The Phillies, one of the last teams to give modern analytics a shot in their front office, have shown a newfound interest in the field.
This past offseason, they brought in analytics pro Scott Freedman, first part-time, then full time, indicating that maybe there was more to this game than gut feelings. Granted, gut feelings and visual scouting certainly have their place, but there is no reason that the two schools of thought - long divisive in the sport - can't work together.
Freedman summed up his duties with the Phillies in an interview with The Good Phight:
"Much of what I've been doing is ad-hoc analysis for decision-making. I shouldn't discuss specifically what these analyses have been, but they've been related to offseason decisions and general strategy. Additionally, I've been supporting Scott Proefrock through my involvement with salary arbitration and 0-3 negotiations, transactions, payroll management, rules compliance and Major League administration. I've also been tasked with leading our internal evaluation of our needs and capabilities with respect to our IT infrastructure."
--Scott Freedman, via The Good Phight
Freedman's influence in the Phillies' actual manuevers has yet to be determined, but it was moralizing enough to see them take a stab at his expertise. A step further would be to send Freedman or a team representative to the Sloan Sports Analytics Convention at MIT today, which they did not.
From the conference's web site:
"The conference goal is to provide a forum for industry professionals (executives and leading researchers) and students to discuss the increasing role of analytics in the global sports industry. MIT Sloan is dedicated to fostering growth and innovation in this arena, and the conference enriches opportunities for learning about the sports business world. The conference is open to anyone interested in sports."
Seems like exactly the kind of thing a fledgling entry into the analytics world could benefit from, but as it was pointed out earlier:
— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) February 28, 2014
All right, sure, but that's 17 teams who aren't making appearances there (including Theo Epstein's Cubs), not just the Phillies. However, the Phillies are the only major sports team from their city not in attendance.
— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) February 28, 2014
Last year's conference featured 90 teams from the four major sports, an attendance figure 25% higher than 2012 (the conference has been held every year since 2007). It featured a panel called "Revenge of the Nerds" and gave a lifetime achievment award to Bill Belichick.
SSAC has been on the rise for years as a hub for innovation in analytics, for the benefit of professional sports teams. It would be reactionary to read too much into the Phillies' absence, but as a team that took longer than most to cross the line, they could surely profit from any legitimate analytics platform.