Counterpoints

The Sports Analytics Podcast from MIT SMR

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Get ready to keep track of more than just the score.

Counterpoints is a show for sports professionals, data junkies, and fans alike. Each episode engages premier sports analytics experts in a lively, sometimes controversial conversation about what drives performance both on and off the field. Counterpoints is cohosted by Ben Shields and Paul Michelman.

You can listen to Counterpoints in many places: right here on our site, on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. Subscribe to our podcast on any of these platforms to get the latest episode every other Thursday.

Transcripts are available on our site under each episode page.

Counterpoints

“Out-Getting” Is the Next Great Baseball Strategy. Or Not.

In this episode of Counterpoints, the subject is baseball — specifically, the analytics-centered strategy for pitchers called out-getting, which focuses on pitchers’ efficiency rather than on when, how often, and how much they pitch. Will this practice transform baseball in the classic Moneyball tradition — or will it simply be an interesting tactic that teams sometimes use to gain a temporary advantage?

Mapping Tom Brady’s Brain

ESPN’s Bryan Burke previews the 2019 Sloan Sports Analytics session on deep learning and quarterback decision-making. The ultimate goal: to understand how a quarterback processes information and to track the patterns their minds tend to follow.

What Would Happen if Baseball Outlawed the Shift?

Baseball teams routinely use analytics to shift fielders’ positions so they can be placed where a hitter is most likely to hit the ball. This works well for preventing the opposing team from hitting and scoring — but it’s not so great for the game, which relies on base hits and scored runs to keep fans excited and engaged. Should “shifting” be banned for the sake of the fans?

Is It Possible to Judge Individual Talent in the NFL?

Football players who seem mediocre in college suddenly flourish as top pro performers, while hot prospects flounder when they reach the NFL. Can teams’ recruiters and coaches accurately identify the key players that will help their team win games based on the players’ past performance? In this episode of Counterpoints, Wharton professor Cade Massey, host of “Wharton Moneyball,” argues that they can’t.

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So, Do Analytics Actually Work?

While many businesses have embraced the idea that analytics can help improve performance, there are plenty of skeptics. Can analytics really show business leaders something old-fashioned intuition can’t? In this podcast episode, analytics expert Ben Alamar seeks proof that analytics really do lead to improved results.

When NHL Best Practices Go Overboard

In this episode of the sports analytics podcast, Counterpoints looks at the unusual case of Larry Murphy, a right-handed hockey defenseman whose support for Hall of Fame lefthanders helped two teams win the Stanley Cup in the 1990s. Was this outcome due to a unique quality Murphy brought to the game, or does a more general strategy of finding complementary talents improve team performance?

Sleep Is the Greatest Legal Advantage in Sports

This episode of the sports analytics podcast Counterpoints shows that the greatest legal advantage in sports is a good night’s sleep. Using wearable devices to monitor athletes’ sleep, physiologists have shown that at least 8 hours of sleep can greatly improve performance — with implications not just for sports, but all areas of business and daily life.

Do Teams Need to Win to Sell Tickets?

A winning record seems like it would help teams draw more fans to their games, yet there’s plenty of evidence that even losing teams can be profitable — sometimes more so than winners. This episode of the sports analytics podcast Counterpoints looks at the problem of selling a product with unpredictable performance by focusing on baseball.

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