Tuesday, March 12, 2013

2013 SABR Analytics Conference

Posted by Dave

Last month, I joined the local chapter of SABR (Society of American Baseball Research) in time for their first meeting of 2013. Former White Sox GM, Roland Hemond was the guest speaker for the event and despite being 83 years old, Hemond can still rattle off stories from the 1950s and quote the count on the batter at that time. He was a fountain of funny anecdotes covering topics such as the infamous 1975 "open for business" winter meetings, Harry Carry (the times before he was lovably drunk homer) and many of the 135 trades he executed over the years. He was kind enough to pass around his World Series rings from the White Sox and Diamondbacks.

Not long after the local SABR chapter meeting, my wife, Laura, saw online that SABR was holding its annual Analytics Conference in Phoenix during the World Baseball Classic and suggested that I register. I didn't know what to expect but was excited to attend and learn more about analytics and meet some like-minded people. 

The conference ran from Thursday, March 7th through Saturday, March 9th. It was hosted by Clubhouse Confidential's Brian Kenny who, on Thursday, immediately set the tone for the weekend by throwing out some controversial predictions such as the knuckleball eventually becoming such a dominant pitch that it would be banned and that relief pitching changes will eventually need to be regulated because they will be done so frequently. Kenny appeared throughout the weekend injecting energy and acting as a bridge between the hard core sabermetricians, physics professors and statisticians and the fans, front office personnel and law students. Only at this conference can you successfully put together such an unusual combination of people. 

Each of the presentations was 60-90 minutes and covered topics such as game theory, WAR, mental conditioning, marketing mixed optimization and leveraging baseball-reference data. SABR also had round tables and panels made up of agents, players (Brandon McCarthy and Javier Lopez), general managers (including former Padres GM, Jed Hoyer), writers, player development personnel and marketing execs. During the Q&A part of the GM panel, I stood up and introduced myself as a Padres season ticket holder which immediately got laughs from the crowd as Hoyer pretended to hide his face. Hoyer gave great answers to the questions he received and even hung around after the panel to interact with attendees.

One of the best features of this conference was the accessibility for attendees to interact with the speakers and panelists including the legendary Bill James. Getting a chance to have a conversation with writers and front office personnel in this setting was a real treat. If you are more than a casual fan of baseball, I highly recommend attending next year's conference.

2005 World Series Ring

GMs Jon Daniels, Jed Hoyer and Rick Hahn

Professor Alan Nathan made me wish I paid more attention in my high school Physics class

Rob Neyer, Dave Cameron and Vince Genaro debate the DH 

Player Development execs Derek Falvey, Tyrone Brooks and Yeshayah Goldfarb

Legendary Bill James

A comparison between Jon Lester and Tim Wakefield

Agents Gregg Clifton, Casey Close and Will Venable's agent Rex Gary

Stan Kasten explains how easy it is to acquire players when your payroll is nearly unlimited


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