On October 16, 2010 I had the chance to attend and present (via posters) some of my research (WTA age rule and NBA referee bias) at the Northern California Symposium on Statistics and Operations Research in Sports (“NCSSORS“).  The event was organized by Ben Alamar, a professor at Menlo College in Atherton, CA.  Dr. Alamar is also the editor of the Journal of Quantitative Analysis of Sports (“JQAS“).  In all, there were eight academic presentations, two industry speakers, and about two dozen poster presentations.  There were several highlights (in no particular order):

1. The presentation by Andrew Thomas pertaining to catcher spotting was fascinating.  The pre-analysis coding will be tough, but the results will be fruitful.  Measuring pitcher accuracy is tough…but his work will help shed a lot of light on it.

2. Sig Mejdal of the St. Louis Cardinals provided insight into his analytical work.  Baseball lends itself a type of analysis that is currently at a higher level than team sports such as basketball and football.  Basketball is catching up quickly, though.  Football looks to be the next frontier of analytical work.

3.  Michael Shuckers presented his work on NFL draft picks.  Several months ago, I read the related paper by Massey and Thaler (2010) that touched on similar topics.  At some point in the next five years, my guess is that someone will research similar issues vis-a-vis the NBA and NHL.  Very interesting!

4. Roland Beech, who works with/for the Dallas Mavericks, discussed the unique opportunity to collaborate closely with the team coaching staff.  As far as I know, such a position is unique among consultants with statistical acumen.  He stressed how it is a two-way street.  During the Q&A, I asked whether NBA rules limit the use of technology and he confirmed that such rules do indeed bar the use of computers by coaches in-game.  I will be curious if the NBA ever relaxes this rule.  If the league does, perhaps IBM will develop a “Deep Blue” computer for basketball like they did for chess.

5. Masuru Teramoto of UNLV presented his research (via poster) on different metrics important for winning games in the NBA playoffs vs. the regular season.  On an anecdotal basis, TV commentators sometimes discuss how teams are “getting ready for the playoffs,” illustrating the importance of such research.

In 2011, the conference moves to the east coast (Harvard) before returning to the Menlo College in 2012.  I look forward to attending one or both.  It is my understanding that select conference papers will be published in a special issue of JQAS in April 2011.

Sports analytics is a relatively young field that is populated by a lot of smart people.  Keeping abreast of all the research is tough, but it is very interesting to see all the creative work being done out there helping shape decision-making.