Running the Numbers Puts Runs on the Board

School of Business student combines analytics proficiency and leadership to help Stevens succeed on the diamond.

It should not be a shock that a finance major’s favorite book is Moneyball.

The surprising part of Vaughn Weber’s Stevens’ experience is how closely it mirrors the baseball subject matter. A rising senior from Byram Township, New Jersey, Weber is the Stevens baseball team’s analytics team coordinator, overseeing three other members of the program’s analytics staff. In his role, Weber collects, organizes and analyzes data on player performance. He shares his findings with players and coaches to help them make adjustments on the field and improve their decision-making.

“Moneyball is the first book that got me into this, and every page resonated with me,” he said. “I was like, ‘Wow! This is smart.’ I apply the book to other things as well. It’s a good thing to challenge the norms, and it's a good thing to figure out something new and how to get the extra 1% out of whatever you do, whether it's with baseball or with schoolwork.”

Vaughn arrived in Hoboken with aspirations to play for the Ducks but was not selected for the roster his first year. However, a chance encounter with the then-analytics coordinator, Greg Bender, put him on his current path. Meeting Bender was serendipitous, but the fact that Stevens had an established analytics program was by no means an accident.

Michael Cornish, a 2021 graduate, presented head coach Kristaps “Taps” Aldins with the idea in 2017. Aldins decided to go ahead with the analytics team partly because of the types of individuals already on the Stevens campus. The staff went to work looking for students who fit the unique profile of being interested in baseball, mathematics and analytics.

"There are so many new technologies available to us that we didn't have access to five, let alone 10 years ago," Aldins shared in a 2020 story on "Our coaching staff ultimately concluded, at a prestigious university like Stevens, we needed to search our campus for hard-working, smart, technologically-savvy, passionate and baseball-knowledgeable individuals. By working together with these bright minds, we felt that we could better use technology to our advantage."

Weber certainly fits that mold and as part of the business school, his management training has allowed him to transition from a first-year student learning the ropes to the leader of the group.

“We've worked with Vaughn for three years, and he’s just been an absolute joy to be around,” Aldins said. “When he came to Stevens, he expressed an interest in being able to try out for the team, and after that didn't work out, he wanted to get involved in an analytics capacity. I think that speaks a lot about his love of the game, the love of Stevens and the love of Stevens baseball. At the time, this already had been a long-standing program for us. He stepped into a situation where a pretty high bar had already been set. It was a learning position for him in the beginning, but very quickly turned into a leadership position. He is really an extension of our coaching staff.”

Vaughn and his team use several pieces of technology to collect and analyze the data, including Rapsodo, a camera system that collects video of how the ball moves after its hit or thrown to give hitters and pitchers specific feedback. They also use platforms like Gamechanger and 6-4-3 Charts to record information about pitch selection, pitch breakdown and location.

Vaughn Weber sits behind the backstop at a Stevens baseball game inputting data into a tablet.

“Most of the players on our team, we go to a tech school after all, are really into the data,” Weber explained. “My goal is to be there for the players and coaches, and whenever they have questions, I have the answers. I think the best example is my interactions with the pitchers the day after their outings. I very often go in-depth into their outings, and I can answer any questions about what they did in certain situations and what I think they could do to get better.”

“For example, some of our starting pitchers often wonder what pitches they should throw more and what pitches they should throw less. Based on information I collect, I can give them guidance. Basically, it boils down to whatever information the guys want, I can usually give them something to help improve their game.”

While the team’s analytics program was well established when Weber started his tenure, he has not been shy about making improvements whenever possible. He has built a film library to consolidate each player’s game film and because of his technological improvements, players are able to view all their statistics and analytical information in an easy-to-access and understandable format without guidance from the coaching staff or analytics team.

“We needed him to be able to train and be able to bring up to speed a couple of younger analytics team members, so that's one example of where he's shown that leadership,” Aldins points out. “But I also think about his one-on-one relationships with our current student-athletes, I think that the relationship he has with those guys is very special. There are very few teams that have that type of dynamic. We have an analytics team, which is again an extension of the coaching staff, but it's really those one-on-one relationships and the way that he treats those guys on the team, the way that they treat and look up to him. It's just such a unique situation.”

While his job is all about the numbers and finding an advantage in the math, it’s the human connection that can be Vaughn’s biggest ally.

“I've established relationships with all the players and all the coaches to where I'm almost like an in-between in some way,” he said. “I have a level of trust now with most of the guys where they see me as a coach and I can provide them feedback help them improve every day. In certain cases, I almost have a little bit of an advantage. There are times they would rather hear that feedback from a peer. Sometimes I can break it down for them in a certain way that might make it easier for them to hear.”

So, what do baseball and finance have to do with one another? According to Vaughn, more than you might think.

“I think my coursework here forces me to be a critical thinker, and it challenges my problem-solving skills,” Weber said. “Many of the tools and resources I end up using in class, I find myself using with the baseball team, technical skills, as well as soft skills. I feel like being on the analytics team allows me to apply what I learned in the classroom to an out-of-classroom setting and for me, it's with baseball, something I really enjoy.”

With another season and academic year left before graduation, Vaughn’s final career path is still uncertain. But no matter which road he chooses, sports analytics or more traditional finance, his experience on the baseball diamond is proof that he can handle whatever comes his way.

“With this role, I’m working double-digit hours a week and every day I either learn something new or I'm challenged with something new,” he noted. “It’s definitely helped me with the prospects of getting a job. I have something valuable that I really, really care about and that I can speak on and offer how it impacted me as a human and as a potential employee. I always try to get out of my comfort zone to meet and hang out with people that I might not have envisioned myself with. There is definitely something to be said about being with a group that shares a common goal.”