Luck, Law, and Baseball: Two Stories About Sports and Data

  • Speaker
  • Anette Hosoi, Ph.D.Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Date & Time

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Simons Foundation Lectures are free public colloquia related to basic science and mathematics. These high-level talks are intended for professors, students, postdocs and business professionals, but interested people from the metropolitan area are welcome as well.
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In the age of big data, sports possess many features that make them an ideal testing ground for new analyses and algorithms. In this lecture, Anette “Peko” Hosoi will describe two studies that lie at the intersection of sports and data.

The first is a collaboration with FanDuel, one of the largest providers of daily fantasy sports. Fantasy sports have experienced a surge in popularity in the past decade. This recent rapid growth has brought increased scrutiny surrounding the legal aspects of the games, which typically hinge on the relative roles of skill and chance in the outcome of a competition. While there are many ethical and legal arguments that enter into the debate, the answer to the skill versus chance question is grounded in mathematics. In this talk, Hosoi will analyze data from daily fantasy competitions and propose a new metric to quantify the relative roles of skill and chance in games and other activities. Hosoi will then apply this metric to professional sports, fantasy sports, cyclocross racing, coin flipping, and mutual fund data to determine the relative placement of all of these activities on a skill-luck spectrum.

Hosoi will later describe a collaboration with Major League Baseball to determine the physics behind the recent increase in the rate of home runs. In this part of the talk, Hosoi will enumerate different potential drivers for the observed increase and evaluate the evidence in the data (box score, ball tracking, weather, etc.) in support of each theory.

About the Speaker

Hosoi is associate dean of engineering and Neil and the Jane Pappalardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. She received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago and went on to become an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in the MIT Department of Mathematics and at the Courant Institute, NYU. She is a leader in the study of the hydrodynamics of thin fluid films and the nonlinear physical interaction of viscous fluids and deformable interfaces. Her work spans multiple disciplines including physics, biology and applied mathematics, and is being used, in collaboration with Schlumberger-Doll Research, Bluefin Robotics, and Boston Dynamics to guide the engineering design of robotic crawlers and other mechanisms.

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