The identity of the company hired to help the New York Yankees has finally been revealed.
Zelus Analytics, a sports analytics company, will allow the Yankees to view how it crunches its numbers in terms of player performance, in-game decision-making and much more, according to a league source. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
Inderpal Singh, Zelus’ chief operating officer, declined comment on behalf of the company when reached via email.
On Aug. 31, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner told The Associated Press the team was “looking to bring in possibly an outside company to really take a look at the analytics side of what we do.” That company is Zelus, which has worked with several other Major League Baseball teams, and with teams in other professional sports, since it was founded in 2019.
Two of Zelus’ co-founders once worked in the Dodgers’ front office. Doug Fearing, chief executive officer, founded the Dodgers’ research and development department while Dan Cervone, its principal data scientist, was Los Angeles’ former director of quantitative research. Its website lists 70 employees, many with “scientist” in their job titles. Andrew Hopen, Zelus’ senior data scientist, worked in the Yankees’ analytics department.
Vince Gennaro, the associate dean of the Preston Robert Tisch Institute for Global Sport at New York University, said Zelus’ employee list looks like a “dream team of analytics.”
“It would seem like this is evolving to be more of an analytics-focused engagement, just based on who is doing it,” said Gennaro, the author of “Diamond Dollars: The Economics of Winning in Baseball” and a former consultant to the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and Cleveland Guardians.
Two weeks ago, Zelus announced that it had received $3.6 million in investments from several companies, including RedBird Capital, an investment firm the Yankees joined with to take over Italian soccer club AC Milan last year.
Here’s how Fearing described Zelus’ mission to TechCrunch recently:
“We fundamentally help teams use their data to win more games … That involves projecting and improving player and team performance. And that’s through using all of the complex proprietary data sources that teams have access to build models that contextualize historical performance, that project future performance that help with both strategic decision making around player acquisition…and then even getting into tactical and in-game decision making like who’s the best matchup.”
The Yankees are looking to pick up the pieces after a season that even general manager Brian Cashman admitted was a “disaster.” The team went 82-80, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2016 after it went into spring training with World Series aspirations. Last offseason featured the big-money signings of Aaron Judge ($360 million) and Carlos Rodón ($162 million) after the team was swept by the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series in 2022. The club dealt with numerous injuries to a slew of its star players (Judge, Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton, among others) and disappointing performances from others.
It could also be a step toward solving a problem that Judge, the team’s captain, felt needed to be addressed. After the final regular season game of the year, Judge said that while the front office does well in the ways it provides statistics to players, “I think we might be looking at the wrong ones and maybe we should value some other ones that some people might see as having no value.”
Yankees department heads and decision-makers spent the early part of October meeting at the team’s player development complex in Tampa. At a Sportico conference in mid-October, Steinbrenner said that those discussions got “dicey” at times and that “there wasn’t one stone we left unturned.” He added that it was possible the team would change some of its personnel this offseason, “but not necessarily personnel.”
“It could be practices,” the owner said at the time, according to the AP. “It could be the way people communicate when we bring a young minor leaguer up to the major-league level, are the major league coaches talking enough to player development and vice versa.”
(Top photo: Jeff Robinson / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)