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SABR Analytics Conference: It's a Wrap


A few days ago, I had the pleasure to make it to Mesa, AZ for the inaugural SABR Analytics Conference. Aside from being an observer and unofficial representative of Beyond the Box Score, it was really great to see so many great minds in one place, including SB Nation's very own Rob Neyer, author and economist J.C. Bradbury and many many others. SABR did a pretty good job at documenting the panels, so I'll just fill some bullet points.

From Player Panel with Rob Neyer and Brandon McCarthy (listen to full audio)


For those of you who haven't had a chance to read the cover story of ESPN Magazine's Analytics Issue earlier this month, Brandon McCarthy gives us a good look on how he reinvented his mechanics to save his career. McCarthy and Neyer dug a little deeper on this including how McCarthy uses analytics to inform his game preparation, specifically Pitch F/X. On Twitter, I had asked McCarthy if he was using the Bloomberg Sports professional personalized player product to help him prepare, and he confirmed (I remember reading about his iPad use on Swingin A's).

From Changing Face of Baseball Data
(listen to full audio)

(MODERATOR, Sean Forman - Baseball Reference, John Dewan - Baseball Information Solutions, Dave Cameron - Fangraphs, Cory Schwartz -

Possibly as a segway to the promoting the new Fielding Bible III, John Dewan adds about fielding data:

I feel like we're getting about 60 or 70 percent of the picture with current defensive metrics versus 80 or 90 percent on offense. ... If I knew how to find the other 40 percent, I'd be doing it! ... (But) what advantage do teams have if you release the data? They're trying to gain a competitive advantage and it's hard to do that if everyone has access to it.

From GM Panel (listen to full audio)

(MODERATOR, Ken Rosenthal - FOX Sports, Chris Antonetti - Indians, Jerry DiPoto - Angels, Doug Melvin - Brewers)


I've personally never been in the same room as GM's, but hearing they kept it interesting sharing their personal and organizational philosophies on the marriage of sabermetrics, scouting, and front office decisions. Doug Melvin brought up some good points, especially about this information age we're in:

When it comes to metrics, the toughest job right now (in regards to analytics) is to filter through all the noise. I keep asking my people and challenging them: What are the five or six most important statistical data that can help us mesh that with the (traditional) five tools that scouts bring to the table? Every day there seems to be something new coming forth, whether it's FIP or batting average on balls in play (BABIP) … and it's very important.

From QA with Mark Shapiro (listen to full audio)
(with, Ken Rosenthal)

Regarding the information available today:

Now it's nonstop. You wake up every day (thinking) 'What am I missing?' You read trade rumors, you read analytics, you read an article in (Baseball) Prospectus and think, 'How are we doing?' I wake up and have anxiety because there's constantly being new frontiers being pushed. And there's an openness to who can make us better. When young people come to me and say, 'How do I get in (to baseball)? How do I start?' ... we look for people who, the day they walk in the door, can make us better. We look for people who have demonstrated, through video or scouting or analytics, that they're going to continue to elevate our thinking and make us better.

About defensive stats:

Where we feel we're at as far as objective measurement of defense today is somewhat around the equivalent of using batting average for offense. It has some value, certainly very limited value ... but we factor it in.

Some other notes from my encounters

Cory Schwartz filming segment live from event. See video here.

-From the Digital World Meets Baseball Informational panel, Jeff Bennett - Senior Director of ESPN Stats and Information group acknowledge that introducing some easy stats such as OPS on broadcast can be a gateway. He even saw his kids get introduced to advanaced stats through video games (ISO/WPA in MLB 2K).

-From Dave Cameron's Scrap Heap Pitchers (link to presentation PPT) research presentation, he notes that teams should take a risk on SP coming off of injury, McCarthy, Colon (last season), low risk, keep players in AAA, save service time.

-From random conversation with Derek Carty - Baseball Prospectus, Craig Glaser - Bloomberg Sports, Eno Sarris - Fangraphs, Lawrie is a tremendous pick in fantasy as the lack of depth and his tremendous power should make the 3B landscape very interesting in days to come.

-From lunch, Cory Schwartz said at a given point in there conference, he noticed there were at least 20 representatives out of the 30 MLB ball clubs.

-From Retrospective Look at Baseball Analysis, Gary Gillete, Dick Crame, and John Thorn. They're ok with OPS, since it's shorthand for many other stats, amongst those being WAR, Runs Created.

It was amazing to meet all the people at the conference and great to put names/twitter handles to faces.

See full breakdown of conference at Follow me on Twitter @cobradave.