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Mets, Thunder11 host tech panel at Citi Field

There was talk of data and sabermetrics in Queens just before the Mets played the A's.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Before the Mets’ two-game-series opener against the A’s earlier this week, the Mets and Thunder11 hosted a meetup at Citi Field, the main focus of which was a panel discussion of data and technology in the auditorium tucked away behind the upper corner of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.

While the panel included professionals from various walks of life—health care, government, media, and education—a couple of the panelists were specifically sports-related: Dan Wawrzonek, Senior Manager of Projects and Information Technology at Major League Baseball, and Russ D'Souza, co-founder of SeatGeek.

The panel spoke about what baseball teams could learn from startups and data. Wawrzonek talked about baseball teams trying to find diamonds in the rough by "finding a formula that works" for them and gave the example of the early-2000s Moneyball A’s. He mentioned that MLB is collecting over a thousand data points on each player and how teams have expanded their IT departments to try to make sense of all the information.

Wawrzonek also touched on player comparisons—trying to find similar players based on performance by age and level—as a tool of evaluation. He pointed to the Athletics again, this time noting how they had become a great team by identifying players from other teams’ minor league systems.

Later in the panel, Wawrzonek touched on the brand new FieldF/X technology, some examples of which have been shared with the public. He spoke at length about the system’s ability to measure and judge the efficiency of a route an outfielder takes when fielding a fly ball. He sounded excited about the future of defensive analysis, which makes sense since the system would provide an objective take on how players perform in the field and on the bases.

As for SeatGeek, D’Souza talked a bit more about the business side of baseball and the challenges his company faces in bringing together ticket data from multiple outlets and presenting in a way that helps fans find the best deals on tickets.

And once the panel wrapped up, the packed house in the auditorium got to watch one of the most entertaining games of the Mets’ 2014 season.