Breaking the Curse with Data Analytics

Baseball glove and ball

Growing up a diehard Red Sox fan through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s was tough. The Yankees always had our number, handing the Red Sox some spectacular playoff losses, including the Bucky Dent homer in 1978 and the Aaron Boone homerun off of Tim Wakefield in 2003. The old adage in New England was that “the Red Sox and lawn furniture would fold up and end up in the cellar after Labor Day.”

Bill JamesSomething had to be done, so in 2003, Red Sox owner John Henry hired Bill James, the man who created sabermetrics. Sabermetrics is the use of statistics to analyze player performance and value. The Michael Lewis book (and Brad Pitt movie) Moneyball shows how Billy Beane, GM for the Oakland A’s, utilized the principals of sabermetrics to change decision making on personnel in their organization with great success. There also is a funny episode of The Simpsons where Lisa uses sabermetrics to coach Bart’s little league team.

Well, in 2004, the Red Sox won their first World Series Championship in 86 years, finally breaking the curse of Bambino! To get there, they had to play the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. I remember watching those games against the Yankees with my Dad at home outside Chicago. When the Red Sox came back from three games back (0-3 deficit) to beat the Yankees that year in the playoffs, I think the entire town of Downers Grove woke up when we celebrated the final out.

But what most Red Sox fans didn’t realize at the time was that the organization had taken a new approach in evaluating players thanks to sabermetrics. Challenging the normal statistical categories for evaluating player talent proved to be very beneficial. Now most MLB teams have developed a data analytics strategy and we can look here at home with the Cubs and former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein as a good example.

This is a trend we see with many businesses today. Businesses are trying to utilize their data to improve customer service or provide more targeted marketing as examples. The data that companies have developed through years of utilizing their own ERP packages, CRM, Web, and other applications provides a multitude of possibilities in how they mine that data to create value for their businesses.

As companies develop their strategy, IT departments move from a traditionally viewed cost center to a business enabler and disruptive force in their respective industry. The unique value of each organizations data presents an opportunity to harvest that in order to create greater value for shareholders, customers and drive growth. If the Red Sox can break the curse utilizing new ways of thinking, it might be time to consider a new approach for your organization.

If you are interested in learning more about Bill James and disrupting the norm with data analytics, he will be one of the keynote speakers at IDS Fast Forward in Chicago on July 13. Click here to register.