Anderson: The surprising places MLB teams get their information from
From R.J. Anderson at CBS Sports on March 7, 2017, with mention of SABR members Brian Cartwright, Bill James, Jack Goin, and Vince Gennaro:
When Brian Cartwright was a teenager, he spent his gap year biking around Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He would go road by road, verifying the lay of the land. Once he finished surveying the city’s six-plus square miles, he produced a street map that would become of particular interest to the local utility companies.
“My sales pitch was to stress the accuracy,” Cartwright wrote in an email. “I was the guy known around town for having the answers.”
Unlike many teenage predilections, Cartwright’s commitment to accuracy and to having the answers endured as he aged. He went off to the University of Pittsburgh, where he majored in geography and minored in math and computer science. Those degrees have since led him to a 30-plus-year stint with a Virginia-based photogrammetry company that is part of Quantum Spatial, the largest geospatial firm in North America. His responsibilities include managing “a group specializing in preparing aeronautical obstruction surveys” for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Geography is not Cartwright’s only lifelong fascination. Rather, his obsession with baseball statistics dates back to his Little League days, when he would borrow the scorer’s notebook and calculate metrics -- splits and situational numbers, mostly. He would later become the head scorer and statistician for a summer league, all the while learning more about sabermetrics by reading Bill James, Pete Palmer, Baseball Prospectus and the like. Eventually, he took to writing about baseball online, and even developed a projection system (“Oliver,” named after the chimpanzee) that has been featured on The Hardball Times and FanGraphs.
Cartwright’s preoccupation with geography and baseball intersects in an obvious way, since both are about discovery -- of land, of sport -- but also in a subtle way. A way most would not assume: Each involves compiling and shipping data to larger, more powerful entities. Just as he spends his days supplying the FAA with information through geodatabases, he focuses at night on accumulating, cleaning, organizing and routing data to Major League Baseball teams.
That’s because Cartwright is one of baseball’s many unexpected data sources.
This page was last updated March 7, 2017 at 11:27 am MST.