A 2003 book by Michael Lewis chronicled Billy Beane’s use of statistics to analyze professional baseball players’ data to help him select and develop players. Beane at the time was the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics and even though he was handicapped with a small market team that had a limited budget, he was able to use the statistical analysis of the players’ data to build a competitive baseball roster. Soon other Major League Baseball teams were using statistical analysis of player data to guide them in drafting players and building rosters. Termed, “sports analytics,” this new way of evaluating talent started to replace old methods of evaluating players based on a feeling or adherence to past traditions.
The Growth of Sports Analytics
Sports analytics revolutionized baseball and it did not take long for other professional sports teams outside of baseball to start exploring sports analytics as a way to help them gain an advantage over the competition. Today, almost every major professional sports team and even a majority of college sports programs have either an analytics department or an analytics expert on staff. A majority of these sports analytic specialists analyze player and team data to determine player and game trends of their competitors and sometimes of their own teams.
Analyzing Anatomical and Physiological Data
Sports analytics is now evolving into much more than just player and game statistics to make decisions. Recently, sports analytics has started utilizing a player’s anatomical and physiological data. This recent development is not too surprising given that sports teams, from little league to major league, have already been using a player’s anatomical characteristics. Such anatomical measures as height, weight, and arm and hand size, which have been collected at the National Football League’s Draft Combine for years, are common. With the advent of new technology that is accurate, inexpensive and quick, the use of anatomical and physiological data to evaluate players is expanding. Dexalytics is at the forefront of this new wave of sports analytics. By utilizing the gold standard for body composition analysis (i.e., dual x-ray absorptiometry [DXA]), teams are able to determine muscle, bone and fat mass not only in the entire body but also in specific regions of the body. Dexalytics is also able to look at asymmetries in the body to help track possible imbalances in the body, which may lead to injuries.
The Future of Sports Analytics
New technologies that utilize wearable technology and video analysis of movement will continue to expand the field of sports analytics. In addition, new frontiers into determining the mental construct of players such as mental preparedness and emotional makeup will also be in need of special analysis techniques.
Clearly, since Billy Beane’s initial ideas on the use of statistical analysis to evaluate players, the field of sports analytics has grown and is the future of player evaluation. Those teams that utilize sports analytics will be at a competitive advantage. To assist in the management of this data, sports specific analytic software such as Dexalytics will be needed to make sense of this complex data.
Michael Lewis. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
About the Author: Donald Dengel, Ph.D., is a Professor in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota and is a co-founder of Dexalytics. He serves as the Director of the Laboratory of Integrative Human Physiology, which provides clinical vascular, metabolic, exercise and body composition testing for researchers across the University of Minnesota.