Word to the wise: Don't fade analytics

June 7, 2019 08:23 PM

There’s been a lot of recent talk in both baseball and sports betting about the field of “analytics.”

Unfortunately, it’s a buzzword that doesn’t capture reality. People who are loudly against analytics would be much less vocal if the essence of the word was better expressed. People who endorse it would be less smug if they admitted there are limits to what can be understood.

“Analytics” comes from the root word “analyze.” Analytics is simply the stuff people do to figure things out. What media pundits, color announcers, or even current managers, coaches, and players could be against figuring things out?

Brainstorm new ideas. Test them to see if they work. Stick with them if they do. Discard them if they don’t. Innovation has been the essence of science, business, and how regular people live their daily lives forever. 

Let’s take it further as it relates to sports. “Analytics” is the stuff you do to try to improve your chances of winning a championship. Analysis affects game strategy (on both sides of the ball). It affects talent acquisition. It affects how you use resources through the course of a grueling regular season or a relatively short postseason. 

It’s difficult to seriously be against innovation, or trying to improve your chances of winning a championship. But, for some reason, there’s a loud chorus of skeptics who are against analytics…and won’t stop talking about it on social media or live broadcasts. 

Baseball teams that are using “openers” on the mound at the beginning of games, and/or using a shift against batters with extremely well-defined hitting tendencies, are trying to improve their chances of winning. 

You think something in analytics is stupid? Let it be shown to be stupid before you pontificate. Last season the Tampa Bay Rays were “stupid” all the way to a 90-72 record with the #30 ranked payroll ($69 million)…that was less than half the MLB average ($139 million) and less than a third of #1 Boston ($227 million).  

Now, some ideas turn out to be bad. Or they’re good for a while until opponents adjust. The guys with computer models would be well-served to humbly admit that more often instead of hoping you bask in their genius while they pose on their soap boxes. 

In the world of sports betting, analytics can apply to the stuff you do to figure out how to win more money. But winners typically are very well-versed in the latest analytic developments in their preferred sports. Basketball bettors who recognized three-point evolution were ahead of the game until the market caught up. It’s been several years now, but sharps that first spotted the high octane potential of spread offenses in college football cashed a lot of easy tickets. 

VSiN talks about sharps and squares a lot. Sharps use and respect analytics. Squares believe they have a magic unicorn in their gut that discharges winners whenever they walk up to the counter. There aren’t any unicorns.  Sports books are afraid of the guys who use analytics. 

 

 

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