Interview Prof Benjamin Alamar , Sports Analytics

Here is an interview with Prof Benjamin Alamar, founding editor of the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sport, a professor of sports management at Menlo College and the Director of Basketball Analytics and Research for the Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA.

Ajay – The movie Moneyball recently sparked out mainstream interest in analytics in sports.Describe the role of analytics in sports management

Benjamin- Analytics is impacting sports organizations on both the sport and business side.
On the Sport side, teams are using analytics, including advanced data management, predictive anlaytics, and information systems to gain a competitive edge. The use of analytics results in more accurate player valuations and projections, as well as determining effective strategies against specific opponents.
On the business side, teams are using the tools of analytics to increase revenue in a variety of ways including dynamic ticket pricing and optimizing of the placement of concession stands.
Ajay-  What are the ways analytics is used in specific sports that you have been part of?

Benjamin- A very typical first step for a team is to utilize the tools of predictive analytics to help inform their draft decisions.

Ajay- What are some of the tools, techniques and software that analytics in sports uses?
Benjamin- The tools of sports analytics do not differ much from the tools of business analytics. Regression analysis is fairly common as are other forms of data mining. In terms of software, R is a popular tool as is Excel and many of the other standard analysis tools.
Ajay- Describe your career journey and how you became involved in sports management. What are some of the tips you want to tell young students who wish to enter this field?

Benjamin- I got involved in sports through a company called Protrade Sports. Protrade initially was a fantasy sports company that was looking to develop a fantasy game based on advanced sports statistics and utilize a stock market concept instead of traditional drafting. I was hired due to my background in economics to develop the market aspect of the game.

There I met Roland Beech (who now works for the Mavericks) and Aaron Schatz (owner of footballoutsiders.com) and learned about the developing field of sports statistics. I then changed my research focus from economics to sports statistics and founded the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports. Through the journal and my published research, I was able to establish a reputation of doing quality, useable work.

For students, I recommend developing very strong data management skills (sql and the like) and thinking carefully about what sort of questions a general manager or coach would care about. Being able to demonstrate analytic skills around actionable research will generally attract the attention of pro teams.

About-

Benjamin Alamar, Professor of Sport Management, Menlo College

Benjamin Alamar

Professor Benjamin Alamar is the founding editor of the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sport, a professor of sports management at Menlo College and the Director of Basketball Analytics and Research for the Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA. He has published academic research in football, basketball and baseball, has presented at numerous conferences on sports analytics. He is also a co-creator of ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating and a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal. He has consulted for teams in the NBA and NFL, provided statistical analysis for author Michael Lewis for his recent book The Blind Side, and worked with numerous startup companies in the field of sports analytics. Professor Alamar is also an award winning economist who has worked academically and professionally in intellectual property valuation, public finance and public health. He received his PhD in economics from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2001.

Prof Alamar is a speaker at Predictive Analytics World, San Fransisco and is doing a workshop there

http://www.predictiveanalyticsworld.com/sanfrancisco/2012/agenda.php#day2-17

2:55-3:15pm

All level tracks Track 1: Sports Analytics
Case Study: NFL, MLB, & NBA
Competing & Winning with Sports Analytics

The field of sports analytics ties together the tools of data management, predictive modeling and information systems to provide sports organization a competitive advantage. The field is rapidly developing based on new and expanded data sources, greater recognition of the value, and past success of a variety of sports organizations. Teams in the NFL, MLB, NBA, as well as other organizations have found a competitive edge with the application of sports analytics. The future of sports analytics can be seen through drawing on these past successes and the developments of new tools.

You can know more about Prof Alamar at his blog http://analyticfootball.blogspot.in/ or journal at http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/jqas. His detailed background can be seen at http://menlo.academia.edu/BenjaminAlamar/CurriculumVitae

Interview David Katz ,Dataspora /David Katz Consulting

Here is an interview with David Katz ,founder of David Katz Consulting (http://www.davidkatzconsulting.com/) and an analyst at the noted firm http://dataspora.com/. He is a featured speaker at Predictive Analytics World  http://www.predictiveanalyticsworld.com/sanfrancisco/2011/speakers.php#katz)

Ajay-  Describe your background working with analytics . How can we make analytics and science more attractive career options for young students

David- I had an interest in math from an early age, spurred by reading lots of science fiction with mathematicians and scientists in leading roles. I was fortunate to be at Harry and David (Fruit of the Month Club) when they were in the forefront of applying multivariate statistics to the challenge of targeting catalogs and other snail-mail offerings. Later I had the opportunity to expand these techniques to the retail sphere with Williams-Sonoma, who grew their retail business with the support of their catalog mailings. Since they had several catalog titles and product lines, cross-selling presented additional analytic challenges, and with the growth of the internet there was still another channel to consider, with its own dynamics.

After helping to found Abacus Direct Marketing, I became an independent consultant, which provided a lot of variety in applying statistics and data mining in a variety of settings from health care to telecom to credit marketing and education.

Students should be exposed to the many roles that analytics plays in modern life, and to the excitement of finding meaningful and useful patterns in the vast profusion of data that is now available.

Ajay-  Describe your most challenging project in 3 decades of experience in this field.

David- Hard to choose just one, but the educational field has been particularly interesting. Partnering with Olympic Behavior Labs, we’ve developed systems to help identify students who are most at-risk for dropping out of school to help target interventions that could prevent dropout and promote success.

Ajay- What do you think are the top 5 trends in analytics for 2011.

David- Big Data, Privacy concerns, quick response to consumer needs, integration of testing and analysis into business processes, social networking data.

Ajay- Do you think techniques like RFM and LTV are adequately utilized by organization. How can they be propagated further.

David- Organizations vary amazingly in how sophisticated or unsophisticated the are in analytics. A key factor in success as a consultant is to understand where each client is on this continuum and how well that serves their needs.

Ajay- What are the various software you have worked for in this field- and name your favorite per category.

David- I started out using COBOL (that dates me!) then concentrated on SAS for many years. More recently R is my favorite because of its coverage, currency and programming model, and it’s debugging capabilities.

Ajay- Independent consulting can be a strenuous job. What do you do to unwind?

David- Cycling, yoga, meditation, hiking and guitar.

Biography-

David Katz, Senior Analyst, Dataspora, and President, David Katz Consulting.

David Katz has been in the forefront of applying statistical models and database technology to marketing problems since 1980. He holds a Master’s Degree in Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley. He is one of the founders of Abacus Direct Marketing and was previously the Director of Database Development for Williams-Sonoma.

He is the founder and President of David Katz Consulting, specializing in sophisticated statistical services for a variety of applications, with a special focus on the Direct Marketing Industry. David Katz has an extensive background that includes experience in all aspects of direct marketing from data mining, to strategy, to test design and implementation. In addition, he consults on a variety of data mining and statistical applications from public health to collections analysis. He has partnered with consulting firms such as Ernst and Young, Prediction Impact, and most recently on this project with Dataspora.

For more on David’s Session in Predictive Analytics World, San Fransisco on (http://www.predictiveanalyticsworld.com/sanfrancisco/2011/agenda.php#day2-16a)

Room: Salon 5 & 6
4:45pm – 5:05pm

Track 2: Social Data and Telecom 
Case Study: Major North American Telecom
Social Networking Data for Churn Analysis

A North American Telecom found that it had a window into social contacts – who has been calling whom on its network. This data proved to be predictive of churn. Using SQL, and GAM in R, we explored how to use this data to improve the identification of likely churners. We will present many dimensions of the lessons learned on this engagement.

Speaker: David Katz, Senior Analyst, Dataspora, and President, David Katz Consulting

Exhibit Hours
Monday, March 14th:10:00am to 7:30pm

Tuesday, March 15th:9:45am to 4:30pm

Time for the PAWS Conference

I just got an email from the great Dr Eric Siegel, one of my many mentors in this field of learning analytics and data. There are just three more days left for the Early Bird Price- so if you are doing your Media Planning Budget – it is a good time to register here. You can click on the screenshot itself to go to Registration Page.