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Sports Analytics’ Slam Dunk

Big data’s no longer the province of tech geeks and statistics nerds alone. The 2011 film Moneyball (and the 2004 book upon which was based) opened the world’s eyes to its usefulness in the sports world. And interest in the stuff has been knocking out of the park since then.

Michael Jordan at Boston Garden

Courtesy of a raft of increasingly sophisticated means of monitoring and capturing data, sports analytics has big-league applications for both on and off the field. Among them:

  • More precise pitching, thanks to technology installed in all 30 Major League baseball stadiums that tracks pitches and determine if they’re strikes or balls.
  • Smarter coaching, thanks to high-def stadium cameras that scrutinize multiple data points per second for every player to which automated algorithms and manual coding are then applied to minutely understand every capture.
  • Richer time-wasting opportunities for statistics-crazy sports fans, thanks to an ever-growing number of websites devoted to slicing and dicing every aspect of every play in every game.
  • A better sense of players’ physical conditions, thanks to wearable technology that produces real-time stats on players’ heart rates, sleep, hydration levels, caloric intake, training levels and hits to the head. Comparing these findings to historical data can help determine when a player might be in danger of overexerting or injuring himself.
  • A better handle on fans’ tastes, thanks to analytics that closely monitor such data as ticket purchases, fan interaction and team preferences.

Players, coaches, officials, medical personnel, nutritionists and — natch — fans stand to score grand slams aplenty from such heavy-hitting content.

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