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In Praise of a … Yankee?

Since I live in Pittsburgh and attend many Pittsburgh Pirate baseball games, it is tough to be very positive about the Yankees. For European readers, it is kinda like a Barça fan saying something nice about Real Madrid. But I have a new favorite player: Russ Ohlendorf, relief pitcher for the Yankees!

Why is he my favorite player? It has to do with operations research, of course. Russ received his undergraduate degree from Princeton (he is the third Princeton graduate to play in the majors) in operations research. From the New York Times article on him:

Ohlendorf graduated with a 3.75 grade-point average and a degree in operations research and financial engineering. His curiosity extends widely. Someday, Ohlendorf said, he may want to try investment banking or entrepreneurship. He has also thought about pursuing a front-office job in baseball.

“He seems to have a real interest in people from all walks of life,” Curtis Ohlendorf said. “He’s always been pretty active. He needs to be involved in something.”

For his senior thesis, Ohlendorf studied the value of draft picks for major league teams. His conclusion — which the Yankees now embrace — was that teams generally double their investment in the draft based on the production of players in their first few major league seasons.

I can’t find the thesis on the web: I would love to see the approaches used. Statistics and baseball go way back, of course, but real economic analysis or operations research modeling is a lot rarer.