One of the most common superstitions floating around in AFL Fantasy myth-law is the second year blues. Today I’m going to do some myth-busting and see if this is based in reality or is just a well propagated tale.

Myth Busting

The first thing I decided to look at when crunching the numbers are what does a players scoring look as they progress along their career. I’ve broken this down into both Mean (Average) and Total. The results, they follow a common theme:

From the above charts, the second-year actually represents some of a players greatest improvements. Things actually start curving off after their 4th seasons.

The Witch-Hunt

But before I conclude this myth busted I decided to do some more digging. After all, where did this superstition originate? It’s not hard to imaging a coach picking up a previous years prized recruit only to have them slump. Players like Callum Mills last year come to mind. So I decided to check the top 10% of first-year players over the years (i.e. those in the 90th Percentile). These represent the best-of-the-best – the kinds of players coaches want to take a bet on. And I calculated their mean and total improvement during their second season:

66.6% of players in the 90th percentile during their first year improved in mean score in their second.

The blue line in the above chart shows the mean average improvement (2.29 points) during the second year. While this isn’t much (due to the weight of players who did lose their way), interestingly two-thirds of players did improve. This means that more often than not a top-tiered rookie will improve on average after their first season. But the improvement appears to be far less than players that fall below the 90th percentile.

Burned at the Stake

53% of the players in the 90th percentile in their first year improved their total score in their second year.

And this is where the superstition gets real. When I looked at the top 10% of first-year players total scores in their second season, I found a negative mean average of 60.6 total points per season. However, a little over half of players actually improved (53%). So it appears that almost half star rookies do plummet – and indeed some free-fall. And this is where the myth gets its traction from.

Conclusion

Partially Busted

It appears that generally speaking it’s safe to choose second year players. In fact the only better ‘growth stock’ in the game are first year rookies. However, when looking among the elite, roughly half fail to improve. This doesn’t bode so well for players like Andrew McGrath this year (although the statistics don’t account for changes in position). So certainly these players have to be well-researched. The element of risk is higher for these players given they have a long way they can fall compared to a first year rookie. It’s a case of high-risk, high-reward.

So are you tempted by any second year starts this year? Please log in and leave a comment below.