Big Data Baseball: Math, Miracles, and the End of a 20-Year Losing Streak
by Travis Sawchik, 2015
Infield shifts. Ground ball pitchers. Pitch framing catchers. Shifts based on ball-strike count. Speedy outfielders in big ballparks.
A number of insights led the Pirates to improve their defense going into the 2013 season. The team took a data-centric view and were able to get the on-field managers to implement the strategy. They’ve made the wild card in three straight seasons despite a small payroll.
While the insights are nice, I think of this more as “Moneyball 2.0”, rather than “Big Data”. Yes, data was used, but it’s not big data. This was a case of finding undervalued assets, just like Moneyball.
I don’t like the Pirates. This book didn’t change that. However, it did make me worried that my Reds are being left behind more than I previously thought. Outside of Joey Votto, no one seems to be analytically inclined in either the front office or clubhouse/dugout. The rest of the National League Central is very competitive and won’t wait around for the Reds to catch up with the times.