SI Writer Predicts 2017 World Series, but in 2014

by Daniel Masek

In June 2014, Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated wrote an article about the Houston Astros and the long term plan they had in place to use analytics to help win a World Series. By June 2014, the Astros were coming off of three straight 100+ loss seasons, Alex Trebek was making fun of them on Jeopardy, and they were getting 0.0 TV ratings locally. This is when the article titled “Baseball’s Great Experiment: Your 2017 World Series Champs” was published by Ben Reiter.  

Reiter has been a senior writer at Sports Illustrated since 2004. He writes about the Astros very frequently, as he’s gained exclusive access to the front office and the clubhouse that no other reporter has ever had. Reiter says he first gained this access when he asked the Astros before the 2014 draft. He was initially intrigued by the hiring of Sig Mejdal, who had helped the Cardinals build their World Series team in 2013, and has extensive experience working in baseball analytics.

The article focused on the Houston Astros and the front office moves made behind the scenes that would win the Astros the World Series, including the addition of Sig Mejdal. Mejdal has two master’s degrees from San Jose State in operations research and cognitive psychology, two undergrad degrees from Penn in chemical engineering and economics, as well as a MBA.

Mejdal’s education in engineering and mathematics as well as operations research help him as an analyst, because his job requires him to analyze every single pitch and play that’s happened since they’ve been recorded digitally. Mejal uses analytics to predict intangibles that teams need to know, like injury probability, power stroke development, pitcher’s trunk rotation, and anything that can’t be represented by numbers.  

Reiter has been a senior writer at Sports Illustrated since 2004. He writes about the Astros very frequently, as he’s gained exclusive access to the front office and the clubhouse that no other reporter has ever had. Reiter says he first gained this access when he asked the Astros before the 2014 draft. He was initially intrigued by the hiring of Sig Mejdal, who had helped the Cardinals build their World Series team in 2013, and has extensive experience working in baseball analytics.

Moves made by the front office that included keeping George Springer after the trade deadline, keeping Carlos Correa in the farm system, and keeping a young core, Reiter says, is what made him choose 2017 as his prediction year.

Reiter told Business Insider in an interview last month that he was allowed to “sit in on meetings and talk to whoever I needed to talk to” throughout the process of developing the story. Reiter also said, “At first I didn’t think we were going to do it, because it all really depended on being granted special access… it was wasn’t realistic to do without [access]”.

“He should have taken that to Vegas,” says senior Mike Walsh.

Reiter agreed, telling Business Insider, “My big regret is that I didn’t go to Vegas at any point. What an idiot, right? The greatest prediction in sports history and I’m not gonna make a dime.”

 

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