MLB Pitcher Enrolls in USF St. Petersburg’s MBA Program

Tanner Anderson. Credit: Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics

Tanner Anderson. Credit: Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics

(Nov. 13, 2019) – Since he could remember, Tanner Anderson pictured himself pitching in the big leagues. Anderson threw his first ball when he was three years old and played for Plant City High School as a teenager. In 2011, he was accepted to Harvard University, where Anderson pitched and played second base for four years.

It wasn’t until his junior year of college, however, that Anderson realized his dream was about to come true. The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Anderson in 2015, and a few years later he took the mound for his Major League debut.

Today, Anderson throws for the Oakland Athletics, while spending his offseasons in Tampa Bay. This fall, while recovering from the long season and preparing for the next season ahead, he enrolled in the MBA program at USF St. Petersburg’s Kate Tiedemann College of Business, where he’s pursuing a degree in business analytics.

“Baseball and data have always been intertwined,” Anderson said. “Statisticians in the sport use specific programs that outline every single thing that happens on the baseball field. These stat guys help interpret the data so players can maximize our performance.”

Baseball has long been Anderson’s first priority, but he realizes he won’t always be able to rely on his arm and athleticism for a career.

“Plan A can only last so long,” he said. “In the offseason, I do a lot of working out and preparation for the next season, but I wanted to do something valuable with my extra time. That’s why I chose to pursue an MBA at USFSP.”

Anderson is currently enrolled in Data Visualization and Managerial Economics courses. These courses challenge him to simplify complex datasets and analyze statistics.

For a recent reflective essay assignment, Anderson was asked to consider what his organization does data-wise, and what simple changes could help to improve its communication of data.

Anderson is known for his unusual pitching windup. Credit: Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics

Anderson is known for his unusual pitching windup. Credit: Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics

“There’s a bridge that needs to be built between baseball players and statisticians,” he said. “It’s tough for statisticians to communicate to the athletes on what some of these statistics means and how to interpret them, to do minor mechanical changes in order to increase their performance.”

Statistics have been used in baseball since it was invented in the late 19th century, tracking hitter’s batting averages and home run totals and calculating pitcher’s earned run averages. In recent years, the use of statistics, and the number of in-game situations and performances they measure, have accelerated.
The book and film Moneyball told the tale of one of the most famous instances of statistics being applied in the sport. Based on real events, General Manager Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, used a baseball analysis method called sabermetrics to craft a winning Oakland Athletics team largely of undervalued talent on a limited budget in the early 2000s. Beane now serves as executive vice president of baseball operations and is a minority owner of the Athletics.

With an MBA from USFSP in his back pocket, Anderson said he expects to feel confident in his future after baseball, wherever that may lead.

“Whatever I decide to do, I’ll always have the valuable information I’ve learned from the program, and I’ll be able to do something within the business analytics concentration.”