Billy Beane muses future of data in sports

Billy Beane has helped lead the data revolution in professional sports (Getty images/Leon Halip)

WASHINGTON — Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane was introduced to the world outside of baseball as the lead character in the book and movie “Moneyball.” Now, he’s taken to the Wall Street Journal to give his thoughts on the impact of data on the future of professional sports.

Beane posits that the new systems going into place will help make talent evaluators less dependent on old, abstract pieces of data like 60-yard dash times or radar gun readings and more able to judge athletes on their ability to perform particular tasks within their sport. In a sense, he’s suggesting data models will do what the A’s have been able to do during Beane’s tenure — find undervalued ballplayers with non-traditional skill sets that can translate to on-field success.

Perhaps the most far-reaching of his predictions is that the new technology will provide front offices with a more tangible view of how teamwork functions, eventually eliminating the use of individual statistics.

“The current modus operandi of building rosters to maximize the sum of individual talent also will be challenged; data compiled using new technologies will enable management to assemble players in new ways, emphasizing their ability to complement one another. Whereas current metrics describe players’ performance in isolation, front offices will increasingly rely on statistics that measure a player’s value in the context of the rest of the team, picking up externalities such as how a player’s defensive abilities may compensate for the deficiencies of those playing around him.”

The article comes at an opportune time, as Beane’s Athletics have won back-to-back AL West division titles and own the best record in the Major Leagues at 57-33 entering play on Wednesday. To read the complete article, visit the Wall Street Journal.

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