Sunday, December 06, 2009

Bloomberg enters the baseball analysis market

Bloomberg, the company that provides investors with software to provide sophisticated real-time information on stock and financial markets, now has software to provide GMs with baseball information.

The New York Times article describing the new system is sketchy in explaining what kind of information will be provided, but my impression is that the breakthrough is in ease of use, rather than sabermetric sophistication:

"The challenge for Bloomberg is to create software that is better, faster and more visually useful than what rivals offer to help develop players and predict their performances. A demonstration of Bloomberg’s software showed dazzlingly colorful graphics and an easy way to plot statistics and compare players in complex combinations."

Not there's anything wrong with ease of use ... it's not a lot of fun to calculate player values yourself, or even to get your team of programmers to do it, if there's something available off the shelf.

But at the same time, there's a hint that the software will adjust for park effects, and maybe even do simulations:

"For Jeff Wilpon, the chief operating officer of the Mets, the value in the software will be in evaluating free agents.

"If you take X player on another team who’s around a great cast of players," he said, "we want to look at him in our ballpark with different players around him to see how he will fit in."

In addition, it'll include PitchF/X data:

"What looks impressive are highly visual pitch charts that can be summoned for any particular period, with parameters including arm angles that can, based on diminishing performance, suggest physical injury."

But Bloomberg also makes it sound like a friendly database query engine -- in effect, a version of Baseball Reference's "Play Index":

"It’s one thing to say, I want to see how various players hit home runs over the years," said Bill Squadron, who is managing the product introduction. "But it’s another to say, I want to see home runs, on-base percentage, pitches per plate appearance, take it all together and look at 10 guys who exceed a certain level."

Maybe it's all these things together.

It would be interesting to note what kind of sabermetric analysis is included in the system ... will free-agent evaluation include a version of WAR? Will it include estimates of dollars per win? Will Bloomberg have evaluated the various run estimators and chosen the best one? Will the Bloomberg algorithms become "conventional wisdom?" If so, will it be possible for some teams to gain an advantage by taking advantage of flaws in Bloomberg's analysis?

My guess is that if teams start using this system, and it does include some of the newer developments, we'll know about it because team management will start internalizing it. It's easy to ignore analysis from bloggers, but harder to ignore analysis from an expensive and sophisticated system from a respected name like Bloomberg, especially when the owners have spent thousands of dollars to provide it for you.

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