/ Domopalooza Keynote Feature: The Theo Epstein Story

There’s probably no higher purpose for using data and analytics than helping the Chicago Cubs break their 108-year-long drought to win the 2016 World Series. At this year’s Domopalooza, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein—one of our keynote speakers—will discuss how he did just that.

Epstein, now 43, has been a student of baseball for most of his life. He not only guided the Cubs to their astonishing championship win last year, but he also previously pushed the Boston Red Sox to a World Series win in 2004, their first since 1918.

In other words, Epstein is a veritable dragon slayer in the sport. And he has found unprecedented success by combining solid data analytics—called sabermetrics in baseball—with a focus on information of another type: the character of the player.

Analytics on first

Epstein spent the first part of his career with the San Diego Padres, earning a law degree while simultaneously working his way up the organization. Then, at the age of 28, Epstein became the youngest general manager in baseball history when he secured a position with his home-town team, the Boston Red Sox.

He’s credited with helping change the industry of baseball—bringing objective, player-based analytics to the forefront of all his operations. For example, he’s often focused on recruiting underrated players who bring his teams consistent value. This approach eventually helped the Red Sox break the “Curse of the Bambino.”

But numbers aren’t the only metric Epstein relies on. Thanks to Epstein, analytics now means “having a reason for every decision you make, and that reason being something other than ‘because of the way it’s always been done,'” says sportswriter Rany Jazayerli.

The person and the player

In fact, in rebuilding the Cubs, Epstein analyzed everything about his potential players—and he knew the process would take time. When he first arrived in Chicago, a fan asked him how much longer his 87-year-old father would have to wait to see his team win the World Series.

“I would say, ‘Tell him to take his vitamins, because it’s going to be a few years,'” Epstein recounted to the New York Times. In creating a championship team, Epstein and his staff not only evaluated pertinent data on the performance of his players, but also dug into their personalities.

He was especially focused on how potential players handled adversity, telling the New York Times that during the draft process “we always spend more than half of the time talking about the person, rather than the player. What are their backgrounds, their psyches, their habits and what makes them tick?”

The result is a dossier of data on players that reflects the whole person—and offers better insights into their potential contribution to the team. In the world of baseball, it may sound somewhat touchy-feely, but Epstein’s track record provides more than enough proof of his innovative strategy.

So join us at Domopalooza in March to learn more about how Epstein, and other data-driven leaders, have used analytics in creative ways to disrupt their industries and find new and improved ways of doing business.