If you don’t enjoy taking your work home at night, then you might consider packing a calculator for doing some analytics in the grandstand next time you see a Major League Baseball game. Statistics are the lifeblood that keep players, fans and fantasy team managers crunching numbers. And now they have an entirely new category of data and classification – Ultimate Zone Rating. While everyone knows who hit the most home runs or batting average, UZR helps explore who makes catches and the best in fielding and defense results.There are variations on UZR and other similar approaches to analytics. Each assigns a zone to a player and explores how each play stops runs from scoring. But the bottom-line remains the same: looking at reasons why something happened — or didn’t happen — and the chance that this knowledge can prepare better for the future.
UZR and its cousins require analysis of every play of every game. Experts at companies such as Fangraphs and Baseball Info Solutions mine the data for trends and intelligence. The results produce context and cause-and-effect buried in the statistics. Of course, you can’t build mathematical models that account for ‘team spirit’ and other intangibles like heart, drive and the summertime heat or stress of a doubleheader.
Like any database, results change with time and experience and the market for these details is growing as people recognize the value. Teams scout each other using the information, scouts use the measures to evaluate talented young players. And although hitting is still a popular way to win now “run prevention” is being touted by the Boston Red Sox instead of the home runs from David Ortiz and the team’s former sluggers Jason Bay and Manny Ramirez.
Developing an entirely new discipline for analysis took years of refining formulas, creating new rules and studying games to define rules and exceptions. Uncovering insights in a mountain of data isn’t a game for rookies. It means years of training, coaching from other statisticians and teamwork.
Because there’s no “I’ in team but there sure is one in Analytics.
Spotfire Blogging Team
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