Book Review: Sports Analytics: A Guide for Coaches, Managers, and Other Decision Makers by Benjamin Alamar

Benjamin Alamar is a pioneer in sports analytics, founding the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports and consulting for many pro teams, including five seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He shares his body of knowledge of how to implement analytics in sports in this quick, non-technical read.

If you don’t know anything about analytics or how it can be relevant to a sports team, never fear. Dr. Alamar starts at the beginning – the long term competitive strategy for an organization, or winning. He then introduces a framework of how analytics can save decision makers time and arm them with more information to generate competitive advantage. He introduces and explains the core aspects of any analytics program: 1) Data Management 2) Analytic Models 3) Information Systems and 4) Analytic Leadership in a way accessible to anyone with no experience with statistics or computer science.

Through a survey of pro sports teams and concrete examples from the NBA, NFL, MLB and the English Premier League, Dr. Alamar demonstrates the current and future uses of analytics in sports, from better informing the amateur draft process to minimizing the risk of player injuries. Some examples even name the teams and players involved. It’s interesting and thought-provoking how, for example, the Thunder analyzed UCLA prospect Russell Westbrook’s fit as a point guard at the NBA level when Westbrook played shooting guard in college.

Dr. Alamar also tackles the question of how decision makers with great knowledge of their sport but no analytics experience can recognize good analytical work and make the right decisions in regards to hiring and structuring an analytics department, and how those people can then ensure that the department is contributing to the long-term competitive strategy of the organization. Through the book’s perspectives from both the decision makers’ and the analysts’ point of view, one group can learn how to better communicate with the other to achieve the mutual goal of winning games.

Perhaps the best part about the book for anyone already working or aspiring to work with teams at any level, from recreational to professional, is that it inspires ideas to think of ways to apply the lessons learned by one team to another. Who knows? Armed with the inspiration from the pro teams mentioned in the book, you could come up with the next breakthrough to help teams gain a competitive advantage and win more games!

Nik Oza
Georgetown University Class of 2016

Follow Ben Alamar on twitter: @benalamar
Follow Nik Oza on twitter: @NikOza2
Follow GSABR on twitter: @GtownSports

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