is always within a 20-point range of the cash line, and within that range half of the shots fall below the cash line and half above.

Guess what? Such a DFS player, though accurate (to a degree), will eventually lose an entire bankroll. Why? Because being accurate in DFS is not enough. One must also be precise.

But, per Silver’s figure, precision on its own is not enough either. Every slate, the precise DFS player might hit exactly 10 points below the cash line. Such precision would be very impressive — enviable, in fact — but, like the accurate DFS player, this DFS player would eventually lose a bankroll.

To be more than a random DFS player, to hit DFS bullseyes that actually mean something, one must become accurate and precise through a constant process of practice. One must not become overconfident when one hits bullseyes. One must continue to focus on consistency and reliability so that more high-quality shots hit the mark.

Finding the Center of the Target

I’m biased, but I think that the best way to practice so that one becomes accurate and precise is to follow process at least similar to the one I outline here:

  1. Use our Trends tool to find players who are historically worth rostering. In general, these would players whom you like on the basis of Plus/Minus, Bargain Rating, Upside, and Consistency. And then use these players regularly. It’s hard to gauge your ability or establish consistency when you aren’t shooting the same sturdy arrows all the time.
  2. Use our Models tool to build optimal lineups and to generate hundreds of lineups. Sort through these lineups and get a sense for how the highest-ranked lineups are constructed. Are there any trends you notice in how these lineups are built? Any positions that tend to be prioritized? Learn to use the Models tool as a means of calibrating your shot.
  3. Look at the slates and your contests after they have been completed. Look at the bale of hay with all of the arrows in it. What were the various thresholds you needed to hit to attain a certain level of success? What is your bullseye? What were the types of shots (lineups) that tended to be both accurate and precise in regards to that bullseye? How can you make more of your shots more accurate and precise in the future?

Just like a child learning archery, we DFS players must continually evaluate our process and make adjustments.

Hitting the bullseye is irrelevant. It’s knowing how to hit the center of the mark that matters.


The Labyrinthian: 2016, 35

Previous installments of The Labyrinthian can be accessed via my author page. If you have suggestions on material I should know about or even write about in a future Labyrinthian, please contact me via email, [email protected], or Twitter @MattFtheOracle.