that?” Hass asks. “Now, you can count how
often the running back is within a certain
distance of a defender without a blocker.
How often does he escape that situation?”
Gerber says Statcast analysis is a hot
new trend in baseball. It tracks player
positioning and how fast a fielder can break
to a fly ball. The speed of the ball off of the
bat can also be tracked and scrutinized. A
player with declining hit velocity could be
But there is always the human element.
Players can still defy numbers. A good
season can still be achieved even if bat
speed is dwindling. Coaches still have a role.
Numbers are becoming more important,
but you still have to play the games.
“Hopefully they will be doing a better
job of separating player ability versus just
bad luck,” says Hass, who compiles statistical data for Purdue football, volleyball, and
men’s and women’s basketball. He also keys
in live updates from the games for fans
checking online for game updates.
BIG DATA, BIG MONEY
Any sports fans with calculators could fancy
themselves statisticians, but with growing
data sets and more sophisticated ways to
present the data, experience in a statistics
program like Purdue’s is helpful. Hass says
having experience managing data in large
sets, distributive computing, creating different models to present and organize data,
and communicate it to nontechnical audiences are crucial skills to have in professional sports analytics. Hass says data sets
these days are known to weigh in at the
“The challenge is to make them more
digestible and easier to understand the
output,” he says.
Hot statistical trends are not limited to
professional players. While high school and
college athletic programs are behind the
pros in terms of big data sets, mainly due to cost and effort to make
sense from it, Gerber says scouting and analytics departments are
“intertwined.” Hass and Gerber expect more big data sets will be
collected for high school and college athletes to ready them for a
potential draft day.
“Scouts collect information that is not available through the
high school or college,” Gerber says. “Eventually, they will have
mobile, high-def cameras to go with the scouts.”
Gerber and Hass foresee more reliance and importance on
large data sets in professional sports. There is also the statistical
expansion into fantasy sports. Companies that run fantasy leagues
employ statisticians and their own methods to evaluate and rank
every player. In 2014, Forbes declared fantasy sports an $800 million
industry. That number should continue to rise with the help of new
statistical codes for player evaluation.
The importance of large data sets and the men and women
who can make sense of them will increase as well. And protecting
the contents of private databases will become even more important
than protecting the quarterback.
“I would expect if people get caught, we’ll be hearing about it
a lot more,” Hass says. “I have doubts it’s never happened before
the Cardinals. People have been looking for a competitive advantage
for a long time.”