Big Data Baseball: Math, Miracles, and the End of a 20-Year Losing Streak
by Travis Sawchik, 2015
Infield shifts. Ground ball pitchers. Pitch framing catchers. Shifts based on ball-strike count. Speedy outfielders in big ballparks.
A number of insights led the Pirates to improve their defense going into the 2013 season. The team took a data-centric view and were able to get the on-field managers to implement the strategy. They’ve made the wild card in three straight seasons despite a small payroll.
While the insights are nice, I think of this more as “Moneyball 2.0”, rather than “Big Data”. Yes, data was used, but it’s not big data. This was a case of finding undervalued assets, just like Moneyball.
I don’t like the Pirates. This book didn’t change that. However, it did make me worried that my Reds are being left behind more than I previously thought. Outside of Joey Votto, no one seems to be analytically inclined in either the front office or clubhouse/dugout. The rest of the National League Central is very competitive and won’t wait around for the Reds to catch up with the times.
The Kelley School of Business at Indiana University hosted a Healthcare Conference on “Patient-Centric Healthcare Management in the Age of Analytics” last Friday and Saturday. I was able to attend on Friday and enjoyed the conference. Special thanks go out to Kurt Bretthauer for organizing the conference and special issue of POM attached to the conference. There were over 70 talks, with 2-3 parallel tracks allowing for 15 minutes/talk.
A couple interesting talks to me:
A group from the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital (Elham Torabi, Craig Froehle, and Christopher Miller) are looking at the triage of patients classified to be “level 3” on the ESI triage scale. The simplest cases of those patients could probably be seen in the Fast Track, alleviating strain on the emergency department during busy times. This dovetails nicely with my work on triaging patients calling EMS for an ambulance transport.
A group from the College of William and Mary and the Bon Secours Health System (Jim Bradley, Chalit Fernando, and Rajiv Kohli) used survey data to identify patient perceptions of hospitals. The data are strongly correlated, making typical regression models difficult, so the group uses PCA in their exploratory analysis to reduce the dimensionality and correlations in the data. The principle components are then incorporated into a stepwise regression to determine the appropriate model. While I wasn’t particularly interested in their problem, I thought it was cool that PCA and stepwise regression were being used together. I haven’t seen either of them used in an operations management paper lately.
Overall Against the Spread: 29-29
Week 2: 9-7
Week 3: 5-11
Week 4: 10-5
Week 5: 5-6 (2 pushes, 1 not bet due to correct line)
Week 6 Predictions (line in parentheses):
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (+3.0): Predicting 28.7-23.5. Bet on the Atlanta Falcons.
Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills (+3.5): Predicting 22.6-23.8. Bet on the Buffalo Bills.
Denver Broncos at Cleveland Browns (+4.0): Predicting 22.2-21.1. Bet on the Cleveland Browns.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (-2.5): Predicting 20.0-23.7. Bet on the Detroit Lions.
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (even): Predicting 21.6-24.0. Bet on the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Kansas City Chiefs at Minnesota Vikings (-4.0): Predicting 20.6-25.9. Bet on the Minnesota Vikings.
Washington Redskins at New York Jets (-7.0): Predicting 15.5-23.3. Bet on the New York Jets.
Miami Dolphins at Tennessee Titans (-2.5): Predicting 18.7-26.6. Bet on the Tennessee Titans.
Arizona Cardinals at Pittsburgh Steelers (+3.0): Predicting 26.0-23.5. Bet on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks (-7.0): Predicting 20.3-22.7. Bet on the Carolina Panthers.
San Diego Chargers at Green Bay Packers (-11.5): Predicting 18.9-28.5. Bet on the San Diego Chargers.
Baltimore Ravens at San Francisco 49ers (+1.0): Predicting 24.6-23.3. Bet on the Baltimore Ravens.
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts (+9.0): Predicting 28.3-21.3. Bet on the Indianapolis Colts.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-4.0): Predicting 21.7-24.7. Bet on the New York Giants.
The Ghost War
by Alex Berenson, 2008
Written 7 years ago, talks about growing tension over Chinese aggressive actions in their nearby maritime waters. Talks about foreign governments sponsoring terrorists in Afghanistan. Talks about our limited intelligence assets in China. Sounds very familiar.
It’s a follow-up to “The Faithful Spy”. The series seems to be pretty good spy novel stuff, though it does have the CIA relying to an unreasonable extent on the main character. I listened to it on tape.
Overall Against the Spread: 24-23
Week 2: 9-7
Week 3: 5-11
Week 4: 10-5
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (-1.5): Predicting 20.1-21.8. Bet on the Houston Texans.
Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons (-8.0): Predicting 20.0-29.5. Bet on the Atlanta Falcons.
Seattle Seahawks at Cincinnati Bengals (-3.0): Predicting 18.1-24.8. Bet on the Cincinnati Bengals.
St. Louis Rams at Green Bay Packers (-10.0): Predicting 17.9-25.2. Bet on the St. Louis Rams.
Chicago Bears at Kansas City Chiefs (-10.5): Predicting 21.7-29.9. Bet on the Chicago Bears.
Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans (+1.0): Predicting 24.9-26.8. Bet on the Tennessee Titans.
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5): Predicting 18.7-24.2. Bet on the Philadelphia Eagles.
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-7.0): Predicting 20.8-26.3. Bet on the Cleveland Browns.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5): Predicting 20.6-23.1. Line is correct; do not bet.
Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions (+2.5): Predicting 27.4-21.2. Bet on the Arizona Cardinals.
New England Patriots at Dallas Cowboys (+10.0): Predicting 28.7-25.6. Bet on the Dallas Cowboys.
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders (+4.5): Predicting 23.6-21.9. Bet on the Oakland Raiders.
San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants (-7.0): Predicting 14.5-27.0. Bet on the New York Giants.
Pittsburgh Steelers at San Diego Chargers (-3.0): Predicting 24.1-22.8. Bet on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mining the Sky: Untold Riches from the Asteroids, Comets, and Planets
by John S. Lewis, 1997
This book provides a fascinating account of the material wealth of our solar system. From mining asteroids for metals to searching for water for rocket propellants to pulling helium-3 from the outer planets for fusion material, there are profitable opportunities for mining the sky. Relying upon launched material from Earth will always limit our ability to explore and colonize outer space, as the launch costs are prohibitive and lead to limiting the weight of payloads. To continue manned exploration past the moon, we will need to start pulling raw materials from other rocks in the solar system with smaller costs. The book goes through the geology of asteroids, moons, comets, and planets and describes the chemistry necessary to profitably extract valuable materials. Very interesting; I found myself reading many passages out loud to Maria. Follow-up books by Lewis appear to be “Rain of Iron and Ice” and “Asteroid Mining 101”.