Boston University professor to offer revolutionary baseball analytics class at Harvard

Professor Andy Andres of Harvard University’s Sabermetrics: An Introduction to Baseball Analysis, continues his baseball research in his Boston University office on Dec. 11. Photo by Tyler Oringer/BU News Service

By Tyler Oringer
BU News Service

Andy Andres has always had a passion for teaching and baseball. A senior lecturer at Boston University in Natural Sciences, Andres has taught his iconic and (the likely first ever) baseball sabermetrics course at Tufts University since 2004. Now, in the spring of 2019, he will be bringing his revolutionary course to Harvard University.

Sabermetrics: An Introduction to Baseball Analysis teaches students baseball sabermetrics – or, in layman’s terms, the applied mathematics to baseball data sets – that help evaluate and predict player performance. At the moment, 12 students are enrolled in the Harvard class.

Andres was guided to Harvard by Professor Henry Leitner, associate dean and chief innovation officer for the Division of Continuing Education. Leitner is also an avid baseball player, participating in a local summer league in which Andres is his teammate on the Cambridge Nine.

“Analytics is not going away and it is only going to get more and more important in all sports,” Andres said. “Sports analytics is essentially an emerging career and that means students are aiming at this as a goal.”

During their time together as teammates, Leitner became aware of Andres’ idea for a curriculum. Andres’ unique combination of baseball and teaching (and playing ability on his Cambridge baseball team) was too good of an opportunity to pass up he said.

“It’s clear that he’s a very talented teacher and explains things well. Knowing about [Andres’] interest in sabermetrics, it just seemed natural to have his course become part of the master’s program,” Leitner said. “Having an additional course like this is just a terrific fit.”

According to Andres, the class has not only been a stepping-stone for countless college-aged and younger individuals trying to break into the incredibly difficult field of baseball operations, but has also caught the the eye of former MLB players. While many former players have entered into scouting following their career, it is apparent analytics will only appeal to more former players as time goes on.

In fact, three former major leaguers have contacted Andres with an interest in taking his online version of the class which, according to Andres, is no longer available at the moment. However, Andres is working to get it back up online.

Many people who’ve taken his courses have gone on to work in baseball front offices for several major league teams he said. To Andres, these are his “success stories.”

“Bottom-line, I’m in the right job and understand my skill-sets,” Andres said. “I’ve got the greatest job in the world and I like teaching and being around young students and being able to guide students in sports analytics.”

One of these students includes a Tufts University senior, 21-year old Bradley Waddell of Worcester. Waddell, who is an applied math major, took Andres’ baseball sabermetrics class in the fall of 2018.

Though Waddell is not currently trying to pursue baseball operations as a career at this moment, the class was an eye-opening experience into the world of sabermetrics.

“This class delves into some computer science stuff, there’s some math related things,” Waddell said. “It’s just as interdisciplinary as the analysis of anything generally is.”

Though many see baseball as just a sports game with basic stats, there is actually much more to it when it comes to analyzing and understanding the game.

“I think [Andres] puts analytics at the core of the class,” Waddell said. “For people who have a knowledge of baseball, the math is really applicable. [Andres’] the kind of guy who encourages you to question everything and be a skeptic of the way people are doing things.”

As for what the future holds for Andres, he is going to stay on the same track. While he does hold other jobs like datacasting for the MLB and official scoring for the Cape Cod Baseball league, he is a teacher at heart.

“I’m an educator and I’m going to keep educating,” he said.

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