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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Week 4 Predictions: Let the Big Dogs Eat

OK, so I may be a little biased living in Indianapolis, but I think I'm justified in saying that the Central East men's competition is really the crown jewel of the Regional season. I'll be headed down to Columbus, OH to watch Saturday and Sunday in person, and I have to say I'm pretty pumped. The numbers for this region are staggering:

  • The winner of the last three CrossFit Games has come from the Central East (Graham Holmberg 2010, Rich Froning 2011-12). Both men are competing this weekend.
  • The Central East produced five men in the top 10 of the 2012 CrossFit Games. All five are competing this weekend.
  • Two other men competing this weekend qualified for the Games in 2011: Nick Urankar and Joseph Weigel. Urankar was 6th at the regional last year.
  • Four of the top 20 Open finishers worldwide and six of the top 43 are competing in this region this weekend.
Thank goodness for the rule allowing extra spots for former champions, because limiting this region to only three spots would be damn near inhumane. Five doesn't even seem quite enough, frankly. Eight competitors from this region were in the top 31 of the worldwide regional standings last year. There are some other great athletes competing this weekend (Ben Smith, Nate Schrader, Lucas Parker, Christy Phillips, etc.), but you can't deny the strength of the Central East men's region as a whole.

The competitiveness of this region also forced me into making some adjustments to my modeling this week. For background on the process of generating these projections, please see my prior post.

Change one this week was the fact that I decided I could not treat Froning like the other competitors. Realistically, the only way he's not making the Games is due to injury. My solution was to give him an 80% chance of finishing top 10 worldwide and a 20% chance of finishing 11-25 worldwide. This leaves open the chance that he could get beat, but only in a scenario where several other guys put up crazy numbers.

Change two was to adjust all my projections to give more of an advantage to the top competitors. My solution was to do the following:

  • For each category, look at last year's results and calculate how often athletes in that category finished in the top 25 worldwide. Last week, I calculated how often they finished top 50.
  • Additionally, calculate how often they finished between 26-75 worldwide. Last week, I calculated how often they finished 51-100.
The reason for making this change was that in really competitive regions, too many athletes were getting put into that top 50 range. From there, it was just a crapshoot to see who drew better random numbers and qualified for the Games. Now, it's less common for athletes to get into that top 25 category, so doing so gives you a big advantage. For instance, athletes in the top category (top 15 at Games last year) have an 83% shot at finishing top 50 and a 65% shot at finishing top 25. The next highest category (16-50 at Games last year, top 40 worldwide in Regionals last year) had an 81% chance at finishing top 50 but only a 41% shot at finishing top 25. This gives us more separation for the top athletes.

Still, the Central East has five men who all qualified for my top category. The fact is, it's tough to separate them: who would you pick not to make it from those five? But then again, you also have Nick Urankar, who is really solid (26th worldwide in the Regionals last year), and there are others who could legitimately slip into the top 5. As a result, my projections don't look that great for some men that you'd generally consider to be locks for the Games. I'm not sure that's necessarily wrong.

One final note: I made the assumption that if Froning or Holmberg is in the top four, the region gets four spots. If both are in the top five, the region gets five spots. This means if Froning is 5th and Holmberg is 4th, they both still get in. Technically, this isn't how the rules are laid out, but after HQ invited 4th place Kristan Clever from SoCal, I think it's a safe bet that they'd do the same for these guys.

Before I move onto this week's picks, let's look at how last week's picks turned out. Overall, I think pretty well:

  • Of the 12 qualifiers from regions I projected, 4 were given more than a 50% shot at making it. There were also 3 athletes who I gave more than a 50% shot who did not make it.
  • According to my picks, the longest shots to qualify were Alex Nettey at 16%, Zach Forrest at 18% and Matt Hathcock at 18%.
  • If we look at the mean square error (MSE) for my picks compared to some other naive estimates, they did pretty well. 
    • The MSE for my picks was 0.045.
    • If you had given everyone in each region an equal shot, your MSE would have been 0.064.
    • If you had given a 100% chance to the top 3 in the Open in each region, your MSE would have been 0.078.
    • If you had given a 100% chance to my top 3 in each region, your MSE would have been 0.057.
So overall, a decent showing. As mentioned above, I made some adjustments, so we'll have to see how they turn out.

As I did last week, I'm limiting these picks to the four regionals that will be broadcast. In this case, that's the Central East men and women and the Mid Atlantic men and women. Without further ado, here are the athletes with the best shot at qualifying from those regions this weekend:

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

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