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Category: Data Science

NFL Kicker Quality

Jacob Long has an outstanding pair of posts on evaluating kickers in the NFL. FIrst up is the analysis itself:

Justin Tucker is so great that, quite frankly, it doesn’t matter which metric you use. PAA, FG% – eFG%, or just plain old FG%, he’s unlike anyone else in the past 10 years. Given the well-documented trend of increasing kicker accuracy in the NFL, I think Tucker has a solid claim on being the greatest kicker of all time.

Even with fewer seasons than many of his competitors, his PAA are double all the others who kicked in the past 10 years. He had a slightly more difficult than average set of attempts but made a higher percentage of his attempts than anyone who has had more than 22 tries. Good luck trying to find any defect in Tucker’s record.

Jacob then covers the method in detail:

Pasteur and Cunningham-Rhoads — I’ll refer to them as PC-R for short — gathered more data than most predecessors, particularly in terms of auxiliary environmental info. They have wind, temperature, and presence/absence of precipitation. They show fairly convincingly that while modeling kick distance is the most important thing, these other factors are important as well. PC-R also find the cardinal direction of every NFL stadium (i.e., does it run north-south, east-west, etc.) and use this information along with wind direction data to assess the presence of cross-winds, which are perhaps the trickiest for kickers to deal with. They can’t know about headwinds/tailwinds because as far as they (and I) can tell, nobody bothers to record which end zone teams defend at the game’s coin toss, so we don’t know without looking at video which direction the kick is going. They ultimately combine the total wind and the cross wind, suggesting they have some meaningful measurement error that makes them not accurately capture all the cross-winds. Using their logistic regressions that factor for these several factors, they calculate an eFG% and use it and its derivatives to rank the kickers.

Those wind factors make certain stadiums like New Era Field (where Buffalo plays) tricky: it’s fun to see two flags right next to each other pointing in opposite directions, or the flags on the field goal posts pointing hard right, then switching to hard left, then switching back to hard right over the course of a field goal try. H/T R-Bloggers

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Time Series Anomaly Detection with Power BI

Leila Etaati takes us through time series anomaly detection with Cognitive Services and Power Query:

I am excited about this blog post, this is based on the New service in Cognitive Service name “Anomaly Detection” which is now in Preview.
I recorded a video about how it works in cognitive service 

However, I am going to talk about how to use it in Power BI. In this post first, a brief introduction to the anomaly detection will be presented, then how it can be used inside Power BI will be discussed.

It sounds like there are still some rough edges, but they already have the makings of an interesting service.

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Automated ML Pipelines with SAS

Sophia Rowland shows off SAS’s auto-ML action:

The dsAutoMl action does it all. It will explore your data, generate features, select features, create models, and autotune the hyper-parameters of those models. This action includes the four policies we have seen in my first two blogs: explorationPolicy, screenPolicy, transformationPolicy, and selectionPolicy. Please review my previous blogs if you need a refresher on the data exploration and cleaning process or feature generation and selection process. The dsAutoMl action builds on our prior discussions through model generation and autotuning. A data scientist can choose to build several models such as decision trees, random forests, gradient boosting models, and neural networks. In addition, the data scientist can control which objective function to optimize for and the number of K-folds to use. The output of the dsAutoMl action includes information about the features generated, information on the model pipelines generated, and an analytic store file for generating the features with new data.

This is an area where several companies are investing a lot of money, trying to simplify the process of training models.

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The Joy of Decision Trees

Tom Jordan explains how a simple set of “if” statements forms the basis of some powerful data science algorithms:

While it is true there are techniques in machine learning that required advanced maths knowledge, some of the most widely used approaches make use of knowledge given to every child at secondary school. The line of best fit, drawn by many a student in Year 8 Chemistry, can also be known by its alter-ego, linear regression, and see applications all over machine learning. Neural networks, central to some of the most cutting-edge applications, are formed of simple mathematical models consisting of some addition and multiplication.

A personal favourite technique, and the subject of this blog, is the humble decision tree, taught in schools all over the country. This blog will take a high-level look at the theory around decision trees, an extension using random forests, and the real-world applications of these techniques.

Read on for more.

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Text Processing Tools and Methods

Ines Roldos takes us through several tools and techniques used in text processing:

Text processing is the process of analyzing and manipulating textual information. This includes extracting smaller bits of information from text (aka text extraction), assign values or tags depending on its content (aka text classification), or performing calculations that depend on the textual information. 

Since we naturally communicate in words, not numbers, companies receive a lot of raw text data via emails, chat conversations, social media, and other channels. This unstructured data is filled with insights and opinions about different topics, products, and services, but companies first need to organize, sort, and measure textual data to get access to this valuable information. One way to process text data is manually, which has been the most popular method – up until now.

We’re still in the early days of text processing, but there have been some nice improvements over the past decade.

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Cross-Validation Versus Regularization

Nina Zumel takes us through a pair of techniques for avoiding overfitting:

Cross-validation is relatively computationally expensive; regularization is relatively cheap. Can you mitigate nested model bias by using regularization techniques instead of cross-validation?

The short answer: no, you shouldn’t. But as, we’ve written before, demonstrating this is more memorable than simply saying “Don’t do that.”

Definitely worth the read.

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Using pdqr for Statistical Uncertainty

Evgeni Chasnovski has a new CRAN package:

I am glad to announce that my latest, long written R package ‘pdqr’ is accepted to CRAN. It provides tools for creating, transforming and summarizing custom random variables with distribution functions (as base R ‘p*()’, ‘d*()’, ‘q*()’, and ‘r*()’ functions). You can read a brief overview in one of my previous posts.

Click through for a description of the package.

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Important Assumptions with Linear Models

Sebastian Sauer takes us through two of the most important assumptions of linear models:

Additivity and linearity as the second most important assumptions in linear models
We assume that \(y\) is a linear function of the predictors. If y is not a linear function of the predictors, we cannot expect the model to deliver correct insights (predictions, causal coefficients). Let’s check an example.

Read on to understand what this means, as well as the most important assumption.

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Mocking Objects with R

The R-hub blog has an interesting post on creating mocks in R for unit testing:

In some of these cases, the programming concept you’re after is mocking, i.e. making a function act as if something were a certain way! In this blog post we shall offer a round-up of resources around mocking, or not mocking, when unit testing an R package.

It’s interesting watching data scientists work through the same sorts of problems which traditional developers have hit, whether that be testing, deployment, or source control management. H/T R-bloggers

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Re-Introducing rquery

John Mount has a new introduction to rquery:

rquery is a data wrangling system designed to express complex data manipulation as a series of simple data transforms. This is in the spirit of R’s base::transform(), or dplyr’s dplyr::mutate() and uses a pipe in the style popularized in R with magrittr. The operators themselves follow the selections in Codd’s relational algebra, with the addition of the traditional SQL “window functions.” More on the background and context of rquery can be found here.

The R/rquery version of this introduction is here, and the Python/data_algebra version of this introduction is here.

Check it out.

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