May 15Liked by Neil Paine

In 1976, while sitting in our family car and talking incessantly about how otherworldly Doctor J. was, my father turned to me and said to me "son, we all stand on the shoulders of giants of who came before us. Without Elgin Baylor, there would be no Doctor J." I had never heard of Elgin Baylor and left the car unconvinced.

Fast forward to 1985 when as I am strolling through Von's Books in West Lafayette, Indiana a book on the front table catches my eye. It was entitled "Sports Science - Physical Laws and Optimum Performance" by Peter J. Brancazio, a physics professor at Brooklyn College. The book combined my two passions - sports and science. I quickly grabbed a copy and read it cover to cover. I was much smarter when I finished.

What I didn't know then was that "Sports Science" would become a seminal work in the field of sports analytics. While other books soon tried to similarly apply physics to sports, Brancazio's initial work was widely hailed as the best among physicists for its clarity and accuracy in applying the laws of physics. Brancazio was an early sports myth buster and also the creator of new terminology at the time that will be familiar to this audience including "launching angle" and "spin rate."

As I read this piece and others about the excitement and new insights from this data, I immediately recalled how Brancazio had predicted these very same outcomes - 40 years ago. He didn't need fancy and expensive data collection tools to reach the right answers. All he required was his powerful and curious intellect along with the humble, unfailing laws of physics to which the universe had long surrendered...a universe that includes baseball.

Brancazio passed away in April of 2020 - a very early victim of COVID-19. He left behind an enormous legacy for others to be inspired by and to follow. Today's sprawling sports analytic culture owes a large debt to Peter Brancazio and his unassuming little sports book.

In reading the piece, I was struck by two things - how right my father was about those shoulders and how pleased Peter Brancazio would be today to see how his work turned out after all these years.

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Thanks for sharing this, Grant. I admit I am not familiar with Peter Brancazio's work, which is surprising to me because I like to think I've heard of all the major sports analytics volumes! I'll have to read more.

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I think it’ll be interesting to see how predictive it is of future performance - eg Carroll is struggling right now but with his bat speed and short swing length will he start to square up more and then see the outcomes jump (we just have a limited sample right now)

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May 16Liked by Neil Paine

Happy to share those little intersections between my life experiences and your terrific work here.

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