Written by David Mitchell
Michael Guldberg has a knack for numbers. Just glance at his stat line as a three-year member of the Georgia Tech baseball team.
He has 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 was off to one of the best starts in team history when it comes to batting average.
Over the course of his athletic career in Atlanta the numbers followed Guldberg, leaving no secret as to why he was drafted in the third round of the Major League Baseball first-year player’s draft by the Oakland Athletics in June 2020.
But it’s not just the numbers on the field that resonate with Guldberg, a student in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE). Early in his academic career at Georgia Tech, he took a programming with Python class (CS 1301), a requirement for the major. For the first time he came across programming languages and data analytics, and the dots between academics and athletics instantly connected.
Since then, Guldberg’s interest has grown. In the summer of 2019, unable to participate in baseball workouts because he was still recovering from an injury, he accepted a data scientist internship with Terbium Labs in Baltimore. There, he worked in dark web data monitoring, using Python scripts to scrape the dark web to identify credit card or identity fraud.
Back at Tech, Guldberg eventually declared data analytics as his ISyE concentration — a natural route for a baseball player who, throughout his career, will encounter a vast repository of data.
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 am around it, it seems like a good direction to go in.”
Guldberg has both the athletic and academic backgrounds for it, having been named a First-Team Academic All-American last year. He is only the fourth Georgia Tech baseball player to receive that honor.
After his baseball career comes to an end, of course. And that may be a ways down the road yet.
H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering