Big Data And Baseball Fans: Business Analytics Goes MainstreamWhen Gartner reported in March that 42 percent of IT leaders have invested in Big Data or plan to do so in a year, a SiliconeANGLE headline read that Big Data was finally “going mainstream.”

Gartner’s stats are impressive indeed. But if you really need confirmation that Big Data analytics is going mainstream, look what’s happening in baseball. According to a recent article in The New York Times, as more Major League Baseball teams use data to make team-building decisions, they are leaning on sportscasters to help audiences better understand what the data means.

Big Data and Baseball

Robert Ford, 33, who was hired by the Houston Astros in the off-season to call games with Steve Sparks, explained that the team “wanted a broadcaster who is at least comfortable with exploring the idea of discussing advanced statistics and what they mean.”

“We need (sportscasters) to tell the story of how we are making decisions and putting the organization together,” George Postolos, the Houston Astros’ president and chief executive, told the newspaper.

For example, why was Ben Zobrist added to the team’s lineup? As the pre-game notes to the media explained, Zobrist has a high WAR (wins above replacement) ranking, which is a measure of a player’s offensive and defensive contributions relative to others who play his position and could replace him.

Apparently, all of the Big Data details are not going over the heads of the fans. For millions of them – especially fantasy league enthusiasts – stats like WAR, VORP (value over replacement player), and BABIP (batting average on balls in play) are important numbers. Like real team management, fantasy team owners give these and other stats a lot of weight when selecting players.

Fan interest in player data is so strong that providing this information is now considered part of the fan experience at ballparks. For example, at Yankee Stadium kiosks provide fans with the opportunity to play fantasy baseball scenarios utilizing over 100 years of team data rendered with the help of SAP software.

If the guys up the radio booth are going to be talking Sabermetrics, –the analysis of baseball through statistics that measure in-game activity – might Gartner be understating how many businesses will invest in Big Data?

According to the report, one of the reasons why companies are taking a harder look at Big Data is in response to the increasing media coverage of it. “This makes IT and business leaders worry that they are behind competitors in launching their big data initiatives,” Frank Buytendijk, research vice president at Gartner.

If fantasy league owners fantasy team managers are crunching numbers to select a utility infielder, it’s a good bet that business leaders will take a closer look at Big Data too.