Just Don’t Call It Moneyball

Situated in the tech startup capital of the world, it should come as no surprise that the San Francisco Giants are leveraging data analysis to give the team a competitive edge:

Within the organization, there are three programmers who maintain the baseball information systems and two analytics experts.

“The baseball side is different,” Evans says. “You can use technology in a unique way to market a team in San Francisco, but you don’t want to openly share what you do on the field against 29 other teams. We don’t know how other teams are using technology, so it would be presumptuous for us to say what we do is unique.”

Before games, coaches, players and staff pore over video and charts to analyze the performance of pitchers and hitters. The team’s proximity to Silicon Valley has afforded it the ability to get an early look at services that assiduously use reams of data to study hitting mechanics, based on video; fielding range, through the use of charts; a breakdown of every pitch thrown during a game; and players’ effectiveness when hurt.

“We’re in many businesses — baseball, which is No. 1, content, technology, customer-service, community and entertainment,” Giants CEO Larry Baer says. “And we have to be good at all of them to succeed.”

One thing I am skeptical of is Evans’ statement that “We don’t know how other teams are using technology.” News travels relatively quickly between these organizations. An interesting paper could be written on how the analytics staff moves between organizations compared to the players. One is a highly regulated market and the other has relatively little official regulation, but may be governed by norms of loyalty and trust.

Another interesting part is how Baer reframes the industry in which the Giants compete. You may recall that redefining the problem was the first lesson of Moneyball. Happy baseball season!

See also: Moneyball Roundup