The Use of Data In Sports

The Use of Data In Sports

Posted by EyePromise on Apr 5th 2023

Sports used to be about pure talent. You either have it or you don’t, and sports statistics used to look at the games that same, high-level way. You either scored or you didn’t – the other in-between didn’t matter. However, the in-between is what makes the goals/points/touchdowns/runs/etc. possible, so shouldn’t the players contributing to these plays get something on their stat sheet? The answer is yes, and sports data has come a long way to do just that.

What Are Sports Analytics?

Sports analytics are “a collection of relevant, historical, statistics that can provide a competitive advantage to a team or individual.” For many, these data points fall into two categories:

  • On-field analytics focus on improving the in-game performance of teams and players
    • Examples: Which player on the Boston Red Sox contributed most to the team's offense? Which golfer has the longest drive? Which St. Louis Blues player has the best goal differential?
  • Off-field analytics looks at the business side of sports, focusing on helping an organization identify patterns and insights that could increase ticket and merchandise sales, improve fan engagement, etc., to ultimately lead to more growth and profitability.

The Rise of Sports Analytics

Many attribute the growth of data in sports to a story popularized by the famed movie Moneyball. The movie tells the tale of Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane and how he used sabermetrics to build a team with a limited budget. He focused on players with good on-field stats, specifically on-base percentage. He assumed that more players on base meant more runs scored, and he was right. He was also able to secure some talented starting pitchers who were overlooked by other teams, all of which helped him find success.

What Sports Data Do We Have Now?

Technology continues to advance, allowing data collection to become more in-depth and can be conducted with relative ease. Advancements in data collection have allowed for sports analytics to grow as well, leading to the development of advanced statistics and machine learning, as well as sport specific technologies that allow for things like game simulations to be conducted by teams prior to play.


Baseball was the first sport to really embrace analytics (i.e., Billy Beane) and continues to be at the forefront of utilizing statistics. With metrics like batting average, on-base percentage, slugging average, and Walks plus Hits allowed per Inning Pitched (WHIP), there are a lot of on-field data points to consider.


In 2007, Daryl Morey, the General Manager of the Houston Rockets, was the first GM in the National Basketball Association (NBA) to evaluate players based on advanced metrics. His focus on data helped the Rockets to a 20-game win streak!


Hockey was one of the first sports to recognize the “build-up” to a play by including two assists vs. one or none. However, hockey stats have expanded quite a bit, and this expansion includes the Corsi statistic. Viewed as the single most informative statistic in the game, the Corsi statistic tracks shot attempt differential, which can give analysts insight into offensive, defensive, and possession abilities of a team. Now that’s a powerful metric!


Football is a game of inches and data. From yards run to pass completion, every aspect of the game can be broken down into numbers. One of the most unique data points for football players is defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA). This metric looks at player’s success on each play and compares it to the league average based on several variables. These variables include down, distance, location on field, current score gap, quarter, and strength of opponent and give a well-rounded perspective on a given player.


Soccer has many ins and outs that lead up to those hotshot moments of glory, and there are numbers behind all those progressions. Possession, shot-on-goal percentage, players’ conditioning, and more all contribute to the success (or demise) of the team. Managers can consider each of these to different degrees and build a team that can succeed (at least on paper).


Golf is a game of numbers, The par of the hole, the difficulty of the course, the numbered clubs and holes – all of these add up to the final score at the end of the round. However, it wasn’t until Shotlink that golfers were able to closely track their performance on certain courses.

Using a series of cameras and lasers throughout PGA courses, Shotlink helps players track every shot, shining light on the areas of their game that need improving, as well as a year-over-year review of course statistics for tournament preparation. Perhaps the most unique benefit of Shotlink is that it’s updated in real time, so golfers can track their current progress and correct any issues that may be arising during this round of golf.

Another Data Point Athletes Should Be Looking At

Numbers matter when it comes to sport performance, but one number that many athletes overlook is a metric tied to their visual performance. Vision is a critical component for athletic performance, and macular pigment is what helps deliver crisp, clear vision. Macular pigment is a protective layer deep in the eye that acts like internal polarized sunglasses, enhancing detail and making it easier to detect visual stimuli.

However, this pigment can degrade over time, reducing the effectiveness of those internal sunglasses and leaving athletes deficient in visual performance metrics like:

To keep visual performance strong and macular pigment healthy (i.e., dense), athletes first need to know where they stand. Measuring macular pigment optical density (MPOD) can be done quickly and easily, and many organizations like the Golfzon Leadbetter Academies have begun implementing this measurement in their evaluations. Understanding MPOD scores helps to identify athletes who can improve visual performance and gives a numerical value to their eye health that otherwise would have been overlooked.

Learn more about MPOD for sports performance.

Sports have come a long way in terms of data and analytics, and it’ll only get more expansive and precise. If you’re looking for another number to add to your stat sheet, get your MPOD measured and start understanding your visual performance! Padraig Harrington had his MPOD measured and began taking EyePromise® eye health performance supplements to improve his score. Watch the video to see how his experience has been.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.