SABR: For it’s one, two, three takeaways

Three takeaways from the conference: ‘cause in baseball its 1-2-3 strikes at the old ball game…. And one  more thought one for the trip itself.

Baseball is not just a game but …

1) It’s all about the data both big and small.

Big data on Player analysis: Using a week’s time of a Cray super computer to determine pitcher types with a simple graphic representation. From the 30 or so attributes that can be determined in the first second of a pitched baseballs path from the mound to the waiting batter complex computations from every pitch thrown –approximately  700,000 – during the 2012 baseball season it can be deduced that there are six types of pitchers.  That is a sure better use of a super computer than using it to make atom bombs, too bad the North Koreans don’t play baseball. For the record that’s some 21,000,000 data points.

Data telling us of the little things that influence demand (game attendance) and promotion costs:  The Cleveland Indians using analytics to determine and forecast advertising spending, promotions and the content and timing of emails to fans. Bottom line: Data from the marginal revenue curve indicates more hat give-aways and less bobbleheads, and keep the fireworks.  Good news now what do with your stash of Manny Ramirez bobbleheads maybe a: fireworks your old bobblehead night is in the future for the Indians.  Who in Cleveland would not want to participate in an “Explode your old Manny being Manny bobblehead night” game?

2) It’s all about the tradition and continuity of culture.

In 1905 the manager of the NY Giants is famously quoted as saying, “…the main idea is to win…” during the player development seminar, the SF Giants director of scouting said, “the goal is to win…” After his presentation I asked him about that comment, and  he said, ‘Woo… I did not know that…” and without missing a beat he said, …”that’s our team culture…..” For the record, the Giant despite playing nearly 40 years in the worst ball park in the majors and not winning the World Series in over 50 years. Have won the pennant in 1912, 1962 and 2012 and 19 other times too, are the first team to reach 10,000 wins and have the best winning percentage of any National League team.

In 1909 Miller Huggings, the hall of fame manager for the Yankees is quoted as saying,

“… baseball is flourishing to such an extent in Mexico that it threatens to become the national sport down there. Before long the world’s championship series will be played off by teams from Mexico, Japan and the little old U. S. A.”

We were fortunate enough to attend the World Baseball Classic game, the current world’s championship series between Mexico and the good old USA , some 104 short years after Huggins prophetic statement.  For the record over 44,000 fans attended the game with perhaps 30,000 buying tickets right before the game.  Sadly, Team USA, who are based in Durham, lost.  Mexico beat Team USA in 2006 as well.

It seems that the leadership of the WBC did not use the baseball demand analytics that the Cleveland Indians use. Some fans from Mexico drove 13 hours straight to attend the game to see his hometown baseball heroes beat the little old USA. The beer and food lines were over an hour long –just add that to the 13 hours it took to get to the game– that’s a 14-hour wait time for a lousy beer in Chase Field in Phoenix. After the hour of purgatory when you finally reached the front of the line you were informed by the beer guy it was a cash only line. The unlucky fan a few people in front of me only had plastic– that was an hour of their life’s lost to the woes of picking the wrong line. A luckier fan in front of me ran out of paper money and paid his tab in quarters— lots of quarters.  Thankfully I had a twenty,  that enabled me to buy only two and get four quarters back in change!

3) It’s all about legacy and honoring past players and games.

Ryne, Andy and I attended an Oakland A’s spring training game: it was a really nice day and as all baseball fans know it’s easy to get A’s tickets, they never sell out and there are cheap and it was a short taxi ride away from the hotel.  Giants tickets were over 40 dollars and had be acquired from scalpers. A’s tix were 12 bucks.  Little did we know, but….

We were in for a significant history lesson honoring Japanese-Americans who were forcibly interned in quasi POW camps in the Arizona desert during WWII some 70 years ago.  See

And maybe it’s a good thing that games like baseball exist

Winning and losing games bring joy and the agony of defeat but it’s only just a game, but one should always play it with dignity and respect the game and opponent.

On Sunday, after the SABR conference, I was lucky enough to spend the day with my aunt, uncle, cousin and his wife who live in the Phoenix and Tucson areas. My aunt was diagnosed with cancer in October and a week before I left for Phoenix she was informed by her doctor that it had metastasized into brain cancer.  It was nice to spend the last day in Phoenix with her.

Written by: Keith Robbins


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