Big Data Baseball

Big Data Baseball

Math, Miracles, and the End of A 20-year Losing Streak

Book - 2015
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Baker & Taylor
"Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was old school and stubborn. But after twenty straight losing seasons and his job on the line, he was ready to try anything. So when he met with GM Neal Huntington in October 2012, they decided to discard everything they knew about the game and instead take on drastic "big data" strategies. Going well beyond the number-crunching of Moneyball, which used statistics found on the back of baseball cards to identify market inefficiencies, the data the Pirates employed was not easily observable. They collected millions of data points on pitches and balls in play, creating a tome of reports that revealed key insights for how to win more games without spending a dime. They discovered that most batters struggled to hit two-seam fastballs, that an aggressive defensive shift on the field could turn more batted balls into outs, and that a catcher's most valuable skill was hidden. Hurdle and Huntington got to work trying to convince the entire Pirates organization and disgruntled fans to embrace these unconventional, yet groundbreaking methods. All this led to the end to the longest consecutive run of losing seasons in North American pro sports history.The Pirates' 2013 season is the perfect lens for examining baseball's burgeoning big-data movement. Using flawless reporting, award-winning journalist Travis Sawchik takes you behind-the-scenes to reveal a game-changing book of miracles and math"--

McMillan Palgrave

New York Times Bestseller

After twenty consecutive losing seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates, team morale was low, the club's payroll ranked near the bottom of the sport, game attendance was down, and the city was becoming increasingly disenchanted with its team. Pittsburghers joked their town was the city of champions…and the Pirates. Big Data Baseball is the story of how the 2013 Pirates, mired in the longest losing streak in North American pro sports history, adopted drastic big-data strategies to end the drought, make the playoffs, and turn around the franchise's fortunes.

Award-winning journalist Travis Sawchik takes you behind the scenes to expertly weave together the stories of the key figures who changed the way the small-market Pirates played the game. For manager Clint Hurdle and the front office staff to save their jobs, they could not rely on a free agent spending spree, instead they had to improve the sum of their parts and find hidden value. They had to change. From Hurdle shedding his old-school ways to work closely with Neal Huntington, the forward-thinking data-driven GM and his team of talented analysts; to pitchers like A. J. Burnett and Gerrit Cole changing what and where they threw; to Russell Martin, the undervalued catcher whose expert use of the nearly-invisible skill of pitch framing helped the team's pitchers turn more balls into strikes; to Clint Barmes, a solid shortstop and one of the early adopters of the unconventional on-field shift which forced the entire infield to realign into positions they never stood in before. Under Hurdle's leadership, a culture of collaboration and creativity flourished as he successfully blended whiz kid analysts with graybeard coaches—a kind of symbiotic teamwork which was unique to the sport.

Big Data Baseball is Moneyball on steroids. It is an entertaining and enlightening underdog story that uses the 2013 Pirates season as the perfect lens to examine the sport's burgeoning big-data movement. With the help of data-tracking systems like PitchF/X and TrackMan, the Pirates collected millions of data points on every pitch and ball in play to create a tome of color-coded reports that revealed groundbreaking insights for how to win more games without spending a dime. In the process, they discovered that most batters struggled to hit two-seam fastballs, that an aggressive defensive shift on the field could turn more batted balls into outs, and that a catcher's most valuable skill was hidden. All these data points which aren't immediately visible to players and spectators, are the bit of magic that led the Pirates to spin straw in to gold, finish the 2013 season in second place, end a twenty-year losing streak.

& Taylor

Describes how the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, tired of a twenty-year losing streak, adopted the strategies of "big data," similar to those depicted in "Moneyball," to help improve their game.
A sports writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review describes how the General Manager of the Pirates, tired of a 20-year losing streak, adopted the strategies of “big data,” similar to those depicted in Moneyball, to help improve their game.

Publisher: New York : Flatiron Books, 2015
ISBN: 9781250063502
Branch Call Number: 796.35764 Sa96b
Characteristics: 242 pages ; 24 cm


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Apr 05, 2018

Solid book and a good primer to the 2018 baseball season where teams like the Houston Astros are taking advanced analytics even further with the 4-man outfield. The Author does a great job showing how traditionalists and those at the forefront of the developments in the SABR community can work together to advance baseball thought in numerous ways. The infield shift and pitch framing are certainly cool, but there are also discussions on injury prevention techniques and an early look at the development of defensive statistics that really make this book interesting. Highly recommended.

Apr 14, 2016

Now I understand all the media ruckus by traditionalists. Pirates made bigger achievement than Oakland A because Pittsburgh have even smaller salary cap. I won't be surprised of Hollywood make a movie.

Nov 17, 2015

This is an excellent read to understand the the changes occurring from the traditional into modern baseball. The importance of infield shifts by infielders and framing by catchers and pitch selections etc are explained. The changes were necessitated in order for small market teams to survive. Successful teams will need to be blend of traditions and baseball analytics. Baseball fans, players and coaches would enjoy this book.
Seelochan Beharry


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