For 80 years, baseball stats have been relegated to tiny, tedious logs in the back pages of newspapers, their visual drama about as exciting as a Yahtzee scorecard. That's starting to change as data viz techniques wend their way into professional sports. And representing a big leap forward is Pennant, Steve Varga's comprehensive -- and theatrical -- interactive history of baseball.
Varga, late of the MFA Design + Technology program at Parsons the New School for Design, has designed an app that lets stats geeks browse data from more than 115,000 games between 1951 and 2010, covering everything from the Pirates? improbable decline over the past two decades to the glory of Kirk Gibson's World Series-clinching pinch-hit home run. The interface is available for $4.99 on the iPad, and it does something dreary old box scores have never managed to finagle: It injects baseball with all the dynamism of the game itself (and, perhaps, then some).
The video here does a good job showing how this thing works. In short: It lets you explore the history of baseball at various levels of detail, whether you're looking at a team, a season or an individual game. From there, you can delve into further minutiae, then organize the information according to your preferences. So say you want to select a team. You can browse through the league by swiping through baseball cards (top image) or jumping to cards arranged like tiles, like so:
Or pointing to a place on a U.S. map:
Or, say you want to go in depth, right down to the at-bat level, on a single game. You can call up a clock-like visualization, which gives an overview of the dramatic arc of the game, shown here:
Then, you can home in on players:
Or reconstruct the game play by play, by scrolling through the clock:
Of course, something like this will never replicate the thrill of a real game -- for one, it does not include dot races -- but for people who want to revisit some of the excitement of baseball of yore (and can't bear to sit through the Ken Burns special), Pennant has what the old scouts would call great stuff. Buy it here.
[Images via CreativeApplications.net]