The 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.