MLB All-Star visits campus for analytics talk

Baseball has always been a game of statistics. But as technology becomes even more advanced, so do the statistics. Mines Sports Analytics Club (MSA) hosted Trevor Bauer and his father Warren on October 28th to discuss the increased impact of data analytics in baseball. Trevor Bauer is an MLB All-Star and eight-year veteran who is now a starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. He is a leader amongst the players when it comes to data analysis, employing four analysts and is helping to create several new statistical models. His father, Warren, is a Mines graduate in chemical and petroleum refining. He has helped Trevor throughout his baseball career and continues to help develop new analytical models with his son.

Trevor and Warren began their presentation with the catchy title “Data Analytics in MLB: Where Nerds Finally Beat the Jocks.” Their presentation began with how they began to apply “the engineering process” to his baseball career when he was young. They talked about several unique ways in which this process was applied like hitting tennis balls at Trevor to improve his fielding skills. They also made softballs heavier, and then even put nails in the seams of baseball to create a more weight balanced ball for use in drills. Trevor then spoke about his data collecting habits which began with the velocity of his throws in high school up to daily blood
samples today. He continued by speaking on the errors and inefficiencies of heat maps and scouting reports in baseball, along with the inability to adjust in-game and the subjectivity of analysis. Finally, Trevor finished his presentation talking about how futuristic technology that is being developed in the game and could be applied in the next few years. These projects include determining whether a batter is going to swing at a pitch
when it is 30 feet from the plate and making pitch heat maps.

We had the opportunity after the event to ask Warren and Trevor a few additional questions about their thoughts on applications of data analytics.

Do you think the increased amount of data available to young pitchers is potentially leading to more youth sports injuries?

Trevor: “Data is neither good nor bad. It is how you implement it and how you use it so I think data can be partially responsible for it, but I also think data can be the solution for it. It depends on how you apply it.” He also spoke asserted that there is higher stress and workloads on youth athletes today and that has “corrupted the natural progression by which kids learn skills.” He finished by saying “it’s very complicated.” but hoped
that data could be a “net positive” in the future.

Do you have anything in the analytical algorithms being developed for physical characteristics such as fatigue?

Trevor: “If you can start monitoring these things in real-time you can start to modify scouting reports based off the last ten pitch sample… as you start getting more of these systems that can start tracking biomechanics in real-time you’ll start seeing a lot more of that.”

What are your thoughts on the shift as a pitcher and do you think it will be banned?

Trevor: “I love the shift and I don’t think it should be banned. I think it is a natural ebb and flow. Someone found a way to gain an advantage in a game and then the other side needs to find a way to counteract that advantage… It is going to force increased skill development amongst the offense.” He used an example of his sinker. He developed the pitch three years ago, and the following season hitters adjusted by lifting the ball and it became the worst pitch in the game. “These ebbs and flows go back and forth, I think the shift is one of them and I think it is great for baseball personally. I don’t think it should be artificially banned.”

Do you use data analytics to develop new pitches in addition to improving current pitches?

Trevor: “Absolutely.”

What is your favorite baseball moment?

Trevor: “Rajai Davis’ home run in game 7 of the World Series to
tie the game… I don’t remember what I did, I remember that I was there.”

Why did you decide to attend Mines?

Warren: “I was a resident here in Colorado, in Denver. I actually wasn’t in school because I went out to work so I was working here in Denver and so when I decided to go back to college I was looking for the best college in the area and found it here in Golden.”

I’m assuming that has helped you a lot not just with your career but his career?

Warren: “Yeah, I use the same engineering principles that I learned here and I applied them to what he was trying to do which was learn baseball.”

What has it been like learning about baseball, data analytics, etc .during Trevor’s career?

Warren: “It’s kind of challenging in a way because I am not a baseball player, I have no background on it, it is interesting. The part about it is not much was done by engineers. I can bring an engineering approach to it and so I kind of stand out without having to be very good because I have a different approach so it’s been really fun and I enjoy doing it and I guess that’s why I do it.”

When did you realize Trevor could be an MLB player?

Warren: “When he went to college it was you are going to college for an education, job one, then just to see if anything comes of it. It was his sophomore year, it was clear his sophomore year that he was going to become a pro player, but not until his sophomore year because it is a big jump to make it to the pro level. It was obvious by his junior year, but clear by his sophomore year.”

What was your favorite baseball moment with Trevor?

Warren: “We produced a video a few years back when they made the run to the 16’ World Series in Cleveland and that video of fathers and fans has to be the most fun moment… I just stopped doing everything for a month and I just followed the baseball team for a whole month and it was a blast, the most fun I’ve had.”

Thanks to Trevor, Warren, and MSA for making this article possible. MSA was formed at the end of last semester and explores the applications of data
analytics in sports. If you would like to know more about the Mines Sports Analytics Club you can visit their website or go to one of their meetings on Monday nights in Marquez Hall.

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