At the SABR Virtual Analytics Conference on Friday, March 18, 2022, we held a panel discussion on The Technical Side of Being an Analyst.
Panelists included: Karim Kassam, Director of Product and Strategy at Zelus Analytics; Maggie O’Hara, Senior Analyst in Baseball Operations for the Detroit Tigers; Nick Wan, Director of Analytics for the Cincinnati Reds; and moderator Dan Aucoin, Chief Research Officer at Driveline Baseball.
Here are some highlights:
On separating yourself as a job candidate
- Aucoin: “We had one application say, I would like to look at your biomechanical data and try to quantify deception and then we had another application that said the same thing, but I think what separates a candidate is the next level of how you are going to take those insights and then apply them to make us better.”
- O’Hara: “The more you can just do any sort of baseball research on your own, the better. We get so many folks whose cover letter says ‘I love baseball, it’s been my dream to work in baseball.’ And their resume looks great, but they’ve never really done any baseball or sports research.”
- Kassam: “In terms of the skill set of coming in … to have diversity of backgrounds is fantastic. … It’s never going to be about learning one tool and using that hammer for a decade, there will be a constant stream of new tools.”
On the value of player development
- O’Hara: “Everyone now values on-base percentage the same way … so that’s not where the competitive advantage is. … In my mind, the thing I try to tell folks trying to get into the game is that the big-ticket thing right now is player development. … It is figuring out ways to make something complex, make a model, and help make it make sense to a coach or a player and really put yourself in their shoes and put it into baseball talk rather than the technical talk.”
On programming skills in baseball analysis
- Wan: “As someone who starts on an analyst track, I don’t think you will ever get away from SQL, I feel it’s like once you know it, you are always in it, and it’s true throughout the organization from the top down. … I think the thing I am surprised by, and it’s a good thing in my opinion, is how many more people know how to code. It’s not just the analysts who are knowing how to code now. … It’s just not sustainable to have a person doing end to end from the database ingestion process all the way through to the thing that gets to coach or front office staff.
- Kassam: “The challenge isn’t (how to produce) a static report anymore. All the consumers want to have an interface where they can play with data and interact with data, so models have to be robust and they have to be productionalized.”
To learn more about the SABR Virtual Analytics Conference, visit SABR.org/analytics.
Transcription assistance by Alisha Wetzel.
Originally published: March 27, 2022. Last Updated: March 28, 2022.