New England Symposium on Statistics in Sports Bridges Gaps
Scott Evans and Mark Glickman
The 2013 New England Symposium on Statistics in Sports (NESSIS) was held September 21 at the Harvard University Science Center. The symposium format was a mixture of invited talks, a poster session, and a panel discussion that drew a diverse crowd of approximately 180, including attendees from at least 30 states.
NESSIS was highlighted by two featured talks. First, Jim Albert, executive editor of the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, spoke about assessing streakiness in home run hitting. The second featured talk was a presentation by Richard Smith of SAMSI about completing the results of the 2013 Boston Marathon. This talk had special significance given its connection to Lingzi Lu, a master’s degree student in statistics at Boston University who died in the marathon bombings.
NESSIS also featured a panel consisting of Vince Gennaro, president of SABR; Ben Baumer, former statistical analyst for baseball operations for the New York Mets; Eric M. Van, former sabermetric baseball operations consultant for the Boston Red Sox; and moderator Andy Andres, head coach and lead instructor of the MIT Science of Baseball program and Fenway Park datacaster/stringer for mlb.com and MLBAM (Gameday).
Abstract submissions to NESSIS included statistical applications to baseball, basketball, football, hockey, tennis, golf, soccer, cricket, squash, track, and more. Abstract submissions were critically screened to keep content quality high. Some of the presentations at the 2013 NESSIS will be published in a special sports statistics theme issue of CHANCE.
NESSIS was established by Mark Glickman and Scott Evans to enhance the communication and collaboration between statisticians and quantitative analysts connected with sports teams, sports media, and universities. The first NESSIS was held in 2007 and drew more than 100 registrants. The enthusiasm for the 2007 NESSIS inspired a second NESSIS that was held in 2009 and a third in 2011. Continued enthusiasm inspired the 2013 NESSIS, and the symposium is intended to be held biannually.
The reasons for running a sports statistics symposium are predicated on the need for advanced analytic methods in games and sports. The use of statistical methods in sports applications is growing rapidly. Sports teams use statistical analyses to evaluate players and game strategies, and sports associations develop ranking and ratings systems of players and teams. The evolution of the application of statistics to sports continues to be enhanced with extensive collaboration and interaction between sports analysts and professional statisticians. Unfortunately, opportunities for this collaboration are still relatively uncommon, as academic statisticians often work in isolation developing statistical methods for sports applications, while sports organizations often do not have access to well-trained statistical expertise and cutting-edge statistical tools for the analysis of sports data. The main goal of NESSIS is to bridge this gap.
NESSIS was sponsored by the Statistics in Sports Section of the ASA, the ASA Boston Chapter, the Harvard University Department of Statistics, ESPN Stats and Info, RStudio, Revolution Analytics, and Sports Data Hub.
The NESSIS founders hope that the enthusiasm generated from NESSIS will increase the collaboration between academic statisticians and analysts connected with sports teams and improve the quality of statistical design and analysis in sports. Future NESSIS events will continue to encourage the development of cutting-edge statistical thinking in sports applications and adaptations to evolving data collection technologies. Technical talk videos, presentation slides, photographs, and additional information about the 2013 NESSIS (as well as the 2007, 2009, and 2011 NESSIS events) can be found at the NESSIS website.