Sports communication students at Marist are lucky to be able to pick from many hands-on professional experiences. The Maristat Sports Analytics Club puts students on the front line of one of sport’s burgeoning tools: analytics.
Maristat was chartered as a club in the fall of 2021 with the mission of developing and advancing interest in sports analytics to create statistically meaningful content relating to both professional sports and Marist Athletics.
The club meets regularly with an emphasis on giving its members an introduction to sports analytics and data science.
Maristat looks at analytics throughout the world of sports, ranging from basketball to football to soccer. But in the world of numbers, baseball is the one sport that stands out. Many of the club’s members are baseball fans and it only makes sense that the club has formed a baseball committee to delve deeper into the numerous advanced stats the game has to offer.
While the committee spends time looking at MLB numbers, it has also devoted itself to providing Marist baseball with advanced stats and scouting reports that go beyond many of the traditional categories like batting average and earned run average.
Jack Spagna, the president of the club, emphasizes the combination of data science and sports to create a powerful resource for the baseball team.
“I think the vision of the club is to, and really our goal is to intertwine data science, analytics, and sports,” Spagna said. “That’s something that I’ve been trying to push a lot this semester; incorporating data science aspects.”
“We’ve been looking at decision trees, machine learning models, and R code. So those are the types of things that I hope that the club will continue to embrace because it’s a lot more than just wOBA, exit velocity, that kind of thing. We also want to look at the data science concepts that can really help provide even deeper insights.”
The baseball committee embraces the advanced analytics that have been making their way into the mainstream more and more since the days of Moneyball by using statistics like wOBA (weighted on-base average), K% (strikeout rate) and other analytics that have an appeal to anyone in the sports or data universe.
Luke Sassa, the baseball committee co-chair who is taking over next year as club president, leads the charge in combining sports and numbers.
“Growing up, I started researching things and looking on websites like Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs,” Sassa said. “And there’s so much information available in baseball that isn’t available in certain other sports to contextualize everything that’s going on.”
Sassa is one of the many baseball fans that have Baseball-Reference in their ‘Frequently Visited’ tab. Through his knowledge of baseball analytics, he’s been able to help Maristat to create scouting charts like these:
Using 643Charts and the numbers collected from opposing players, Maristat can provide the school’s baseball coaches with valuable information on their own players and opponents.
Through the hitting frequency graph (pictured above) and the pitch tendency web (pictured below), Maristat embraces the analytics revolution that provides extra nuance in the ever-advancing sports world.
Recently, the baseball committee has started to incorporate base running reports in an effort to try to find situations where a Marist baserunner has a better chance of swiping a bag. In these situations, the Red Foxes’ coaching staff wants to pinpoint counts where opposing pitchers tend to throw offspeed pitches, which are generally easier to steal on.
Sending a runner is one of the biggest gambles in baseball, but the spreadsheets, in an effort to improve efficiency, try to take some of the guesswork out of the process.
The work doesn’t go unnoticed.
“The biggest thing for us is the coaches are very enthusiastic and on board in meeting with them,” Sassa said. “They’re very excited to get to work with us and to be flexible and try out different things to get them those competitive edges. It makes it a good partnership because you know that everybody is committed.”
In the last few decades, sports analytics have been a controversial and puzzling entity that divides opinion. But Maristat believes the combination of sports and data science is the future in sports communication, especially baseball.
“In terms of analytics, it’s probably the most advanced out of the major sports,” said Spagna. “There’s just so much data and so much predictive modeling going on, and it’s cool for us to be able to explain to everybody what the current state of analytics is in baseball and do some of our own analysis, whether that’s with Marist baseball or analyzing the major leagues.”
And its members are having a great time in the process.
“I’ve gotten so much joy out of learning some of the advanced analytics and really just in general, learning about data science,” said Spagna. “I’m a data science major and I want to be able to give Marist students, sports fans or not, that same joy of using data science as a tool to further your understanding of the game.”
Edited by Jonathan Kinane and Sam Murphy
Header photo and graphics from Maristat