The visual analytical tools of Bloomberg Sports

On a blustery, cold January day amidst a dry sports weekend, I spent my afternoon on the seventh floor of the Bloomberg News offices in midtown. With many familiar bloggers — the guys from Fack Youk, Jason from It’s All About the Money, numerous others — we were dazzled by the latest offering from the financial information giant. It is, as The Times reported a few months ago, a foray into the world of fantasy sports and baseball numbers.

The nitty-gritty is pretty straight forward. For $19.95, fantasy players can buy access to a pre-draft tool, and for $24.95, fans can access the in-season toolkit. For $31.95, a consumer gets both products, and all three options come with access to Bloomberg’s exclusive content headed by Jonah Keri and a team of writers to be announced later. But what are these tools?

For the most part, the subscription gives a fantasy baseball player access to a wealth of stats and rankings and a supposed leg up. The Bloomberg suits who spoke to us said they want this to become the “most compelling sports analysis tool around.”

The basic selling point is league integration along with statistical visualization. Take, for example, the image on the right. This chart takes Bloomberg’s typical demand vs. scarcity presentation and graphs it onto a chart showing MLB Tier vs. average draft position. For pre-draft analysis, information such as this is very helpful.

Beyond that, what we saw doesn’t offer up much original material right now. Bloomberg is using a proprietary B-Rank tool to establish player rankings, and it’s not yet clear how much this differs from anything Yahoo! Sports or ESPN put forward. The visuals look great, and the information — such as it appears this spider chart — is great for fantasy sports but lacking for other analytical abilities.

Where the product really excels, however, is in the pro version. David Appelman has photos from the presentation, and the spray charts, strike zone info and Pitch F/X analysis are where this tool emerges as something drool-worthy. On Fangraphs, take a look at the third photo of a pie chart. It’s Bloomberg’s traditional market returns chart grafted onto pitchers. The inner band features Chris Carpenter’s first pitch, and the outer bands show the progression of pitches. It enables us to see, for example, the odds of a slider after a first-pitch fastball.

Unfortunately, this pro tool — great for bloggers — is only available for teams. It’s part of the relationship between MLB.com and Bloomberg, and right now, Bloomberg is selling it so that only the 30 clubs can buy it. Authentication requires a Bloomberg terminal with the ability to read a biometric scanner. Maybe one day, the rest of us will have access to the parts that promise to be a gold mine of information.

In a few weeks, Joe and I will get our complimentary subscription to the fantasy tools, and we’ll have a more in-depth look at the offerings. For now, Bloomberg has developed a flashy — and Flash-based application — that can help fantasy owners in their drafts. If it can move beyond that initial offering to become the game-changer Dan Doctoroff and others told us about today, the financial giant stands to become a major player in the world of sports analysis. And, oh yeah, they give out sweet t-shirts.

For more images from the product, check out this gallery. I’m happy to answer any other questions about the screenshots anyone may have.

Open Thread: Higashioka gets the call

Well, kinda. Robert Pimpsner of Baseball Digest tweets that the Yankees have invited 19-year-old catching prospect Kyle Higashioka to Major League Spring Training. I’m sure the Yanks’ 7th round pick in the 2008 Draft is excited for the opportunity, but this isn’t a sign that the organization has big expectations or anything like that. I’m sure they do, but this move is more along the lines of “we have more than a dozen mounds in the Tampa complex, and we need people to catch.” No shame in that.

Higashioka hit .253-.333-.332 in 247 plate appearances for the Short Season Staten Island Yanks last season, but he’s got some killer bat skills (only 31 strikeouts). He’ll get an invite with the intent of giving him a chance to show off his skills soon enough. For now, he should just soak it all up.

Here’s your open thread for the evening. The Devils, Rangers, and Knicks are all in action, plus the Pro Bowl is on ESPN. Nothing like watching the 6th or 7th best QB in the league get some playing time. Enjoy the thread.

Report: Joba’s going to show up early to camp

Via Mike Puma, fifth starter candidate Joba Chamberlain will show up to Tampa to begin workouts next week, about two weeks before pitchers and catchers are required to show up. Joe Girardi indicated that Joba, as well as Phil Hughes, Al Aceves, Chad Gaudin, and Sergio Mitre will compete for the fifth starter’s spot in Spring Training (though I suspect Mitre was lumped in as a courtesy), so it’s good to see Joba put the extra work in.

“I’m going to go in and understand a lot of guys are fighting for that spot,” said the righty. “Nothing is guaranteed.” That’s certainly nice to hear, at times Joba seemed a little too comfortable with his spot on the team last year.

Report: Dodgers close to deal with Reed Johnson

Via MLBTR, the Dodgers are closing in on a deal with free agent outfielder Reed Johnson. Johnson was considered a candidate for the Yanks’ left field job until they signed Randy Winn, and it’ll be interesting to see what his contract looks like.  If you’re curious, Johnson has been worth 1.7 WAR over the last two seasons with the Cubs. Winn was worth that in his down 2009 season alone.

Live from the Bloomberg Sports launch

In early December, we received word of Bloomberg News’ foray into the sports world. The early news featured discussions of how Bloomberg would use its successful financial analytical tools to bring fantasy sports products to the baseball world. Today, Bloomberg is debuting its product, and Joe and I are now at Bloomberg HQ watching their presentations. You can follow along with us via the RAB Twitter feed, and all of the presentations’ participants are Tweeting via the #BBGsports hashtag.

We’ll have a full write-up of the offerings over the next few days. I’m waiting on some screenshots in order to introduce the product’s features. From the early demo, it looks very good, and Bloomberg Sports seems serious about responding to reader feedback as they work to make the product more useful and user-friendly. As you can see from the above photo, the swag is pretty sweet too.

Olney & Cafardo on Damon

Good morning Fac… wait … wrong site. My bad.

Had enough of this Johnny Damon nonsense yet? Well, Buster Olney and Nick Cafardo give us some more insight into his demands and how negotiations with the Yanks went down (both links via MLBTR). Olney says that once the Curtis Granderson trade was completed, Scott Boras told the Yankees “If you’re going to offer a contract that represents a decrease in salary, don’t bother to make an offer,” and it wasn’t until the Nick Johnson news broke that Team Damon was willing to negotiate. As cliche as it sounds: you snooze, you lose.

Olney adds that the $6M offer the Yanks made last week “might be about the same or even better than what other teams offered.” Boras indicated that “We’ve heard some very creative proposals on Johnny,’’ which is good, because his market is as dry as the Sahara right now.

Open Thread: A walk around the blog

As part of their guide to baseball around the Internet, Yahoo! Sports’ Big League Stew is putting forth what it calls a BLS Blogbook. Yesterday, they presented a few Yankee blogs from around the block. RAB, of course, is included along with a slew of other stellar Yankee fans. Check it out right here.

Otherwise, feel free to use this as your open thread. The Knicks are visiting the Wizards tonight and need to win that game. The Rangers are visiting Phoenix, that hotbed of hockey, and the Islanders have already lost to the Flyers. Be good to each other.