Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane has been a longtime catalyst and champion of baseball's sabermetrics revolution. But he is now arguing that technology and data have only just begun to dramatically alter sports.
In an op-ed piece published in the Wall Street Journal, Beane writes that "technology will transform the social fabric of sport," and argues that technology will improve the game from little league to Major League Baseball. He also says that new technologies will allow front offices to evaluate players according to their fit on a team rather than on an individual level.
Beane argues that the technological revolution will allow sports, particularly baseball, to be more accessible to a greater quantity of players. From his piece:
The one constant in the future of sports will be the game that is played between the lines; baseball, in particular, embraces historical continuity. But what drives the game—those who play it, how their play is evaluated, and those who make the evaluations—will fundamentally change. As we have seen in other societal realms, technology is driving sports down the road toward increased access, diversity and meritocracy.
As Beane writes, rather than youth players failing to advance their careers because of poor sprinting speed, for instance, prospects can be evaluated based on what Beane calls "practiced skills." For example, the ability to maintain control and pitch with precision and accuracy to the corners of the strike zone is a skill that can be practiced, and Beane argues that baseball's technological revolution will allow talent evaluators to recognize these types of attributes.
Under Beane's direction, the A's have gone 56-33 this season, good for first place in the AL West, and are currently the holders of the best record in baseball. Though the A's have earned a spot in the postseason each of the last two seasons, they lost both times in the American League Division Series to the Detroit Tigers.
Baseball, for instance, has always been a game of insiders, played by those who could hit, run, field and throw a certain way, and managed by those who played well enough to eventually earn the keys to the front office. The old ideas of who should play in the big leagues, and who should decide who should play, will be replaced with new ideas.