One of the high points for me as a SABR Analytics Correspondent this year was attending the conference with my friend, Max Melamed. He’s the person I went to my first baseball game with (Yankees Old Timers Day 2009), and he founded the Sabermetrics Club at our school. It’s the first-ever high school SABR Club, and last season we worked together on the Sabermetrics Fantasy League. Here is our recap of the Analytics Conference.
Mannis: What were your favorite panels or presentations?
Melamed: I enjoyed the Diamond Dollars Case Competition about possible trades for Cole Hamels on the first day. It was interesting to see the different approaches of the different school teams and how they chose which stats really help to make important decisions. The case competition and the Broadcaster Panel also got me thinking about the fantasy baseball league research project we are doing at our school’s Sabermetrics Club, where I am leading the group in analyzing player performance on fantasy teams when they are based on usual fantasy stats or on sabermetrics.
Mannis: So did I. I also enjoyed the Player Panel. I thought it was interesting to hear insights about today's game from former major leaguers such as Curt Schilling and Tony La Russa.
Melamed: And also to hear the impact of sabermetrics when they were playing. Some guys, like Curt Schilling, were using analytics way before they became popular. And others like Eduardo Perez or Dave Stewart are finding they are critical in other ways now that they are working in baseball in a different way, not as players.
Mannis: Which was your favorite research presentation? I personally really enjoyed "Who Is Responsible For A Called Strike?" It was interesting how the presenters incorporated analytics and pitch framing into the research.
Melamed: I totally agree. It's incredible that in the past few years alone, we've gone from thinking that a strike is totally up to an umpire, to actually being able to assign appropriate credit for balls and strike to all four people involved: the pitcher, the catcher, the umpire, and the batter.
Mannis: Were there any specific speakers that you especially liked? I really liked La Russa, Schilling, Larry Baer, Steve Berthiaume, and Ben Jedlovec. And I loved when La Russa told us how teams have changed the ways they use analytics as the stats have become more popular. And Berthiaume’s point of view that broadcasters have to know analytics but need to know when to use them was also an interesting perspective.
Melamed: All of those guys were great, but one person you didn't mention was Eric Wedge. I loved how honest he was when talking about the actual usefulness of new analytics. He saw that they were valuable, but knew that they had to be used carefully and that some players just wouldn't use them at all. It also reminds me of what Doug Glanville told you about how analytics shapes his current thinking and how he views his career.
Mannis: That’s a great point. It was fascinating to hear from somebody who had had so many different roles in the sport: first a player, then a manager, then an analyst. What did you think of the panel that featured the people who pioneered sabermetrics? I thought they all spoke very well, especially John Thorn. They had so many different insights on ways sabermetrics have improved, and ways they can be improved even further. They especially felt improvements could be made for defensive stats like UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) and DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) because these analytics don’t always show accurately what a player’s defensive skills are like.
Melamed: Going in, I totally would not have thought that a baseball historian would be so fast to adopt advanced analytics. But I guess John Thorn proved me wrong.
Mannis: Agreed. It was such a great time. I'm really looking forward to next year's conference!
Max Mannis is a special correspondent for sikids.com and a member of SABR. Check out his contributor page to catch up with his past stories on baseball and SABR events.