Sports analytics: How 'Moneyball' meets big data (gallery)

Sports analytics: How 'Moneyball' meets big data (gallery)

Summary: Bill James and Billy Beane have led the way for sports teams to make strategic decisions based on analyzing data rather than watching the actual games or players.


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  • Brian Burke who authors a blog, Advanced NFL Stats, produced detailed analysis, "Fourth Downs in the New Overtime: First Possession." In an NFL overtime game, the team that possesses the ball first can only win the game with a touchdown or safety. After that possession, any score will win the game.

    The numbers show the team which has the ball first in overtime has a better chance of winning if, on fourth down deep in its own territory, it tries for a first down instead of punting. The deeper the team is in its own territory, the chances are better that that the team will make a first down rather than give the ball to the opposing team which should have great field position and is likely to score. Over the long run, this strategy may win more games on average but an NFL coach is looking at losing his job if it doesn't work just once.

    Another finding is that long field goals should not be attempted on a team's first possession in overtime. Their projected success rate is overshadowed by the loss of field position if it is missed and even if it is good, the opposition still has a chance to win.


  • Field vision

    Why do the best football (soccer) players appear to have better field vision than others? To answer that question, Geir Jorde of the Norweigan Sports Institute, Jonathan Bloomfield of Hull University, and Johan Heijmerikx of the University of Groningen, Netherlands examined 1,279 close-up videos of more than 118 midfielders and forwards in the Barclay's Premier League.

    The study focused on how the players use head and body movements to help them see the field better and make better split-second decisions. The most important finding was that players, especially midfielders, who better explore the field will make more accurate passes — something that managers, scouts, and fans usually overlook. Here's the full study.

    Photo: Wikipedia

  • Growing field

    In his new book, Sports Analytics: A Guide for Coaches, Managers, and Other Decision Makers, Benjamin Alamar says that sports analytics is in its infancy and teams can gain a significant advantage by using it. He cites a recent survey which showed that while 37 percent of teams have easy access to one another's data, 37 percent of them do not employ a database programmer.

    Alamar says that sports and business need analytic tools and computer power to sift through massive amounts of data to produce reports that can be used to develop a competitive edge. He refers to how small market teams such as the Oakland A's have used sports analytics to successfully compete with the larger, better financed organizations.

    Photo: Wikipedia

Topics: Big Data, Data Management

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