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Twins Analytics Infrastructure

Posted by jharaldson , 25 January 2018 · 817 views

This Twins have had a bit of a tortured history with analytics. In 2010 Rob Antony did an interview with TwinsDaily’s own Parker Hageman and revealed some interesting facts about the Twins and Sabermetrics. Antony stated this about their analytics department, “we're probably one of the last, if not the last, team to address it with a person dedicated solely to that.”. He went on further to fail to understand some fairly basic concepts about Sabermetrics. He thought FIP was “first strike in inning pitched” and was unable to guess about BABIP. He then revealed they had just hired their analytics guy and stated he would be “Gathering information and creating databases. This will be his first year. The guy that we brought in will start creating systems to build a foundation of our own that we can look at.” This is what I primarily want to get into as I have a background in IT.

In corporate America one of the techniques we use to understand what our competition is doing is to analyze their job postings. Have they posted an unusually large amount of Sales positions? Are they looking at specific geographic locations that have a concentration of talent? Are they asking for specific or unusual technical skills? These are all things we can look at to try to get an idea of intent and structure. I applied this technique to the Twins and their development job postings and found some interesting things.

2014 Posting

2015 Posting

One of the common details in both job postings is the fact that the Twins were looking for a developer who had experience doing front-end work (HTML, JavaScript), middle tier (.NET Framework, ASP.MVC), and the data layer (SQL Server). This implies a couple of things. The first is that the Twins are employing a standard three-tier architecture for their analytics.
593px Overview Of A three tier application vectorVersion.svg

It also implies that they only have “full stack” developers, which means they are required to know and to be able to develop in all 3 of their architecture tiers. This is problematic because is you are required to be able to code in everything that usually means you are unable to specialize or gain really in-depth knowledge on any single tier. For the Twins to take the next step in analytics I think they need to be hiring specialists in each of these areas.

Another thing I noticed is that the only data store they referred to is SQL Server. The reason that this is important is that the industry still values relational datamarts like SQL Server but they are also moving in the direction of unstructured Big Data repositories as well. Applications like Hadoop, HBASE, MongoDB, and many others allow unstructured data to be quickly stored and analyzed which allows for more experimentation by analysts when compared to a structured DB. I think the PITCH f/x and Trackman data has likely been analyzed enough but I think the next frontier is going into some less structured data. Putting medical records into a big data store and analyzing test results and notes to find patterns in identifying healthier players. Putting free text scouting reports into it and running natural language analytics on them using IBM Watson or some other AI service to identify key language or sentiments that indicate a player that is more likely to succeed. The addition of weather data and the analysis of its impact on specific players. I think there is a lot of room to grow here.

In short, I think it is likely this lack of specialization and not embracing the newer Big Data technologies led Thad Levine and Derek Falvey to go in a new direction this last fall with the analytics department. I wouldn’t be surprised if the hiring surge described in a recent article by Pat Reusse did not include hires to address these concerns. I am interested in your thoughts and feedback.

  • ashburyjohn, Parker Hageman, HuskerTwinsFan and 2 others like this



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ashburyjohn
Jan 25 2018 10:18 AM

IMO Jack Goin was a good soldier for the organization but was thrust into a role that he wasn't particularly equipped to handle and the results didn't impress the new bosses this past year. A small organization like a baseball team tends to value generalists, unless and until a need for specialization is proven, and it took the Pohlad-based hierarchy an awful long time to embrace this particular need. I'm not qualified to critique any specific IT directions that need to be taken, except to put such decision-making in the hands of highly-qualified people and then get out of their way for a while - after which you do as much independent validation of their results and processes as you can. My one criterion for judging their qualifications as a whole is that someone in the analytics team needs to know extremely well what a linear program is - and then they can choose to use or not use this technique (and related ones) as they see fit.

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HitInAPinch
Jan 26 2018 10:30 AM

Goin is gone and Levine and Falvey are taking over the Analytics Department?

 

Guess I've missed a lot. 

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twinssporto
Jan 26 2018 11:37 AM

Interesting write-up.  Thank you.

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ashburyjohn
Jan 26 2018 03:13 PM

Goin is gone and Levine and Falvey are taking over the Analytics Department?

 

Guess I've missed a lot. 

Goin's gone, yes. I was surprised he wasn't reassigned, but for whatever reason they parted company. I see on LinkedIn that he's now with the Diamondbacks as a scout, which was something he mentioned beefing up on a year or so ago.

 

I don't know how the Analytics department is structured; someone named Brandon Johnson is listed in the Twins corporate directory as "Senior Director, Business Strategy & Analytics". Obviously neither Falvey nor Levine are multi-tasking to the extent necessary to run the department themselves, although something tells me they might be more hands-on than the average upper-management guys. :) But if you look at their organization page, there are names sprinkled all over the place doing things that overlap into what used to be centralized as "analytics". https://www.mlb.com/...am/front-office