Let’s Play Ball – with Big Data

August 7th, 2014 by - 2,026 views

America’s favorite pastime has always been a highly analytical sport, something that technological advancement has only done more to ingratiate into our culture. It seems perfect, then, that Big Data is gaining an important foothold among baseball fans across the country, and its involvement in the statistical side of the game only seems likely to increase in importance in the coming years. Let’s take a look at some of the ways the cloud computing phenomenon is affecting life on the diamond and the people watching at home on the sofa.

America's favorite pastime has always been a highly analytical sport.

America’s favorite pastime has always been a highly analytical sport.

Big Data on the field
Like many other methods used to collect marketing information on those interested in a particular sector, baseball venues are able to learn what matters to their customers by offering something in return. According to Samantha Meckler of Smart Data Collective, this goal is accomplished by offering fans tweeting and texting from the stands free on-site Wi-Fi, giving the stadium access to their analytic data to create future advertising decisions based on this information.

“Fans now have the ability to connect at various high-speed access points throughout these spaces,” Meckler reminded readers. “This, at the very least, helps improve phone signal strength and reduce individual data charges. For teams, this provides a gateway for collecting new insights on fan behavior that contribute to an overall data-driven strategy for customer relations.”

When baseball aficionados interact with each other and post their stadium selfies to the cloud infrastructure, this also serves a dual purpose. Any flattering, exciting social media interaction with the brand is free advertising to an entire network of people who may have forgotten the season had started or wanted to buy tickets. This is part of marketing the game experience as the new “cool,” and one’s friends and family have the power to influence that outcome more than an ad on the side of a Facebook feed ever could.

Big Data off the field
Naturally, cloud computing technology has had an equally major influence on the world of sports statistics – the sheer ability to store larger amounts of information to analyze has enabled stats addicts to take their hobby even further and sports reporters to rev their engines.

Newsweek contributor R.J. Anderson wrote about the recent influx of research that involves both Big Data and information on this season’s hottest players, teams, and big games. He cited a new application designed by the Major League Baseball Advanced Media, which integrates data from various applications and uses cameras on three national fields to capture the same data the human eye could record on the field. The program is called Statcast, and diehard fans are becoming addicted. Anderson interviewed Harry Pavlidis, director of technology at advanced analytics website Baseball Prospectus, about the developing application.

“Other sports have had success with their ventures into digital tracking,” said Pavlidis. “For a major analytical move forward, it is in the league’s best interest to make sure the rising tide lifts all 30 ships, not just the rich ones.”

Although Statcast is only recording mass amounts of information on three fields this season - Citi Field in New York, Target Field in Minneapolis, and Miller Park in Milwaukee – the app has big plans to have high-definition cameras installed on all 30 fields across the country by the beginning of next season. Similar ventures are scheduled in other sports for those who are fans of basketball and football, for example. America’s favorite pastime is paving the way, but the rest of the sporting industry certainly isn’t far behind in jumping on the Big Data trend.

If recent activity among fans and professionals alike is any indication, Big Data and cloud hosting services are far from striking out.

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