Boston Red Sox fans can thank Steve Conley for his role in the team’s two World Series wins – he’s the team’s IT manager. And give a standing O to the front office staff, which includes noted analytics consultant Bill James, whose Sabermetrics literally wrote the book on performance and data analysis. These experts do the number-crunching and data mining to spot trends, find overlooked talent or identify timely opportunities.At Babson College with a crowd of around 90 IT and baseball fans, Conley explained the growing use of pitch-tracking software, video analysis and business intelligence. It’s helping on the field and in the stands or team offices. Conley says the Red Sox travel with their own 20-terabyte video server which stores every pitch of every at-bat in Major League Baseball in the past three years. Other teams use similar gear but applying knowledge makes a difference.
“We’re all gathering the same data. And each team thinks they’re smarter but it’s what you do with it,” he says, noting that video replay got some of the credit for the team’s 2004 World Series win. Dave Roberts stole second base in a critical playoff game because he had studied video of pitcher Mariano Rivera’s pickoff move.
In the management offices, business intelligence is being put to use in ticket ordering, concessions sales and planning or mundane operational issues like invoices and expenses. Conley calls it “automating the routine” to free up people to do more valuable work.
The Sox even made offseason trades for technology partners, Conley praised the phone system supplied by Avaya and server/storage gear from EMC Corp., which sponsors the EMC Club at Fenway Park. And you’ll find the giant box used in the 2004 season — retired the way some clubs put uniform numbers on display.
Pitchers and hitters all analyze their own performance, often watching video mere minutes after a play happens. “We use a ton of data,” Conley adds, and even the fans are getting in on the action. Teams like the San Francisco Giants and the “Digital Dugout” are making online inside details available via Wi-Fi at AT&T Park. Smartphones and other devices like the iPad are changing the game for spectators.
“No one is going to squeeze into a little seat at Fenway Park and open up a laptop – you’d get killed. You might as well put on a Yankee cap,” Conley says.
Spotfire Blogging Team
Image Credit: David Wallace