The Baseball Diamond to Digital Farming: The Winning Roots of Analytics

The Baseball Diamond to Digital Farming: The Winning Roots of Analytics

Read Time: 3 Minutes
April 7, 2022
Mitch Zumbach
Asgrow® and DEKALB® Seed Dealer

Baseball is infamous for using data to find the "true value" of a player. In other words, how can analyzing data help us determine how much to invest in a player? For instance, Babe Ruth earned $16 million a year in his prime with inflation. But if he played today, given his ability to pitch and hit for both power and average, he could easily demand $50 million a year. But, would a team pay that? Some would, but other teams would hesitate for good reason. You need to be mindful of how much you invest in one player and one seed.

Build a Balanced Seed Roster

There is a limit to how much you want to plant a single hybrid or variety. I recommend my customers only use a single hybrid on no more than 25% of their acres. And ideally, I would recommend closer to 15-20%, even if it's the Great Bambino of corn or soy. 

You need a full roster of quality seeds, not just one superstar. It could be a fluke season, and, what's most important, you limit your ability to learn when you only plant a few different seeds. 

By planting a full roster of seeds, the more you're able to gain insight into what works and what doesn't on every acre.

 

Library of Congress: Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guide


And when looking at your roster, just like talent, how you allocate seed is one key to success. Bayer, much like professional baseball teams, can leverage a library of performance data. Informed by more than 800,000 test plots, FieldView™ seed scripts can determine the ideal placement and population for nearly 5,000 different hybrids

 

A Season Does Not Equal Forever

Chick Hafey, a standout outfielder, had a disappointing season in 1926. He hit a measly four home runs and only 38 RBIs. After such a substandard season, one could conclude that St. Louis needed to go another direction. Luckily, the club did not. Chick Hafey went on to hit 18, 27, 29 and 26 home runs over the next four seasons. Sometimes we put too much emphasis on recent events. We have to look at all the data as opposed to just one data point.

Avoid the Underperformance Temptation

A field with unexpectedly low yield (or even an entire, lackluster season) can overinfluence your decision-making. And that's only human. That might sound strange, considering dealers and FieldView™ have always preached the importance of learning from historical data. And that's true, but one season is not the entire history of your operation. I experienced this about a decade ago when many farmers in my region experienced an extensive drought. The next season, almost every farmer was focused on buying hybrids and varieties with the best drought resistance. Mother nature is not that predictable and we're not that lucky. 

Let Every Seed Prove Itself on the Field

It's often said that you shouldn't judge a player until they've had at least 500 plate appearances. When they reach the 500 mark, they've likely seen almost every scenario and style of pitching to give you an accurate look at how they'll perform. The same, although not literally, could be said about any given hybrid or variety. You don't want to rush to judgment, good or bad, about a hybrid's performance based on a single field or section of your fields. This is where it’s helpful to make a field region report. You can isolate a specific zone and sit down with your trusted advisor to find out what really happened.

 

Legendary manager, Whitey Herzog, produced similar rainbow spray charts to track the performance of pitchers to plan defensive configurations based on each hitter’s tendencies.

Legendary manager, Whitey Herzog, produced similar rainbow spray charts to track the performance of pitchers to plan defensive configurations based on each hitter’s tendencies.

Population is the New On-Base Percentage

Believe it or not, taking a walk in baseball used to be considered "selfish." Especially if a player was a good hitter. By keeping their bat on their shoulder, the conventional wisdom felt a player was sacrificing a swing that could create runs. But, this mindset misses the bigger picture. Metrics like on-base percentage highlight that getting on base, even if it was just to first base, still advances a runner. Keep moving down the lineup and force the pitcher to throw more pitches—giving you the opportunity for the pitcher to make a mistake to capitalize on. 

 

The same could be said when looking at yield data. As you build your planting plan for the next season, it can be tempting to use the same script as the previous season. But just because it had the highest yield in one season doesn't mean it was the ideal seed or population for that part of the field. It’s wise to consider the broader impact, like dry down or the number of additional inputs to see which population rate will deliver the maximum amount of revenue. That's why FieldView seed scripts pair your historical field data with over a decade of Bayer research data. With all the information, FieldView finds the ideal rate for your fields in just minutes. 

 

 

Because as we've learned today, using the right tools and with the right mindset, you can use data to measure, make decisions and produce results on the field. Be it in the ballpark or in the cab. Good luck this planting season.


About the Author

Mitch and his wife Debby Zumbach farm near Mitch’s hometown of Coggon, IA. Mitch graduated from North Linn High School in 1991 before attending Iowa State University to earn a degree in Ag Studies. After college, Mitch returned to Coggon to continue his farming career and started a seed and custom chemical application business. He has also served on many boards and councils including Peach Lutheran Church Council, North Linn Boosters, Farm Bureau Board, NXT Bank Board and the National DEKALB Dealer Council. Mitch and Debby have two children; McKenna who resides in Seattle and Nathan who is currently attending Iowa State University.