This happened two weeks ago, but since I’m at the SABR analytics conference, I figured I should do my second list of items I learned at the MIT sports analytics conference, especially since I learned more than I did the first day.
- The analytics community in baseball has done a great job in terms of research, but it still has to get implemented. That said, people doing the analytics need to keep in mind that there are a lot of things that go from the analysis to implementing it on the field.
- Health analysis is the next frontier in baseball. (Bill James)- He was talking about the fact that there has been so much work done in statistical analysis that being able to tell who is more or less likely to get injured or stay healthy is going to be the next break through age in terms of competitive advantage in the way that the statistics was for the Moneyball era. Speaking of Moneyball…
- When Moneyball was written, we had two percent of the data that we have now. (Bill James)
- Jose Altuve is an exception in that he is the leader of the Astros team at a very young age. (Jeff Luhnow)
- Don’t be dogmatic about data. People are more likely to go through with something if they feel it’s their idea too, so walk them through the whole process and talk their language.
- Nate Silver feels as though there should be a maximum of ten pitchers per team, and Rob Neyer added that to do such, MLB should liberalize promotion rules.
- The fact that driving is an option for everyone is absurd. (Malcom Gladwell)- He added that it’s a very complex task, so he has no clue why it is assumed that everyone can do it.
- Boys are socialized to like what it is they’re good at whereas girls are to think that they like what they like regardless of what they’re good at. (Malcom Gladwell)
- 100% of NBA fans between the ages of 25 and 29 have watched a game with a second screen present. (Those polled anyway. I don’t actually buy that EVERY fan in that age range has done so.
- This generation are the most entitled, demanding customers in history, so you have to provide a unique, customized experience.
Also, if you want to see any of the pictures I took at this day of the conference, I have uploaded them as well as the pictures from day 1 onto the Facebook page. Right now I am currently at the SABR baseball analytics conference, so I am going to get started on those entries in 3, 2, 1, now.
For those wondering why it took me so long to get this posted, last week (March 4th- 10th was National Procrastination Week), and I was… er… celebrating until this past Sunday. So anyway, here is the entry…
Ah, day 2. This conference couldn’t get any better, right? Well, it didn’t. It simply maintained its awesomeness from the first day, but before we delve into the events of the second day, here are some items I got on the first day that I would like to share. First, here is the ID I used to enter the convention center. It might look familiar to those of you who follow me on Twitter (If you don’t follow me on Twitter and would like to do so there is a button to do so over there —> It is near the top of the page):
Pretty self-explanatory, right?
At the door, in addition to giving us those spiffy IDs, we also got a “goodie bag” of sorts:
The lower right item is the bag all this other stuff came in. The labeled items going clockwise from the bag are: an ESPN the magazine you may recognize from my introductory entry to this conference, the “handbook” is really a book that explains everything about the conference. Mostly, it has all of the panels and bios of each of the participants, a list of all of the participants in the conference (about 2,200) sorted by organization, and finally, a mouse pad that is basically a square cut out of some thin plastic sheet ( I actually don’t know if it is a mouse pad, but I assume so with how it looks). The other two things are a metallic bottle and some book I still haven’t figured out the theme of.
So anyway, NOW let’s get to the action of the day. There was no common panel for everyone to watch this day. It was just “go directly from breakfast to your first session”. That first session for me was “Measuring Belief in Sports Performance Research”. Since it wasn’t Baseball-related, here are only a few of the slides:
Just to give you an idea of the “globality” of this conference, the talk was given by this guy, Peter Blanch:
Yeah, well he’s from Australia.
The next talk was sort of a spin-off of a talk I had heard the previous day in that Peter Fadde helped research for this company.
Anyway, it was “Training Above The Neck”. The company was Axon Performance and the talk was given by their vice-president, Jason Sada:
The idea of the company is to enact Malcolm Gladwell‘s idea of getting mastery of something with 10,000 hours of practice, but instead of having a player go on the field and wear down their body’s mileage and risk injury, the athletes master the mental aspect of the game through their products. An example of the mileage thing being the case is, for those who pay attention to football, Quarterbacks will almost always say after they’re retired that once they started figuring out the mental part of the game, their body started failing them. An example of the usage of these products is that Minor League Baseball Players, who have eons of time traveling on buses, could actually see 5,000 pitches and practice identifying the first 1/8th of a pitch’s flight instead of just being bored out of their mind. This really was a presentation meant to be experience and not read, so I actually won’t post any of the slides. For example, the presentation started off with a movie about the company.
Not to belittle the other sessions, but next was by far my favorite session of the day and quite possibly the conference. Actually, though, it wasn’t as easy a choice as you might have thought. Right up until the end of Axon Sports’ presentation, I still didn’t know whether I was going to either: Franchises In Transition, or Box Score Rebooted. Right at the end of the session I thought to myself, “Hey, doofus, what are you even debating? You are a stat-oriented Baseball fan. Go to Box Score Rebooted!” So not only did I go to that one, but it was boxed lunch time so I was able to out-race people and get in the first row of seats. Check out the view I had:
Mind you, this shot was taken with the camera zoomed all the way out.
You may be able to recognize one of the panelists, but let me introduce them all:
John Walsh (moderator):
– Executive Vice-President ESPN.
– I already introduced him in the previous day‘s entry.
– Director of Production Analytics ESPN ( if you have seen TQBR in football used, he was part of the team that invented it).
– The founder of STATS Inc.
– Official Historian for MLB.
Trust me when I tell you they had some very interesting things they talked about, but unfortunately I don’t have my notes with me as I lent them to someone else who wanted to know about the conference. Like the Ron Shapiro video, I’ll tweet it out when I update the entry. However, here is a video if you want to watch the whole panel:
Also, here’s the panel I was thinking of going to. You can tell me if you think I made the right choice:
Next up was a session that I really didn’t expect, and it was disappointing as a result. It was a competition between business schools when I thought it was going to be a presentation or panel on business. So, I’ll show the competitors and that’s it.
Here are the three people from the first school I forgot the names of, even though they were sitting right next to me prior to, and during the competition:
University of Chicago Booth School, the eventual winners:
So anyway, after that it was time for “Building the Modern Athlete: Performance Analyitcs“. This panel was made up of:
Peter Keating (moderator):
– Senior Writer for ESPN the Magazine.
– CEO of Athlete’s Performance.
– Co-Founder of BASE Productions.
– Legal Analyst for Sports Illustrated.
– Director of Player Personnel for the Indiana Pacers.
– Four-time Olympic Ice Hockey Medalist.
This panel really didn’t talk a bout Baseball at all, so I’ll refrain from writing about the content of it.
The next panel I went to was entitled, “Fanalytics“. It was either that or “Fantasy Sports Analytics”. The deciding factor was that the former was held in the Ballroom, so I would have an easier time finding a good seat for the closing ceremonies. So, I left the previous session a tad early and managed to grab a seat in the section directly in front of the stage. Unfortunately, it was towards the back so all of my pictures were taken through the heads of people in front of me and some of the “good” pictures were ruined as a result, but anyway, here are the panelists:
Bill Simmons (moderator):
– Writer for ESPN. Listed, though, as the editor-in-cheif for Grantland, which is that mysterious book in the middle of the second picture of the entry.
– President of the Kraft Group.
– I already introduced him in this entry.
– CEO of Ticketmaster.
– Executive Vice President of Business for MLB.
It really wasn’t a Baseball panel per say, but I think its better moment came from the Baseball related banter going on between Bill Simmons and Tim Brosnan. For example, Bill complaining about the fact that you can’t watch Baseball clips on Youtube and then Tim responding to it. If I ever get around to posting the footage I have of this panel, I’ll tweet it that the entry has been edited, but it’s pretty crumby because of all the people’s heads I had to constantly move my camera out of the way of. So if you want to watch it just for the entertainment value of that (and it was entertaining to those of us present), here is the video if you want to watch:
Next up was the First Annual Alpha Awards, which were awards in the field of analytics made for the conference. There were a bunch of them, so I’ll just highlight the most notable ones.
First (I believe), was Bill James winning the “Lifetime Achievement” Award. Here is a video I took of the occasion. I apologize for the blurriness, I had a telephoto lens all the way zoomed-in, so I wasn’t exactly close, and the camera was feeling heavy at this point:
Next was the Tampa Bay Rays winning the prize for best-run organization (this being in terms of analytics, of course):
The last notable award was for the University of Chicago Booth school winning the business competition I was at earlier:
I really have no idea whether those events actually took place in the order I presented them, but I do know that after the awards, there was a “Live B.S. Report” with Mark Cuban.
First of all, it was a completely non-baseball “session”, so I won’t share anything besides the pictures, but it was a unique situation that I want to describe in that this was Mark Cuban’s only session of the conference (it was the last session of the conference period). Even though he was supposed to be there the whole weekend. So he basically flew out from wherever just for this session. The only other panel I attended he should have been in was the “Fanalytics” panel. So, here are the pictures:
After the BS Report itself ended, Cuban and Simmons got mobbed on the stage by all of the MIT students who organized the event and personally thanked/ shook the hand of each one of them. If you are a Basketball or aspiring Sports Business person, it may be a session to listen to as both involved are “personalities”. So for those of you who do want to take a look/listen, here is the video:
They were then nice enough to pose for me to take a picture. Don’t let their eyes fool you, the whole set-up was for me:
Oh and when I say “mobbed” it’s not that much of a stretch. The stage was pretty small and there were a lot of people. This next picture is just me moving the camera to the left to show all of the people outside of the shot, and that’s not including the people out-of-frame to the right:
…and that was your conference. I went out in the halls to film a video you will probably never see and went back to my hotel room already planning to comeback next year.
So obviously, I extremely recommend this conference if you are really into sports and live in the North-eastern region of the United States. Even if you don’t, it might be worth it. It was just THAT amazing for me.
Lastly, there may be a few more entries regarding this conference coming up, so if you’re waiting for the rest of the “Offseason Recap and Preview” entries, bear with me. I wanted to keep writing them all the way up until the beginning of the season and this conference provided the perfect excuse to do so. I will actually be doing an in-school internship involving this blog, so expect entries done during the month of April to be a tad more developed along with me experimenting with a few things. Also, if you want to check out the video page, here, is the link. They used some of my pictures as the shots for the videos. See how many you can pick out that are my pictures from these two entries.
P.S. I really didn’t want that to be the last word, just because the conference was so awesome so here are the final word: What a way to spend two days.
Ah finally. The MIT Sports Analytics Conference:
As those of you who read my last entry know, I’d been waiting for this day for a while. I bought my ticket in October, but I had known, and therefore wanted to go to this conference ever since Moneyball came out (whenever that may have been).
First of all, here is the video showing me taking a tour of the halls of the third floor of the convention center where this was being held:
Anyway, the day was action-packed, so let’s get to the action, why don’t we. The first panel, which was the only panel everyone attending the conference saw was the ” In the Best Interest of the Game: The Evolution of Sports Leagues” panel:
This panel included five people. Those five were:
Michael Wilbon (Moderator of the panel):
– Commentator for ESPN. Most notably a co-host of the program “Pardon The Interruption” of PTI for short.
– Commissioner of the NHL. On a side note, the first two look kind of nasty in the pictures I caught them, but I can assure you, they were nothing like that during their presentations.
– COO of the NBA.
– Executive Vice President of Labor Relations and Human Resources for MLB.
– Chairman and Executive Vice President of the New York Giants. Also I learned that he won an Oscar for his work on Forrest Gump.
– President of Boras Corporation (he’s a Baseball agent and that is his company).
I won’t bore you with all the details since this IS a *Baseball* blog and the panel wasn’t entirely Baseball comprised, but there was a discussion brought up on Labor Negotiations of MLB alone. There only Boras and Manfred talked and both made good discussion. Obviously, Boras was on the players’ side and Manfred was on the league’s side for most of the all of the labor conflicts the two have gone through, so they discussed this. There was no actually “arguing” during any of the panels i went to yesterday, but the panelists did give a better view of their side than the average fan usually gets. During this portion, Boras made an interesting point that the actual average career of a MLBer is 3 years and the players have this in mind during negotiations.
Here is a look at the panel via the video screen since I couldn’t fit all of them in one picture without a couple being blocked by some person’s head:
Here is a video of the whole panel if you so wish to watch what actually went on during it:
After the panel ended, I walked up to the stage and photographed it to give you a better idea of how it looked. Here was the result:
I also went to the back of the room to take a picture of the control booth/platform:
I then left the room to explore a little more since there is 20 minutes between sessions. The most interesting thing I found on this little venture. If you want to read the actual presentation, the picture is high enough quality to click on it and zoom in to read it, but for me to actually explain the idea behind the presentation would be too long to write out. Anyway, here is said picture:
The next panel I attended was entitled, “The Business of Sports: Winning Off the Field”, which was also held in that main Ballroom. The panelists were:
Jessica Gelman (moderator):
– Vice President of Customer Marketing & Strategy for the Kraft Sports Group.
– SVP Corporate Development for the NFL.
– CEO Manchester United.
– Co-Owener of the Boston Celtics (that spelling is of whoever put together the book not my own).
– President of MSG Sports. One story for him is that during the panel, he gave a signed Jeremy Lin T-Shirt to a Houston Rocket’s personnel to thank that specific person for releasing Lin (I assume that person was the GM, but I don’t pay enough attention to the NBA to know the name). Edit: After going to the second day, I realized that it was one of the co-chairs of the conference O’neil gave the shirt to. Who was this co-chair, and what did he have to do with the Rockets? It was actually Daryl Morey, the GM himself. So this whole exchange makes much more sense now that I know this information.
– Executive Vice President, Business Operations for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Again, I won’t go through of any of the details, because there were no MLB panelists. However, if you really want to watch it, here is the hour-long video of the panel:
If you want to see the Jeremy Lin Jersey Exchange, it can be seen starting at around the 7:00 min mark of the video.
Next I went to the Research room for a couple of PowerPoint Presentations. Let me just clarify one thing, there was no set route for a person to go. At anytime there were at least 4 different sessions going on at a time and it was your job to decide which it was that you were going to.
The first Presentation was entitled, “Big 2’s and Big 3’s: Analyzing How a Team’s Best Players Complement Each Other”. It was a Basketball Presentation, so I won’t share anything, but I will show that it was presented by this guy:
If you do, however, have an interest in this research paper and what the presentation was like, here is the video:
The next presentation was entitled, “Predicting the Next Pitch”. This was a completely Baseball study looking at whether some students at MIT could develop a method for predicting pitches. The presentation itself was done by the professor, John Guttag (I assume that’s his name as it was on the cover slide):
Since it was a Baseball Presentation, here are some of the slides:
If you want to have a look at the presentation itself, here is the video for ya:
Next was definitely one my favorite sessions of let’s see if you can guess which panel it was:
If you guessed Baseball Analytics, you are correct. Oh yeah and if you read this tweet before answering it’s cheating:
“They just claimed this is, ‘The best Baseball Analytics panel assembled’. A bold one, but looking at them, I believe it.”
Anyway, the panel itself went as follows:
Rob Neyer (moderator):
– Editor for SB Nation.
– I’ve introduced him already.
– Special Assistant in charge of Scouting and Player Development for the Tampa Bay Rays.
– President of the Cleveland Indians.
– GM of the Houston Astros.
– Operations Advisor for the Boston Red Sox.
The panel discussed many things, so I will share what it is I wrote down.
- Jeff Luhnow used to work with the Cardinals, but when asked he said he liked the Astros, because it let him start from scratch in terms of implementing analytics.He also mentioned that analytics was a part of why the Cardinals won the World Series this past season.
- I have a note simply labeled “Sports Psychology”. I guess that means he was focused a lot on the mental part of a player.
- Rocco Baldelli said he would like to know why certain guys hit and certain guys don’t.
- Mark Shapiro commented after Bill James spoke that it reminded him how little he knew.
- Scott Boras made a great argument against the implementation of an International Draft.
- He also said that Baseball has an advantage because everyone plays, but they then release the kids into other sports.I personally played Soccer before Baseball, but I get the point.
Next up was a presentation in the “Evolution of Sports Room”:
Actually I missed the best part of that banner in that particular picture, but see if you can spot it in any of the pictures from either this entry or the next one.
The presentation was entitled, “The Sixth Tool: Training Baseball Recognition”. The presentation was given by this guy, Peter Fadde:
Since it was a Baseball related presentation, here are a few slides:
Basically, the idea was to train hitters to recognize the pitch based on the first .150 seconds of flight. It was a very interesting idea for me as a manager of my high school baseball team. If it is interesting to you, here is the video:
The next presentation was yet another Baseball presentation and I’ll also show the extent of what I paid attention to:
It just wasn’t THAT interesting a presentation. The slides were monotonous, both speakers were uncertain in their words, and the demo site they put together for the conference was pretty unimpressive and basic. I really wanted to leave and got to “Art and Analytics of Negotiation”, but didn’t want to be rude in such a small room so I stayed for the whole thing. A fun fact, though, the first presenter, Mike Attanasio, is both an MIT Sophmore and the son of the Brewers’ own Mark Attanasio, or so I am told. Basically, the only thing I would possibly use the site for is looking up stats if I wanted to know how a specific player performs in a certain temperature. The example they used, Carl Crawford, stunk in cold weather last year, but did well in warmer weather. Anyway, it might be interesting for you, who knows. If that is the case, here is the video for this presentation:
The next session I went to was one entitled, “Competitive Advantage: Sports Business Analytics”. I really didn’t like this one, because it was four presentations instead of a panel and I once again wished I were in the ballroom. This time the panel taking place was “Coaching Analytics”. Anyway, here are the faces of the people who presented in this session. I don’t know their names, because they’re not in the book I got since they weren’t a panel:
Next was the final session of the evening simply listed as “A Systematic Approach to Sports Negotiations”. I didn’t think it was possible, but it competed with the Baseball Analytics panel for my favorite of the day. The speaker was Ron Shapiro. TH first thing he did once he got up on stage was that he complained that his son, Mark Shapiro, and his son-in-law, Eric Mangini had already spoke (both were present for this session) and “thousands of people showed up, but now that the old man was finally up there were only a few dozen (to be fair, he did have the room filled. It was just that his room was significantly smaller than the Ballroom where both of them spoke. It is very interesting for anyone looking to get into the business side of sports. If you have any such inclination, or just want to watch this presentation, here is the video. Some of the presentation goofs are pretty entertaining:
In addition to being a baseball session, sort of (Shapiro does a bunch of things. He was/is: Cal Ripken’s and Joe Mauer’s agent among others, has worked in/for the front of the Baltimore Ravens and San Antonio Spurs, and was originally a lawyer.) It was also an amazing talk. So, I will put up every picture I have of him. I did take some video in this session and once i have it on YouTube, I will announce it via twitter that this entry has been updated, but I don’t know how long that could take since my home computer is nearing its disk limit and videos tend to take up a lot of space on that:
So that was my first day it was a great day and now that I’ve gone through it, I can say that the second day equaled it, so stay alert, because that entry will be published either tomorrow or Monday and then I will resume the Offseason Recap and Preview entries with the Washington Nationals, the Atlanta Braves, and some team from whichever division you select.