Manhattanville College happy with performance in SABR Analytics Conference Case Competition


Manhattanville College’s Graduate Program in Sports Business Management, participated in a case competition last week against several other graduate and undergraduate programs as part of the SABR Analytics Conference. Unfortunately for my former classmates, the title went to a team from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, but the experience was one of a lifetime for team captain C.J. Hangen, Matt Adams, Anthony Durante and Matt Healy.

The Case Competition was developed by SABR President Vince Gennaro, author of Diamond Dollars: The Economics of Winning in Baseball. The case involved the Washington Nationals. Teams were put in the situation where the Nationals were sitting at a point near the trade deadline, and had to determine if they were buyers or sellers. Teams were given a host of information to base their decisions. They had to provide reasoning as to why they went in the direction that they did and back it with sound baseball analytical thinking and data. After the first round was completed, Gennaro added a wrinkle to the case for the participants in the final round which involved super-agent Scott Boras.

The final round also involved University of Florida’s Hough Graduate School of Business and Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management. The final round was judged by Gennaro; Laurel Prieb, Major League Baseball’s Vice President of Western Operations; and Dave Studenmund, founder of The Hardball Times.

Here are some thoughts from Manhattanville College team captain, C.J. Hangen on his team’s performance:

CC: How did Manhattanville respond to the situation?

CH: (Author’s Note: there is substantial backup data to the following which cannot be posted due to space contraints, this is a short summary of the Manhattanville presentation)

We decided to go the “buy” route and trade Tanner Roark for Brandon Phillips (Phillips being on the market was an assumption) and taking on his $6 million remaining in salary. We believe that with some improvements on the current roster (as noted in the case: Stephen Strasburg & Gio Gonzalez would get 15 more combined starts and Jayson Werth was playing like he did on the Phillies) that the Nationals could improve to an 86 in team (the case showed them at 43-44 on July 8th). The addition of Phillips would allow the Nationals to move Danny Espinosa from 2B to SS and Phillips to fill in at 2B (removing Ian Desmond from the lineup, who the case said was slumping). We believed that this would add 3 wins (calculated by a prorated adjusted WAR) and make the Nationals an 89 win team.

Since the average over the past decade to win what is now the second wildcard is 88 wins, we believed that the Nationals’ potential for 89 wins made it worth the chance. We also wanted to bring up Bryce Harper (was said to be tearing up the minor leagues, and we calculated his potential revenue to the team based off of Strasburg’s effect two years ago), because any effect he would have on-field would be a bonus (considering he would be replacing Roger Bernadina, moving Harper to RF and Werth to CF) we only predict he would need to be a 2.8 WAR player). Even if we do miss out on the playoffs a move like this would build trust with the fans of a franchise that is already on the cusp of constant contention. Also, we felt we could potentially let Edwin Jackson walk and collect 2 draft picks if we offered him arbitration.

As for re-signing Phillips we don’t necessarily think it would be a good move; which is why we gave up a low-level prospect and $6 million instead of one of our top prospects such as Robbie Ray.

CC: Did the team feel it was prepared to take on the question at hand?

CH: We were about as prepared as we could be. We were well versed in Vince Gennaro’s methods from Diamond Dollars and fully understood all of the concepts. We hadn’t received a trade deadline project in any of our classes but we still felt good about the issues presented in the case.

CC: Was there something the team wishes it studied more?

CH: The one thing that we could have studied more was how to re-create the win-curve and playoff probability curve. Our team has a strong understanding of baseball statistics and how best to utilize them, but our advanced statistical capabilities were limited compared to other teams.

CC: Name some of the conference participants you enjoyed hearing from and what they discussed.

CH: The University of Florida and Northwestern were my favorite presentations to watch but the University of Chicago, the competition winners, also did an amazing job and deserved to win. It was a great learning experience to be able to watch other top business schools and their approaches to the case.

CC: Did you meet anyone you’ve been hoping to?

CH: All of the judges were great and while we did not get too much one on one time (we were busy finalizing the case) it was great interacting with them during the Q&A portion of the competition.

CC: What new knowledge did you take away from the conference and competition?

CH: While we did not win I think we can all agree that we are truly proud of how our case came out and how we represented Manhattanville. Yes, we could have had some more advanced math to enhance our case but we were able to make a compelling argument and backed it up with solid logic. After looking at the other presentations we felt confident that our overall baseball knowledge (statistics, player personnel, and roster configurations) was at least at the same level of the other schools.

CC: Is there anything you’d like to add about the conference itself?

CH: Cleveland Indians’ President, Mark Shapiro’s interview was really great and so was his point that every man must figure out their own strengths and do it his way (referring to him coming in as GM to the Indians). From the competition we all got a chance to see how some of the top business schools in the country operate. The bar is set high and the future of statistical analytics in baseball is bright.

As always, SABR and Vince Gennaro did a great job putting on a great convention and competition. I am sure the SABR Analytics Conference and Case Competition will have a long history and I just feel lucky to have been a part of it. I am a little sad I am graduating and won’t be able to participate next year but I guess that will give me more time to enjoy the conference with a little less stress; can’t wait for 2013.

Thanks to C.J. for his insights. I for one am going to do my best to get out to this conference next year. Based on C.J.’s and others’ comments I’ve read relating to the conference, it was a hit.

Be sure to check out all of Call to the Pen’s transaction breakdowns for the 2011-12 offseason. You can follow Call to the Pen on Twitter at @FSCalltothePen or like us here on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed. You can follow Chris Carelli on Twitter at @Chris_Carelli.