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MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Notes

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Jonathan Bales

As I mentioned last week, the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference was held this weekend, and it was a huge success.  I was able to attend a number of presentations and panels, including Baseball Analytics (a sport whose analytics usage is so far ahead of football it is unreal), Coaching Analytics, Art & Analytics of Negotiation, Football Analytics, Predicting the Next Pitch, and Fantasy Sports Analytics.

I gained a number of unique insights, including the importance of variance and its relation to the mean in analytics and the difference between ‘interesting’ and ‘useful’ as it relates to sports data.

Most importantly, I was able to meet up with Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett for about 20 minutes and talk about some of my numbers with him.  Among the things we discussed were his 2nd down play-calling and usage of “Gun Trips” (which the team actually calls “Cluster”).

I presented Garrett and a few other members of the Cowboys organization with a little packet of some of the more meaningful numbers I have gathered over the years.  I plan to follow up with them about how I think those statistics could be of use to the team.

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4 Responses to MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Notes

  1. Greg says:

    Hooray! That you were able to even plant the seeds in Garrett’s head is just phenomenal! Congrats…and thank you. I hope the seeds grow into very, very thorny and hyperallergenic vines that he cannot bear to ignore and must do something to change.

    That just made my day!

  2. Derek says:

    Awesome.

  3. valmont says:

    “Baseball Analytics (a sport whose analytics usage is so far ahead of football it is unreal)”

    this is incredibly true.

    “I was able to meet up with Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett for about 20 minutes and talk about some of my numbers with him.”

    please write more about this.

  4. Sure. I actually planned to meet with the Cowboys’ Director of Analytics while at the conference, so I put together a little packet with some of my previous work. I had no idea Garrett was going to be there, but I spotted him after one of the panels. I introduced myself and gave him my numbers, and we started to talk about a couple of the studies. The one we talked about most in-depth was the study on Gun Trips (he said they call it ‘Cluster’), out of which I noted the team always passes (I mean always). He argued that info wasn’t necessarily useful to a defense, as the offense throws all over the field from it–deep left, middle right, etc. Is there a difference between an off-tackle draw and RB screen, in terms of a defense’s philosophy? I don’t know. We also talked a bit about his second-down play-calling, which seemed to improve drastically after I published a study on it.

    Anyway, we left with him saying he would read some of the stuff and take it into consideration. After talking with some other people in the organization, we are going to get together again once things cool down after the draft. I will keep you updated.

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