Big Data: Not just for baseball anymore

Basketball - and soccer and hockey and even mixed martial arts - are catching up to baseball in the use of Big Data and analytics

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As an example, see the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, which was started in 2006. The conference is sponsored by organizations like MLB, ESPN and SAS and is run by MIT Sloan School students. It’s become quite the trendy event in the sports and media world, and it really reflects the growth of Big Data analytics in professional sports.

Among the speakers at this year’s conference, earlier this month, were representatives of sports leagues and teams, broadcasting and technology companies including, of course, Nate Silver. Research papers were presented on topics such as:

  • Acceleration in the NBA: Towards an Algorithmic Taxonomy of Basketball Plays

  • Total Hockey Rating (ToHR): A comprehensive statistical rating of National Hockey League forwards and defensemen based upon all on-ice events

  • The value of flexibility in baseball roster construction

  • The hidden foundation of field vision in English Premier League (EPL) soccer players

Panel discussions were held on things like:

  • Soccer Analytics

  • Hall of Fame Analytics

  • Predictive Sports Betting Analytics

  • Breaking Down the Fight: MMA Analytics

That’s right - MMA analytics. Need any more proof that Big Data and analytics are here to stay in the sports world? Maybe next year the conference will feature a panel discussion on Advance Noodling Analytics.

Personally, as a pretty big sports fan, I don’t spend much time thinking about stats or analytics, beyond the records of my favorite teams. I don’t play fantasy sports or gamble, so I tend to tune out when people start talking about stats, let alone anything particularly advanced. But I still find it interesting what these teams are doing with all the data becoming available. Plus, if it’ll help my team do better, I’m all for them going crazy with it. Have at it, nerds!

What about you? Do you think Big Data and analytics are good or bad for sports? Do they enhance your enjoyment of the games? Let’s hear your two cents in the comments.

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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