Witz: Solving the Yankee equation, one number at a time

From Billy Witz at the New York Times on July 25, 2016, with mention of SABR members Bill James and Ben Baumer:

Michael Fishman has been on a surfboard once in his life — and it was fleeting, a lesson he took with his wife on their honeymoon in Hawaii.

So when Billy Eppler, an avid surfer and Fishman’s colleague with the Yankees, cajoled some of his office mates into entering Surfer Magazine’s fantasy surfing contest years ago, he had little idea what he was unleashing.

Fishman, poring over the rules, discovered a loophole: You could enter as many teams as you wanted as long as you used different email addresses. So Fishman developed a database of scores from the previous five years of competitions and built his own metrics for ranking and valuing surfers. Then he created new email addresses and entered his teams.

Among the nearly 18,000 entrants chasing the grand prize of a trip for two to Australia, Fishman finished first.

And second.

And sixth, ninth, 11th and 18th.

“When he won, there was a lot of head-shaking,” said Eppler, who is now the Los Angeles Angels’ general manager and has friends on the pro surfing circuit. “They’re like, This guy doesn’t even surf.”

The result was so unnerving that Surfer Magazine changed the contest rules, invoking what it called the Fishman Clause. Beginning in 2011, entries have been limited to one per person.

Meanwhile, that ability to solve problems, and the mastery of data to predict performance, have made Fishman, 37, one of General Manager Brian Cashman’s trusted deputies.

Read the full article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/25/sports/baseball/michael-fishman-solving-the-yankee-equation.html

Originally published: August 2, 2016. Last Updated: August 2, 2016.