Do baseball managers remove starting pitchers too early? New research tackles sports analytics

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A unique model built by two CSAIL researchers indicates that major-league baseball managers have significant room to improve their decision-making.

At this weekend's MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (SSAC), EECS professor John Guttag and CSAIL PhD student Gartheeban Ganeshapillai will present their paper “A Data-driven Method for In-game Decision Making in MLB.”

Among their findings is that, while managers sometimes seem to remove starting pitchers too hastily, they even more frequently stick with starting pitchers too long. The study finds that from the fifth inning on, in close games, pitchers who were left in games when the model recommended replacing them allowed runs 60 percent of the time, compared to 43 percent of the time overall.

The model disagreed with the manager’s decision regarding his starting pitcher 48 percent of the time. About 43 percent of the time, the manager left the starting pitcher in when the model indicated he should be replaced. In just 5 percent of the cases did managers pull starting pitchers when the model suggested they should stay in the game.

Read the full story on MIT News: