SABRanalytics: Changing Face of Baseball Data panel

Here are some highlights from the Changing Face of Baseball Data panel on Thursday, March 15 at the SABR Analytics Conference, which featured Cory Schwartz of, John Dewan of Baseball Info Solutions and Dave Cameron of FanGraphs, with moderator Sean Forman of

On fielding data and whether it will become publicly available

  • Cameron: “Fielding data is too valuable. I don’t know how quickly it (Field f/x) will become publicly available, at least for real-time data, but I think we’ll get some historical data soon and be able to work off that.”
  • Dewan: “I feel like we’re getting about 60 or 70 percent of the picture with current defensive metrics versus 80 or 90 percent on offense. … If I knew how to find the other 40 percent, I’d be doing it! … (But) what advantage do teams have if you release the data? They’re trying to gain a competitive advantage and it’s hard to do that if everyone has access to it.”
  • Schwartz: “I think we (MLB) were hesitant in the beginning (if more people had access to it.) But there are a number of people now working for MLB clubs … who have pressured themselves into the game. … These systems are expensive to develop, so (to release the data) there must be an economic benefit   

On the future of analytics

  • Cameron: “I think injuries are a big deal. An average starting pitcher spends about 30 to 40 days on the disabled list. Teams have a big financial incentive to figure out how to keep their players healthier.”
  • Schwartz: “I’m interested in the psychology of the game. There’s no question that it affects a player’s performance on the field, but we have no way of measuring it, let alone predicting it. Someone is going to make a name for themselves by figuring that out.”
  • Dewan: “We (Baseball Info Solutions) take our timing data and apply it to fielding, but what about offense? How should we measure hitters with the data we have on the velocity of batted balls off their bats?”
  • Schwartz: “Someday I wonder if we might see some kind of Unified Theory of Baseball, understanding how it all fits together. Right now we’re looking at hitting, pitching, fielding, and it’s all pieces of the same puzzle. … We’re all chasing shades of gray.”

On which MLB teams are using sabermetrics

  • Cameron: “I don’t think you can put teams into “stat-friendly” or “not-stat-friendly” categories anymore. Organizations as a whole are all doing some kind of research. They may only have one guy doing it … even if all that info goes into the trash … but at least they have one.”
  • Dewan: “I’d say about one-third of the teams are progressive with sabermetrics and one-third are making some progress. But the thing is, you can be successful without analytics because there’s something called scouting and it makes a difference. The most successful clubs today blend the two together (analytics and scouting). … Some teams say they don’t have the budget to do it, but if you can spend $1 million on a utility player, you can spend $1 million on sabermetrics. It will add value.”

On analysts and technical knowledge

  • Dewan: “You can separate yourselves by having technical knowledge. Sean Forman’s background is mathematics and computer science, and his ability to make a website sing is what makes him successful. Same thing with David Appelman and FanGraphs. … If you have a technical bent, start learning databases … and that’s how you separate yourselves. The (MLB) teams are hiring. We hire many people at BIS, and many of them have gone on (to work for) teams.”

On Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, much maligned as a defensive player:

  • Schwartz: “Good at some things, bad at others.”
  • Dewan: “No, the metrics say he’s worst in baseball.”
  • Cameron: “I can buy into the fact that Derek Jeter got tired of being told he was worst in baseball, and he worked harder and got better (in recent years).” 

For more coverage of the SABR Analytics Conference, visit Follow along live on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #SABRanalytics or reading live tweets from our account (@SABR) and from other conference attendees.

Originally published: March 15, 2012. Last Updated: March 15, 2012.