There are a myriad of statistics available in football, some relatively simple – passing attempts, yards per carry – and some more complex, such as quarterback rating. But despite all this data, it is difficult to glean insight from the voluminous sets of numbers beyond simple comparisons (e.g. Peyton Manning has a higher QB rating than Jay Cutler). Yet whether you are a NFL head coach working to develop next week’s game plan or a fantasy football aficionado looking to win this year’s pool, your goal is to make sense out all this data. Stated another way, the data must inform action. While many websites provide tables of data regarding NFL teams and players, few make any effort to breathe life into the information, and when they do it usually takes the form of expert predictions. Sports Data Hub (SDH), on the other hand, provides a powerful and easy-to-use graphical interface paired with an extensive database to facilitate quick yet meaningful analysis of NFL statistics.
SDH Founder Kevin Goodfellow and his partners are data warehousing experts who work with Fortune 500 companies to bring advanced database capabilities to the enterprise. They seek to bring similar functionality to NFL enthusiasts through SDH. Based in Denver and founded in 2007, SportsDataHub.com provides enhanced value compared to other sites both due to its interface and a robust data set. The interface allows for graphical presentation of data, allowing visual comparisons that are easy to create and flexible to manipulate. Enabling users to work in graphs rather than primarily in tables is a first point of value creation. Goodfellow notes: “What is obvious in a graph after a second may still not be clear after staring at a table for hours.” Users may also zoom in on a particular area of a graph simply by clicking a portion of the screen. Behind this simplicity on the front-end lies an extensive database that goes beyond the popular NFL statistical data. Through combining and integrating multiple data sets, SDH enables analysis capabilities that do not exist anywhere else on the web. This unique asset allowed Goodfellow to impress an audience of technologists last year by demonstrating that certain referees were much friendlier to the passing game than others.
The company recently launched a new version of the website and exited beta in time for the 2009 football season, building on the experience and feedback from the thousands of users who registered in 2008. Goodfellow emphasizes that in this updated offering, “We tried to provide a spectrum of tools suitable for people at different levels of engagement,” from the casual fan who just wants to check in on a few statistics to the quantitatively inclined who want to take a deep dive. The site is especially popular among fantasy football participants and as such many tools are targeted towards this segment. For the more casual users, SDH will be publishing weekly fantasy predictions and allow fans to access them via Twitter. Through a partnership with Boulder-based Local Bunny, SDH will return weekly fantasy player predictions when a user tweets “@SDHnow Player Name” (ie @SDHnow Terrell Owens). Visitors seeking a deeper engagement can work with the sites graphical interface to evaluate specific statistics and those who register on the SDH site have the opportunity to upload their own fantasy rosters and scoring systems to track progress week by week.
The site also offers features for the guy who for years has brought a complicated spreadsheet to his league’s fantasy draft – a group of which Goodfellow is proudly a member. These advanced capabilities, some of which are only available to paying premium subscribers (which costs $5 per month or less if multiple months are purchased at once), provide an even more customizable and in depth look at the data. Among the options are evaluating referees, weather, or doing detailed roster analysis each week. Goodfellow provides an example of the latter: “If you have a receiver who is 6’5”, you can to check and see if all the cornerbacks on his opponent that week are under 5’10” in which case you may want that receiver playing.”
Goodfellow believes the company also has a significant opportunity in professional services, providing college and pro teams enhanced capabilities to quickly analyze and gain insight from data. On most coaching staffs, there is an individual or group, depending on budget, tasked with diving into game statistics and offering insights based on this data. Often, this process is completed by building and analyzing the numbers in custom spreadsheets or reports. Under the current system, Goodfellow comments “each week [the statistics focused assistant or staff member] essentially has the chance for one iteration. He does the analysis and then he presents it to the coaching staff.” With SDH’s help, the process could become much more dynamic as charts and graphs could be created in a few clicks, allowing the testing of multiple hypotheses in minutes, rather than hours or days. For the professional services version of SDH, “80% of the framework is the same” with an easy to use interface and data set. In addition, each team can customize the system to include the proprietary data it collects on topics of importance to the particular team. The company has completed a number of demos for college and professional teams/coaches with strongly positive feedback.
To date, SDH has been self-funded. Goodfellow believes the company is now at a point where it would be attractive to angel investors, but he does not envision seeking capital until the company looks to ramp up hiring. For now, Goodfellow and his team are anxious to see user reactions to the SDH’s new offering for 2009 as more users embrace the site’s features. Goodfellow envisions a new world of football understanding upon greater adoption, one no longer orbiting the singular planet of the quant jock but accessible to anyone who can point and click. Even if this comes at the expense of his own position in his fantasy league standings.