The most recent issue of ESPN the Magazine has ranked all teams from the four major U.S. professional sports leagues - MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA - and named the Houston Astros the top analytically-minded team in baseball, and second among all 122 ranked teams, trailing just the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers.
The ranking comes as no surprise to fans of the Astros, who have quickly developed a reputation as calcuating dataphiles under General Manager Jeff Luhnow and "Director of Decision Sciences" Sig Mejdal. The Astros' hiring of analytically-minded writers like Colin Wyers and Mike Fast no doubt plays into the decision, as the magazine explains:
We unleashed our experts - ESPN reporter Kevin Seifert (NFL), ESPN Insiders Kevin Pelton (NBA) and Craig Custance (NHL), former Mets stats guru Ben Baumer (MLB), and an army of researchers - on all 122 teams in a quest to rank each on the strength of its analytics staff, its buy-in from execs and coaches, its investment in biometric data, and how much its approach is predicated on analytics.
The Astros' write-up talks specifically about their hiring of a "nine-man sabermetrics staff that includes a medical risk manager and a mathematical modeler," and goes on to talk about their use of defensive shifts.
Their unwavering devotion to gaining an edge with defensive shifts has commish Rob Manfred considering a leaguewide ban.
Other MLB teams in the top ten include the Tampa Bay Rays (4), Boston Red Sox (5), New York Yankees (6), and Oakland Athletics (9). Across town, the NBA's Houston Rockets came in third in the rankings.