Friday, August 27, 2010

Bloomberg Sports gets into fantasy football

On Monday night I had the privilege of attending a Bloomberg Sports event at their headquarters in midtown Manhattan. Back in January they held a similar event to introduce their new baseball products. The program began with an overview of the baseball offerings and the improvements since the launch in January. I wasn't at the baseball product launch so the demonstration was new to me. The tool for baseball teams lets scouts analyze hitters and pitchers by displaying all hits by a batter or all pitches from a pitcher, scattered across the strike zone. Click and drag across a selection of pitches and a new menu appears with each pitch or hit on video. A broadcast product provides ready-for-TV graphs of player statistics, with the ability to overlay them on whatever background the TV network has in stock. The most popular part of the fantasy baseball product has been the trade analysis tool. It shows an aggregate value for each player in a potential trade, so that the casual user can just drop in a trade and get a quick answer. There are in-depth analysis options for the hard-core users as well. Based on what I saw, I think I'll invest in the fantasy baseball tools for next season. I need all the help I can get.

After dinner, they gave us a demonstration of the new fantasy football offering. Bloomberg is putting all of their statistical analysis knowledge into a sit/start tool. It breaks down an individual player's stats over time and gives you a head-to-head look at which player at a particular position is the better option to play that week. Bloomberg provides a “safe play” number and a “longshot” number. The safe number is how that player usually performs. It's based on factors like that player's individual performance, his team support, how well that player matches up against his opponent (the inverse of the team support factor), and weather. The longshot number takes into account the wide variations in a player's performance. In other words, if a quarterback's usual production is two touchdown passes and one interception against a team in favorable weather, those stats factor into the safe number. But if that player has had a four-TD pass day against that team, then that becomes part of the longshot number. As an overview, the tool is easy for a casual player to see who is the better option that week. But the system allows a manager interested in deeper analysis to drill down into the different factors and see the numbers that went into the calculation. It sounds like a more detailed version of what my fantasy football system does now in providing managers with a projected score for each player every week. Now we can see what kind of information goes into that projection.

Bloomberg Sports is launching the fantasy football tool as part of the NFL's fantasy football league system on It will be free to anyone using for fantasy football. For everyone else, the tool will be $7.95 for the season, which I think is a steal. I'd easily pay twice that much for this kind of analysis. There's a possibility that Bloomberg will provide a fantasy draft kit package for next season, which would increase the value of the product even more. For the moment, I'm eager to let Bloomberg's analytic system tell me who is the best bet to start each week and see if that makes a difference in my fantasy football performance this year.   

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