Sports and data visualization are a natural fit for each other, and for me, visualizing the data is part of the appeal of following a sports team. Last year, I created a couple of data visualizations for baseball teams like the Oakland Athletics 2012 Regular Season Wins/Losses Infographic.
I’m working on a new version this year, but, as a fan of Andrew Garcia Phillips’ Chartball posters, I wanted to try a different format. I like how detailed the Chartball posters are. There’s so much detail to explore if you’re a fan and they’re visually appealing. But, I don’t have the time or inclination to include detailed stats on individual hitting, pitching, etc., and I’m not a huge fan of stacked area graphs – they look cool, but I personally find them difficult to get much out of. So, I’m experimenting with my own version. What follows is definitely a work in progress, followed by my own self-critique.
I thought it would be interesting to see the team’s winning percentage over the course of the season, and the first month or so was interesting, but as the season progresses there’s not a lot of change, so there’s a lot of space taken up in the infographic without conveying much interesting information. So, I think I’ll ditch that in the final product.
The position of all the teams in the division over the course of the season also takes up a lot of real estate, but I think is actually interesting enough to warrant staying in. In this division race, it tells an interesting visual story of the battle for first place between the A’s and the Rangers. I think that it needs to be cut off vertically however to take up less space. The poor Astros are so far back and they just keep dropping lower and lower. I think that next version needs to have a cut off at something like 10 or 15 games behind and any team that falls below that drops off the chart, into the proverbial cellar.
The top graphic represents the game-by-game wins and losses with a simple column chart with the height of the columns representing the difference in the scores of the two teams. A win is a green column above the axis and a loss is a gold column dropping below the axis. I know bars and columns aren’t as sexy as circles like Chartball uses, but they’re much easier for the brain to decode so I’m sticking with them.
What I’ve got so far isn’t anywhere close to the data viz beauty of the Chartball posters, but, it is a work in progress, far from being complete. I think part of the visual appeal of the Chartball posters is the individual player data. Maybe I’ll have to reconsider including some of that.
For those interested in how I’m creating this, I’ve got a Google Docs spreadsheet, with the basic data. Then I copy data for each graph element and use Adobe Illustrator’s graph tools to create the individual graphs. The main problem with this approach is getting the elements in each graph to line up to each corresponding game and all that line up to the grid in Illustrator. Still fighting that and if anyone has any suggestions for making that easier, I’d love to hear them.