Thoughts about Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

5 March 2017
5 Mar 2017
2 min read

Coming to my first Sloan Conference, I didn’t know what to expect. My opening exposure to sports analytics was reading Moneyball, and so I hoped for panels of…Moneyball?

Well, my expectations were met. While not every panel I went to was filled with insights on how to exploit inefficiencies in the market of baseball, I spent the past two days learning a ton. In no particular order, below are some takeaways from such an excellent conference.

  • I learned something from every panel I attended. Some, such as the Scraping with R presentation were more practical 1, others were more theoretical (such as the Titans of the Sports Industry), but all very interesting.
  • Daryl Morey is a riot in real life. Him and Billy Beane going back and forth is probably my favorite memory from the conference.
  • Morey is also a Renaissance man. Over the conference he could be seen playing with drones, chess, and Super Smash Bros.
  • The lowest hanging fruit for analytics is defense, NFL, soccer, and hockey.2
  • Related: Zach Lowe made a great point in his panel 3 about how he doesn’t need more people to tell him that LeBron James is good at the sport of Basketball. Instead of predicting more obvious things, it’s worth finding something novel.
  • Some smart quotes I heard over the weekend: “If you’re not singularly focused on your edge, then what are you doing?” “Lack of Personalization in sports is the next great frontier.” “Taking the time to do research often pays off.” “Crossing the rubicon is execution” “Analytics is like a street of dollar bills. We’re just reaching down and picking them up."4 “If you get the opportunity to get an impact player, you go get an impact paper.”
  • It’s important to remember the limits of the model. Nate Silver made several great points about having to explain the limits of the model, and make sure you’re telling stories with the data, not just talking about the data.

Overall, I had a blast at my first Sloan conference. I learned a ton and made some great contacts. I look forward to my next one and delving deeper into the analytics culture.

  1. I heard about the nflscrapeR package and plan on using it immediately ↩︎

  2. And any other sport after that. Lacrosse, golf, etc. ↩︎

  3. Ball Don’t Lie ↩︎

  4. But then it turns to 50 cent pieces, 25 cents, 10 cents, etc. ↩︎

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