I'm a sucker for anything related to analytics and sports. I’m also not alone.
Ever since the Moneyball craze, the general populous is keenly aware of the benefits and value analytics brings to the world of baseball. It’s hard not to imagine baseball without thinking about Michael Lewis, Brad Pitt, the Oakland A’s and analytics. Heck, even ESPN the Magazine this week created an entire issue dedicated to "Analytics."
I attended a Chicago Cubs and Bloomberg Sports event on Tuesday night here in Chicago where Shiraz Rehman, the new Assistant General Manager of the Chicago Cubs, discussed the team’s use of analytical tools to evaluate players for drafts and free agent signings, do advance scouting, and game planning.
I've never seen a room (of mostly men) so intently hanging on every word. Analytics is so much a part of baseball's lexicon that box scores have become an antiquated way of understanding a baseball game. The cravings have shifted from home runs and batting average to more sophisticated statistical measurements, such as UZR, WAR, VORP, OPS-plus, FIP and BAPIP.
Some of the interesting revelations from the event included:
· Mobile BI is running rampant in the clubhouse. Players love their iPads for consuming reports and evaluating video of themselves and the competition.
· Old school scouts and new school analytical thinking co-exist peacefully in the front office and rely on each other's insight to make smarter decisions.
· Even with all the analytical tools, baseball teams still miss "all the time" on prospects, especially for 18-21 year olds, where it's still difficult to predict behaviors.
· Teams might be equipped with the best analytical tools and data, but if they don't have the people with the right skill sets and creativity, they will fail.
If you want more insight into how a baseball team is using business analytics, register for an upcoming IBM Performance or IBM Finance Forum event to hear Paul DePodesta, VP of Player Development & Amateur Scouting for the New York Mets. He'll be speaking at various cities throughout the United States and Canada (San Francisco; Dallas; Morristown, NJ; Huntington Beach, CA; Montreal; Charlotte).
While baseball might be the analytical poster child, all sports are wildly interested in using this technology for competitive advantage on the field/hardwood/ice, and to run their business operations. In fact, the Mecca for those in this profession is the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference taking place this weekend in Boston.
Based on IBM's experience, below are a few other ways business analytics is transforming the sports world:
· Improving the customer experience. The Miami Dolphins are integrating IBM analytics technology into Sun Life Stadium, enhancing the overall experience for fans of sports, music and media. As a result, officials can gain immediate insight into all stadium operations including visitor traffic, fan spending preferences and weather patterns, as well as social media sentiment. Read the press release and watch the video below.
· Guiding draft selections. By assessing future player performance and then leveraging the insights from the analytics to create business rules, teams can decide who to select based on positional needs, previous draft selections, and other factors.
· Maximizing schedules and ticket pricing. Analytics helps teams optimally balance revenue generation and travel efficiencies, as well as optimizing ticket prices based on days of the week and opponents.
· Optimizing performance. Hockey teams are using analytics to evaluate how players perform in specific situations, such as at the end of a close game or during a power play. This analysis helps coaches determine which players should be on the ice at certain times of the game.
· Simulating winners. Seen the IBM SlamTracker? It’s a live scoring and analysis tool that applies IBM business analytics to give fans a virtual seat at the tournament. It allows millions of worldwide fans to track players' progress and see the Keys to the Match that shows the particular strategy players should take to improve their chances of winning.
As you can see, analytics is finding its way into games in many ways. For more information, visit the IBM Smarter Analytics website.
But, let’s not forget that’s it’s soon to be baseball season and hope, like analytics, springs eternal for all teams.
And now that the Chicago Cubs have Theo Epstein, Shiraz Rehman and their band of analytical savants…all I can say is “watch out!”
A hundred plus years of misery are only an algorithm away…or so I hope.