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Today the Chicago Cubs announced that they’ve partnered with Bloomberg Sports, the sports analytic technology arm of Bloomberg, to develop a “state-of-the-art player evaluation system.”

From Theo Epstein (in the official press release):

“We are excited to partner with Bloomberg Sports and benefit from their world-renowned expertise in Analytics and Information Management” said President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. “The management and analysis of data, whether it be scouting reports, statistics, medical information or video, is a critical component of our operation. We look forward to developing a customized program that utilizes the most advanced and efficient technology available in the marketplace today to facilitate quicker, easier and more accurate access to all the sources of information we use to make baseball decisions.”

In short, Bloomberg Sports will help the Cubs actually implement the technological requirements for their overall scouting/player evaluation/player development/player health system. Beyond that, there isn’t a whole lot of “news” here. The Cubs were going to need to satisfy the tech side of things somehow. Bloomberg Sports is that somehow.

The real news, of course, is the simple fact that the Cubs’ front office continues to move in a more … robust technological direction. I’m sure they always had a system in place, but I doubt it was this advanced.

I know a little bit about Bloomberg Sports, having been to the Blogs With Balls conference there this summer (the site of my ill-fated award hopes). Bloomberg, as you may or may not know, does a number of things, but is most closely associated with developing analytical tools used by financial firms. Taking the step to professional sports, then, is actually not much of a leap. Bloomberg Sports aims to leverage its technological and analytical know-how into custom and proprietary systems for professional sports teams. It is, in some ways, outsourcing the “numbers” side of the business to super smart folks who needn’t really know much about the team. Bloomberg Sports has been soliciting interest from teams for some time in these custom solutions, and my understanding is that they are not cheap.

The press release reads exceptionally PR-y, so I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Cubs were cut a bit of a break on the costs associated with developing the technology in exchange for some positive publicity.

  • jtfromthed

    Bloomberg already does a bunch of work for the MLB, I’m surprised they’re not hiring some data and software guys to develop this in-house. With Bloomberg developing this it’ll get sold to every team eventually!

     

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Nah. Custom and proprietary, probably shared by the Cubs and Bloomberg Sports, exclusively. That’s what the Cubs are paying for.

  • cls

    Neat.

  • Rick Vaughn

    Is it wrong that I am somehow aroused by this?

  • Kansas Cubs Fan

    So the Cubs(The Nerds) just joined the Tri-Lambs(Bloomberg) right?

  • Fishin Phil

    Dear Chicago Cubs,

    Welcome to the 21st Century!

  • Alex

    When they name it, my vote is for “Merkle”!

  • barroof

    Alfonso Soriano …..enter. Eugene !!! What;s happening ? I don’t know sir the machines gone haywire. What do you mean haywire ? I’ve never seen anything like it sir ! Why is it shaking and smoking ? There must be something wrong, It’s saying his favorite pitch to hit is in the dirt 5′ away from the plate sir. Oh…. That Soriano.

    • T C

      hahaha well done, sir

  • Ivy Walls

    This is actually news. It coincides with Ricketts analytical review of teams that scored in the top 7-8 over the last decade in developing prospects to MLB and their requisite impact/performance.

    Knowledge based analytics can and will be a difference maker. I think the key is proprietary…though knowledge has a way of leaking out it will be interesting to see the outcomes. BTW this ultimately comes out of the operating budget and therefore the payroll budget, my guess is it is at least a couple million.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I think you misread me. The fact that the Cubs are advancing their technological approach is news, I’m with you there (older news, but news). I’m simply saying that using Bloomberg Sports, specifically, isn’t really much in the way of news. It’s just a vehicle for what they were always going to do.

      • BetterNews

        How can I misread my own lawyer?(speaking for IvY Walls)

    • Mick

      Yea, proprietary, I’m sure the log-in page will have a Cubs symbol. Where are the servers, who’s updating the database, who’s writing the software, who’s developing the firewalls, how will this enterprise architecture differ from other MLB clubs’? Proprietary agreements typically only span a short period of time so, I wouldn’t be too confident that other MLB clubs’ won’t have their own Bloomberg GM user name and passwords in the next couple of years. This is just the skeptical side of me speaking first. The reality is, there probably aren’t that many secrets that rival GM’s don’t already know so, it was just a matter of time before some company neatly packaged everything together and sold it. Theo’s beating everyone else to the punch and probably saving millions by being the pilot MLB team and announcing their partnership.

      • BetterNews

        Mick–your hired!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • JB88

        Perhaps people are misunderstanding the concept of proprietary, but the reality is that most companies hire software companies to customize a piece of software for their benefit and the end result is a proprietary as designed software program. It doesn’t mean that Bloomberg doesn’t have a set design, it means that the end result of the design for the Cubs will not be used in any other situation.

        It is sort of like approaching an automaker and saying I want a Ford Explorer, and then getting Ford to agree it will never again sell the same customized package as the one you are purchasing. That is most likely to what the Cubs and Bloomberg agreed. It doesn’t mean that Bloomberg can never again sell an “Explorer”, it just means that Bloomberg can never again sell this particular “Explorer” to anyone else.

        • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

          I would liken the comparison to someone going to an architect and saying, draw me a house, but I want to make sure I never see this house elsewhere. Is the architect going to take some things from that house and incorporate them elsewhere, yes, because he took some of the things that he learned drawing the last house to make your house.

      • Wilbur

        Agree with a lot of what you said. The proprietary aspect won’t be the architecture, data storage or networking. It will be how the data is manipulated. converted into usable information, and then presented in a meaningful and quickly understand format.

        However, even with great info it always gets down to intelligence and business/baseball acumen of the those who are looking at the info, This tool appears to fit very well into this front office as they recognize the need for the information and have the ability to use it to guide personnel decisions.

        These systems reduce the risk that vital information is not being missed or high risk decisions made without understanding the risk, but they don’t make the decisions. Those decisions will still be made by people and the natural variability that brings to any process and also subject to the chaos that is the universe we live in (i.e., unexpected injury, seemingly random “career year” performances orslumps, people running afoul of the law, etc.).

        .

        • JB88

          What I think any system needs to have is flexibility. I hope that the package includes either an in-house consultant being “loaned” by Bloomberg to the Cubs for a set period of time (like 5 years) or that the Cubs have pretty much carte blanche access to Bloomberg Sports’ software designers to modify the system as new analytics become available/utilized.

  • Wilbur

    Agree with a lot of what you said. The proprietary aspect won’t be the architecture, data storage or networking. It will be how the data is manipulated. converted into usable information, and then presented in a meaningful and quickly understand format.

    However, even with great info it always gets down to intelligence and business/baseball acumen of the those who are looking at the info, This tool appears to fit very well into this front office as they recognize the need for the information and have the ability to use it to guide personnel decisions.

    These systems reduce the risk that vital information is not being missed or high risk decisions made without understanding the risk, but they don’t make the decisions. Those decisions will still be made by people and the natural variability that people bring to any process and are also subject to the chaos that is the universe we live in (i.e., unexpected injury, seemingly random “career year” performances orslumps, people running afoul of the law, etc.).

    .

    • BetterNews

      I thought this was baseball posts?

      • TWC

        Yeah, we’re all aware that you don’t get it. Thanks for reassuring us.

    • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

      Even that chaos can be controlled for in a properly constructed model. I’ve done some work building and manipulating large scale statistical models of complex systems that included a large number of components with complex interrelations, and while the “random chance” term can never be gotten rid of, it can be dealt with by adding to and improving the model.

      Humans will never leave the equation (after all, humans built the model), but I’d like to see what would happen if the computers were allowed to have their way in every decision.

      • Ron

        I played mouse trap with my kids this weekend. There are some variables in that. Does that count?

      • DocWimsey

        Until we can get computers to do true induction, then the solutions that they offer will always be those that we’ve given them.  Even then, they leave (or can leave) a ranking of all the solutions that they consider.  That’s actually pretty relevant because if your computer just spits out Solution #1, then you don’t know if its orders of magnitude better than Solution #2 or just marginally better.

  • die hard

    Problem is, these same cyber techniques would have supported giving Soriano the long term contract he got as he was off the charts back then in every phase but fielding….

    • JB88

      I hate to sound disagreeable, but I don’t believe that is true at all. Any of these models are going to likely have a regression component built into it. The idea that it would be wise to give Soriano an 8-year, $136MM contract at the age of 30 (going to be playing the first season at 31) would have shot up a red flag in any properly built system IMO.

      • die hard

        yea …Computer would have said give him $100MM over 4 years…..and would he have been worth it?..dont know…him hanging around like a relative staying beyond the weekend is the issue…

        • The Next Theo Epstein

          I don’t mean to single you out die hard, because I know you’re a contrarian by nature.

          However, these computer models would factor in that Alfonso Soriano was a 3 WAR player, on average, for the 3 years prior to his signing with the Cubs. At that time, about 4 million was being paid per WAR.

          And as the kind gentleman above mentioned, at age 31 Soriano was due for swift and egregious regression.

          So at the exact moment Soriano signed the deal, these same stats/models indicated he was only worth about 12 million per year, and should not be signed for more than 4-5 years.

          But we had Hendry at the time, and the rest is history.

      • DocWimsey

        You (JB88) are correct. All of these models are fundamentally Bayesian: that is, they take into account the prior probabilities of different things happening independent of the particular “hypothesis” (here, a player) being considered.  It’s not just regression, but type of regression: and we’ve a lot of data about how particular types of players regress with age.  Any one player has some probability of fitting any one of those classes, and each of those classes has some probability distribution of X fall off (or increase: you can “accidentally” hit better despite truly falling off because of sampling error).

  • Stephen

    If we relied on this to evaluate / draft, we’d miss out on the Cliff Lee, Albert Pujols, and Kyle Farnsworth’s of the world.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It’s just one tool in the tool belt. A very big tool (a table saw?), yes, but just one of many. Scouting still matters. Indeed, scouting will be worked into this system.

      • ferrets_bueller

        Radial Arm Saw.   Those things are badass, man.  Definitely my favorite saw, if I was, for some completely absurd reason, forced to choose one.

        • Kansas Cubs Fan

          I <3 wood shop!

          I like the Planer for some reason.

          I wish I had my own wood shop, even though I’m sure I would run out of things to build very fast.

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      The Cubs also have a very good scouting department.

      I remember reading that teams rely very heavily on traditional scouting when it come’s to high school/college players because the lack of stats.

      • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

        Indeed. I hate having to project / rank players very early in their professional careers since I don’t yet have most of the key stats I like to use. Nothing beats being able to watch a player in person.

    • ferrets_bueller

      You really can’t use this to draft, so you really don’t have to worry about that.  High School (or college, to a lesser extent) numbers are relatively useless.  They can tell you things, but those things and more are told more easily by your eyes, especially power (potential), speed, and defense.  Most players who aren’t Fielder sized or Harper-esque freaks haven’t developed their power yet, so traditional scouting will always rule at the HS level.

      This mostly has a use for the minor leagues- both for evaluating your own talent, and seeking out talent through trades, rule 5, FA, etc…, as well as for assigning value to these players for those avenues.  It gives you a huge advantage with post-draft players.

      And this says nothing about it being strictly numbers based, for that matter.  I;m guessing this also serves, most importantly, as an overall database, allowing access to all information you’ve collected on a player at any time, without having to search multiple avenues.  Organization, streamlining, and consolidation are crucial.  Yay for databases.

    • DocWimsey

      Assuming that this could be modified for drafting players, then, no, you would not miss out on the Pujols, Lees, etc.  Remember, traditional scouting “missed out” on these guys in the sense that they were drafted in low rounds.  Lots of scouts on 30 teams rated a lot of other players ahead of Pujols, Lee, Piazza, etc.: after all, it’s not like the Cardinals were rubbing their hands together and cackling “we’ve spotted one of the best players of the last 2 decades, but nobody else has, so we’ll draft 10 other guys first!”  Computers would keep drafting and drafting until you tell them to stop.  So, they would have drafted these guys eventually.

  • die hard

    wonder what computer would have said about Lou Brock or Greg Maddux when each was a Cub? Or go back further to Don Kessinger? Or how about Hack Wilson?…

    • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

      No need to wonder. Via websites like FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference, you have access to a number statistical indicators that are geared to allow for valid comparisons of players across time, including across eras (albeit with debatable success). You can look up the numbers for any of those players, chart the path of their careers, retroactively evaluate the wisdom of any trade, etc., as much as you like.

    • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

      so what you are saying is that the old system worked soooo well that we should not be scrapping it?

  • Stephen

    I was just commenting…kinda thinking out loud. I understand and agree that computerized analysis is a very valuble tool. Yikes, I wonder what the read out would look like if Milton Bradley was entered into the system prior to him becoming a Cub….???

  • Katie

    I hope the new system has a douchebaggery spotting feature.

    I wish Bleacher Nation had one too.

  • Tommy

    First things first, punch in Milton Bradley’s stats and see if he comes in the top 1 million on any list.  If so, scrap the system immediately!

     

     

  • die hard

    Computers didnt fare too well in 2001 Space Odyssey or War Games….. they reduce all players to the mean without allowing for intangibles….how is leadership measured?….IBM perfected the science of selection and Hitler used it to exterminate 12 million people….maybe baseball would be better off without computers….

    • The Next Theo Epstein

      Leadership is measured by not owning up to the media after Game 2 of the WS after you make a critical error late (and leaving your media mess for the scrubs/new players/rookies to clean up), and then hitting 3 HR’s in the pivotal game 3.

      So intangible!

    • SweetJamesJones

      I see what you did there.

    • Tommy

      Diehard – Dude, what the hell are you talking about?

  • Rick Vaughn

    maybe….this…..isn’t…..your…..area……of…….expertise…..

    • die hard

      Theo made as many bad moves as good moves in Boston…..appears computer had a virus before Crawford deal for instance…..is more of a crutch than a tool….baseball was doing just fine before computers….wonder how a computer would have rated an overweight pitcher who had a weakness for alcohol and cigars?…whats his name? ….oh, I remember—Babe Ruth….

      • Tommy

        probably pretty good considering his .OBP and .SLG % woulda been through the roof.  That was an absolutely terrible argument you just made.

        • ferrets_bueller

          in fact, the things he mentioned are the exact things it wouldn’t have taken into account…if you view this as just a calculator, which it most definitely isn’t.  At all.

        • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

          All the computers can be replaced with one thing – DICK TIDROW. He can be the first player, coach, GM, president, and computer.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            And then the Cubs can trade him for ALL the prospects.

            And then he’ll re-sign for $1 in 2013.

  • die hard’s computer

    You needed to make sweet love to me to make these words die hard. Checkmate computers.

    • Rick Vaughn

      Haha, don’t bite the hand that feeds.

  • ferrets_bueller

    Sometimes i really am amazed by the stupidity some people so willfully, so exuberantly display for all to see.

  • Robbo

    Does this new analytical model extend beyond the field? Will it improve my beer-to-mouth time ratio while watching a game at wrigley? Perhaps they will let u guys test it out at the convention.

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