Results tagged ‘ MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference ’

10 Things I Learned at MIT Sloan Analytics Conference 2014- Day 2

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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…
  3. When Moneyball was written, we had two percent of the data that we have now. (Bill James)
  4. Jose Altuve is an exception in that he is the leader of the Astros team at a very young age. (Jeff Luhnow)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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)
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference 2013- Day 2

A quick update before I get started (because no one reads them when I put them at the end of entries):

I did a couple of videos on my YouTube page in the time since the last entry, if you want to check them out. They haven’t been embedding well as of late, so I’ll first try to embed them and link them if the embed doesn’t work once I publish the entry. Anyway, the first video is one I did for a public speaking class entitled: “How to do a last-minute speech.” And yes, it is what it sounds like:

The second is me saluting the fact that Opening Day is almost here while taking a subtle jab at Spring Training games:

If you liked those and would like to find out about them not weeks after they were uploaded, feel free to subscribe to the channel. I don’t have a regular posting schedule (we all know how well that has worked out for the blog these past few months), but I do plan on uploading videos and making them public there before they ever get on a published blog entry. For example, I may or may not have uploaded the video later on in this entry publicly before I published this entry

Apparently one day of sports analytics wasn’t enough, so I came back for some more in a second day:

SSAC13 Day 2 Panel Room 2

And I got to begin it with this beautiful panel of people:

SSAC13 Day 2 Injury Analytics

That would be the “Staying on the Field: Injury Analytics” panel. It was compromised of the following panelists:

Stephania Bell (moderator):

SSAC13 Day 2  Stephania Bell

Senior Writer, ESPN.

Stan Conte:

SSAC13 Day 2  Stan Conte

Vice President of Medical Services (whatever that means), Los Angeles Dodgers.

Peter Wehlig:

SSAC13Day2 Peter Wehlig

Director of Center for Molecular Medicine and Orthopaedics, Düsseldorf, Germany. You may recognize him better as the surgeon who performed the blood-spinning operation (I think that’s right.) on Kobe Bryant and a couple athletes.

John Brenkus:

SSAC13Day2 John Brenkus

Founder, BASE Productions. Or perhaps known better as the host of Sports Science (is that one word like Sportscenter?) on ESPN.

This was really interesting once it got started, but there were technical difficulties with the Stan Conte’s slides–which while we’re listing off things I didn’t like about the panel, slides don’t integrate well into almost any panel. Probably the one thing I will always take with me from the panel was Conte’s story about Mike Matheny and what eventually convinced him to retire. If you don’t know the gist of the story, Matheny retired due to excess concussions from taking foul  tips to the head. Apparently what happened was Matheny was talking to whoever the Cardinals back-up catcher was at the time and telling him that he blacked-out for a second every time a ball hits his mask, which he described as being perfectly normal. It was upon the back-up catcher telling him that it wasn’t perfectly normal that he black out every time a ball hit his mask that Matheny reconsidered that, shall we say, “sanity,” of him continuing his career any longer.

After that it was back up the Grand Ballroom for Monday Morning Quarterback. This was one of the more entertaining and by far the most engaging panel. It was compromised  of the following panelists:

Tony Reali (moderator):

SSAC13Day2 Tony Reali

Host, Around The Horn (ESPN).

Herm Edwards:

SSAC13Day2 Herm Edwards

Former Head Coach and NFL Analyst, ESPN.

Thomas Dimirtoff:

SSAC13Day2 Thomas Dimitroff

General Manager, Atlanta Falcons.

Jack Del Rio:

SSAC13Day2 Jack Del Rio

Defensive Coordinator, Denver Broncos.

Brian Burke (no not that one):

SSAC13Day2 Brian Burke

Founder, Advanced NFL Stats.

Like I said, this was the most interactive and fun of the panels. What it was is we watched videos of different scenarios of plays (mostly involving the people on the panel) and then the audience voted on what they though the coach should do on that particular play. We then got to see what the statistics dictated the coach should have done. It was a fun time.

Then I went ahead and filmed a mini-tour of the conference grounds. So here that is:

After that I went ahead to the Stying Relevant: Social Media Analytics panel. That was these people:

Gary Belsky (moderator):

SSAC13Day2 Gary Belsky

Columnist, Time.com.

Jayne Bussman-Wise:

SSAC13Day2 Jayne Bussman-Wise

Digital Director, Brooklyn Nets & Barclays Center.

Gary Vaynerchuk:

SSAC13Day2 Gary Vaynerchuk

CEO, VaynerMedia, who for both better and worse completely dominated the speaking time by the panelists.

Omid Ashtari:

SSAC13Day2 Omid Ashtari

Head of Sports and Entertainment, Twitter.

Chad Finocchio:

SSAC13Day2 Dave Finocchio

Co-Founder, Bleacher Report.

This was interesting insofar as how it may pertain to this blog and social media outlets thereof. I may change my New Year’s goals because of it eventually. Like I mentioned, Vaynerchuk completely took over the panel, which was not necessarily a bad thing, because he had knowledge of the subject some good things to say, but also it was a brilliant overall panel and not just him, so I would have liked to hear a lot less of him and a lot more of the other panelists.

Then, for my final panel of the conference, I headed over to Hall of Fame Analytics, which was these people:

Chad Millman:

SSAC13Day2 Chad Millman

Editor in Cheif, ESPN the Magazine.

Buster Olney:

SSAC13Day2 Buster Olney

Senior Writer/Baseball Analyst, ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com.

Peter King:

SSAC13Day2 Peter King

Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated.

Dean Oliver:

SSAC13Day2 Dean Oliver

Director of Production Analytics, ESPN Stats & Information.

And sadly, although he was initially slated to be a part of it, John Thorn could not make it to the panel. Thorn, if you did not know, is a fellow MLBlogger. Besides this, the panel was really great. While he may not have been viewed the same way to other people in the audience, Buster Olney stole the show in this panel for me. I’ve disagreed with many of the positions Olney has taken when it comes to Hall of Fame voting in the past, but I realize that this was the case in many scenarios because he was confined by the schmushed time slots ESPN has given him. It was in this panel  where he got to fully explain his point and develop his argument that it became clear he was the baseball writer of decades and I was the jerk at home who thought he was an idiot who I knew more about baseball than. I mean he didn’t convince me that Jack Morris belongs in the Hall over  Bert Blyleven (though he did argue that) but he did get me on his side of the fence on a couple other points  and helped me beter see his perspective on a couple others.

After that it was off to the closing ceremonies and the Alpha Awards for exceptional performances in the field of sports analytics. Whatever that means. I actually don’t have my program with me since I left it in New York, so I can’t tell you what any of the awards were, so I’ll just end this entry with a series of pictures and you can create your own storyline to accompany them.

SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 1 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 2 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 3 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 4 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 5 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 6 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 7 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 8 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 9 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 10 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 11 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 12 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 13 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 14 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 15 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 16 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 17 SSAC13Day2 End Pictures 18

And thus, the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference came to a close. I hope you guys enjoyed that entry. Thank you for reading. And considering I am going to Opening Day in less than 24 hours, be on the lookout for the entry from that game.  While I will miss the free time I have during the offseason, I’ll say it’s about time baseball got here.

MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference 2013- Day 1

Hey. Sorry this entry is up a little late, but you know, National Procrastination Week was the week right after the conference, so I put off celebrating until the week of the 11th to start celebrating… and so, here we are. Here goes the entry of a truly great experience:

MITSloan2013Day1 Logo

Another year, another year having a blast at MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. If you didn’t read my last entry (which may be privatized by the time you read this entry) the difference in this year was that I got to attend the conference this year for free thanks to the conference’s organizers for taking pictures that they ended up using last year.

Anyway, the conference began the same way it did the previous year with opening remarks in the main (ball)room with the main four people responsible for the conference taking about the conference itself:

SSAC13Day1 Opening Remarks

Left to right that is:

1. David Schmittlein- The dean of the MIT Sloan school (of management).

2. Daryl Morey- The GM of the Houston Rockets who graduated from Sloan in 2000 and is the co-chair for the conference.

3. Jessica Gelman- The other co-chair of the conference who is the Vice President of Customer Marketing and Strategy for the Kraft Sports Group (the group that owns the New England Patriots).

4. Jordy DeFelice- One of the two conference’s student co-leads.

5. Jonathan Katz- The other of the two conference’s student co-leads. The conference is a completely student-run operation, so these two are the leaders of that team of I believe around 50 student organizers.

The opening remarks consisted of many things from Jaws music to unloading trucks. But mostly bad jokes that people had to laugh at because they were so bad. You know those ones, right?

Unfortunately I was late for being early, and combined with this being the event people showed up the earliest for the whole conference, this was probably my worst seat for the whole conference. What I forgot is that not many people leave for other rooms during the first time block of the day, so it ended up also being my seat for the Revenge of the Nerds panel that took place immediately after the opening remarks in the ballroom.

That panel consisted of these following people. I will first write the name of the person and then the picture of that person afterwards. I felt the need to clarify that because I often get confused by that myself.

Michael Lewis (moderator):

SSAC13Day1 Micahel Lewis

This should be a familiar to most people reading this blog. He is a best-selling author most notably in the sports world for Moneyball and The Blind Side.

Paraag Marthe:

SSAC13Day1 Paraag Marthe

The COO of the San Francisco 49ers.

Daryl Morey:

SSAC13Day1 Daryl Morey

(Previously mentioned)

Nate Silver:

SSAC13Day1 Nate Silver

Founder of Fivethirtyeight.com. He is probably most famous for correctly predicting the outcome of all 50 states in this past year’s presidential election, raising him–briefly–to an almost Chuck Norris-esque internet adoration.

Mark Cuban:

SSAC13Day1 Mark Cuban

Owner of the Dallas Mavericks.

It was a really interesting panel on a variety of levels. I don’t remember exactly what I was mesmerized by, but I’ll be sure to put the video of the panel when it goes up on YouTube like last year. In addition, with my focus on taking pictures this year, I think I’ll be re-watching a lot more panels than I did last year.

I should also add that, like I mentioned on the Twitter machine during the conference itself:

Nate Silver is being an awesome person by staying to talk to people until the organizers kick him off the stage for the next panel. #SSAC13

— Mateo Fischer (@observebaseball) March 1, 2013

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Nate Silver was the awesomest of the panelists on Revenge of the Nerds by staying to talk with people almost until the next panel began twenty minutes later. Here is photographic evidence of this:

SSAC13Day1 Silver Awesomeness

I think my legs would hurt at that point.

The next panel required no movement on my part as it was also in the ballroom. I however did move to be at a better picture-taking angle since a lot more people left between these two panels than between the opening remarks and Revenge of the Nerds. What was the panel? It’s Not You, It’s Me: Break-Ups in Sports. Here are the panelists:

Jackie MacMullan(moderator):

I definitely took several pictures of her, but I was at a bad angle for taking pictures of the moderator’s chair, so I guess I kept erasing the bad pictures of her and never realized that I never actually got one to put on file. A shame. Anyway,  she now works for ESPN, most notably appearing frequently as a panelist on their show Around The Horn. She made her fame, however, in her twenty years at the Boston Globe. She has also published several books such as When the Game Was Ours–which spoke of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson’s rivalry. She also co-authored Shaquille O’Neal’s autobiography.

Steve Pagliuca:

SSAC13Day1 Steve Pagliuca

Co-Owner of the Boston Celtics.

Brian Burke:

SSAC13Day1 Brian Burke

Senior Advisor to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who was on this panel because he recently got fired from his position as President and General Manager of the team.

Stan Van Gundy:

SSAC13Day1 Stan Van Gundy

Former head coach of the Orlando Magic.

Bill Polian:

SSAC13Day1 Bill Polian

NFL Analyst on ESPN, who was on the panel because he was the former General Manager of the Indianapolis Colts.

John Buccigross:

SSAC13Day1 John Buccigross

Host for Sportscenter on ESPN.

This panel added to a great start for me this conference. It truly was another great one. Bill Polian had some great words of wisdom while Stan Van Gundy was entertain but at the same time informative of his whole situation with the Magic and Dwight Howard, where contrary to expectation, he gave Dwight Howard respect for having played with the most pain he has ever seen a player play with.

In addition to that, it was interesting hearing Brian Burke essentially trash the statistical evaluation of players. I even overheard a “And that’s why you got fired” from the crowd. I wish I had been at the front of the crowd so Burke might have heard that. (Burke, for the record, is on the Honorary Executive Board for the conference–as is Bill Polian. It’s more than likely because his daughter is on the Alumni Executive Board. She even introduced this panel:

SSAC13Day1 Katie Burke

Sorry, Katie. That’s the only picture I got of you.)

Then came time for boxed lunches. As last year, there was only one vegetarian option, so I went with the grilled vegetable wrap. It would have been great, but it’s just not my thing. Whatever. It was a good lunch, so I’m not going to complain.

For the next time block–That’s how the conference worked. There were a maximum of five events going on for each hour-long time block with twenty-minute breaks in between them–there really wasn’t one event that I really wanted to attend, but I wanted to take in as much as I could so I went to Big Data Analytics in the Wide World of Sports. The speaker for it was Will Cairins, a senior data scientist at HP. So here is Mr. Cairins along with a couple of slides from his presentation, which I honestly still have no clue what it was about other than an amazingly big database’s applications to the world of sports:

SSAC13Day1 Will Cairins

Mr. Carins from my way-too-close-to-the-stage-seat. (My biggest challenge was getting a picture that wasn’t looking straight up his nose or blocked by the podium in the middle of the stage.)

SSAC13Day1 Will Cairins 2

A second shot of Cairins that wanted to get just to have the cool background he spoke in front of.

SSAC13Day1 Big Data 1

SSAC13Day1 Big Data 2

A couple of slides from the presentation.

After that I headed off to one of the research paper presentations. It was entitled Live by the Three, Die by the Three? The Price of Risk in the NBA. The presenter of it was Matthew Goldman of UC San Diego:

SSAC13Day1 Matthew Goldman

I guess it was an interesting presentation. (If you want to read the whole paper, click here.) But the most notable part of it for me was that Mr. Goldman, the presenter, was by far the hardest person–with Mr. Cairins from the previous presentation as a close second–to get a good picture of. First of all, he made so many small, ridiculous facial expressions that weren’t detectable to the naked eye but kept showing up on camera. That and he moved back and forth on stage more than anyone else I saw at the conference, so even if he wasn’t making a ridiculous facial expression on camera, the picture would come out blurry. I don’t know exactly how many pictures I deleted of him, but it was closer to the number of all other presenters/panelists combined than you might otherwise think.

Sadly, though, I had to seem like the biggest douchebag in the room as I had to leave extra early from my front-row seat to get a front-row seat for the Baseball Analytics panel in the Grand Ballroom. That panel consisted of the following:

Lindsay Czarniak (moderator):

SSAC13Day1 Lindsay Czarniak

Anchor for Sportscenter on ESPN.

Joe Posnanski:

SSAC13Day1 Joe Posnanski

Senior Writer for NBC Sports.

Jonah Keri:

SSAC13Day1 Jonah Keri

Staff Writer, Grantland; Author – “The Extra 2%”.

Ben Jediovec:

SSAC13Day1 Ben Jediovec

Vice President of Product Development & Sales, Baseball Info Solutions.

Voros McCraken:

SSAC13Day1 Voros McCraken

Statistical Analyst/ Writer.

Farhan Zaidi:

SSAC13Day1 Farhan Zaidi

Director of Baseball Operations, Oakland Athletics.

All in all, I would say that it was a pretty good panel. Someone who was new to the conference would have loved this panel. I, however–and this is not the panel’s fault–couldn’t stop comparing this year’s panel to last year’s amazing Baseball Analytics panel, so that took away from my enjoyment of it. If you weren’t reading my blog at this time last year, you can click here and scroll about half-way down the page to see last year’s all-star panel.

Next up it was True Performance & the Science of Randomness. This panel consisted of the following panelists:

Daryl Morey (moderator):

SSAC13Day1 Daryl Morey 2

Previously mentioned.

Alec Scheiner:

SSAC13Day1 Alec Scheiner

President of the Cleveland Browns.

Nate Silver:

SSAC13Day1 Nate Silver 2

Previously mentioned.

Jeff Ma:

SSAC13Day1 Jeff Ma

CEO, tenXer, who you may best recognize as the person who the movie “21” was based off of, and who not surprisingly revealed that he can no longer play blackjack.

Benjamin Alamar:

SSAC13Day1 Benjamin Alamar

Professor, Menlo College, whose connection to sports is through him being a consultant/researcher in the field of sports analytics as well as authoring a book on the subject.

Phil Birnbaum:

SSAC13Day1 Phil Birnbaum

Editor, By the Numbers.

This was a very interesting panel to listen to. The brilliance that emanated from its panelists can be seen in the fact that it took half the panel simply to understand the terms they were using to describe the process of deciphering true performance from inherent randomness that occupies any performance and measurement thereof. Oh, and the panel had approximately 1,245 references to Nate Silver’s book, The Signal and the Noise. It was initially just thrown out there as a moving reference, but it quickly became the running jokes of the panel to see how many times they could mention the book in the span of the panel and that the rest of the panel would thus forward receive royalties on any book sales for the number of times the book was mentioned during the panel. (No, it wasn’t actually 1,245 times, but it almost seemed like it.)

Next up was, in that same room, the Ticketing Analytics panel. (I really suspect they tried to make as many panels follow the              Analytics format as possible, because–at least this was the case in the panels I attended–way more followed it this year than last year.) The panel was comprised of the following panelists:

Shira Springer (moderator):

SSAC13Day1 Shira Springer

Special projects reporter, Boston Globe Sports. Oddly enough, she was the only moderator who sat in the middle of the panel. In I believe EVERY other panel I attended, the moderator sat to the far right seat of the panel. I don’t know if this was done unintentionally or to strategically segment the group, but for whatever reason she was in the middle. She was also one of the least active moderators on any of the panels, but I think that was more of a testament to the panel and the direction the panelists took it rather than on her job as moderator.

David Kaval:

SSAC13Day1 David Kaval

President, San Jose Earthquakes.

Bill Chapin:

SSAC13Day1 Bill Chapin

Senior Vice President of Business Operations, Kansas City Cheifs.

Chris Granger:

SSAC13Day1 Chris Granger

Executive Vice President – Team Marketing & Business Operations, NBA. Or at least that is his title in the biography on the website. I recall him speaking extensively about his work with the Indiana Pacers, so I want to say he was in a high-up position with the team.

Danielle Maged:

SSAC13Day1 Danielle Maged

Global Head of Business Development and Partnerships, Stubhub.

Cole Gahagan:

SSAC13Day1 Cole Gahagan

Sr. Vice President, Development & Strategy, NBA/NHL & Arenas – Ticketmaster.

This panel was mostly an entertaining debate between Granger and Kaval as to what the repercussions/benefits of dynamic pricing are with Kaval taking the more fan-friendly perspective and Granger taking the more business-y approach. In my opinion, this comes from the differences between their two leagues, with Kaval having to rely more on the fan experience and Granger having an unconditional fan base (to a certain extent). What I mean by that is that someone is way more likely to “just go” to an NBA game than an MLS game. The other interesting part of the panel was hearing Chapin talk about the Cheifs have implemented paperless ticketing for their season ticket holders through the use of a season ticket holder card. As a dedicated sports attendee myself it both excited and frightened me.

The final panel of the day was the Business of Sports panel. That was the following panelists:

Jessica Gelman (moderator):

SSAC13Day1 Jessica Gelman 2

Previously mentioned. (I think. Right? Right.)

John Walsh:

SSAC13Day1 John Walsh

Executive Vice President, ESPN.

Jennifer Storms:

SSAC13Day1 Jennifer Storms

Senior Vice President of Global Sports Marketing, PepsiCo.

George Postolos:

SSAC13Day1 George Postolos

President & CEO, Houston Astros.

Kathy Carter:

SSAC13Day1 Kathy Carter

President, Soccer United Marketing.

Phil de Picciotto:

SSAC13Day1 Phil de Picciotto

Founder and President, Octagon.

I can’t really remember much at all from this panel. I think it was one of those I-could-have-enjoyed-this-so-much-more-had-it-been-earlier-in-the-day situations. Anyway, that was my very full day at the conference after which I exited through the lobby from whence I came earlier in the day. (The convention center is three floors. The lobby is on the lowest of them and the conference itself took place on the two upper levels.):

SSAC13Day1 Lobby

Anyway, that was my day, so check back for the account of the second day. I plan on having a video tour of the entire conference grounds, but even so I hope it doesn’t take me half a month to get that out. (Or even over a week for that matter.) I plan on writing less in that entry, though. This entry was 2500+ words, just for reference. Then I plan on doing whatever it may be that I do on this blog next week. After that  regular season baseball comes back to Minnesota–hopefully with some snow to accompany it. That obviously means I will shut down “offseason” mode and get into writing about the games I attend.

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.

MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference 2012- Day 1

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.

Gary Bettman:

- 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.

Adam Silver:

- COO of the NBA.

Rob Manfred:

- Executive Vice President of Labor Relations and Human Resources for MLB.

Steve Tisch:

- Chairman and Executive Vice President of the New York Giants. Also I learned that he won an Oscar for his work on Forrest Gump.

Scott Boras:

- 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.

Neil Glat:

- SVP Corporate Development for the NFL.

David Gill:

- CEO Manchester United.

Steve Pagliuca:

- Co-Owener of the Boston Celtics (that spelling is of whoever put together the book not my own).

Scott O’Neil:

- 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.

Jeanie Buss:

- 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.

Scott Boras:

- I’ve introduced him already.

Rocco Baldelli:

- Special Assistant in charge of Scouting and Player Development for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Mark Shapiro:

- President of the Cleveland Indians.

Jeff Luhnow:

- GM of the Houston Astros.

Bill James:

- 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.
If you are really interested in this topic and have an hour to spare, here is the complete video of the panel in its enitrety:

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.

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