Morgan Stanley
  • Ideas Podcast
  • Jun 21, 2018

When Baseball’s Free Agents Struck Out

Hosted by Ashley Milne-Tyte
How Data Analysis is Changing the Business of the Game

What does the collapse of a once healthy market for top sports talent say about how data analytics is transforming traditional markets everywhere?

For the past 40 years, Major League Baseball’s off-season has been dominated by a frenzied bidding war to sign available free-agents. But this year, everything changed—the free-agent market froze. For months, almost none of the 200 free agents were signed. So what happened? And what does the market shift mean for the future of America’s pastime?

This season of the Ideas Podcast, we’ve been exploring unexpected markets. In this episode, we’ll look at what happens when a seemingly healthy market unexpectedly collapses. We talk to Ben Reiter, a journalist at Sports Illustrated who made a crazy prediction in 2014—that the Houston Astros, the then-worst team in baseball, would win the 2017 World Series. That Ben’s call came true wasn’t just a fluke—but reflected how teams now approach hiring players, particularly free agents. Then, J.C. Bradbury, a professor at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, takes us deep into the economics of baseball to explain why it has become suddenly good business to field a losing team. And Lou Pirenc, the Global Head of Research Data at Morgan Stanley, tells us about how baseball’s longstanding obsession with player statistics, and more recent expansion of data analysis into every aspect of the game as a business, has enthusiastic adherents and practitioners in every corner of the global market.

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