What can sports teams learn from the manufacturing industry? Plenty

Mar 13, 2013

What can sports teams learn from the manufacturing industry? Plenty, according to Timothy Chan of the University of Toronto (U of T) and Douglas Fearing of the Harvard Business School.

Using statistics from the 2012 season, Chan and Fearing found that positional flexibility – the ability of a player to play multiple positions – is valuable, responsible for up to 15 per cent of the team's runs, as was the case with the Chicago Cubs. Other teams like the Washington Nationals and the Tampa Bay Rays were less robust to injuries.

"Flexibility is important because it provides a team with options and allows a team to field a good line-up even if some players are injured," said Chan, an engineering professor at U of T.

They compared this flexibility with that of automotive manufacturing networks that help companies continue to operate efficiently even when changes occur in supply and demand. Similarly, they say, a baseball team wants to keep winning games if players are injured.

Chan and Fearing presented their insights at the 2013 MIT Sloan Analytics Conference, where their paper, "The value of flexibility in baseball roster construction," took first place.

Chan's primary focus is operations research in health care. However, he is enthusiastic about using the tools from that research to study sports.

"The I develop to solve healthcare engineering problems have broad application in other domains. It is exciting to be able to combine my interest in sports with my methodological research."

For example, at the 2012 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, he and U of T colleague David Novati proposed a new methodology for quantifying the value of a hockey player.

They are developing a novel classification system for junior using advanced mathematical methods, in order to find patterns in performance data that may be otherwise hard to detect. The proposed project represents the first effort to analyze junior hockey players, using similar mathematical models that he developed for the NHL.

"Eventually, we may be able to relate performance at the junior level to the professional level," said Chan. "Such research may inform strategies for drafting or targeted recruitment of high-potential ."

Explore further: Best of Last Week - Zero friction quantum engine, twisted radio beams and Ebola outbreak update

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How numbers can reveals hidden truths about sports

Mar 01, 2013

When a field-goal kicker lines up for an attempt in a football game, television viewers will typically be presented with the kicker's record from that distance—on all attempts from 40 to 49 yards, for instance. ...

Making sports statistics more scientific

Mar 08, 2012

Whether it is the sprinter who finished first or the team that scored more points, it's usually easy to determine who won a sporting event. But finding the statistics that explain why an athlete or team wins ...

Recommended for you

Q&A: Science journalism and public engagement

8 hours ago

Whether the public is reading about the Ebola outbreak in Africa or watching YouTube videos on the benefits of the latest diet, it's clear that reporting on science and technology profoundly shapes modern ...

Ig Nobel winner: Using pork to stop nosebleeds

Sep 19, 2014

There's some truth to the effectiveness of folk remedies and old wives' tales when it comes to serious medical issues, according to findings by a team from Detroit Medical Center.

User comments : 0