Taken from LinkedIn
Thanks to LinkedIn, which has been a great source finding contacts for previous interviews, writers, etc., we have the pleasure of interviewing Nicole L. Burdett, Stats Supervisor at MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM).
I started out asking Nicole what she did for work before being employed by MLB and how she got the job. She said, “Right out of college, I worked for a small weekly newspaper in Queens, NY and then moved on to Business Wire, a company that edits, formats, and distributes press releases. It was at Business Wire that I met and became friendly with someone who left to work at MLB. I initially interviewed for a part-time position, taking half inning updates for the minors. But, to my surprise, I was offered a full-time position instead.” And when I asked her how she become a Stats Supervisor at MLBAM, what skills are required and she replied, “I started as an Assistant, mainly organizing and ensuring the smooth operations of the logistics behind the Department. You know, dealing with vendors, making sure the phone systems the teams use to communicate with us are up to speed, and various other tasks. Soon, I began to cover Major League Gameday as well. After that first season, several of the Minor League clubs became interested in using Gameday as well, and Gameday’s use expanded into a number of Minor Leagues. At that point, I began working exclusively on Minor League Gameday, and over time became the point person for the IL (AAA), PCL (AAA), Texas (AA) and Southern (AA) Leagues.”
But what does a stats supervisor for MLBAM do daily basis during the season? Does that change during the offseason? “During the season I monitor Minor League Gameday. I work with a stringer at a ballpark, who inputs live pitch-by-pitch data. My job is to making sure that what they’re entering is accurate as it goes out live on our website. We have a coding system for our software, so I ensure that the codes both correctly reflect what happened in the game and match the official scorer’s decisions and official rules about how stats are attributed. Mind you, these two are not always in synch. So, there’s some – there’s a lot of baseball knowledge involved, for sure. But, there’s also a rather strong need for interpersonal skills as well. I perform this role for several stringers, that is several games, simultaneously.
“There are others performing similar roles, as there are many games. As a Supervisor I am also responsible for the other games in my leagues.
“We really don’t have an offseason per se. We cover five leagues during the winter (Mexico, Dominican, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Arizona Fall League), so there is baseball going on for us until about mid-February. Then we have no baseball until Spring Training starts.
“One of my major initiatives in the off season is to train new crops of stringers, who are hired by the teams. There’s a fairly high turnover rate among this group, as many of the stringers are interns, or young people getting started in their careers. So, there’s a fairly robust push to train new people every year – teach them how to use the software, the coding language and so forth. Each team is supposed to have multiple employees capable of operating the software as well.”
“During the season, I manage a staff of about six. Of course this doesn’t include the stringers who work in the ballparks, but they are all employed through the Minor League teams.
“All of the employees that I manage, help to do what I do, watch the data being inputted by our stringer in the park. We all work one-on-one with stringers to ensure that our data is accurate.”
As a MLBAM stats supervisor, who do you work with (teams or other MLBAM employees)? “I personally work with 48 teams for MiLB Gameday, as well as MLBAM employees. I work with their public relations people. I work with the Human Resources arms at times, to specify our needs. On occasion, I work with the official scorers at games – crazy plays are fairly common in the minors and it’s not totally uncommon that figuring out how to score something is a group effort…
Sometimes we work with MiLB.com’s editorial staff based upon potential storylines in a given game.”
Where do you manage this from seeing that there are 30 MLB teams with up to 15 games going on, triple A games and the Texas and Southern League Double A games you also cover? “Our stats operations are centralized at our offices in New York City. We have additional staff across the country, this includes our stringers.”
Previously we spoke about a program called MLB Gameday, can you explain to our readers what MLB Gameday is? “Gameday is a live pitch-by-pitch application available on MLB.com and MiLB.com. There are stringers at every ballpark who follow the game and enter the pitches and plays in real-time. The codes they enter are translated and the output shows up on your computer at home.”
What type of stats do you work with and are Sabermetrics used or just your basic, run of the mill stats? “On our site, we provide stats from W, L, HR, H, AVG, ERA to OPS and WHIP. We break down league leaders, individual and team accomplishments. We have partnerships with various companies to provide stats to everyone from the novice fan to the club executive. Besides the regular stats provided, we have PITCH f/x data for the Major Leagues. PITCHf/x is a combination of hardware and software that tracks baseballs as they move from pitcher to batter. The system calculates the ball’s trajectory and derives data such as: pitch speed at any point during a pitch, ball location at the front of home plate, and the amount of break (movement). All of these stats are distributed to various outlets.
“For me, Sabermetrics is a philosophy that one applies to their understanding of the game. With that said, raw data and basic stats are used to create a “Sabermetric” stat. Without .SLG or .AVG, you wouldn’t get a stat like ISO (Isolated Power), so in essence the stats we provide, help to determine more intricate ones.”
Well, that concludes my interview with the stats supervisor at MLBAM, Nicole L. Burdett. I’d like to thank Nicole for taking the time out of her busy schedule to do this interview with us and to say that if she ever needs a reliable employee from the Boston area, I just might be available! I hoped you all learned to appreciate what goes on behind the scenes of MLB Gameday after hearing what she had to say about it & the constant turn around she has to deal with on her job. I know I do.