MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference 2012- Day 2

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.

Bill James:

- I already introduced him in the previous day‘s entry.

Dean Oliver:

- Director of Production Analytics ESPN ( if you have seen TQBR in football used, he was part of the team that invented it).

John Dewan:

- The founder of STATS Inc.

John Thorn:

- 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.

Mark Verstegen:

- CEO of Athlete’s Performance.

John Brenkus:

- Co-Founder of BASE Productions.

Mike McCann:

- Legal Analyst for Sports Illustrated.

Kevin Pritchard:

- Director of Player Personnel for the Indiana Pacers.

Angela Ruggiero:

- 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.

Jonathan Kraft:

- President of the Kraft Group.

John Walsh:

- I already introduced him in this entry.

Nathan Hubbard:

- CEO of Ticketmaster.

Tim Brosnan:

- 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.

8 Comments

Actually, Bill James wasn’t even set to be at the conference when I bought the ticket. It was literally the day after I bought the ticket that it was announced Bill James would be a part of it. I don’t know if that caused a spike in the tickets sales, but I’m sure glad I got my ticket the day I did and was blessed with his addition. Now about the SABR conference, I think you mentioned it somewhere else, but is that the National event, or a local one you happen to be in Minnesota for? If I’m not mistaken (which I probably am), it was during the season itself that this would be taking place, right?

Wow Mateo! AWESOME just AWESOME conference! I had a chance to talk to John Thorn at the last SABR conference. Bill James!? Wow! I hope he goes to the next SABR conference in Minnesota. Thanks for sharing!
-Emma

QUINN- Oh yeah, it was a great time. National Procrastination week is basically a week in March where people procrastinate on their work. I heard about it last year and decided to celebrate this year. Unfortunately, as you can see, I’m having a hard time getting started once again.

KRISTEN- I would suggest it, but it might be a bit of a flight from California. Then again, there were people from the other side of the planet in town for it. If you want to drool just as much (if not more) check out the Baseball analytics panel in the previous entry.

That sounds like a great conference and I am drooling over the Rebooting the Box Score panel. That had to be fascinating.
— Kristen

Looks like you had a great time on day 2 of this event! What is National Procrastination Week? Never heard of it, just curiuos.
-Quinn from nybisons
http://www.nybisons.mlblogs.com

Quinn- The response comes almost year late, but it’s a week in March where procrastination is celebrated.

Well, if you do indeed end up choosing that path, Thorn brought up a good point in that his job is so much easier now. He said something along the lines of, ” the last 4 years I’ve done of research have been more productive than the previous 18 before that. Now with the internet I can look up something before I finish breakfast, whereas before, it would have taken me flying to some distant place, searching for a book, dealing with annoying librarians, and then flying back.” So I guess that’s both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because you would have to do less work, and a curse because you have to do less work and there is less weeding out of the pack, so to speak, and pure passion for the job is less of a factor, because it doesn’t take as much stick-to-itiveness as before the era of handheld knowledge.

“John Thorn–Official Baseball Historian”. My dream job!

http://zkonedog.mlblogs.com/

Hello, observers of baseball. Let me know what you though of the entry no matter what you thought of it. Additonally, let me know if you'd like to see me do anything in specific or what I'm doing right or wrong when I do write entries.

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