Czech Moneyball? Will new analytics team help Eagles Praha?

Eagles Praha had to deal with a number of departures and they entered the season with a much younger roster. Head coach Vladimír Chlup now has to play the important season, where Extraliga narrows down to eight teams, with less experienced players. Eagles plan to offset this with their new analytics team, which was created during the offseason.

True fans saw movie Moneyball staring Brad Pitt at least once in their lives. The movie shows the true story of Oakland Athletics, which was able to surprise entire MLB despite limited financing. Their main advantages lied in using statistical analysis, which helped to outplay their opponents. Eagles will try to attempt something similar.

Czech version of Peter Brand is trio Stanislav Straka, Jiří Vlach and Stanislav Kron who prepare the analysis of matches for Vladimír Chlup based on the available data. First two are known in the baseball world. Stanislav Straka is the creator of MLB Czech and Vlach created and maintain page with extended baseball statistics for Czech Extraliga baseball-stat.cz. New project is a beautiful example of how the fans can move Czech baseball forward. “I’m an Eagles fan and we sometimes talk with Vladimír,” Stanislav Straka wrote us about how the idea came to be. “So it was easy to ask him. Partially, the idea was a joke, or a dare, I think some time after the World Series. I don’t remember it precisely, but Vladimír wrote me something like: “They can catch balls, without even moving. There’s something to that analysis.“. So I asked, when will Eagles start with it, and he said they could do it right now. And so we did.”

“Stanislav contacted me, asking whether I’d be willing to help Eagles and create a database for them. The database would then be used for tactical preparation for the games. The idea of using data in Extraliga more extensively was intriguing to me, of course, so I said why not,” described his involvement in the project Jiří Vlach.

It was time to ask the club. “…afterwards we all got together and we liked the idea. Furthermore, any help this season is good,” admitted Eagles head coach Vladimír Chlup. He also has words of praise on the application that the trio put together. “It is nice to have another help available in the dugout,” added Chlup.

The whole application was created incrementally. “We started not knowing what will it look like in the end,” admitted Jiří Vlach. “We didn’t have anything at the beginning. Fortunately, thanks to Zuzana Ferková (author of Android application Český baseball and contributor to Milujeme Baseball – author) we were able to get detail information from iScore, which was the building stone for the application. We only needed to “crunch” the data afterwards, so that they were readable for everyone and catch the errors in the data, of which there were plenty. Standa Kron then created user interface. We had enough time to spend on it over the winter.”

This season, even one additional win can determine whether the team remains in Extraliga. Coach Chlup told us, that the application is more in the testing capacity so far, but they can already use it to prepare their defense for opponent batters. He adds: “We play 27 games, so if it brings even one extra win, it will be great.”

It will be even more interesting to watch Eagles games this year and see how they will be able to make use of that data they have available. It could be an impulse for other Extraliga teams to focus on this side of the game preparation. Currently, there is no organization in MLB, which does not have its own analytics team. Extraliga teams, however, usually miss these. “The whole Czech baseball is still at its beginnings,” said Jiří Vlach when I asked him about it. “It is still an amateur sport, mostly done by people who love the game, and where there isn’t much money. Every year, we can see a lot of improvements and I hope, that our application will add to it.”

Eagles entered the game with 3 wins (2 awarded additionally) and 3 losses. They still have important series against their direct competition for TOP 6 spots. In those, Eagles will have more and more data available. Only time will tell whether this will be enough.

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