Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rethinking the Standings Again

These articles were originally posted on FanGraphs a year ago. I am just posting them here for posterity.

On Tuesday I talked about how we could Rethink the Standings in a visual way. And you guys responded with helpful reasons. For the most part, I agreed with what you said, and sought out to fix it and make it better.

I realized from your comments that I had failed to mention that I never meant to animate it; I just got carried away and animated it without explaining what I was after. Oops. My goal had been to just make it a single stationary image like this:

Also, when working on the improved version, I found two big problems with my logic: 1) I had totally forgotten about double headers, so my graph showed Detroit with a whopping 156 games last year, and 2) I was calculating Wild Card standings wrong. I had just taken the 4th best record in the league, but the real formula is the best non-division-leading record in the league. So there was plenty of room for improvement on my part.

The biggest comments from you folks were as follows:

To my eye, it would be easier to follow if the individual teams had fixed lateral positions instead of the first-place team moving to the left — the vertical position indicates that already, so it seems superfluous. Also fixing the lateral positions would reduce the model’s dependence on colour, which, of course, benefits the colour-blind and also makes it more useful in situations where it won’t print in colour (such as most newspapers).

- Darien

In short, drop the horizontal movement and reduce the use of color. Done and done.

The only thing I would add might be value-keys next to each dot indicating (what the graph already indicates) the # of games back in the division… it might be hard to see if my team is 3 or 3.5 games back since the locations are so close together (or put them down at the bottom under the team abbreviations).

I’m also a fan of the idea of leaving the teams in the same order to begin the season (alphabetical seems easiest) so that I don’t have to keep track of what column my team happens to be in on any one day. With the dots clustered by division, it should still be readily visually apparent which team leads the division.

Another “graphic” thing might be to use the team logos instead of dots… in any case, superb work.

- Adam D

So add some labels so we can do more than just guesstimate the gap between teams, fix the order alphabetically so it’s easier to find your team each day, and use the logos instead of dots. Unfortunately, logos are a no-go. Excel doesn’t handle images well at all, and it just doesn’t look good (trust me — it’s really ugly).

1. I wanted to see when teams were eliminated. The baseballrace site used a moving line, which on your version would appear at the bottom and move up the graph; that might work. Or maybe just a big X riding on top of an eliminated team’s dot.

1a. Come to think of it, showing when teams clinch would also be useful.

2. I wonder whether I could highlight my favorite team. Putting teams in the same horizontal position will help, but it would be so great if I could click a button to highlight, say, the Twins, and then they stand out in some way — a larger circle, “MIN” in bold text, something.

- ScooterPie

There were a lot more comments, but these were the biggies. Here is the revised version:

Teams that are eliminated (see Baltimore) get their name greyed out at the top, and their circle becomes a lighter shade of grey. Teams that clinch their division are in black, and teams that have clinched a playoff spot are outlined in black like Tampa Bay and New York in this shot:

And this is what the season looks like, animated:

I also got a lot of requests to share the Excel file, so here it is. I will let you figure out the method to my madness, but feel free to ask in the comments if you have any questions. And if there are still ways to improve it, please let me know.

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