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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Regional Predictions, Week 4

Although last week's regional competitions had their share of drama, I'll admit it felt like a bit of a letdown after the amazing weekend prior. Thankfully, this fourth and final weekend looks like it has some fantastic stuff in store. I mean, how could Northern California's men's competition not be insane? We have seven former Games competitors vying for three spots, including three men who finished in the top 10 at the Games last year. Like we saw in the Central East, there will be some men not heading to the Games that probably would have gone in virtually any other region in the world.

With that in mind, let's get to some assorted topics before we move onto the predictions for week 4:
  • Taken in a vacuum, I don't have a problem with Dave Castro's statement (speaking for HQ I presume) that there will not be any wild cards given out this year. However, in context of this season, I'm not a fan.
    • Why even announce that wild card spots will be available (which they did earlier this year) if you are going to rule out that possibility before the Regionals have even finished? I cannot conceive of a scenario where wild cards would make more sense than they do for Sam Briggs this year. She is the reigning Fittest Woman on Earth, she had a single bad event in one of the most volatile events ever programmed at Regionals (1-attempt handstand walk) and she still finished fourth in a stacked region. If you're not going to use a wild card in that situation, then you're never going to use it.
    • Talent is so clearly bunched in a few regions (and has been for a few years). I can understand the argument that the regionals are set up with a limited number of spots in each region to increase drama and make things more exciting. However, I find it difficult to accept the argument that this system is ideal for finding the fittest athletes in the world. I get that cross-regional comparisons are not perfect, but I challenge anyone to argue that Graham Holmberg (4th in Central East) is not among the 40 best CrossFitters in the world. As it stands now, he is ranked ahead of the champions from 9 other regions. For Castro to argue that "the right athletes" are going to the Games seems a bit disingenuous. If you're just setting it up this way for drama, that's fine, but let's just call it what it is.
  • Although we have one week to go, the data from across all regions has allowed me to get a sneak peak at some interesting things from this year's regionals.
    • In terms of correlation with success across all Regional and Open events, it appears that events 3 and 7 are the top events at this point. I'll admit when I was wrong, and I was wrong on event 7. The top athletes are all crushing it, and it is damn exciting. Event 3 is a bit surprising, but again, look at the athletes who are doing well there, and they're usually dominating across the board.
    • On the other end of the spectrum, event 5 for the men actually has the lowest correlation with overall success. My guess here is that this is the one event this season that truly favors taller athletes, and so you are seeing some athletes with huge performances who otherwise are struggling. For the women, this event is not so bad, mainly because there are no athletes jumping 10-11 feet in the air and getting to the top of the rope in a couple pulls.
    • Not surprisingly, the two single-modality events (1 and 2) are among the least correlated with overall success for both men and women. Event 2 is slightly worse than event 1, but not by as much as you might think.
    • Events 4 and 6 are kind of middling in this respect. I expected event 6 to really bring out the top all-around athletes, but it might just be so grueling that it heavily favors the endurance specialists.
    • If we look at Open events in this context, 14.3 has the lowest correlation with overall success among Regional athletes (as it did for the entire Open field). On the other side, 14.4 was the highest correlation with overall success among Regional athletes (as it did for the entire Open field). In fact, it is basically neck-and-neck with Regional event 3 for the top spot across all events this season.
    • Some have suggested that results in the handstand walk might be correlated with success in event 4 (which has tons of handstand push-ups). It doesn't appear that way; ranks on those two events are not particularly correlated (52% for men, 44% for women - both of those figures are middle of the road this respect). The only combination of events that really stands out is events 1 and 7, which were 77% correlated for women and 68% correlated for men.
  • Last week I posted a chart and some statistics regarding the accuracy of my predictions (I should note that these are after removing athletes who withdrew prior to event 1). After week 3, the calibration plot looks about the same, but the mean-square error has dropped from 4.38% to 3.93%. For reference, last year's model was 4.43% and a model giving each athlete an equal chance would be about 6.40%. Below is the calibration plot (read last week's post for an explanation):

Alrighty... with all that out of the way. Let's get onto the predictions. This week, the only athlete for whom I made a manual adjustment to the model was Jason Khalipa. This year's events might not really favor him, but the guy has been so freaking consistent over the past 6 years that I felt he warranted special consideration.

With that said, here you go. Enjoy the final week of Regionals, everyone!

[Update 5/31: I've made a couple fixes to account for women's name changes since last year, as well as making the adjustment for Andrea Ager that I suggested in the comments a couple nights ago. I treated her as if she did not compete at Regionals last year, rather than as if she finished very low. Her low finish was due to a DQ in the OHS event, not due to a poor performance overall.]

Note that Africa only has one qualifying spot. All other regions this week have three.

Also note that the pictures look prettier this week because I'm posting from a Mac. Excel is terrible on a Mac, but at least it exports nicely to pictures.


  1. In regards to your first point above, I agree with your frustrations. I don't see why rules need to change every year. To me it does a disservice to the event.

    In regards to point 2, I've been thinking about whether fixes are needed to this problem. It reminds me of debates in the NBA about imbalance between the conferences. From what I've read about the NBA, the majority of people seem to assume conference imbalance is a short term problem and will work itself out. The same is true for crossfit in that the most dominant region will change, but there will most likely be a dominant region or two at any point. I think crossfit needs a fix to ensure that the best athletes are going. To me, the event looks bad if the top 2 women in one year don't make it back the following year.

    Lastly, I was surprised your model doesn't give Andrea Ager a shot in the South West.

    1. Ager is actually at 4%. And looking more at it, I think the problem is she technically finished very low at the Regionals due to her DQ early on. I probably should re-run it as if she didn't even compete at Regionals last year, rather than having a low finish. I think that would put her in the same group as people like Mandi Janowitz, so most likely she'd end up with somewhere around a 25-30% shot if we do it that way.

      I'll try and re-run over the weekend at some point.

  2. I didn't understand Castro's statement at all this weekend? Why say that now? Why be so indignant by saying "if you don't qualify at Regionals then you don't belong at the Games? (personal conspiracy theory: Two biggest names not to qualify on the womens side are both NPFL athletes....just saying)

    I'd be all for any kind of "last chance qualifiers" or wild card spots. My favorite idea is a final LCQ the weekend before the Games. Any athletes who didn't qualify in their region but have had multiple previous Games experience could show up for one final chance at the Games. It could take place at the Ranch the weekend before the Games and would be a one or two day event (some kind of mini-Regionals) and only the top two or three males and females would advance to the Games. By competing the weekend before the Games, the athletes who did advance would have the disadvantage of not being fresh, similar to wild cards in other sports. There you go Castro, take that idea and run with it.

    1. I try to stay away from the conspiracy theory stuff myself, possibly because I hope it's not true. Lindsay and Sam are featured a ton on the Games site, so I'm hesitant to believe HQ would want them not to make it. I know there were some "questionable" no-reps for Lindsay, but I don't think that's the reason she missed out.

      Personally, I'm hoping that there isn't a huge battle between CrossFit and the NFPL, because I'd hate to see the top athletes split between the two organizations. I want to see the best of the best competing in one spot. Perhaps they can co-exist, though. I'm just not sure that athletes can sustain competing basically year-round if they do NFPL and try to qualify for the Games. We're already seeing more and more how physically demanding this sport is from an injury perspective.

    2. It'll be really interesting to watch how it all plays out. Budding was on the Barbell Shrugged podcast and mentioned that the time frame of the season wouldn't necessarily always be the same as this year (starting in August). He said they were negotiating with a broadcast partner and that they would be very flexible as to what would work best for the network that's going to broadcast. If I'm a network and I can choose when to broadcast this thing, I'm definitely staying away from the fall/winter when football dominates the television.