Schonbrun: Can two entrepreneurs turn neuroscience into Moneyball?

From Zach Schonbrun at SB Nation on July 15, 2015, with mention of SABR President Vince Gennaro:

The simulation only lasts five minutes. That’s what Jordan Muraskin kept saying. Five minutes and you can be back out with your teammates, taking batting practice. Five minutes and you can slip that funny-looking thing off your head, the console that looks like a luminescent swim cap. Five minutes and your athletic career could be changed forever.

The baseball player from Bradley University still stared at him with a crossways look that cried, Just what is this supposed to be about?

A Dell Latitude E5440 laptop sat on the table. The screen was blank white. In a few seconds, a countdown will appear, Muraskin said. It will indicate which type of pitch to expect: fastball, slider or curveball. The pitch is just a green dot that darts straight or swerves, depending on the pitch. If the pitch is what you were told to expect, you press the button, J, to swing. Simple.

There were no seams, no release point, no pitcher, stands or dappled sunshine streaming through any clouds above. The simulation, administered late last October, indeed lasted only five minutes, and the player returned to batting practice as promised. But in that time, the researchers — Muraskin and his lab partner, Jason Sherwin — got all the data, brain data, they were hoping to acquire. And soon, too, did Bradley’s baseball coaching staff.

Mental analytics may be the next frontier in sports, and any number of companies has already set out exploring new ways to conquer it. Sherwin, 32, and Muraskin, 30, are younger and joined the party later than most of them. Neither had any background in business or baseball. Sherwin, who has floppy auburn hair and a scruffy beard, is the son of a conservative Chicago rabbi. Muraskin, more boyish-looking, with dark features and prominent eyebrows, is a skilled computer programmer. When they met, in the biomedical engineering department at Columbia University, Sherwin was studying the neural composition of cellists. Muraskin stumbled into neuroscience by researching Alzheimer’s and aging, and had been analyzing the efficiency of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Read the full article here:

Originally published: July 21, 2015. Last Updated: July 21, 2015.