The practice of using big data and analytics for the betterment of business is becoming more prevalent in countless fields, especially some – like sports – that might not seem obviously apparent. Looking at the examples of these professional sports implementations can have a two-fold benefit. Obviously, sports organizations that haven't yet adopted analytics strategies for developing a statistically strong group of players can benefit from learning about how best to do so. At the same time, companies in more traditional business enterprises that have yet to warm to analytics best practices could do well to examine how a business entirely different from theirs would implement such a strategy.
Sabermetrics – the progenitor of sports analytics
This method of examining sports statistics gained real credence with the publication of Bill James's Baseball Abstracts texts in 1977. According to the Sabermetrics Manifesto by David Grabiner, James defined the practice as "the search for objective knowledge about baseball." This involves the close examination of stats like on-base percentage, or perhaps determining the percentage value of certain positions, like pitcher or shortstop, in the overall game's context.
Billy Beane, manager of the Oakland Athletics since 1997, earned acclaim for using sabermetrics and analytics in 2002 to devise a team full of players who consistently got on base, irrespective of their other abilities. The team became the first to win 20 consecutive games, as documented in the book and film Moneyball.
Business uses of sabermetrics
According to InformationWeek, several prominent sabermetrics practices are becoming common in business. A primary example is looking outside the box for different metrics – just as baseball went beyond batting average and earned run average to embrace OBP and wins above replacement, companies must now look at online and social media stats instead of just transactional info. Companies can also benefit by valuing business intelligence over intuition – another highlight of sabermetrics.
Further sports embrace of analytics
The proven results of sabermetrics began to cause organizations in other sports to look at the value of analytics. The Financial Post reported that the management of the National Hockey League's Carolina Hurricanes franchise began utilizing analytics to determine which games would be of most interest to fans – and therefore likely to sell more tickets.
Such metrics are also continually used to help create an ideal roster. The source stated that the National Football League's San Francisco 49ers used business intelligence software to examine the stats of players it hoped to bring on during the pre-season draft periods.