Wednesday, July 1, 2015

2015 CFG Analysis Games Pick 'Em Now Open

Welcome to the CFG Analysis Games Pick 'Em!  This is our second year doing the contest after a pretty good first go-round in 2014.

This year your picks will be submitted through a web form (link at the bottom of this post) rather than through the comments, although please use the comments to let me know of any issues you're having submitting your picks through the form.  I'll try to update this page regularly with a list of everyone's picks, so let me know if you spot something that looks off.  Currently the form can only enforce certain rules (such as requiring six athletes and wagers on each between 1-50), but it can't do the math for you, so if you have more or less than 100 points wagered, I'll let you know once I go to publish the next day's picks.  At that point, it's up to you to submit a corrected entry, since I'll be deleting any invalid picks once the contest starts.

OK, below are the official rules.  Even if you entered last year, please read these over.  A few items have changed.
  • Each contestant has 100 points to wager on six different athletes.  You can wager those points in whole-number increments, with a max of 50 and a minimum of 1 on each athlete.
  • You must select one wager on an athlete of each gender to win, finish top 3 (podium) and finish top 10.
  • The payout on each correct pick is based on my predictions (see below) of each athlete's chances of winning, finishing top 3 and finishing top 10.  If you wager 20 points on an athlete to win, and I give that athlete a 10% chance to win, you get 200 points if they win.
  • On the form, each athlete's name is followed by three numbers.  These are the respective payouts for a win, top 3 and top 10.
  • At the end of the Games, the winner is the contestant who has the highest total payout on their picks.
  • You have until the start of event 1 on July 22 to get your picks in.  If you want to revise your picks, please just submit a new entry and post to comments (on this page) that you'd like me to delete your first entry.  As noted above, entries with invalid point totals or with the same athlete in multiple spots will eventually be deleted, but I will notify you first.
  • You may want to write down your picks as your are filling them out.  The form won't automatically send you a confirmation, but you will be able to see your picks once I update the public list of entries, which will usually be daily-ish.  I may end up posting them to a shared Google drive if the list gets lengthy (let's hope!).
This is all free, and there is no formal prize, but if you'd like, I'm extending an invitation to chat with me on the podcast for the winner.  If interested, please submit your email address.  That's optional, and don't worry, if you submit your email address, I'm not going to contact you for anything unrelated to this contest, and I won't publish it.

For a little bit more background on how I make these predictions, read up here and listen to the podcast below.  The basic idea is that these picks are based on the simulations of the Games based on combinations of the events that have happened so far this year, but there's a bit more to it than that.  I've made some enhancements this year, so in theory, this year's contest should be a little more challenging than in the past.  Enjoy!

Click here to access the contest entry form.  You can fill out the form on a mobile device or a computer.  Keep in mind this is my first time using this software, so I apologize in advance if things are a little buggy early on.  Let me know in the comments here what kind of issues you're having and I'll do my best to get things fixed up.  Of course,  this is not my full-time job, so it could be several hours before I get to it.  Worst-case, just post your picks to the comments and I'll get it added.

Picks to date (7/4/2015 - 8 a.m.) - Entries in green have too few points wagered.  I apologize for the small font.  Hard to fit all the info without getting super-wide.  Looking to set up a Google drive to view these soon.



Friday, June 26, 2015

2015 CFG Analysis Games Pick 'Em Starting Soon

The CFG Analysis Games Pick 'Em is back again this season, and the contest will open sometime in the next 1-2 weeks.  The general concept is the same as last season, so read up here if you aren't familiar.  However, I'll be making a few changes this season:

  • Each contestant will get 100 points to wager, rather than 20 last season.  This gives you a little more flexibility in how to allocate your points.
  • Points can still be wagered in whole-number increments, but the maximum that can be wagered on each athlete is 50.  This prevents people from loading up all of their points on one athlete, and it makes it less likely that someone will win the contest solely based on one big pick.
  • You cannot pick the same athlete more than once.  For instance, you cannot pick Mat Fraser to win and also to finish top 3.  I want people to diversify their picks as much as possible.
  • If I can get it set up, the entry form will be something more formal, and not simply the comments section.  This will make things easier for you guys, and me as well, particularly if we get a lot more entries this year.
Keep your eyes peeled for my odds to be released in the next couple of weeks, then get your picks in. You can enter anytime up to the time the first individual event starts.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

2015 Regional Review

After week 2 of this year's Regional season, I noted on this blog how many surprises we had seen to that point.  Well, week 3 brought more of the same, with big names like Julie Foucher missing the Games and more under-the-radar first-time Games qualifiers, like Joe Scali and Alex Parker in the West Regional.  It's still shaping up to be a stacked field at the Games, particularly on the women's side, but let's take a quick look back at the Regionals before we move fully into Games mode.

First, the let's take a look at a few stats about the programming.  As I noted on Twitter a few weeks ago, this year's programming appeared to be heavier than last season, but pretty typical compared to 2011-2013.  After factoring in the actual loads on the snatch event, here's what we saw for the load-based emphasis on lifting (LBEL) in 2015, compared to prior years:

  • 2015 - 0.69 men, 0.46 women (48% lifting)
  • 2014 - 0.59 men, 0.37 women (43% lifting)
  • 2013 - 0.60 men, 0.38 women (43% lifting)
  • 2012 - 0.92 men, 0.60 women (67% lifting)
  • 2011 - 0.68 men, 0.44 women (48% lifting)
  • Average 2011-2015 - 0.69 men, 0.45 women (48% lifting)
As we can see, 2015 was very average as far as loading for the Regionals.  There was really nothing outlandish in terms of required loads, and limiting the snatch to two attempts kept the weights lower in that event.  In fact, the men's average lift was 232 lbs., and when we look at the men who were in the top 330 in the Open last season (roughly those who would have qualified in the Super Regional format), the average snatch was 235 lbs.  And keep in mind that last season was a hang squat snatch, rather than a full snatch, any-style.  The women's load did go up from 145 lbs. to 150 lbs., which is probably a testament to the continued improvement of lifting skill among female CrossFit athletes.  The limited number of attempts also increased the variability compared to last season: the standard deviation in 2015 was 51 lbs. for men and 32 lbs. for women, whereas in 2014 it was 33 lbs. for men and 28 lbs. for women (again, limiting to the top 330 from the Open).

Another question is, well, does the programming really have an impact on who qualifies for the Games.  The answer, in my opinion, is yes, although the effect is rather small.  The chart below shows the average weight of the men's Games qualifiers (ignoring top 2 and bottom 2 values each year), as well as the LBEL of the programming at Regionals each year.  Weights for 2015 based on data from Sam Swift, prior years were collected manually from the Games site when I wrote last year's Regional Review.

The effect is relatively small, but the weight of the qualifiers does follow the same pattern as the LBEL of the programming. In 2014, when the LBEL was at its lowest, the average male qualifier was 192 lbs. In 2012, when LBEL was at its highest, the average male qualifier was 199 lbs.

Additionally, I looked at returning regional athletes to see if there was any correlation between weight and the change in rank from year to year.  The hypothesis was that since the programming appeared to be heavier this year, bigger athletes should tend to see more improvement in their ranking than smaller athletes.  Again, the effect was not huge, but it was consistent with expectations.  For men, there was a -12% correlation between weight and change in rank (negative change in rank = improvement), and for women, there was a -8% correlation.

Another thing we saw with the programming this year was an even bigger emphasis on Olympic lifting, with 48% of the points coming from Olympic-style barbell lifts (36% coming from the snatch and clean alone).  There was also a decline in basic gymnastic movements, such as the toes-to-bar and pull-up, while high-skill gymnastic movements, such as the muscle-up and handstand push-up, continued to be a major focus.  Basic gymnastics made up only 10% of the points, compared with about 20% in 2013-2014, while high skill gymnastics made up 33% of the points.  High skill gymnastics made up 36% of the points last season, but only about 15% from 2011-2013.

Combined, Olympic-style barbell lifts and high skill gymnastics made up 81% of the points at the 2015 Regionals.  That is the highest of any HQ competition in history.  Below is a list of the competitions with the highest percentage of points coming from these two sets of movements:

1. 2015 Regionals - 81%
2. 2014 Regionals - 67%
3. 2015 Open - 61%
4t. 2010 Games - 50%
4t. 2011 Open - 50%

To me, we had a little bit too much emphasis in these areas.  These are the two most technical types of movements, so I'm not sure if these are necessarily the same athletes who will excel at the "unknown and unknowable" events at the Games.  At Regionals this year, there were also no powerlifting-style barbell lifts, no kettlebell or dumbbell movements and no wall balls.  There were also no burpees, just like the Open.  The last individual HQ competition prior to 2015 without burpees was the 2007 Games.  That just seems odd.

All this being said, I liked the programming this year more than last season.  The programming was balanced as far as loading, and the events were pretty well-designed and competitive.  Sure, I'd have liked more than 2 attempts on the snatch, and I think event 2 ("Tommy V") was a little boring for the fans, but generally I thought the programming made sense and was good for the fans.  Event 7 was another thriller, although I'm still a little bit more of a fan of last year's event 7 (pull-ups/OHS).

Finally, let's look at the qualifying athletes.  Of the 40 men's qualifiers, only 15 were first-time athletes.  Two athletes, Spencer Hendel and Nick Urankar, returned after missing the Games for at least two years (Urankar had missed three years).  Of the 40 women's qualifiers, only 13 were first-time qualifiers.  Thuridur Erla Helgadottir also returned to the Games after missing the last two years.

How did my predictions turn out?  Actually not bad.  I'd like to have a few back, like Stacie Tovar and Lindy Barber each at 4% (probably should have cut them a little more slack for just having a bad year in 2014), but overall, things were pretty well-calibrated.  The mean-square error (MSE) was 7.35% this year, which is worse than last year's 4.0%, but things were also tougher to predict this year.  Because of the smaller field, a higher portion of the field had a legitimate shot to qualify, which is generally going to make the MSE higher.  Had we just given every athlete an equal shot to qualify, the MSE would have been 10.7%, whereas last year it would have been 6.1%.

The chart below shows the calibration of the model this year.  You can see that across the whole field, the actual predictions (blue line) were rarely off from the perfect predictions (red line) by more than 5-10%.  For instance, the far right blue dot indicates than I gave the best athletes about a 73% chance of qualifying (x-axis), and in reality, those athletes qualified about 68% of the time (y-axis).  Not bad!

Before I go, I want to mention the CFG Analysis Games Pick 'Em, which we'll be doing again this year. Be on the lookout for all the rules to come out in the next 3-4 weeks, along with my predictions, which you will be gambling against. I'm planning to make a few improvements, and I think it should make for another good time. If nothing else, it gives you a few more athletes to root for in Carson. See you in a few weeks!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Regional Predictions Week 3: Central, Meridian and West Regionals

We're back for one final week of Regionals.  You can get some of my thoughts on the first two weeks of Regionals on the podcast I posted earlier this week.  Every year, we seem to have a few seemingly shoe-in athletes not make the Games, but last week was full of surprises.  There have been 18 men and women from last year's top 15 at the Games who have competed at Regionals in the first two weeks, and six (33%) have failed to qualify.  Those types of athletes generally get a 70-85% chance of qualifying in my modeling, so this is a bit atypical.  Two of those, Josh Bridges and Valerie Voboril, have each qualified at least three times in the past.

On the flip side, we've seen some athletes finally break through this year (e.g. Elijah Muhammad) or get back to the Games (e.g. Spencer Hendel).  Hendel is one of the few athletes to qualify for the Games, fail to qualify for multiple Games in a row, then qualify again.

I'm sure we'll have some surprises in store in week 3, so it should be a fun one to watch.  Enjoy the weekend everyone!

(Note: West Regional predictions revised 5/30 to remove Ben Stoneberg and Emily Carothers, who are not competing. All other athletes' chances increased as a result.)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Podcast Episode 10: Post-Murph Chat and Regional Update

Anders and old pal John Nail catch up post-Murph on Saturday afternoon.  Unfortunately the iPhone caught a case of Rhabdo about 7 minutes in, so the conversation gets cut a little short (but SWEET!).  To make up for the lost recording, Anders wraps things up on Monday with some thoughts on the first two weeks of Regional competition.

Check for week 3 of regional predictions Wednesday or Thursday this week.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Regional Predictions Week 2: California, Pacific and East Regionals

One week is in the books, and things went pretty well from a prediction standpoint and a viewing standpoint.  Before we get to predictions for week 2, here are some thoughts on what we've seen so far:
  • From a viewing standpoint, I thought the events improved throughout the weekend.  "Randy" wasn't bad, but to me, any workout with just a single movement just isn't quite as fun.  "Tommy V" was simply too many rope climbs to really be a great spectator event.  The long chipper on Saturday was pretty entertaining once the run ended (Emily Bridgers and Anna Tunnicliffe had a nice battle in the Atlantic).  The handstand walk followed by the snatch was OK, but nothing great.  But Sunday was good for some high drama.  The handstand push-ups on event 6 really caused some serious shifts in the leaderboard and it gave us some good battles, like Camille vs. Natalie Newhart in the South.  Event 7, while in my opinion not quite as good of an event as last year's pull-up/OHS workout, provided some great theatrics.  The men's final in the Atlantic was the only event that I had to watch live, and I (along with with plenty of others it seemed) was rooting for Elijah Muhammad to finally get his trip to the Games.  His comeback on that event was exactly the type of drama the sport needs.
  • In the past couple weeks, I complained a bit about the fact that only two attempts were given for the max snatch, but my reasoning was that it left athletes vulnerable to being penalized significantly for a single mistake.  But watching the event, I also felt like having only two attempts made for an awkward viewing experience.  I think we're trained to expect three attempts on something like this, and it felt odd that the event was over after only two tries.  It just moved too quickly, in my opinion.  If there were three attempts, I think you'd get more athletes really pushing the envelope on that third try, but generally we got some pretty safe lifts for most athletes.
  • Speaking of the snatch, for men, the average load lifted was 236 lbs. in the Atlantic and 226 lbs. in the South, and that includes 2 lifters in each region who had no good lifts (those counted as 0 lbs.).  For women, the average were 151 lbs. in the Atlantic and 144 lbs. in the South, including 1 athlete in the Atlantic and 3 athletes in the South who had no good lifts.  By comparison, the averages on the hang snatch event last year were 224 lbs. for men and 137 lbs. for women.  Remember, those fields included about twice as many athletes, so you'd expect the loads not to be quite as high, not to mention the fact that the lift was required to be from the hang and power snatches were not allowed.  I think it's safe to say athletes were not as close to their maxes this year.
  • The predictions were generally pretty decent in week 1.  The only major surprise qualifier was Whitney Gelin from the Atlantic, who I had pegged with a 1% chance.  Otherwise, every other qualifier had at least a 13% chance of qualifying.  Of the 9 athletes I predicted with greater than a 50% chance, 7 qualified.  After the regionals are over, I'll update the calibration plot that I showed last week.
  • For this week's predictions, the only significant manual adjustments I made were to boost Mat Fraser's chances a bit (not quite the same amount as I boosted Camille's last week, but close) and to boost Kara Webb's chances (I treated her as if she was a top 15 Games finisher).

One final note: I'm planning to record a podcast this weekend with John Nail.  We'll be doing the podcast after the Memorial Day "Murph" workout at my old gym, and we'll be chatting about regionals, my (still unfinished) road back to being a full-fledged CrossFit athlete again, whether Hamm's is truly the best cheap beer available and other subjects of vital importance.

And finally, predictions are below.  Enjoy week 2 of Regionals, everyone!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Regional Predictions Week 1: South and Atlantic Regionals

In each of the past four years, fans who've watched the CrossFit Games have seen some really cool stuff. At the Games, you get to see athletes put up some insane weights (377-lb. overhead squats, for instance), you get crazy-brutal events like a 2-hour triathlon or the burden run, and you get to see some events with excellent finishes (like Josh Bridges holding off Rich Froning in "Push Pull" last year).  But what you don't typically get is a lot of drama.  With the exception of last season's men's competition, the men's and women's titles have basically been decided by the time the last event rolled around, and even in that men's final last year, you never felt like Mat Fraser could really pull it off.  You have to go back to the 2010 men's final to really get a big shift at the end, and even that was weird because it was hard to tell that Graham Holmberg was actually going to catch Rich as you were watching.

No, the Games is not where you go for drama.  That would be Regionals.  If you've been to the event in person on a Sunday, the tension in the air is unavoidable.  Watch Sevan Matossian's documentary "Only Three" about last year's Central East Regional and you'll see what I mean.  For that reason, the Regionals have long been my favorite part of the season as a spectator.

For the third year, I'll be posting predictions for each athlete's chances of making it to the Games.  In the past, these predictions have been fairly well-calibrated, meaning that, for instance, athletes with a 50% chance of qualifying in my model do typically make it to the Games around 50% of the time.  That doesn't mean the model is perfect, of course.  If it were, I'd give a 100% chance to the 5 athletes who were going to make it.  But then again, no model is perfect, and if there were a perfect model, well, there'd be no drama.  So keep in mind these are all in good fun.

For more background on the model and how it works, listen to the CFG Analysis Podcast Episode 8 or read up here.  In theory, the model should be getting better each year as we get more data from past years to help calibrate it.

Before we get to the predictions, here are some general thoughts on this year's Regionals:
  • As far as loading goes, this year is roughly the average of the past four years.  The required weights in the metcons are lighter than last year, but there is more lifting overall (48% vs 37%).  Although the exact number depends on the numbers we see in the snatch event, the LBEL looks to be around 0.72, which is lower than 2012 (0.92) but higher than 2011 (0.68), 2013 (0.60) and 2014 (0.58).
  • Olympic lifting movements play a huge role, even more so than in the past.  Every single lift falls into the "Olympic-Style Barbell Lifts" category that I've defined, and even if you restrict that definition to only snatches, cleans and jerks, that's 36% of the points.  Thrusters, overhead squats and sumo deadlift high pulls make up another 12%.  Historically, this entire group of movements is worth about 33% of the points at Regionals.
  • Burpees are nowhere to be found for a second straight competition after appearing in every competition from 2008-2014.  Very curious on the reasoning from HQ here...
  • I like the move to the Games-style scoring system.  This won't punish a single poor performance quite as much (Sam Briggs would have made it to the Games last year under this system), and it rewards elite performances on certain events more so than the past Regional system.  More old school thoughts on the scoring system here.  If I had my druthers, this is the scoring system I think I'd go with.
OK, well let's get to the predictions.  The only manual adjustments I made this week were to bump up Camille's chances a bit (despite her being in the highest-rated cohort already) and to put Sam Briggs into a slightly higher cohort (equivalent to athletes finishing below 15th at the Games last year but top 40 at Regionals last year).  Enjoy the weekend everyone!