Monday, March 14, 2011

Summary of the MIT Sports Analytics Conference

Here’s a wrap-up of the MIT Sports Analytics Conference held earlier this month, with the focus on items of interest to sports agents.

This year’s conference drew 1,500 people to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Representatives from 53 different professional teams attended, according to the organizers. Now in its fifth year, the event has evolved into as much a business conference as an analytics one, with topics about sponsorships and enhancing the game day experience.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey, one of the event’s organizers, pointed out that basketball is a sport that punishes mistakes during the opening panel on developing the modern athlete. He explained how people focus on all the dunks, but mistakes are costly and need to be minimized for success. While players that shoot high percentages and avoid turnovers get little media attention, teams clearly build such contributions into their statistical models and projections.

In the same panel, Morey said that during the NBA Draft process they’re often looking for flaws more than attributes. They identify what problems a player has that they think they can improve upon. This shows why it may be a good idea to address a player’s shortcomings in draft packages and then demonstrate how they will overcome them.

The Baseball Analytics panel also had some interesting exchanges. Tom Tippett, director of baseball information services for the Red Sox, talked about the Carl Crawford contract. Although he lacked the power of most well-paid outfielders, Tippett said that between triples and home runs, Crawford clears the bases about 30 times per year. Tippett said the team also researched how Fenway Park’s dimensions would impact Crawford’s defensive performance.

Both Major League Baseball and the NBA are moving toward having a complete digital record of each game. This creates tremendous opportunities for sports agents and their staffs to analyze and present this data on behalf of their clients.

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