Students who do cool things: Lewie Pollis ’14
Since the publication of Moneyball (now a major motion picture!), there has been no shortage of armchair baseball statisticians ready to proclaim their candidacy for Yankees Director of Baseball Operations because they understand what an On-Base Percentage is. But the ranks of baseball statistics gurus operating on the same level as Billy Beane (that’s the guy Brad Pitt plays in the movie) have remained thin. Leading the pack of future Brad Pitts, though, is none other than Lewie Pollis ’14, an economics concentrator and Cleveland Indians fan.
Pollis has been a fixture on the baseball statistics–aka sabermetrics–circuit since the debut of his Indians blog, “Wahoo’s On First.” But he took his game to a whole new level by winning the SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Commentary. The award specifically recognized Pollis for his post on the blog Beyond the Box Score refuting the suggestion that Hall of Fame voters should have seen a player in action in order to cast a vote on that player’s enshrinement. Receiving the honor capped a memorable weekend for Pollis at the SABR Analytics Conference in Phoenix, AZ, which he describes as the first time in his life he has been able to have in-depth, in-person conversations about the complexities of baseball analysis.
The SABR recognition of Pollis is well-deserved, and validates years spent digging deep into the math of baseball. Pollis describes himself as a minimally skilled little-leaguer who inherently understood the math of the game; he proudly remembers that he boasted a .533 on-base percentage despite an .067 batting average during his first year of kid-pitch little league. A translation for the layman–essentially, Pollis was able to get to first base over half the time despite being almost entirely unable to hit the ball.
Pollis soon transitioned from playing to watching and analyzing baseball; by his senior year of high school, he was writing on a volunteer basis for Bleacher Report, and by his freshman year at Brown he had been hired for pay. Pollis eventually moved away from Bleacher Report, which he does not remember particularly fondly, to Beyond the Box Score. From there, he founded Wahoo’s On First, which now carries eight writers and is part of Sports Illustrated‘s network of baseball blogs. In case Wahoo’s On First didn’t already sound impressive enough, USA Today named it the Best Indians Fan Blog last year.
Next year, Pollis hopes to write an economics thesis assessing the monetary value of a baseball team’s general manager. Post-graduation, he aspires to work in a professional baseball front office; his dream job is as an MLB general manager. When pressed, Pollis admits being the Indians’ general manager might be particularly sweet, but emphatically states that working for any team would be just as rewarding. He hopes to find a job in baseball this summer, and is in talks with a number of teams about potential collaboration. Blog’s prediction: Pollis won’t have much trouble achieving his dreams. He’s the real deal.