I WATCHED MONEYBALL with Brad Pitt last year, but didn't know they were using FileMaker to build a system like this. And what's more, Kevin Hammond of DB Services helped Tye Waller (above) write this solution!
These days, most major-league clubs employ advance scouts who travel around the country looking for clues about the subtleties of how the next teams on the schedule play: Where does the right fielder usually hit the ball when he swings at an inside fastball? How deep does the third baseman hit the ball when he takes a cut at a two-strike slider? How often does the catcher strike out on curve balls in the dirt? And so on. Even in 2014, most scouts deliver updates to the home club with paper reports and even index cards that coaches then use when preparing for their teams' future opponents.
Oakland A's: High tech meets the national pastime
But watch an Oakland A's game and notice where the fielders are positioned on each pitch, how the pitcher throws the ball to each hitter, or how big a lead an A's runner takes off first base. You're seeing the result of analysis culled from a deep and well-established one-of-a-kind database built by hand over the last eight years by first-base and outfield coach Tye Waller. It's known, for lack of an official name, as the "Tye Solution," and yes, it's a FileMaker database...
For the A's, then, winning requires every advantage the team can find. From off-season analysis that leads to signing lesser-known players who get on base a lot despite a lack of flashy home run totals, to identifying players who don't waste at-bats by swinging at bad pitches, every little thing can make the difference in winning and losing a few key games over a six-month, 162-game season.
The A's winning record even relies on positioning its defensive players and deciding what pitches to throw based on number-crunching done in a FileMaker database created by Waller, a 27-year coach who himself had just 26 hits spread over four major league seasons in the 1980s.
This database sounds incredible. Here's another sample of what it does:
Drilling into the data
Even for a lifelong baseball fan like me, who as a teenager could rattle off just about every stat about any player, the nitty-gritty of the Tye Solution was over my head. But at its core, the system lets Waller, as well as pitching coach Young, third-base coach Mike Gallego and bullpen coach Darren Bush, drill way, way down to see how any opposing player performs in any of baseball's countless situations.
The database -- which Waller accesses on his Mac, iPad or iPhone, depending on where he is when he needs to look up something -- holds data on 1,340 position players (non-pitchers) and more than 2,000 pitchers. It allows him and the other coaches to quickly look up any player on any other team, and to easily add or delete players from teams' rosters when, as often happens, they're traded or released. The same is true when a team brings up a new player from the minor leagues.
The system is built around sophisticated cross-referencing, letting Waller see, for example, how Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran hits against right-handed pitchers, against left-handed pitchers or with runners in scoring position. When Waller clicks through on a Beltran stat, he can add a note, drop in video and see Beltran's performance in recent games. "I want to know who's hot and who's not," Waller said.
FileMaker's ease of use, combined with a user's specialized knowledge, makes magic for business–and sports.