Take me out to the .. Society of American Baseball Research Case Competition

A few days into the New Year, I got an email from Dr. Burbridge asking me if I would be interested in participating on a team that would be competing in the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) Case Competition. Not one to turn down new opportunities, especially those that involve traveling to warm, sunny destinations (ahem Phoenix) I quickly replied, “Yes!”

Flash forward a couple of weekends and I finally had the opportunity to meet up with Dr. Burbridge and my teammates Brian Adam, Andy Hadsell, Keith Robbins, and Ryne McCall. I think it was during this first meeting that I realized the huge commitment and team effort that would go into preparing and presenting at the SABR conference. During the meeting it was clear we all realized what a huge privilege it was to be representing Elon’s MBA program and became 100 percent committed to the challenge.

Throughout the next month we reviewed, analyzed, prepared, and presented past SABR cases to audiences that included Elon faculty in an effort to prepare for the actual case. Our case preparation and practice presentations were essential, and not only helped us prepare for Phoenix, but helped us bond as a team and learn each other’s strengths.

On Sunday, March 3, just four short days before our presentation in Phoenix, we received the Mike Trout Dilemma case for the SABR competition. This case basically asked us to step into the role of the Los Angeles Angels front office staff and utilize business analysis to determine how to compensate Mike Trout.  After a couple of group meetings, lots of independent research, and flights spent reviewing our findings, we met up in Phoenix to pull our research together and come up with our presentation.  Mike Trout was a rookie last year, with a phenomenal season, so we chose to compare him to other players who had stellar rookie years.  By analyzing a specific data set, we determined the average career win above replacement or WAR, a measurement to determine the value of “a player’s total contributions to their team,” for these comparable players and even increased it for Trout. He’s really off the charts! Once we assigned him a career WAR, (what is this?) we then translated this into dollars.  Ultimately our team came up with offering Mike Trout a nine year contract at $195 million to be back loaded as MLB contracts typically are.

We spent the rest of our night and some time on Thursday morning practicing our presentation. Apparently practice makes perfect because we all did an amazing job remembering all the points to say on our assigned slides. We also fielded the questions and answers confidently. After presenting, we were immediately approached by Vince Gennaro, the case writer and baseball analytics guru, who told us he was impressed by our framework and analysis of the case. In the end, although Elon did not win the case competition, our team felt his approval was truly all the validation and praise we needed.

We spent the rest of our time in Phoenix attending conference events such as a player panel with pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Javier Lopez, a general managers’ panel representing the White Sox, Rangers, and Cubs, and even discussions about how to handle big data in baseball.  Although we were in the desert, it decided to rain so my husband, John,   and I squeezed in a quick hike up gorgeous Camelback Mountain to get a bird’s eye view of Phoenix. It was definitely a memorable excursion. At night, our entire team attended conference social events and even got to watch USA battle Mexico in the World Baseball Classic at Chase Field. All in all I had an amazing experience and I believe our entire team did as well. I learned so much from this case competition and am so happy I embraced this opportunity!

Written by: Emily Sweitzer

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