Predictive Analytics and Baseball Statistics

As long as I can remember, baseball has been my favorite sport. I loved the intricacies of the game, the rules, the culture, but most importantly – I loved the rigorous keeping of statistics. I was never very good at baseball. In C-Ball I went 4-32, good for a .111 batting average, but I got on base a majority of the time (.543 on-base percentage) mostly because I was a lefty and I got hit every other at-bat. Due to my lack of hand-eye coordination I reserved myself to watching after a few unsuccessful seasons.

Predictive analytics and baseball

It always interested me how certain stats were related, and certain stats had no correlation at all. Why do most hitters with a high slugging percentage also have an above average strikeout rate? Shouldn’t the amount of errors you make in the field have some kind of effect on your behavior at the plate? I don’t have the knowledge to figure out either of those questions, but as of late, many analysts have been turning their eyes towards sports, and the wealth of data that has been built up over the years.

Recently, we have seen the rise of “New-Era” statistics such as fWar, bWar, BABIP, etc. These statistics are made possible by a number of things, including innovative ways to capture data from a game. Just to name a few changes, it is now possible to measure how hard a player hits the ball, the average exit angle, and how “lucky” the player is on balls batted in play (BABIP). The emergence of this new data has led to more accurate predictions both in how a player is going to do in the following year, but also how teams as a whole will fare. Obviously, these stats are not perfect, but the accuracy has come a long way from the “educated” guesses of the past.

While all this is groundbreaking, I have completely skimmed over why I am writing this post. For the second time in my 20 year life, the Chicago Cubs have a good chance at winning the World Series. For a kid born on the North Side of Chicago, this is incredible to me. There are only 43 people in the United States who would have been 2 years old or older when the Cubs last won a World Series. The Ottoman Empire rose and fell in that time period, there were two World Wars, we put a man on the moon, my Dad somehow got lucky enough to land my mom, and still the Cubs were unable to capture that championship.

But this year, statistics are on the Cubs’ side. At the time that I am writing this, the Cubs are up 2 games to none on the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS. They are 9 games from clinching a World Series title, and my favorite analytical website has given them a 34% to win the World Series, which is 13% higher than the next most likely team (the Toronto Blue Jays). My whole life I’ve heard about curses – from goats to Bartman’s, but this year I am confident. Predictive Analytics is on the Cubs side, and even a tweet from our CEO won’t drag me down. The Cubs will be your 2016 World Series Champions.

I just hope I don’t have to eat my words.