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Cincinnati Reds Put Data Metrics To Work

Reds GM Dick Williams says the data analytics department is kind of like a laboratory, always working and innovating.

Reds General Manager Dick Williams didn't take the traditional career path to running a professional baseball team. For years he was an investment banker and venture capitalist. In the ten years Williams has worked for the Reds he's taken a closer look at what baseball calls sabermetrics. (SABR-Society for American Baseball Research)

Sabermetrics, or data metrics, uses statistical analysis to acquire undervalued players or make current players better. This idea was widely popularized in the movie Moneyball.


Recently the Reds expanded its data analytics department to include a Director of Sports Science. Williams says, "I certainly don't take any credit for beginning any type of analytic movement. You know, I'm just a student of the game and I read all of these fascinating websites and articles out there about innovations and I want to bring as much of that as I can to our group and I've challenged them to add it to our department and incorporate what we're doing already."

There is no shortage of information. Here's what's available to the public: MLB.com, Baseball- Reference.com  The Lahman Database, and Retrosheet.org . In addition teams are developing their own database.

Stadium technology using PITCHf/x takes thousands of pictures showing:

(for pitchers)

  • leg stride
  • the point of release
  • the number of rotations

(for hitters)

  • launch angle
  • the backspin of the ball
  • the speed of the ball when it left the bat

(for outfielders)

  • how quickly the fielder reacted
  • the most efficient route
  • speed and acceleration

According to Williams, "We're getting massive amounts of information, hundreds of gigabits of information, more than we've ever gotten before on a nightly basis. We're building out our analytics teams to handle that and the other sports are going through the same type of data revolution."
However, the Reds are not relying entirely on sabermetrics. Williams says, "you will never get away from scouting and seeing players with your own eyes. The teams that succeed are the teams that use both."

Former sports reporter and author Lonnie Wheeler agrees. He wrote Intangiball and was interviewed by WVXU's Howard Wilkinson. Wheeler stresses there is still room for intangibles like good team chemistry and veterans teaching young players how to behave and perform in the big leagues.

Don't look for a slow down on data metrics. The Reds and other teams are testing out special bats during spring training and exhibitions that can record, collect and transmit swing data in real time.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.