Analytics and Sports
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So you want to work in sports analytics...
Preparing for a Career in Sports Analytics
Looking at Last Year's Rookie QB Class
Not My Ideas
Thinking and Reading about Analytics

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Analytics and Sports

analytics, intangibles, football, sports

Preparing for a Career in Sports Analytics


I often speak with students wondering what courses to take so they have the skills to get into sports analytics. Below are a set of useful courses – by no means exhaustive – courses that provide relevant skills for the field. These courses are from Coursera, and many schools have similar classes as well. ·        

  • Introduction to Databases-  This course covers database design and the use of database management systems for applications. It includes extensive coverage of the relational model, relational algebra, and SQL.

Looking at Last Year's Rookie QB Class

There have been 46 QBs to start at least 8 games during their rookie season in the NFL since 1990. Five of those 46 were rookies last season: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, and Brandon Weeden. Add four more from the previous season (Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, and Blaine Gabbert) and nine of the 46 rookie seasons were in the last two NFL seasons. That is quite an influx of youth at the most pivotal position on the field, so I thought it would be worth analyzing this group QBs to see if there are any insights to be found about the future of this youth movement.

Not My Ideas

Three mind stretching analytic articles from the past week that everyone with an interest in analytics should read:

1) Phil Birnbaum (who I had the pleasure of sitting ona panelwith at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference) argues that analytics is best used toeliminate stupidity.

2) While I'm not necessarily a fan of the study or agree with the outcomes, at least Dave Berri is trying to ask interesting questions aboutmeasuring the impact of coaching. I think this is a very difficult topic and one that is not at all settled.

Don't Believe in Super Heroes

My guess is that most adults do not really believe in super heroes. They do not believe that there are people that are born with super human powers that allow them to perform acts that are not thinkable for “normal” humans.  Yet this is exactly how we tend to view athletes. Somehow, when we see Michael Jordan fly through the air and dunk, or Adrian Peterson bully his way through the line of scrimmage and then outrun defensive backs, or Usain Bolt appears to be literally faster than a speeding bullet, we attribute these feats to something called “natural ability”.

It Aint' Rocket Science

In a recentNew York Times articlethe increase in the use of analytics in the NFL, former Ravens head coach Brian Billick joined the "head in the sand" crowd by asking the rhetorical question "How do you quantify, statistically, Ray Lewis?” and his answer, of course, was "You can't." Think for a minute what that says about how Billick sees football relative to every other endeavor humans have taken on. Man on the moon? Done. Heart transplants? Check. Connect millions of people by streaming video via a device you can carry in your shirt pocket?

Interested in a Career in Sports Analytics?

I have had a lot of conversations recently with two groups of people: 1) students/recent grads who would like to work in the field of sports analytics, and 2) executives in pro sports that are looking to hire students/recent grads who would like to work in the field of sports analytics.

In an effort to help facilitate these two groups finding each other, I would like to start a database of prospective sports analytics professionals so that when I get the call from an executive, I can send them a couple of names quickly - without relying on my memory of past conversations.