Real-life ‘Moneyball’ at SABR Analytics Conference

Author: Christopher Durso       

If you’ve read the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis, or seen the movie version starring Brad Pitt, then you have some idea at whom the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) pitches its annual Analytics Conference. It’s for anyone who believes in the empirical power of statistical data to evaluate and even predict the performance of baseball players — including team executives, coaches, academics, journalist, and fans.

“It brings the top minds of the baseball-analytic community under one roof,” said Deb Jayne, SABR’s national event and membership director, “to discuss and share insightful ways to analyze baseball.”


SABR is headquartered in Phoenix, and deliberately holds the Analytic Conference there during spring training. “We have the Cactus League here, so a lot of the teams are already here — the baseball-operations people, the general managers, most of the players,” Jayne said. “And a lot of the teams sponsor our conference.”


“One of the biggest challenges is really selling the room block,” Jayne said. “A lot of the people that attend are already here [for spring training], and so they already have places [where] they stay. They want to stay closer to their ballpark and not stay at the hotel.”


Every year, the Diamond Dollars Case Competition pits teams of undergraduate and graduate students against one another to solve a baseball-operations problem developed by Vince Gennaro, president of SABR’s board of directors and author of Diamond Dollars: The Economics of Winning in Baseball. “In this year’s case,” according to SABR’s website, “students were asked to use [analytics website] Baseball Prospectus’ new
‘pitch tunneling’ data to come up with questions and insights that might be useful to a major-league front office.” “A lot of [the students] may be in statistics, sports marketing, business,” Jayne said.

“We’ve had law students. If they’re a fan of baseball and they want to participate in the case comp, they do.”


Become a Member

Get premium access to provocative executive-level education, face-to-face networking and business intelligence.