First, get all of the “Assistant (to the) Regional Manager” jokes out of your system.

We good? Ok.

Tonight, Blogs With Balls hosted an event featuring Bloomberg Sports (the Chicago Cubs’ new technology partner) and Assistant to the GM Shiraz Rehman.

You’ll recall, earlier this offseason, the Chicago Cubs announced a partnership with Bloomberg Sports to handle the organization’s technology needs. I described it this way:

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.

That’s the gist.

The Cubs/Bloomberg Sports partnership is not unique, you’ll note. Indeed, 25 MLB teams use Bloomberg Sports in some way for their data management. The system, which can be customized and made proprietary to each organization, is robust. The presentation tonight showed some of the nitty gritty, which, as you can see, is all kinds of nitty and gritty:

That’s a view of every pitch that Matt Garza threw – type, location, result, pitch f/x, etc. – in his last five starts in 2011. You can do it for the whole season, break it down by every conceivable variable (pitch count, pitch sequence, batter faced, game situation, on and on), and watch video for every single pitch.

The point is, Bloomberg doesn’t create and record any new data or stats. But it makes existing data and stats available to teams as quickly, efficiently, and effectively as ever.

And that’s one of the keys for the Cubs, according to Rehman, who took the stage after Bill Squadron, from Bloomberg Sports, had done his thing. Summing up what the Bloomberg Sports system does for the Cubs, Rehman explained: “How can we get access to all the different pieces of information to make the decisions we make, in one place, and get it quickly?”

The Cubs are able to customize the system however they like – the details of which, naturally, Rehman wouldn’t share. He walked through, generically, how the Cubs use the system. The sense I got is this: The Bloomberg system doesn’t make decisions for the Cubs – it gives them the largest possible toolbox with which to make their own decisions.

One of the many interesting bits Rehman shared is that the Cubs ask their minor league managers to write a bit about each game, which is logged into the data system, and in which the Cubs track certain things about players. That way, when it comes time to make decisions, the Cubs will have a great deal more than just the numbers. I imagine that kind of practice isn’t wholly new (maybe it is), but having it all organized and tracked together within one centralized system is all kinds of awesome.

All in all, a good presentation. If you were there, I’m sure we’d all love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

A few random notes from the Q&A portion:

  • Rehman noted that the Cubs are constantly tweaking the way they gather information about players (what inputs we deem important, how to rate certain things, etc.). He separately noted that the Bloomberg system is constantly refined per the Cubs’ instructions so that they get optimal use from it.
  • Rehman was asked about what players think about the explosion and wide availability of analytical data, and whether they take advantage of it by checking themselves out on the web. He said that some players are deeply interested in all available data on themselves, and they read what we read. Some are less interested in higher-end analytics like that. Overall, it’s increased over the past decade.
  • Rehman pointed out all the value that can be found in bounce-back candidates (which he acknowledged was a big strategy this Winter), noting that guys like Cliff Lee, Josh Hamilton, and Roy Halladay were very available at some point over the last five years, and now they’re MVP/Cy Young types. It’s hard, but it can be done.
  • Rehman noted that teams evaluate the value of players based on both the advanced statistics about value (WAR, for example), and a generalized notion of what the market will bear.

(Shiraz, for what it’s worth, came off as – here’s a shock – smart, funny, well-spoken, and likable. Who would’ve guessed?)



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