STATS’ Data Science Team Wins Research Paper Grand Prize at MIT Sloan Sports Conference
STATS LLC contributed to the Grand Prize-winning research paper at the 10th Annual MIT Sloan Sports Conference in the Research Paper track, finishing ahead of seven other studies submitted by sports industry professionals and student researchers.
Presented by Patrick Lucey, STATS’ Director of Data Science, the paper was entitled The Thin End of the Wedge: Accurately Predicting Shot Outcomes in Tennis Using Style and Context Priors. The aim of the research was to discover player-specific patterns of player movement and ball striking in tennis which are indicative of changing the probability of winning a point in professional tennis. Using optical tracking data from over 37,000 shots at the Australian Open over a three year period, the paper identifies the types of shots that enable players to gain small advantages that eventually lead to securing points.
“We have an enormous amount of fine-grain data available in professional sports now,” says Lucey. “The key insight of this work was that instead of just having a large number of statistics to peruse, the data allows us to focus on specific situations and interactions which is more meaningful to coaches and analysts.”
In addition to Lucey, the paper was written by Felix Wei, Stuart Morgan, Machar Reid, and Sridha Sridharan in a collaboration between the STATS Data Science Team, the Australian Institute of Sport, Tennis Australia, and Queensland University of Technology.
“This insight could only be obtained from working intimately with domain experts like Stuart and Machar,” adds Lucey. “This was a tremendous collaboration between all institutions.”
Each year the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Research Paper Competition presents exciting new insights on a wide range of sports. The competition provided an opportunity to highlight new research in front of a panel of industry decision-makers including Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com. It is an important platform for new contributions to the analytical discourse in professional sports. This year, the eight competition finalists featured research on pressing in soccer, MLB brand engagement, ball screen defense in the NBA, and the hot-hand fallacy.