The curious case of “Italian statistics” – Part 2

Yesterday we broke a story regarding some statistical mistakes in some Euroleague arenas and so far it seems that we got some attention from people that had no idea this was happening. Today, however, we will be concentrating more on statistics in regard to Euroleague Fantasy Challenge, talking to the man who runs the show.

If you have no idea what we are talking about, you can read the Part 1 of the story HERE, to get briefed. And if have already, you might want to check it again, as we included some more interesting facts regarding Montepaschi Siena stats from 2007/08 season. To put it short we documented some errors by the statskeepers, assists in particular. Today we will see how could such mistakes have an impact of Euroleague Fantasy Challenge.

The general consensus, after speaking with specialists and simple fans, was that Dimitris Diamantidis [the most expensive PG of the game] and the team owners who had purchased him, got robbed, sort of speak, of 4 assists, and hence 4.3 (including the win bonus) index ranking credits, while some lucky ones take advantage of the inflated statistics of Italian teams’ players.

And it does not even stop at that. Had he had those 4.3 IR points calculated his value would now stand at 81.9 credits, whereas now he is worth 78.5 credits. That’s 3.4 credits difference. So who better to ask about the issue than the person behind the game itself, Javier Gancedo of Euroleague, who by the way, although being extremely busy and on the road, took the time to answer all our questions.

TB: How many total users and total teams are now in the Euroleague Fantasy Challenge?
J.G.: The Sportingbet Fantasy Challenge – sponsor, sponsor! – has around 75,800 teams this season. As for users, it is hard to tell because we count all user names we have since Day 1. Since we started in 2005-06, it is 120,000 users. I guess it is easy to create new ones rather than finding out passwords.

TB: Is there an internal database available to you and only you? For example can you at any time know how many teams have “X player” in their squad?
J.G.: There is an internal database that the programmer – the same one as the Spanish League SuperManager – has and that we can access for names, e-mails, phones and personal data. I cannot know how many teams have a certain player in a team. I could if I ask the programmer but we only contact him for technical issues. It could be a way to improve the game – giving out a most-owned players every week. I will write it down to improve the game next season!

TB: If yes, how many team owners had Dimitris Diamantidis in their squad last week?
J.G.: Well, I don’t know, but he is the most expensive point guard in the game, so I would say thousands without any chance to be wrong.

TB: At AJ Milano-Panathinaikos game Dimitris Diamantidis got credited just one assist while he dished five in the game. That is a 4.3 (with win bonus) Euroleague Fantasy points difference. With him being the 2nd most expensive player of the game, it also costs in credits. Do you feel that sometimes some Euroleague Fantasy players get dealt a bad hand due to negligence and poor professional practice by a third party (Italian stats keepers)?
J.G.: Could be. Fact is, stats need to be uploaded as soon as possible if we want the game to be fresh and quick. We could try to review every game but taking into account weekends and manpower, we would open trading every week by Monday afternoon. We discussed about it before we launched the game and got to this agreement – stats will be uploaded quickly and proven stats mistakes, like Diamantidis against Milano, will be fixed at the end of the season. It has worked well this far, as we guarantee that the numbers are correct in the end and allows Fantasy Challenge to be dynamic. Besides, mistakes tend to compensate one with another in terms of a season-long fantasy team. For instance, if a player has a three-point play and a referee calls him – wrongly – travelling, he goes from 4 to -1 in that play, too. The weekly winner did not win by less than 4.3 points and I doubt it will have a big impact in the final standings. Of course, the stats department is fully aware of the problem – we got a lot of emails, believe me – and will react.

TB: What do you, as the Euroleague Fantasy master, can do (if anything) to guarantee uniform criteria in all arenas and elimination of unfairness (obviously not due to Euroleague Fantasy organisers fault) in Euroleague Fantasy?
J.G.: I kind of answered that in the previous questions. Our friends in the stats department have an annual stats meeting and make sure the stats guys have all the information and criteria they need. Of course, everyone can make mistakes. The stats stuff talk to people on the court during the games and are available for any doubt. And again, the agreement is to make sure Fantasy is fast and dynamic over mistakes that may happen here and there.

[You can read more of Javier Gancedo at his column]

So rest assured, because the Euroleague statistics department is apparently aware of the problem (we hope the emails they get are from polite statistics geeks and not hate mail) and is working on it. That concludes our little trip to the Euroleague stats land. For now, as we will be keeping a close eye, especially in Italian arenas, as there are reports that something similar also took place during AJ Milano – Union Olimpija game earlier in the season.