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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  • 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

  • How to bet on sports and win big

    Chad Millman, Editor in Chief of ESPN The Magazine, tells how sports analyst Mike Wahl has examined sports betting from many angles and found an almost sure winner in college football. Typical of many current sports gurus, Wahl earned an MBA and then worked in business as a financial analyst before switching to sports.

    To find the right winning bet, Wahl searched through six years of college football games (376) when a team was favored by 20-25 points. To bet on an outright game winner is supposed to be evened out by having the wager on the favorite cost more than the one on the underdog. He found that if you bet the same amount on the favorite as an outright winner, you'd have won overall for six years in a row and your return would have been 12.24 percent. But I'm sure this loophole will be closed very soon.

Topics: Big Data, Data Management

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