In a thrilling World Series Game 7, Major League Baseball just crowned the Chicago Cubs as champions. But did you know there was another champion determined during this year’s World Series? Bases Coded, the technology challenge presented by Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) and New Relic, was captured by winning team Bless You Boys, for their creative idea: Were They Robbed?, a Twitter bot and companion web app that uses live game and Statcast data to highlight statistically extraordinary plays.
Inside Bases Coded
Running concurrently with the World Series, Bases Coded featured an exciting and inspiring 24-hour hackathon in downtown Chicago. Selected from dozens of entrants, four teams descended on the Windy City to develop advanced, cloud-based apps designed to engage fans with baseball—and vie for the chance to be honored on the field in the pre-game ceremonies prior to Game Four at Wrigley Field. During the hackathon, teams focused on designing, coding, and testing their apps, then prepped their demo and presentation to the judges afterward.
On Saturday morning before Game 4, the four teams presented their work to an expert panel consisting of Chad Evans, senior vice president of mobile product development at MLBAM; Will Leitch, senior writer at Sports on Earth; Todd Etchieson, vice president of customer analytics at New Relic; and Akif Malik, CEO of Sports Colab. The judges evaluated the finalists on Originality/Creativity, Utility, Performance, and Presentation.
The winning team
Ultimately, team Bless You Boys, comprising Paul Glenn and Patrick Whelan, carried the day with Were They Robbed? The Twitter feed and web app tracks statistically surprising plays, kicking in “when a hit was expected to be an out, or an out is expected to be a hit.” It’s designed to answer the age-old question: Did the batter get lucky or were they robbed? The judges were impressed with the app’s complex but smart architecture utilizing multiple third-party APIs.
“Bases Coded was one of the best experiences of my life. Even if we hadn’t won, the opportunity for Pat and me to push ourselves past what we thought we were capable of in under 24 hours is one I won’t soon forget,” said Glenn, who’s working on his master’s at UC Berkeley’s School of Information (which wrote a story about his experience). “The entire team from Major League Baseball Advanced Media and New Relic was really helpful and so great to work with. Getting to go out on the field before the World Series has to be one of the coolest things I will ever get to do,” he added, “and it was made even more memorable by being at Wrigley Field, with the incredible gravity and history of that park and that moment.”
See below for full descriptions of all four finalist apps and exclusive pictures from the event. Finally, we want to thank everyone who worked to make the 2016 Bases Coded technology challenge a success, including our terrific finalists, our judges, and all the contributors from MLBAM and New Relic. We’re already looking forward to the 2017 edition of Bases Coded!
Grand Prize Winner:
Bless You Boys: Paul Glenn and Patrick Whelan
Two childhood friends and Detroit Tigers fans came together to create Were They Robbed?, a Twitter bot and companion web app designed for second-screen baseball fans who watch games with Twitter open and love to debate the incredible plays they witness. Subscribers to the Were They Robbed? Twitter feed receive tweets about particularly unlikely plays, determined using live game and Statcast data. The tweets call out whether the result was a lucky hit or great defensive play. Users can click on the link to the web app for more detail on what made the play unusual, including velocity of the ball, launch angle, etc.
Team: C The Ball
Players: Alex Green, Jonathan Catanio, and Giancarlo Tarantino
The youngest team in the competition, featuring three Cal Poly San Luis Obispo undergrads, created Scout, a mobile app that ranks the day’s games from most to least interesting. Fans can drill into each game to see why they might want to watch it. The app calls out the highlights in plain English (e.g., Bumgarner vs. Kershaw, or if a player is approaching a personal milestone such as his 3,000th hit).
Team: Chipy All Stars
Players: David Matsumura, Adam Bain, and Jason Wirth
App: Baseball Sherpa
Baseball Sherpa was developed by three members of the Chicago Python User Group. The Sherpa is a mobile web app meant to help casual fans understand complex aspects of baseball, including advanced statistics (such as OPS), strategy (why is the infield shifted, why was someone intentionally walked), player/team info, and obscure rules (the infield fly rule). Meant to be used while watching a game, Baseball Sherpa employs GIFs and gamification techniques to build fan knowledge and interest in baseball.
Team: The Gordon Shumways
Players: Michael George, Ryan Moris, and Benjamin Chapman
App: You Pick’em Baseball
Three friends from Texas and Louisiana created You Pick’em Baseball, a mobile gaming app designed to lower the barriers to fantasy baseball. The app lets users earn rewards based on a given day’s games—with no penalties if they can’t play daily. Users opening the app are prompted to pick the winners of five games being played that day. Based on their choices, players earn points in different “banks”: Run bank, Home Run bank, Strikeout bank, Money bank. Points can be exchanged for trophies and cards, and users can compare their totals and compete with friends in custom leagues.
Check out photos from the Bases Coded hackathon below:
The members of C The Ball start to sketch out their idea on Day 1 of the competition.
The Gordon Shumways at work.
Bless You Boys in the home stretch of the 24-hour hackathon.
The Chipy All Stars present their app to the judges.
Our esteemed panel of experts ready for some demos.
Bases Coded winners Bless You Boys hear the news they’ve won.
Paul and Pat with their tickets for Game 4 (with New Relic’s Sunny Hira).