Data for the Win
Tartan alumni’s data-driven assists put points on the board for top sports teams
By Amanda Hartle
Around the country when a pro athlete hits a grand slam, catches a touchdown pass, sinks a critical free throw or scores a hat trick, it’s likely a Carnegie Mellon University graduate in the front office helped to make their victory celebration possible.
As one of the top-ranked statistics and data science programs in the nation, Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences boasts more than two dozen Tartans — and counting — in the front offices of the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL.
Adam Brodie came to CMU with a plan to study philosophy and pursue a career in academia.
But as he worked on his master’s degrees in logic computation and methodology from Dietrich College and machine learning from the School of Computer Science as well as his Ph.D. in logic computation and methodology, the lifelong baseball fan tossed around the idea of applying what he’d learned to the diamond — instead of the classroom.
“Working with baseball data was a breath of fresh air to me,” says Adam, manager of research in R&D for the Houston Astros. “I felt intrinsically motivated to engage the data and fruitful research questions propagated one after another, naturally.”
A future in sports analytics came naturally for Max Horowitz, too, as a two-sport athlete in high school and a member of Carnegie Mellon’s track & field team.
“Sports have always been a huge part of my life, and once I arrived at CMU, I fell in love with my introductory statistics courses,” says Max, a 2016 graduate who studied economics and statistics and now serves as senior data scientist in the Atlanta Hawks’ basketball strategy and analytics group.
“Working for a front office of a professional sports team was a dream of mine from an early age, and I feel grateful to have the opportunity to live out my dream so early in my career.”
For others, like Sarah Mallepalle, a chance encounter led to her surprise game plan.
She’d never even thought about stats in football until her sophomore year when she heard a talk with Karim Kassam, who at the time was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ analytics and football research coordinator. That talk stuck with her, and she pivoted into the statistics and machine learning program — from statistics and electrical and computer engineering — her junior year.