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Analytics & Data

The Hardest Thing to Do in Sport

(Image via Shutterstock)

(Image via Shutterstock)

The human brain and big data; our understanding and application of both are growing in scope and impact thanks to the increasing potential and power of tech.

One of the areas they’re increasingly coming together, however, might surprise you.

Jordan Muraskin and Jason Sherwin are two of a growing group bringing the science of mental analytics to professional sports and, more precisely, baseball.

Ted Williams once famously described hitting a baseball as “the hardest single thing to do in sport.” And for years, since long before the Splendid Splinter, people have been trying to better train baseball players, from t-ball to the majors, to put the bat on the ball. Over the years, managers, players, and front-office personnel have collected reams of information on hitters and pitchers, trying to mix together the secret sauce that would solve this vexing conundrum.

The “Moneyball” phenomenon took this data collection and application to new heights, helping teams find hidden gems and put together teams that years before would have gone unnoticed or caused people to scratch their heads in confusion.

But where the data was coming from was key. Everything that makes Moneyball, well, Moneyball, happens as a result of external action. You’re recording where a pitched ball goes, how far hit ball goes, when a batter swings, how hard a pitcher throws, and on and on.

What if you could begin to codify the internal processes that lead to those external results? What if, instead of the how, what, where, or when, you could begin to understand the why? Where would you have to look find it?

The brain, of course. And that’s exactly what Muraskin and Sherwin and their peers have set out to do. By capturing neural data in real time and beginning to learn what mental processes are driving them, they are working to identify the pathways that drive that success at the plate.

And if they can identify that acuity, a growing number of teams are betting they’ll be able to better ID the players that already have it, train the brains of the players that don’t, and find the real diamonds in the rough—outliers for whom hitting, because of a quirk of neural nature, is simply a gift.

For a deeper look into mental analytics and the companies like deCervo (Muraskin and Sherwin’s company), NeuroScouting LLC, and Axon, and teams such as the Red Sox, Cubs, and Rays, that are pushing through into this new frontier, read the full story, “Take Me Out to the Brain Game.”

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