Sports Analytics

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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.

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?

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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.

From Winning Games to Winning Customers: How Data Is Changing the Business Side of Sports

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 5 min 

Sports analytics first proved its case on the field and in the front office, but as the practice spreads into business operations, the industry is addressing adoption challenges found in many sectors. At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, speakers from teams and leagues discussed how they are using analytics to boost revenue, and how they’re managing transitions in culture and strategy.

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Why Your Company Needs Data Translators

When it comes to putting data to use, communication — or rather, lack of it — between the data scientists and the executive decision makers can cause problems. The two sides often don’t speak the same language and may differ in their approach to and respect for data-based decisions. Given these challenges, organizations may need to call upon a “data translator” to improve how data is incorporated into decision making processes.

Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors, and the Power of Analytics at Work

Organizations across an increasing number of sports and levels of competition are capitalizing on data to gain a competitive edge. Indeed, few industries have implemented data-driven decision making as successfully as sports. And learnings from the sports analytics revolution are applicable to a broad range of other industries.

Sports Analytics: The NFL Connects with Fans

In a conversation with MIT Sloan Management Review, Michelle McKenna-Doyle, the NFL’s senior vice president and first-ever CIO, discusses the organization’s customer-focused approach to big data and analytics. She explains how the NFL works to make its employees comfortable with their own data sets.

What Businesses Can Learn From Sports Analytics

In professional sports, some teams are becoming sophisticated in using data to measure team and player performance, sports business and health and injury prevention. Sports teams’ use of analytics has much to teach other managers about alignment, performance improvement and business ecosystems. For instance, teams are beginning to assess performance in context, seeing how teams do with or without a particular player. This “plus/minus” analysis could be a valuable technique for many businesses as well.

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In Sports, It’s Quants Versus Managers

There have been a number of stunning sports upsets that make it clear that the lines are fading between intuition and experience on the one hand, and data and analytics on the other. Where the “gut” instinct of managers and owners once ruled, analytic insights are fast becoming a standard part of the playbook. What’s at stake? Seemingly everything: trophies, revenues, funding and fans, not to mention the sheer thrill of victory. That’s particularly the case in elite professional sports.

Analyzing Performance in Service Organizations

We can’t always trust our intuition about how employees will perform. Intuition can be misleading, or just plain wrong. So a growing number of savvy service businesses have investigated the use of a sophisticated linear programming technique called DEA, or data envelopment analysis. Authors H. David Sherman and Joe Zhu, who call DEA “balanced benchmarking,” write that the technique helps companies locate best practices not visible through other management methodologies.

New Balance 3D printed shoes

With 3-D Printing, the Shoe Really Fits

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  • Read Time: 3 min 

Few new technologies receive more intense interest than 3-D printing, with some predicting that it will revolutionize manufacturing. That promise remains emergent. But it is taking shape in some industries, such as shoes. The shoe company New Balance thinks that within five years it will custom-make shoes with 3-D printers. And there are already entrepreneurial fashion designers trying to leverage 3-D printing to build up their presence in the market.

Team GB: Using Analytics (and Intuition) to Improve Performance

Becoming an elite athlete — or coaching a team of this rarified breed — has as much to do with talent and skill as it does with experience and intuition (not to mention some serious hard work). And data is increasingly part of that mix at the highest echelon of sports: the Olympic Games. At Team GB analytics are used to both monitor the performance of athletes and to predict how well a team will perform. But what could the future hold? Evidence-based coaching — and training.

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