Moneyball Reaches a Fever Pitch

Image Credit: Getty Images, szirtesi.

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Manchester City, the English Premier League soccer club, is well-known for striking splashy deals for the world’s top soccer talent.

During this season’s trading window, the club’s most significant addition wasn’t a young striker or a talented midfielder, it was a 39-year-old astrophysicist turned hedge fund analyst.

Laurie Shaw has joined Manchester City to lead “artificial intelligence insights.”

Moneyball Madness

An unlikely soccer club executive, Shaw studied astrophysics at Cambridge and Yale and worked at algorithmic hedge fund Winton Capital Management. For the last five years he worked as a statistician at the U.K. treasury.

Now, Shaw is playing a role in what has been described as an “arms race for PhD statistics and physics talent” to help use big data to better compete on the pitch. Shaw will use his big brain to:

  • Work on player identification, recruitment and individual development, pre and post-match analysis, and recruitment of coaches.
  • Build machine-based models to better manage player fatigue, injury, and illness.

Liverpool, last year’s Premier League champion, has reportedly pushed heavily into data science, which experts say contributed to its first league title in 30 years in 2020.

Billy Beane SPAC Fail

Last year Billy Beane, the baseball executive who was depicted in the film Moneyball, launched a SPAC to bring the same big-data tactics to Wall Street.

His SPAC, called RedBall Acquisition firm, was in talks to acquire a minority stake in the parent company of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool F.C. Last week the deal reportedly fell apart as RedBall couldn’t secure enough outside investment at the proposed price.

The Takeaway:

Red Sox fans won’t be able to buy stock in the team any time soon.