More than once in the past, I had thought about attending the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, but never took the leap. The annual event, held in Boston, occurs at the time of year when my thoughts are more directed toward Major League Baseball spring training games getting underway.
It feels like a hot stove event that would be more suitable in January, but then again, this comes from the perspective of a baseball writer. The Conference, while perhaps baseball-centric, includes speakers and topics from all the major sports.
I caught a few stray tweets from event participants this past weekend, though most seemed to originate from admirers of Bill James, quoting the gospel from the sabermetric guru now employed by the Boston Red Sox.
Looking for a more comprehensive review of the proceedings, I ran across an excellent recap from a writer named Evan Brunell at opposingviews.com. For those interested in the business side of baseball, I recommend you give it a read.
Highlights include agent Scott Boras explaining how he and the clubs with which he negotiates use metrics. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow discusses his deployment of analytics while with St. Louis and his plans to move Houston ahead in that area.
New studies on predicting next pitches to be thrown, what is following the groundbreaking PITCHf/x system and a look at natural alternatives to steroids through identifying deficiencies via blood testing are also reviewed.
The article concludes with Boras (and James) predictably blasting the new restrictions on spending for both amateur talent and international free agents.
Just maybe I will make time to attend next year…