Recapping the Carolina Sports Meeting

By: Suvrath Penmetcha (@savvysuv), John McCool, Mohin Banker, Maksim Horowitz (@bklynmaks), James Eby, Bryan Jangro

For the second year in a row 6 members of TSAC travelled to Furman University to attend the Carolinas Sports Analytics Meeting!  This year, two of our members, Max and Mohin, presented posters on some of their projects.  Mohin showed off the article that he and Max wrote last year ranking backcourt duos in the NBA (http://wp.me/p4iRFa-ab).  Max presented a poster about the nflscrapR package (http://wp.me/p4iRFa-ij) discussing all that it offers to the NFL analytics community.  Below we summarize some of the most interesting talks of the conference:

Peter Keating Talk

The CSAM covered a wide range of sports analytics ranging from baseball free agent optimization to big data in March Madness. Among the highlights was the closing speaker Peter Keating of ESPN Magazine. He stressed that analytics cannot be boiled down to one number or statistic and should offer practical insight for a coach or player that can be used in real game situations. In his closing remarks, Keating echoed David Kaplan of the Hornets, sentiment about how analysis on a player or team should have context behind the statistics. Keating also explained his methodology for picking March Madness upsets and how he identified skilled and undervalued tournament teams in this year’s tournament.

David Kaplan Talk

The keynote speaker at CSAM was David Kaplan who works as an analyst for the Charlotte Hornets. In his talk, he made an important distinction between two different types of analytics in basketball, which are Coaching-Side Analytics and Front-Office Analytics. He defined Coaching-Side Analytics as analytics that seek to help basketball teams win now while Front-Office Analytics focuses on helping teams win in the future. David also mentioned how critical it was to communicate analytical findings in meaningful ways. This is consistent with what we learned at Sloan to articulate our findings so that they are easily understandable by both players and coaches. David said there’s four key points to presenting your analytical work to General Managers. They are

  1. What goes into the data
  2. What steps are taken to manipulate the data
  3. What do the results describe
  4. The Shortcomings of this method.

NASCAR

The NASCAR talk detailed the recent changes made in determining driver qualification for the chase (playoffs). Originally, the champion was crowned based on point accumulation from all races. However, this meant that consistent finishes in the top 10 without ever winning a race was good enough to be the champion. There were several instances where drivers who won many races but didn’t get into the chase to compete for a championship. This lead to declining fan interest and pushed NASCAR to make significant rule changes of deciding a champion. Over the last 12 years from 2004-2016, they have changed the rules so that drivers who win get into the chase while drivers who don’t win don’t get into the chase.

 

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