December 4, 2018 10:03 pm

We Dive Into Moneyball 2.0 – The World of Professional Soccer

Moneyball is one of my favorite films ever. If you’re unfamiliar, it tracks the story of the Oakland A’s and how their General Manager Billy Beane implemented data-driven statistics to build a winning team. It’s a cinematic, can’t-look-away-type movie about baseball, a sport that I find boring and repetitive. Every time I watch Moneyball, which is once or twice or five times a year, the same thought always occurs to me: how did no one think of implementing this big data method sooner?

Soccermetrics graphic with data by DataFactory LA.

Credit: Soccermetrics, with data by DataFactory LA.

On this episode of Playing with Science, we are investigating Moneyball 2.0 – the world of professional soccer, or football as it’s known outside of the United States. Hosts Chuck Nice and Gary O’Reilly sit down with Dan Altman from North Yard Analytics and Howard Hamilton from Soccermetrics Research, two people who are leading the charge for data analytics in the world of football. Gary’s background as a former professional footballer and his insights add another dimension to this already fascinating conversation.

You’ll hear how data analytics got started in soccer and what metrics are most commonly looked at. Discover the difference between “tracking data” and “match data.” We explore how productive data is by looking at the case-study of Wayne Rooney, England’s all-time leading scorer, and his transition from the English Premier League to Major League Soccer in the US.

Find out if the attributes of winning can be expressed with numeric value. Unpack the difference between “mechanistic” modeling and “agnostic” modeling when evaluating a player’s contributions. We explore how you eliminate biases when creating computer models, and how coaches implement the data that Dan and Howard provide.

You’ll hear about passing networks and how they function, and Howard tells us about “eigenvector centrality” and how it functions within a passing network. All that, plus, we look at the future of big data in football. Curious what this episode will be like? Well, Gary sums it up perfectly – “This is the closest I get to nerding out.”

Please join us tomorrow night for Moneyball 2.0 – Soccer Edition  right here on our website, as well as on our Playing with Science channels on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Ian Mullen


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