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Beyond the box score: SU club uses statistics to further baseball knowledge

Courtesy of Matt Filippi

Matt Filippi, president of the SU Baseball Statistics and Sabermetrics Club, presents the club's abstract at the MIT Sloan Analytics Conference in March. The abstract analyzed how atmospheric conditions affected pitcher's pitch selection.

The Syracuse University Baseball Statistics and Sabermetrics Club was founded just two years ago, but they spent this summer presenting their work beyond campus.

Over the past few months, the club gave a presentation at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the largest conferences in the sports analytics field. Their work was also featured in ESPN The Magazine in July.

During the 2013–14 academic year, the club worked to come up with a topic to cover in hopes of being able to attend the conference. With tough deadlines to make, a lot of coordinating via email and plans being formed over winter break, the team came up with the idea to present research on the effects of atmospheric conditions on pitch selection, said sport management professor Rodney Paul, the club’s advisor.

The work done by the club at SU was selected as one of fifteen papers to be on display at the conference this past March and club president Matt Filippi was able to travel to Boston to represent the team’s work.

“It would be a great experience for any sports fan,” said Filippi as he described his time at the conference. He added that the success of the club was due to the members’ passionate efforts toward the conference.

These efforts also resulted in the club’s feature in ESPN The Magazine this past July.

Paul said he had been contacted in May by the magazine. He had a back-and-forth relationship with them until the article was published this summer in the numbers section of the magazine, Paul said.

“It was a lot of fun having the students be a part of it,” Paul said about the experience.

While club members are collaborating on campus, typical meetings consist of discussing areas of current interest in baseball, including particular events that happened in the sport during the previous week. The main goal of a meeting is to familiarize members with certain statistics and various players, and on occasion, they connect with speakers via Skype.

The SU Baseball Statistics and Sabermetrics Club came about as a result of a student initiative two years ago. Two sport management students, Matt Filippi and Andrew Sagarin, proposed the idea in the fall of 2012. Paul was approached by the group to become the club adviser and Paul said he accepted.

The club really gained attendance in the fall of 2013 with many interested freshmen eager to join. Meetings have had a steady attendance rate with numbers in the high teens and low twenties, Paul said.

Looking forward, the club members plan to expand in future semesters and have high hopes to return to the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Filippi said.

The SU Baseball Statistics and Sabermetrics Club is currently in the process of becoming an officially affiliated chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research, and it should become a reality within the first few weeks of school, Greg Ackerman, the club’s senior vice president, said in an email.

They also have other goals and smaller projects in mind. Depending on available funds, the club wants to plan a trip to events such as a sabermetrics conference in Phoenix, but it depends on interest and money, Ackerman said. The club is also looking into a sabermetrics conference in New York City this academic year, and they hope to get involved in other conferences on the topic that include other undergraduates interested in the subject, he added.

Ackerman also said he has hopes for the club to spread across majors other than sport management.

“I really think attracting some students majoring in economics, computer science and math would add new skills to our club that are beneficial to sabermetrics, opening richer discussions and more effective research,” Ackerman said

Overall, the members of the club are satisfied with the accomplishments of the past year and Ackerman said he has high hopes for the club’s future.

Said Ackerman: “I am confident the skills gained from our club will get various of our members internships and jobs with MLB teams and media outlets in the very near future.”

  • AndrewMilner

    Awesome story. Wish this had been around when I was at SU! — Andrew M., SU ’90, SABR member since 1984

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