2013 SSAC Preview: A look at the Evolution of Sport session

Continuing the multi-part preview of the 2013 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, I look at the Evolution of Sport session for a soccer analytics perspective.

In 2011, the SSAC added an Evolution of Sport (EOS) session to highlight presentations on ideas, technologies, or thoughts that have the potential to change the way people approach, play, and analyze sport.  One could view the EOS session in the same light as the TED conferences and their derivatives, which is a comparison that the SSAC organizers would welcome.

I don’t know how many proposals were submitted for EOS, but in the end a final group of 13 was selected.  The organizers have done a good job of ensuring variety among the presentations over the three years.  You have some presentations on in-match statistics for sports such as American football, baseball, and basketball, but also presentations on fan engagement, sport marketing, talent identification and selection, sport finance, and biology.  None of the finalists are presenting anything overtly soccer-related.

In my opinion, these are the presentations that appear to be interesting:

  • Dequantizing the Draft using Extreme Value Theory (Darren O’Shaughnessy): A proposal to replace the current draft system in North American sports leagues with a system of draft points, and a description of the underlying statistical framework.
  • Interactive Data Visualizations: Next Step in Deconstructing the Rebound (Rajiv Maheswaran): Presented by last year’s winner of the Research Paper competition.  Here he will show off tools that perform interactive visualization of finely grained in-match data from basketball games.
  • Paired Pitching (Greg Rubin): I might want to see this presentation just to find out what on earth the presenter is talking about when he says that a “tectonic shift” has occurred in baseball.
  • Sports as an Alternate Asset Class (Joe Peta): Former Wall Street trader turned baseball hedge fund manager, Joe Peta will describe some of the lessons learned and the opportunities for sport as investment. But how does the return compare to that of your average bettor?
  • Using Human Biology to Measure Sports Performance (Daniel McCaffrey, Kevin Bickart): Part of the founding team for SyncStrength, a startup developing an analytics platform for biometric devices.  Most of the presentation focuses on the relationship between synchronized heart rates and team chemistry.
  • Your Personal Fantasy Sports Reporter (Robbie Allen): Presented by the founder of Automated Insights (ex-StatSheet), a talk about experiences from machine-generated recaps of fantasy football leagues.

Again, these are talks that are interesting to me, so if you want to see the rest, follow this link at the SSAC site.