Understanding Predictive Analytics in Sports

April 29, 2020 • Shannon Flynn

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Like any other industry, sports today have taken full advantage of
technology. You’ve probably noticed that watching football now is an
entirely different experience than it was five years ago. One of the
most exciting of these changes is the use of predictive analytics in
sports.

When it comes to sports, predictive analytics has quite
literally changed the game. It influences everything from athletes’
training regimens to sports journalism to marketing. What exactly is
predictive analytics, and why is it such a big part of modern sports?

What Is Predictive Analytics?

Predictive
analytics is the practice of analyzing data to make predictions about
future outcomes. It comes hand-in-hand with another tech term you
might’ve heard before — big data. Big data provides people with loads of
information, and predictive analytics uses this information to foretell
the future. 

You can imagine how this technology would come in
handy for businesses. Companies use it to inform decisions about
budgeting, marketing, product ordering and more. It’s so valuable that 96% of organizations feel it will become more important to their operations in the next three years.

Most
predictive analytics systems today use artificial intelligence (AI).
Computers tend to be better at making connections between data points
than people. By feeding data into an AI-based predictive analytics
system, companies can get quick and often accurate projections.

How Do Sports Use Predictive Analytics?

How
does any of this information apply to sports? Professional leagues
aren’t just a source of entertainment — they’re businesses, too. A
baseball team is a company, so like any other organization, they can use
predictive analytics to improve their operations. 

If you’ve seen
“Moneyball,” you know how this works. Team owners, coaches or managers
can use player data to predict how they’ll perform under different
circumstances. They then use these predictions to refine how they
recruit and train players, helping them achieve their full potential.

Predictive
analytics in sports doesn’t just help athletes improve their game,
either. Leagues can use it to predict teams’ likelihood of winning a
championship to inform how they structure a tournament. Brands can use
it to determine how many people will watch a game, influencing how much
they spend on marketing.

Where Does This Data Come From?

For
these predictions to be accurate, the systems require a lot of data.
The more information you have to go off of, the better you’ll be able to
understand a situation. To make sure they get the most from their
predictive analytics investments, sports companies use hi-tech
data-gathering equipment.

Predictive analytics in sports includes
statistics like win percentages, but they don’t stop there. Major League
Baseball uses a two-part tracking technology called Statcast in
all of its stadiums. Statcast uses radar and high-speed cameras to
gather data like pitch speed, launch angle, player speed and arm
strength.

Professional and collegiate stadiums use technology like
this to track nearly every aspect of the game. Every time a player
moves or the crowd cheers, they create a data point that technology can
record. The information has always been there, but new advancements
finally allows people to track it.

The Hi-Tech World of Sports

As
technology advances, teams will be able to gather more granular data.
Gadgets like health wearables allow them to monitor a players’
physiology. With more informative data, athletes will continue to
improve thanks to better predictive analytics.

Sports these days may be more hi-tech than you realize. Next time you’re watching a game, look at all the stats on the screen and consider how they get them. Technology like predictive analytics makes sports what they are today.

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