Sportradar quantitative analyst Donnacha Bolger explains what it takes to build a world-class sports trading model.
To be able to deliver world-class sports data and trading services, you need a combination of three factors – comprehensive and quality data, with official data partnerships, market-leading mathematical algorithms and models, and expert trading analysts with high-level mathematical, scientific and sports knowledge.
Because of Sportradar’s wide-ranging sports coverage and official data partnerships with major sports federations across the world – like Major League Baseball (MLB), for example – it has access to multiple complex metrics for teams and players from each individual play that is made.
Being able to obtain this data straight from the source in real-time as it’s happening is crucial. Together with the ISO-Certified Quality Management Systems that Sportradar applies to its data procurement processes, this means that the data is not only reliable but also fast.
With a maths degree and a PhD in statistics, Donnacha Bolger is an expert in what he does, like many of Sportradar’s trading team. As a huge fan of baseball, he has a wealth of knowledge in the sport, which he uses in his role as a quantative analyst to build trading operations models specifically for the game.
“Having a deep and accurate source of data is a vital foundation to build a top-class model,” says Bolger.
“The quantitative analyst team builds models for individual sports using this data, which then perform mathematical calculations to produce market probabilities. Our models are extremely dynamic, and update with real-time data from the field of play, meaning prices offered are always accounting for the latest available information possible. This involves creating additional markets at an extremely granular level to generate even more betting and engagement opportunities for clients.
“Some of the market extensions we have created for baseball include looking at the potential outcome of the next individual pitch that is thrown, whether it be a ball, or a strike, or a hit. We then try and go a level further, looking at the potential outcome of the player at bat. For example, will they be out, will they hit a home run or will they hit a single? From this, for every half innings, you have a plethora of new markets to work with, including how many hits will take place, how many home runs and how many total bases for each team.”
Bolger and his team constantly monitor and enhance their models on an ongoing basis, using a feedback loop from clients, analysis of betting and sports data, and their own traders to adjust where required and to break markets down even further.
“With our latest market extension for baseball, we’ve added between 30 to 40 new markets per game. From a business and client perspective, this is fantastic. As a sport with such a statistical culture, and with games lasting around three hours, baseball provides a fabulous opportunity for operators to engage their customers even further by offering them interesting and entertaining micro-level betting propositions. And we’re leveraging this by diving even further to create even more markets,” says Bolger.
Sportradar believes it’s also about feeding the desires of today’s customers. Thanks to advances in technology, sports fans want more ways to get involved with the game, gain a deeper understanding and be able to predict various outcomes.
“This is what makes the intricacies around player markets and pitch-by-pitch markets so important. And, with the amount of team and player data available in a game like baseball, we haven’t even cracked the surface in terms of potential market possibilities,” adds Bolger.
“Thanks to our official partnership with MLB, we also have access to their Statcast data, which will enable us to develop many opportunities for fans to engage with the sport. The speed of a pitch, spin rate, angle of elevation that a ball is hit at, exit velocity, length of home runs – these are factors that baseball fanatics love. These are the markets that, when utilised in established and newly emerging legalised betting environments – like the US, LatAm and potentially Asia – have the ability to capture punters’ attention and expand interest in the sport as well.”