old-computerThe volume of information and data available to professional baseball organizations these days is utterly enormous. It’s not just statistics – it’s scouting information, health information, PitchF/X data, fielding information, batted ball data, spray charts … I could go on. And when you layer the data on top of itself to find patterns and useful information, the crunching power needed can be significant.

Well, one unidentified team is taking on that data glut in a new way: by buying a Cray supercomputer. That’s actually the name of the supercomputer, by the way, not, like, cray cray. Although, from the sound of things, the computer is pretty cray cray. From The Economist:

[O]ne MLB team has invested in a Cray supercomputer according to Pete Ungaro, the company’s chief executive officer. The team, which declines to be named, exemplifies an organisation that, five years ago, most people would not have dreamed would need, or even want, a supercomputer, he says.

The team obtained one both because the machine has the capacity to analyse enormous quantities of data and because of the short time in which it can process them. Other technologies, such as cloud computing, could wade leisurely through information, helping managers make choices during the off-season (perhaps concerning which players to add to the roster, for example). Instead, a team can use a supercomputer to process data in time to affect decisions during play, explains Mr Ungaro. Cray’s Urika appliance, launched two years ago, is specifically designed to help users interpret data in unusual ways.

Business Insider reports that a Cray supercomputer starts at $500,000, so the investment here was significant.

As for the team, the one clue is that it is an organization that “five years ago, most people would not have dreamed would need, or even want, a supercomputer.” I’m not saying it is the Cubs, but that sure sounds like the Cubs, yes? And you throw in the fact that this is the kind of thing the Cubs are currently spending their discretionary funds on, and it does make you wonder.

Maybe having an in-house supercomputer for use in-game is the next market inefficiency.

Sabermetrician Tom Tango, a consultant for the Cubs, writes about the potential baseball uses for a supercomputer, and it’s pretty damn interesting to think about.

  • fortyonenorth

    I worked on wiring and installing the White Sox’s first video coaching system at the new Comisky way back in the day–probably 1988 or so. I remember being blown away that it had a whopping 300 mb of ram. It was a networked Mac setup controlling an array of VHS decks. Ha!

  • Ivy Walls

    With communication into the dugout a supercomputer could provide field staff game decisions like pinpointed changes in pitchers effectiveness be it velocity or more importantly movement/command.

  • 26.2CubsFan

    Gotta be in response to the enormous amount of data to be produced by MLB (who basically bought out the Pitch/FX people) in a handful of parks this season and all parks next season – check out the FanGraphs podcast on this very topic:


    Cameron discusses in detail the how each play is going to generate multiple streams of data from the pitch to batter contact to the fielder’s reaction and play outcome. We’re talking millions of lines of data PER INNING for every single game for every team. Any team with an advantage in analyzing this data more effectively than others earlier than others is going to have an edge. And I agree with the above statement – if a win is worth about $6million on the FA market, then $500k was a bargain for this.

  • Kyle

    If the Cubs did spend $500k on it, I imagine we’ll see payroll cut by $5 million to even things out.

    • aaronb

      That purchase probably puts the time table back to 2020 before we can truly evaluate these suits.

  • TK

    I agree that the Cubs could be the nerds, BUT . . . Dodgers have changed a lot in the last 5 years. Texas went from bankruptcy to big spenders. Toronto splurged in FA market. Pirates have been most improved team the last few years. Could’ve been any of them, also. Heck, even the Yanks could be viewed as a team that wouldn’t have even considered it 5 years ago, but could conceivably be interested now.

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