Industrial Engineers need to be a part of major league baseball team planning. The ability to utilize this discipline is important to the game of baseball. Industrial Engineering has integrated into the game with the increase of technology by using newer tech like high speed cameras and computer algorithms to analyzes players mechanics to both improve and evaluate their skills. Baseball has received many contributions from industrial engineering including, box scores, video study, pitch counts, on base percentage. It is important for the business of baseball to continue to look to industrial engineering techniques to improve the game.
Can Industrial Engineering really be that important to baseball? This displicine has provided more contributions to the current game of baseball than most realize. There have been people who have looked to understanding of analytics and advanced concepts to play the game more efficiently since the late 1800’s. These men were however limited in the concepts they could explore due to the lack of technological advancements. In the last few decades technology caught up with what these men had envisioned for the game, and these concepts have become increasingly more important in the game today. The business of professional baseball should continue to look to industrial engineering techniques to improve the game.
Because of the importance of statistics and mathematical analysis of baseball, it is more important than ever to continue to create a more concise relationship between industrial engineering techniques and the game of baseball. The four areas of industrial engineering, which are operations research, ergonomics, manufacturing, and management, all align well to areas of the game of baseball. Operations research includes mathematical tools like statistical analysis, linear programming, and simulation modeling (1). Baseball has been slow to catch up to this concept in recent years, but in the late 1800’s, that was not the case. Scientific baseball, which is synonymous with the term small ball, was used actively as far back as the 1870s. (3) The charting of different statistics known as the box score were first used in 1858 by a British writer named Henry Chadwick (4). Using Platooning, which is setting up specific baseball players against each other for a specific advantage (using left handed pitchers against right handed batters and vice versa) was used as a strategy in the 1870’s by Cap anson’s Chicago White Stockings (3).
These amazing analysis were dropped in the early to mid 1900’s because there were huge home run hitters that created excitement in the game. Small ball and platooning were considered poor management techniques during this time (3). However, in the 1970’s, The Society for American Baseball Research, SABR, was born. Today’s term Sabermetrics is a direct result from the term SABR and adding the measurement metrics to it. SABR began using the new computing technology to gather and interpret large amounts of statistical baseball information. Baseball is a numbers game easily shown by the analysis around the number of pitches, hits, outs, and scores (4). The game itself encourages the use of numerical analysis. If you listen to sportscast or read any sports article today, you would be hard pressed to not find the term sabermetrics used.
Ergonomics, also known as human engineering, is the second aspect of industrial engineering that is used in baseball. The study of human factors engineering analyzes work primarily from three perspectives: anthropometric, the study of the dimensions of the human body; physiological, the study of the demands of physical exertion on the human body; and psychological, the study of the mental affects of work on the body (Puerzer 2002, 5). The idea behind human engineering in baseball is to make things safer. Branch Rickey, in 1952, began using special plastics helmets for the fielders and batters. Baseball phycologists have been incorporated as early as 1970 in baseball academies (6). Frank Gilbreth was the first to begin filming motions in slow motion, so they could studied and baseball as made studying film a huge part of the game (2). Pitch counts have reduced dramatically since the 1960s because people are beginning to understand the harm to pitchers. Also, the increase of relief pitchers has emerged from the reduction of starting pitchers usage (7).
Manufacturing and management has changed through the years as the game has changed. Manufacturing efficiency techniques have been brought to the game through equipment and technology. Specialized equipment encourages an upward level of play. Baseball Management has definitely changed. Specialized corporate management has become the norm as teams have added pitching, batting, bench, and hitting coaches to a team. Joe Torres was extremely successful in the 1990’s with the Yankee organization and relied heavily on other coaches in his organization like Don Zimmer to discuss what was needed for each game (7 and 8).
Baseball seems to have been slow to rejuvenate the statistical analysis of the game. The concepts of industrial engineering is very important to the game and I believe the organizations should have a Chief of Statistical Analysis, which is as important as any other C level in a corporation. It is good to see that some of the more successful managers have backgrounds in something other than sports. For instance, Tony LaRussa has a bachelor degree in industrial engineering. He has been very successful as a baseball coach for the Cardinal organization. Joe Girardi, who recently managed the Yankees also holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering (8).
Because of the importance of statistics and mathematical analysis of baseball, it is more important than ever to value the intricate relationship between concepts of industrial engineering and baseball. The industrial engineering concepts of operations research, ergonomics, manufacturing, and management have reshaped the game of baseball through a variety of ways. We are fortunate that the baseball business is supporting the concepts and as a result, baseball is a better game.