CAREER ADVICE

Big Data, Big Leagues: How the Cubs Advanced Beyond Analytics

May 23, 2016

Baseball and statistics have come a long way since HRs and RBIs first ran on the back of player cards.  As part of Citadel’s speaker series, Adam Cooper, our chief legal officer and resident Cubs fan, spoke with Cubs’ President Theo Epstein and Manager Joe Maddon about how the Cubs have evolved their approach to innovation to build a winning team.

Adam: Let’s talk about technology and innovation for a minute. Theo, you were one of the early apostles of sabermetrics. It’s the application of science and data to evaluating players and building successful teams.

This was an innovation several years ago. Some would say it’s merely table stakes today. What’s the new frontier? How do you stay ahead of the competition using data and analytics?

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(Left: Adam Cooper; Middle: Theo Epstein; Right: Joe Maddon)

Theo: It’s so much harder to get a competitive advantage just using basic data analytics. Now, on the data side, you have to be super innovative in order to develop something that the other 29 teams aren’t doing.

The ironic part of the data revolution in baseball is that it helped us recognize that our competitive advantage is our understanding that the game is played by humans and we’re humanists. We’ve set up our whole organization to try to develop a growth mindset among the people who play for the organization. It starts when they are 16 years old and we sign them up out of high school. Or they’re 20 and 21 and just coming out of college. It’s the process of being there for them every step of the way in their growth.

This is not easy. It’s hard to predict future performance. But we try to get to know the whole person, the whole player.

That leads us back to the comment I made at the outset. If the other 29 teams have it, it’s worthless to us. It doesn’t give us any kind of competitive advantage. So we have to drive on the R&D side really deep just to find something they don’t do.

Read the rest of Adam’s interview with Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon when it becomes available: