Behold the Big Man – Ben Shields and Ivana Saric

Ben Shields, Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management

Excerpt from MIT Sloan Management Review

In the NBA’s modern era of pace and space, small ball, and chucking away from three, it feels like there’s no more place for the lumbering 7-foot center who used to be the backbone of the league. But the burgeoning field of defensive analytics shows that this “dinosaur” might not be going extinct just yet. Ben speaks with Ivana Saric, data scientist for the Philadelphia 76ers, about how defensive analytics are changing pro basketball and the roles of the people who play it.

Listen to the podcast at MIT Sloan Management Review.

Ben Shields is a Senior Lecturer in Managerial Communication at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Buyer beware! MLB free agents underperform their contracts – Ben Shields and Paul Michelman

Paul Michelman, editor-in-chief of MIT Sloan Management Review

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

From MIT Sloan Management Review

Almost every team’s fans can point to a high-profile, free-agent signing that fell flat. Sometimes the reasons for the player’s underperformance are clear — injuries, for example. But often, it’s harder to pinpoint the cause. In those cases, we tend to point to lack of effort as the culprit. This is what researchers call shirking. According to Richard Paulsen, who presented his paper, “New Evidence in the Study of Shirking in Major League Baseball,” at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, “Shirking occurs when an employee exerts effort … that is suboptimal in the eyes of the employer.” Paulsen speaks with us about his research on shirking and his belief that the Phillies are going to regret at least one free-agent signing from this off-season.

Listen to the full podcast here.

Ben Shields is a Senior Lecturer in Managerial Communication at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

How much do coaches actually matter? – Paul Michelman and Ben Shields

Paul Michelman, editor-in-chief of MIT Sloan Management Review

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

Excerpt from MIT Sloan Management Review

Bill Snyder at Kansas State. Eddie Robinson at Grambling. Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Gregg Popovich with the Spurs. It’s hard to underestimate the impact these coaches have had on their organizations. But are coaches always an X factor? Just look at the Golden State Warriors. Dominating as they have been under Steve Kerr’s steady guiding hand, they have been every bit as successful — actually statistically even more successful — during Kerr’s two extended absences from the team when Luke Walton and then Mike Brown (not exactly Hall of Fame coaches) took the helm. Which brings us to the question of the day: How much do coaches actually matter? Well, two researchers from the University of Chicago just might have the answer.

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#MITSloanExperts and #MITSMRChat: Sports Analytics, Basketball IQ, and Lessons for Leaders

Join us for a follow up conversation to MIT Sloan Management Review’s Counterpoints podcast with Ben Shields and Ben Alamar

Ben Shields

Ben Shields

How do you define basketball intelligence? Is basketball IQ a byproduct of the coach’s system or is it specific to the players? And the biggest question:

Would NBA teams make fewer draft mistakes if they measured basketball IQ?

Join us on Twitter Thursday, December 6th at 12pm ET for a follow up conversation to MIT Sloan Management Review’s Counterpoints podcast featuring Ben Shields (@BenRyanShields) and Paul Michelman (@pmichelman) and Counterpoints guest Ben Alamar (@BenCAlamar). Shields is a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Michelman is the editor in chief at MIT Sloan Management Review. Alamar is a sports analytics expert, the author of Sports Analytics: A Guide for Coaches, Managers, and Other Decision Makers, and the former director of sports analytics at ESPN.

Listen to the November 15th podcast episode where Ben Alamar will defend this hypothesis: NBA teams would make fewer draft mistakes if they measured basketball IQ.

Do you agree? Disagree? What questions do you have for them that they didn’t get to? Test your own basketball IQ during our conversation. We’ll be asking questions of the audience and want to hear from you. Jump on Twitter and follow along beginning at 12 pm on December 6th using #MITSloanExperts and #MITSMRchat.

About Counterpoints: Counterpoints is a new sports analytics podcast for sports professionals, data junkies, and fans alike. It’s a show for anyone who knows that numbers are about much more than the score. Hosts Ben Shields (MIT Sloan School of Management) and Paul Michelman (MIT Sloan Management Review) engage the world’s premier sports analytics experts in a lively, occasionally controversial, conversation about what’s really happening both on and off the field. Listen to a podcast preview here.

Tech could soon take over all of the sports you watch – Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

From Fortune

The sports industry is engaged in a grand digital experiment with technology platforms. The latest test was announced last week, when the National Football League (NFL) sold its 10-game Thursday Night Football digital package to Amazon. As when Twitter held it last year, the games will be simulcast on network (CBS or NBC) and cable (NFL Network) television. However, unlike the free access Twitter offered, only Amazon Prime members will be able to watch Thursday night games this year. Given Prime’s non-exclusivity and pay wall, if Thursday Night Football on Amazon leads to increases in year-over-year viewership and contributes to the growth of Prime subscribers, the NFL and Amazon executives could call it a win.

As encouraging as that result would be, this experiment is really about the early 2020s, which is when the NFL will be making major decisions about distributors for its most valuable rights packages. How can tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, Netflix, and Twitter become big rights winners at that point? And what can traditional broadcasters do now to avoid being left behind? This long-term sports rights game will be won through reach and revenue.

When sports leagues sell their live distribution rights, they want to maximize both reach and revenue. If technology companies can help leagues achieve these goals more effectively than their existing television partners, the sports media landscape will look dramatically different a decade from now.

Tech firms must prove their reach

There’s never been any doubt as to whether technology companies have the resources to invest in sports rights. The question has been whether such moves made long-term strategic sense for both parties. As technology platforms launch and grow competitive video businesses, they are beginning to put to rest concerns about their suitability as distribution partners, as they now have clear incentives to make rights deals successful over the long term.

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