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Volume 21 No. 6
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Plugged In: Kenny Kendrena, Edge Inc.

Kenny Kendrena’s dreams of being a major league player didn’t work out after he reached as high as the Class AA minor league level in the 1990s for the Florida and Montreal organizations. But after a long stint as a high school teacher and baseball coach, Kendrena is still making an impact upon the big leagues by serving as vice president of product and sales for Inside Edge Inc., a Minnesota-based analytics firm that works with more than 20 MLB teams. The company, whose roots are in charting pitches and hitter tendencies in baseball, is expanding into on-field analytics for other sports, fueled in part by the introduction of Remarkable, an automated product that provides real-time statistical trends and insights in short-form narratives to a wide range of media clients.

The biggest opportunity is anywhere there is a lot of data.

On the rise of analytics and sabermetrics in MLB front offices: We went from one team in 1993, the Milwaukee Brewers, [then-owner] Bud Selig writes us the first check, and what they wanted us to do is provide some reports, and by today’s standards, they were very rudimentary reports, hot zones and cold zones, spray charts, in a nice graphical illustration. We were trying to take data and turn it into something they could use on the bench. Even four, five years ago, maybe half of the clubs in baseball still didn’t have an official analytics department, and now every club has one with at least two or three guys, and some with even 10 or more. That says a lot to how things have evolved very quickly.

On the changing demands for data: The demand for some of those older services we provided aren’t as strong, but there is a newer demand for niche data. What we have found now is clubs coming to us and saying, “We’re getting all this great information from MLBAM, with the Statcast data, and some of these other automated services. And it’s excellent. But it does have some holes. And can you guys help fill these holes?” So it’s become something of a hybrid of the automated with the expert human approach.

On navigating business versus consumer markets: We’re still pretty much b-to-b, but it’s a tricky one. We’ve always wrestled with the notion that if we rolled out Remarkable to everyone, there probably would be a lot of rabid fans. At the time, it’s such a perfect tool for broadcasters, anybody who’s covering a sport or contest. So we’ve always been a b-to-b company, and that’s still the way we are now, though there are some ways I think we can provide some b-to-c.

On the opportunities in esports: You talk to anybody these days and esports comes up, probably a few times a day. But it’s absolutely one of those areas that’s really interesting because it’s not as structured or set in their ways just yet. That’s a perfect opportunity for us to do some really cool things.

                                                                                                                               — Eric Fisher