Jun 23, 2020 | Atlanta, GA
Michael Guldberg has a knack for numbers. Just glance at his stat line as a three-year member of the Georgia Tech baseball team.
A .374 career batting average and 119 hits in three seasons – only one of which was a full season. After battling injuries in his first two seasons with the Yellow Jackets – he hit a paltry .355 as a sophomore despite battling back from offseason labrum surgery – he was off to one of the best starts in team history when it comes to batting average.
Over the course of his career in Atlanta, the numbers just followed him, leaving no secret as to why he was just drafted in the third round of the Major League Baseball first-year player’s draft by the Oakland Athletics.
But it’s not just the numbers on the field that resonate with the Industrial Engineering major. Early in his academic career at Georgia Tech, he took CS 1301, a requirement for the major he declared because of its breadth. There, for the first time, he came across programming languages and data analytics, and the dots between academics and athletics were instantly connected.
“I took that course, and I was just like, ‘I think I like this,’” Guldberg said. “I was so interested, I just went ahead and declared computer science as my minor.”
Since then, Guldberg has had a chance for his interest to grow. Last summer, unable to do much in terms of baseball workouts because he was still recovering from his injury, he worked as a data scientist intern with Terbium Labs in Baltimore. There, he worked in dark web data monitoring, using Python scripts to scrape the dark web and locate things like credit card or identity fraud.
His interest grew there, getting a larger dose of data analytics, which he eventually declared as his concentration in industrial engineering. It’s a natural route for a baseball player, who encounters a vast repository of data throughout their careers.
Data analytics as a field has become almost synonymous with baseball. From the use of sabermetrics to charting impacts of infield shifts to decision trees that identify the probability a pitcher will throw a certain pitch in a given count, the numbers in the sport are endless – a perfect hook for a player interested in the field.
“I kind of understand it on both sides,” Guldberg said. “More so on the baseball side, and I’m working to understand it on the back end now too.
“Every game we have a hitter’s meeting beforehand, and that’s the time we use to watch video and see their sprays of where they throw pitches and how often. What I like is getting more into the analytics side, seeing the trees of an 0-0 count, then 0-1 or 1-0 the other way. You can see how pitchers attack hitters, and alter your approach in response.”
Guldberg said that he could see himself working as a data analyst or in a front office for a Major League team down the road.
“I think that’s kind of right up my alley to be honest,” he said. “The more I get educated and play baseball and be around it, it seems like a good direction to go in.”
He’s got the athletic background for it, but also the academic, having been named an Academic All-American last year, only the fourth Georgia Tech baseball player to receive that honor. He said that his experience in computer science and having that option as a minor has been vital in the academic path he’s taken.
“We’re so lucky at Georgia Tech to have that option,” he said. “The fact you can come out of here and say you’re educated in computer science along with your other major field, it’s unbelievable. It’s really changed the way I look at the world and given me an opportunity to learn coding. It’s going to be great for me down the line.”
After his baseball career comes to an end, of course. And that may be a ways down the road yet.