During this past Spring Training, I attended the SABR Analytics Conference in Mesa, Arizona. There I was able to meet several people that work in baseball including Cory Schwartz. Cory is Vice President of Statistics for MLB.com and led the team that implemented the Pitch f/x system throughout baseball. He is also the co-host of the Fantasy 411 on MLB.com.
Cory was kind enough to answer 5 questions from True Blue LA.
1. Cory, can you describe a typical day at MLBAM (MLB Advanced Media) once the season starts?
Cory: There’s really no such thing… we cover over 17,000 live events per year, between the Majors, minors and winter leagues, so pretty much anything that can happen on a baseball field will happen at some point or another, and we have to deal with it. That involves everything from logistics (credentials, laptops, connectivity), to software and product development, to data validation and database management, to syndication and distribution. However, the fact that there is no "typical" day is what makes this job so great and exciting.
2. Any new features on Gameday we should look for this season?
Cory: Quite a few. The one I’ve worked on is called "Scout", which does data-mining of Pitch-f/x and other data to generate "color commentary" style messages to complement the fact-based play-by-play. The goal if this feature is to provide more insight into what’s happening on the field, such as when the pitcher is getting tired and it might be time for a call to the bullpen… Scout will try to find that out, and more. Some of the statements might look a little simplistic at the start of the season, since there’s very little data to work with, but as the season goes on the messages will become more sophisticated and insightful… we’re very excited about this. We’ve also added interactive mid-inning games like you might see on the scoreboard at your favorite ballpark, improved the integration of multimedia and video, and updated the batter and venue graphics. We think the product looks fantastic and is a great experience in which to follow the game.
3. As a fantasy baseball expert, which type of game (head-to-head, 5X5, Scoresheet) do you prefer and do you like drafts or auctions?
Cory: I’ve played in all formats and I’m torn between auctions and drafts, which both offer their own advantages and disadvantages. But I definitely prefer mixed leagues over unmixed, simply because there are players in both leagues who I’m bullish about in any given season, and I want to get as many of them on my rosters as I can without being limited by what league they play in.
4. I always thought one thing a fantasy player can do after their draft or auction is look for potential saves pitchers in the first few weeks of the season, one is that a good rule and two, what else should a savvy player do in April to stay ahead in the game?
Cory: I’m in the minority in that I like to invest relatively aggressively in closers in the my auctions and drafts. Closer failure is non-linear… there’s more of it at the bottom than at the top, so I prefer the relatively certainty of top-tier closers. In addition, the top-tier closers provide better ratios and more strikeouts than lower-tier closers, so not only do you get a safer return on your investment with them, you get better stats. Those who say "don’t pay for saves" are kidding themselves… either you pay on draft day, or in free agent bidding, or in a trade. I’d rather invest in them on draft day when I have all 30 clubs to choose from.
5. Many readers here love the Pitch f/x system, what made you think initially that fans wanted to see that kind of data while watching the game on their computer/mobile device?
Cory: Bringing Pitch-f/x to baseball was one of my first goals when I started with MLBAM in 2001; like many others I was introduced to the idea of this technology after seeing the yellow "first down line" in football, and once I learned about Sportvision, the company that pioneered that technology, I was eager to build a partnership with them in baseball. It took a few years to get it up and running but it was worth the wait… Pitch-f/x has been an incredible advancement for the entire baseball community, and now we’re just as eager to build and implement Field-f/x, too.
For more information and to ask Cory fantasy baseball questions, you can follow Cory on Twitter (@schwartzstops).
I hope you enjoy this and I plan to do more of these "5 question" segments throughout the season.