MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference brings professionals and statistics-savvy fans together to study the games people play.
Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office
March 1, 2013 MIT News
Sports analytics dates at least to the 1940s, when Branch Rickey, the legendary general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, commissioned statistics-based studies of baseball. Its first public breakthrough occurred when Bill James, an avid Kansas-based fan, produced an annual “Baseball Abstract” from 1982 through 1988. James created a wealth of new tools for evaluating players, strategies, and many other aspects of the game — how much baseball’s unique parks influenced player performance, for example — that seeped into baseball culture in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 2003, when the writer Michael Lewis produced the book “Moneyball,” about the efforts of the Oakland Athletics to use James-style analysis, sports analytics reached a whole new level of acceptance. Lewis is among many well-known figures speaking at the event, including statistician and political analyst Nate Silver (who first became known for his work in baseball analytics) and a wide variety of team owners, general managers, coaches and sports professionals whose jobs did not exist a decade ago: The Houston Astros, for example, have sent their “director of decision sciences,” Sig Mejdal, a former NASA researcher with two engineering degrees from the University of California at Davis, to the event.