Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Work in Progress

I am rethinking the way we look at game summaries. Most sites have a play by play, box score, and even a WPA graph for the game. Isn't there a better way to get an idea of how the game flowed without sifting through the text?

I figure there must be, so I'm trying to come up with something, but it's a process. And it's nowhere near done, but I may as well show what I have to get feedback, or at least to put it out there in case someone else has use for it in its current form.

Pardon the lack of polish, it was created solely in Excel (turned to PNG in Illustrator):
(Click for a larger version)

What I want to do is to give a nice graphical review of what happened on the field, coupled with the run expectancy for each part. Each base-out state at the start of the at-bat is shown by the graphic. Red is no outs, yellow one out, blue two outs. To the left of each base graphic is a white dot showing the expected runs (0 to 3) before the at-bat, and to the right is the expected runs (0 to 3) after the at-bat. If the at-bat ended the inning, the dot is black (at zero). Each player's contribution is the gap between the left and the right.

But there's still a lot of stuff missing:
  • Color coding the base-out states is ugly. I want to change the background color to correspond to the number of outs (white for 0, light grey for 1, grey for 2, and black for 3 outs)
  • I need to show when a player scored runs in his at-bats. For instance, the 3-run HR by Sardinha in the 4th inning makes it look like he dropped the run expectancy (1st and 2nd with 2 outs to bases empty 2 outs). In reality he scored 3 runs minus that drop in expectancy
  • I need to figure out a better way of dealing with stolen bases. There is one in the 9th, but there's no way of knowing that it happened, or who did it. That's going to be a challenge (stupid non-discrete events in an otherwise discrete game!)
My ultimate goal is to be able to give a nice simple way to tally up the expected runs and scored runs in the middle (simple addition across), and a nice simple way to tally up the run expectancy added by each player (simple addition downward). I'd be much happier if it also looked nice, but I'll focus on getting the hard work of making it useful first.

If anyone has any input, please let me know. And if there are any Excel geniuses out there who know how I can use a custom marker for XY charts with a transparent background (transparent turns black when you add it to the chart), I'd be eternally grateful.

Image is licensed under Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial license. Feel free to use it as you'd like, and if you'd like the file I've used for it, just ask.


  1. I like it. And is that Helvetica Neue I see down there?

  2. (Almost) always Helvetica Neue. It's a simple no-nonsense font that typically saves me mocking from the larger graphic design community. I should throw in bits and pieces of Arial from time to time to see if folks are paying attention. Or Comic Sans.


  3. Almost gave me a heart attack there.

  4. Yes a graphical way to express a baseball game would be neat. I found myself "watching" games on FanGraphs with WPA. An elegant way to express the ebb and flow of a baseball game. For those of us who aren't "graphical" I started my own way of expressing a "box score" in haiku...check it out.