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Cubs director of research, development discusses statistics in baseball

Chris+Moore%2C+director+of+research+and+development+for+the+Chicago+Cubs%2C+speaks+at+the+Segal+Visitors+Center+on+Monday.+Moore+talked+about+his+use+of+algorithms+in+making+recommendations+for+the+team.+
Chris Moore, director of research and development for the Chicago Cubs, speaks at the Segal Visitors Center on Monday. Moore talked about his use of algorithms in making recommendations for the team.

Chris Moore, director of research and development for the Chicago Cubs, speaks at the Segal Visitors Center on Monday. Moore talked about his use of algorithms in making recommendations for the team.

Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Chris Moore, director of research and development for the Chicago Cubs, speaks at the Segal Visitors Center on Monday. Moore talked about his use of algorithms in making recommendations for the team.

Julia Esparza, Reporter

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Chris Moore, the director of research and development for the Chicago Cubs, spoke about the relationship between statistics and baseball on Tuesday.

Moore, who joined the team after the Chicago Cubs’ 2013 season, is tasked with creating statistical models for the team to track their likelihood of winning, predicting pitches and evaluating player performance. In an event hosted by One Book One Northwestern and held at Segal Visitors Center, Moore discussed the use of analytics in baseball to go along with the year’s theme of the importance of “big data.” About 70 people attended the event, which was moderated by economics Prof. Jeff Ely.

Moore said although algorithms are improving, he doesn’t think the need for people in the industry will diminish.

“There is the human factor involved; being able to prove analytically that a certain approach is better is only half the battle,” Moore said.

Moore said the algorithms he creates in the Cubs organization are meant to work with the traditional scouting practices. As an example, Moore said picking Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber in 2015 was “seen as a stretch.” He said some statistical models would not have ranked him as a very strong player, but his attitude as a player made him a good fit for the team.

Beyond the recruiting stage, Moore said he uses statistical analysis to give recommendations in pitches and substitutions to players and managers before the game begins. His statistical models are meant to inform managers about strategies to win. Moore said players often come to realize they can benefit from statistics once they understand them and leverage them.

“We use complex statistical models to answer the question ‘How do you win games, how do you win championships,’” Moore said.

Moore also creates algorithms for analyzing the statistics of prospective Cubs players. This research often translates to “dollars,” Ely said. After researchers configure statistics, economics comes into play when figuring how much a win will cost an organization, he said.

“You have to evaluate how many wins a player is going to be worth,” Moore said.

Yet Moore said errors still happen. While statistics often provide strong evidence for what type of pitch will be thrown, he said they can’t predict every action.

Andrew Dragunas, a third-year graduate student in biomedical engineering, attended the event and said he wanted to hear how Moore’s research related to his own field of study.

“I’m interested in how do you best maximize human performance,” Dragunas told The Daily. “It’s interesting how you can use statistics to maximize a player’s potential.”

Ely said baseball provides a platform for discussing a variety of topics beyond pitches and hits.

“I think about the data revolution and how it affects us in different spheres of our lives,” Ely said. “Sports is always interesting because it’s a microcosm. There is literal business but there is also strategy, there is politics, there is personality, there is crime and punishment.”

Email: juliainesesparza2020@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @juliaesparza10

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