Big Data May Already Be Disrupting Your Favorite Sport


i’m in a waiting room, away from my iMac, so, this will be without my usual links. Sorry about that.

I have recently read two articles, one about the rise of 3-point shooting in the NBA, and one about changes in starting pitcher duration in MLB. Here’s what they have in common – new use of big data.

In the NBA story, teams like the Golden State Warriors have discovered that a 3-point shot pays off with much more success than a long-distance 2-point shot. How did they arrive at this insight?, you ask. Lots and lots of data.

And in baseball, after a similar examination of lots of data, a couple of teams are having new success with a genuinely novel approach. They pull their starting pitchers after two rounds of batters oppose them. Why? Because, batting averages go up the third time through the batting order facing the same pitcher. In other words, the pitcher has the advantage 2x, then somewhat loses that advantage.

Call these developments the next evolutionary stages of Moneyball.

Here’s what I think. Technology is allowing us to collect mountains of data that we have not yet known how to effectively analyze. As more and more people get very good at making sense of all of this big, big data, there will be plenty more novel approaches and noticeable changes, and breakthrough discoveries.

In other words, we’re barely getting started in this truly new world.

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