Statistician steps up to the plate for Red Sox
There’s a lot of randomness and “noise” in baseball that sometimes obscures a player’s true talent level. But that’s where Tom Tippett comes in. As senior analyst for the Boston Red Sox, Tippett uses statistical methods to help the team make crucial decisions, such as what players to acquire and who to put on the field. Tippett, 57, spoke about how metrics is changing the front office of the Red Sox.
“When I was 8 years old, I told my mother I wanted to be chief statistician of the NHL. By 11, I discovered that baseball had a lot more numbers, and I was hooked. This was decades ago, but my passion for quantifying the sport never faded.
“I started an online baseball simulation game called Diamond Mind. In 2003, when the Red Sox clinched the playoff spot against Oakland, the team management wanted to simulate the series to help put together the right 25-man roster. Someone knew about Diamond Mind and contacted me to see if I could put something together. We came over to Fenway Park; that was the start of my relationship with the Red Sox.
“I work with others in the analytics department to develop the in-house baseball information system and database. It all comes down to trying to understand the game better. We have new ability to track player movement and location and follow the ball, right down to the velocity of the pitch, spin, and angle.
“The prediction systems we have are pretty good but never can be seen as highly accurate because baseball is a very complex game. A lot of things can happen. There are so many questions to answer. It’s hard to come by universal truth in baseball.
“And what is my prediction of how the Red Sox will do this year? I’m very optimistic. We are in a very tough division as always, so it won’t be easy, but I like our chances to bounce back.”