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NEWS

24/11/2006

The use of Moneyball* management, a statistical model for analysing player performance, can deliver both sporting and commercial success when combined with strategic use of tracking technologies, according to research published in the International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship. In the article, Daniel Mason of the University of Alberta argues that player tracking technology requires strategic implementation rather than further technological innovation to succeed for both team sports and media coverage. The article traces the evolution of player tracking technology and explains why so many innovations have failed. "So far the technology has provided three functions: the acquisition, processing and display of information," says Mason. "The result has been attempted exploitation of technology to enhance TV coverage. This has often failed for several reasons: development costs have been high; the visual reporting was intrusive without adding much to viewer experience; and consequently the commercial return through sponsorship of on-screen data was low. "However, I argue that success is achieved when a fourth element is introduced - the analysis of information or Moneyball. "For successful broadcast integration, Moneyball must be adopted across an entire league and it must provide full statistical analysis of player performance rather than, for example, simply the speed and distance a player travels." Player performance analysis is also a powerful team coaching and management tool, as demonstrated by the 'written-off' Oakland As baseball team, which had phenomenal results following implementation. "Basically, Moneyball can be used to identify valuable characteristics that players possess and help managers to identify and select playing talent and improve coaching by providing comprehensive records of player performance," says Mason. He claims its use requires strategy to gain acceptance throughout the team staff. "Coaches and players don't like outsiders coming in and telling them that all their previous assumptions are wrong - which is what Moneyball has done. The best way to overcome this will be to show how using data allows coaches to make better decisions regarding their players, and not override their decision-making ability or authority. Specifically, data can be collected regarding the athletes' fitness levels (distances travelled, length of shifts, heart rates, hydration levels etc.) that coaches can act upon." Mason predicts that Moneyball is certain to become an increasing feature in both media presentation of sport and team management. "The media requires new ways to add value to sports broadcasting and Moneyball technology is arguably the best tool at their disposal if used properly. Similarly, growth is virtually guaranteed in team sports because it has been demonstrated that it works and team success is the major driver of revenue." Notes * Moneyball The term Moneyball was coined following the publication of the book; Moneyball, The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael M. Lewis. Lewis chronicled the success of Oakland As coach Billy Beane in turning around the fortunes of an ailing baseball team. The central premise of Moneyball is that the collected wisdom of baseball insiders (including players, managers, coaches, scouts and the front office) over the past century is subjective and often flawed. Statistics such as 40 yard dash times, run batter ins and batting average, typically used to gauge players, are relics of a 19th century view of the game and the statistics that were available at the time. Since then, real statistical analysis has shown that base percentage and slugging percentage are better indicators of offensive success and that avoiding an out is more important than getting a hit. Every on-field play can be evaluated in terms of expected runs contributed. For example, a strike on the first pitch of an at-bat may be worth - 0.05 runs. This flies in the face of conventional baseball wisdom and the beliefs of many of the men who are paid large sums to evaluate talent. By re-evaluating the strategies that produce wins on the field, the Oakland As, with approximately $55 million in salary, are competitive with the New York Yankees, who spend over $205 million (2005/2006) annually on their players. Moneyball is now being studied as a tool in other sports.

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