Is a Baseball Team a System?

Posted on July 25, 2016 by Dr. Robert Cloutier
Dr. Robert Cloutier

Is a Baseball Team a System? data-lightbox='featured'
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I begin most courses by telling the students that I will change the way they think – that they will come to realize that Systems Engineering and systems thinking can be applied almost anywhere. Recently, I read an article on What caught my eye was the title was “Joe Girardi explains how his degree in industrial engineering helps him manage the Yankees”. Industrial Engineering and Systems Engineering are first cousins, and the US News and World Report Best Grad Schools ranks a category of grad programs as Industrial / Manufacturing / Systems Engineering. In December 2015, the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) changed their name to the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers (IISE).

Back to Joe Girardi. It turns out that Joe has a degree from Northwestern in Industrial Engineering – not the typical degree for a Manager of a professional sports team. And, he is applying that education to managing his ball club. He went on to explain that managing is ”a lot of problem-solving and figuring out how systems can run better. I figure I do a lot of that every day at home and every day at the ballpark, but a different type of engineering.” Girardi is using data analytics much like that portrayed in what I thought was an excellent movie – Moneyball. If you have not watched this movie, Brad Pitt plays the Oakland Athletics manager Billy Beane, who took the A’s to the World Series using data analysis of each player.

Systems engineering is the holistic view of anything that works in concert to accomplish a specific mission. This may be a ship, an airplane, a chemical plant, or an organization. They all fit the definition of a system, which is a collection of parts and components that work together as a whole to accomplish a purpose or mission. That even includes a baseball team, sports team, or any other organization.

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