During the spring 2018 semester, Kelley MBA Class of 2018 students Justin Booms, Shayn Kail, Greg Khoury, Nick Pacchioli, and Yin-Cheng Tai earned 2nd place in a case competition dedicated to the analytics behind baseball at the 7th Annual SABR Analytics Conference, hosted by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
On March 2, 2018, the competition hosts released the specifics about the case that the team would explore in order to provide a realistic, thorough solution. The case asked the students to optimize the average angle for balls hit by four different major league hitters using data from publicly available sources. The students had just five days to do all their research and prepare a presentation of their analysis for a panel of judges comprised of representatives from Major League teams and the Major League Baseball (MLB) office.
The students went right to work using the knowledge they had gained from their Kelley courses. Justin specifically credits Kelley’s courses Predictive Analytics/Data Mining and Developing Strategic Capabilities because these two courses “allowed us to understand the process to approaching the problem with a thorough understanding of the data and layout the logic and order of the presentation using the pyramid principle [respectively].” The students’ analysis boiled down to this: Because there is no “one size fits all” batting approach, they used a nearest-neighbors analysis to group hitters based on attributes explaining their offensive success. Then, they took a weighted average of the ball launch angles of the offensively successful players in the same grouping and used this to optimize the launch angle. Finally, they used a gradient boosting regression model to predict the optimized launch angle. Importantly, they presented their solution in a way that enabled everyone, even people without much knowledge about analytics, to understand and appreciate their results.
Competing against the other teams in their bracket, they hit it out of the park, came out in 1st place, and went on to compete against the top team from each of the other three brackets. Overall, they took 2nd place out of 22 total teams and learned a lot from the experience, including a few things about themselves. Nick shares that “[the competition] was a great bridge between our coursework and how data is used in business situations. In addition, it was a great introduction to the power of machine learning and prompted me to take the Machine Learning course during my last semester at Kelley.”
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