It had been exactly 32 years since the Los Angeles Dodgers last won the World Series when the team was once again victorious in the 2020 edition. Following more than a three-decade-long drought, NL’s finest got the championship amidst a shortened MLB season and many obstacles caused by the pandemic. Just months prior to it, the team’s venture capital arm invested in a sports science company. Coincidence? Maybe not.
The Road to the 2020 World Series
Elysian Park Ventures, which is the Dodgers’ venture capital firm, invested in BreakAway Data, a sports science company whose service helps teams to better understand their athletes through sports data to boost performance and personalize player development. Dave Anderson (chief digital officer at Gains Group, the partner of BreakAway Data) says the Dodgers winning the World Series isn’t the result of performance science, but that its positive effect is undeniable.
Ever since Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations, joined the club in 2014, the team has been toying with the processes and concepts behind sports science data, and that has shown in their success over the last six seasons.
The Role of Sports Science Data in the Dodgers’ Success
Sports science is the use of documented information and objective measurements to “acquire, assess, develop, perform, plan or prep” processes within a team to improve its performance and aid in setting realistic goals and plans. BreakAway cannot turn a team or a player that lacks talent into a winner, so its role in the World Series success of the Dodgers had more to do with incorporating the right development plans for players rather than being the sole reason for their peak performance. They integrated a range of motions with on-field assessments, analytics, and biomechanics to create an on and off-field perspective of every player.
The LA Dodgers hired Gains Group in the fall of 2019 with the goal to help codify the team’s performance science process. Obviously, that worked out, and we’re yet to see where this change in direction will take the Dodgers in the 2021 season.