March 14, 2012 posted by Patrick DiCaprio

The Final Nail in the ADP Coffin?

The Final Nail in the ADP Coffin?
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Yes, we are going to take a shot at dispelling ADP yet another time.

Solomon Asch, a professor at Swarthmore, conducted an experiment in conformity that has far-reaching implications for fantasy baseball, and many other arenas as well, and they are now known as the Asch Conformity Experiments.

The experiments say a lot about the world, our psychologies and, most importantly for us, fantasy baseball. Additionally, they provide another nail in the coffin of ADP utility among those intrepid souls that tilt against the fantasy windmills of ADP.

The test subjects for the Asch Conformity Experiments were brought into a group of supposed random people, but who were all Asch’s accomplices. Then the whole group was shown a card with one line on it. They were then shown a card with three lines and were asked to compare the one line to the other three and find the one that was the same length.

That seems easy enough.

However, Asch’s plants in the group argued strongly for the wrong line on the second card, even though in an unbiased atmosphere it would be clear that they were wrong. They were asked to give answers out loud, argue vociferously and come to unanimity.

And the unwitting test sap would go last.

In one-third to three-quarters (!) of the cases the unwitting subjects gave the wrong answer, and afterwards admitted doing so because of the others.

That says a lot about us. But what is even more interesting is the fact that as long as at least one person dissented the unwitting test subject almost always gave the right answer! All it took was one lone voice to free their minds.

The lessons are clear:

  1. Our “analysis” of a problem is inexorably slanted by the opinion of the majority;
  2. Even when presented with something that is obviously false (ADP?) we may not admit it because of the power of peer pressure and a desire to fit in; and
  3. As long as we are not alone in our opinion we are willing to go against the masses.

Mixed League Drafts

Mixed league players that use ADP are in exactly the same position as Asch’s unwitting test subjects; the use of ADP is essentially an exercise in groupthink. So, let me be that sole dissenting voice as we cast off the yoke of ADP tyranny and move on to a better, more fruitful fantasy world.

When you think about what ADP reports actually are, at their core, this should be obvious. Compare how ADP reports are used to the Asch Experiment:

  1. We have a player (line) to analyze;
  2. We have a series of players (lines) on a second card that purport to be possible measures of its length (value);
  3. We have to correlate the player (line) with the second card (ADP reports);
  4. Almost everyone in the industry (the planted group) says one thing that, on its face should be obviously flawed if not outright wrong (that the wrong line is the right size); and
  5. We are asked to make our own determination.

ADP essentially takes wholly subjective data that is not even accurate in any meaningful sense. Just a few of what should be obvious issues are:

-the use of “bots” and auto drafts;

-the users of an individual site;

-the preset rankings on a site;

-giving equal weight to every opinion; and

-trying to relate the subjective results of a global experiment to an individual’s situation, which may be markedly different because of the other owners.

And this is just a short list.

The biggest issue is the veneer of objectivity. After all, ADP gives us a quasi-objective process to follow; we are taking data and using it to form a judgment. But with any process, it is garbage in and garbage out.

Many people use ADP and win, not realizing that because virtually everyone does the same thing the winner can always say that the use of ADP helped him. Thus, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and proof of the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy. Read that again if you do not agree and try to grasp the import of this plain fact.

You will be just as correct if you say that being over five feet tall led you to victory.

However, there is one way that ADP might be useful.

Look at an experts’ draft and see where they strongly differ from everyone else. If it is a trusted “expert” then go with his or her opinion and not ADP. There will be more than a few cases where a player is drafted 50 places earlier than everyone else is drafting him; in some cases it may be a lot more than 50 when experts are involved.

Pay extra attention to who the experts take at the end of their drafts. This is where you can often find great “sleepers” that are essentially undrafted in most non-expert drafts.

And last, but perhaps most important, make sure that they are actual experts and not people that have the title simply because of credentials or site affiliation. We have written many times before, and did so again in our 2012 Draft Magazine, on how to figure this out.


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