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Leveraging Machine Learning for Playoff Wins SCS Grad Working Behind the Scenes as Astros Compete in MLB Postseason

Amanda HartleWednesday, October 20, 2021

Adam Brodie, who earned his master's degree in machine learning from SCS in 2016, explores data for the Houston Astros and oversees the team's analyst group's efforts to create models that help optimize their chances to reclaim their World Series title.

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 the Dietrich College and machine learning in 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," said Brodie, 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." 

Brodie, who earned his master's degree in machine learning from SCS in 2016, explores data and oversees the team's analyst group's efforts to create models that help the Astros identify and develop productive players and optimize their chances to reclaim their World Series title. Baseball is rich in quantitative data, and it affords vast opportunities to apply critical methods to leverage data into theories that guide decisions in roster management, player evaluation and development, and on-field strategy, Brodie said.

"The objective of the baseball operations team is to construct a team that is good at scoring runs against their opponents and preventing their opponents from scoring runs," Brodie said.

As the sports analytics field expands and more CMU alumni join the proverbial team, Brodie knows he will continue to rely on the skills he learned on campus. He said his interactions with so many people with wide-ranging skill sets from different intellectual and cultural backgrounds helped him develop a healthy intellectual humility that has proven to be and will continue to be a strength in his career

"In our industry, it's important to keep an open mind and to stay curious, to be patient when exposed to questions in domains you're unfamiliar with, and to be receptive to new concepts that you might be able to borrow. I think my time at CMU and the relationships I formed there had an immense effect on me to that end," Brodie said.

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. Read more about alumni working behind the scenes to help professional sports teams win on the field or court in this story from University Advancement.