A Look at Sports Analytics

Today’s blog is another guest post from a fellow Orangemen, Rodney Paul, Sports Economist and Professor of Sport Management at the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics at Syracuse University. Rodney has extensive experience working in sports analytics and this past summer was featured in an ESPN the Magazine piece.

Enjoy his incredible insight.

- Brandon


I had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Steiner and members of the advisory board for the Syracuse University Sport Management Department a couple of weeks ago on the nature and findings of my research. Mr. Steiner was kind enough to ask me to write a brief blog to discuss what I have been working on at Syracuse University. I am a sports economist by training and a professor in the Sport Management Department in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics. It is a great place to work and my research has granted me the opportunity to be involved with different sports teams and leagues, discuss sports issues with the media, and given me the opportunity to travel the world to present and discuss my research on the economics and finance of sports.

My research focuses on a variety of issues that I believe are of value to the sports industry, in addition to interest in the academic world. Most of my work occurs in the areas of attendance demand, television viewership demand, modeling of voting and selection models in college sports, dynamic pricing of sports tickets, and investigations of the efficient markets hypothesis as it relates to sports finance.   My research mainly involves the mathematical and statistical modeling of these issues in sports, attempting to explain the key factors that impact the variables of interest (attendance, Nielsen Ratings, votes in polls, etc.) and discussing the rationale behind the findings. Although I completely enjoy the process of conducting the research I do in the world of sports, I have had the added pleasure in the past year to work side-by-side with the wonderful young men and women in the Syracuse University Baseball Statistics and Sabermetrics Club.

The Baseball Statistics Club consists of various sport management and other majors who are very interested in sports analytics and enjoy working with numbers. Each week of the semester, both in-season and during the offseason, these students meet and discuss various issues related to baseball such as players’ contracts, team and individual player performances, hypothesizing on the impact of rule changes, and other topics with a vigor that has to be seen to be believed.

To further their love of baseball and statistics, we undertook a study with the end goal of deepening our understanding of player performance. We ultimately submitted our findings to the prestigious MIT/Sloan Sports Analytics conference. As a pleasant surprise, out of a large number of overall submissions, our paper was accepted as a poster presentation for the conference. The basic premise of the paper is that atmospheric conditions (temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, in addition to altitude) play a key role in what types of pitches are thrown by starting pitchers and ultimately influence individual game performance based upon what type of pitches are best to throw under certain weather conditions. For those interested in more details or seeing the math behind the study, the paper is available on the MIT/Sloan Sports Analytics website. The paper was also the focus of the Numbers Column in ESPN the Magazine on July 1, 2014.

The blessing of having initial success with our research is that it excites the students to want to do more. The membership in the club has expanded this fall and we are working on projects that will ultimately be submitted to future MIT/Sloan conferences and baseball-specific SABR (Society of American Baseball Research) conferences around the country. All the while, the students seem to be having a great time discussing mathematics and statistics and I have the pleasure of getting to enjoy their energy, intelligence, and contributions first-hand. Keep an eye out for the group’s research and presentations in the future. I greatly look forward to their future contributions to the sports analytics and business world after they graduate.


Rodney Paul

Sports Economist and David B. Falk Professor of Sports Management


Leave a comment