Baseball Games Beautifully Visualized Like Transit Maps

Just in time for the start of the World Series, a new site visualizes Major League Baseball games in a way that puts the box score to shame.

The baseball box score you see in the sports pages of your local newspaper is almost as old as baseball itself, and for good reason. From a design perspective, the box score is a masterpiece of statistical plain-text austerity: a four-hour-long battle between two teams full of bat-wielding titans distilled down to maybe a dozen lines of newsprint.

It takes a long time, and a lot of trial and error, to design a system that can convey information as efficiently as a box score can. But that's not to say that the box score can't be improved for the 21st century. Just in time for the World Series, Statlas is a new site trying to do just that with some modern design mojo and a dash of Sabermetrics.

One of the things that is so satisfying about sports statistics is the way that, just by looking at a lineup of names and numbers, they can be used to relive the pulse-pounding excitement and tension of a great game. Unfortunately, while there are a lot of good sites out there that crunch the data for sports fans, they don't often do it in a way that is visually appealing or straightforward.

That's ultimately what Statlas does so well. Looking at all of the playoff games in the run-up to the Major League Baseball World Series, Statlas breaks down each inning of each game in a series of easy-to-read data visualizations that track which players were at bat, the bases they stole, and their likelihood of being struck out against a particular pitcher. It also tracks data on the different pitchers--what balls they threw against whom, and when--all with the same elegant and efficient design chops.

What Statlas does really well, though, is make it easy to spot the moments of spectacle that can happen during a game. Check out, for example, Game 4 of Tampa Bay vs. Boston, in which an explosion of hits and runs in the fifth inning are charted with all the geometric beauty of a good city transit map. But Statlas is also great at highlighting the secret game-changing plays that sometimes happen, unremarked. Everyone knows that a home run is a game-changer, but Statlas also makes it easy to spot the littler plays that made a huge difference, like the player who was picked off trying to steal a base.

Statlas provides commentary on its baseball visualizations, summing up what happened during a given inning in clear, dynamic language. Statlas even charts interesting tweets in real time from some of baseball's top commentators about what was going on at that specific moment, giving a semi-live overview of what the people who follow baseball for a living thought about the game as it had been occurring, so far.

What's so great about Statlas isn't just that it's good at allowing baseball fans to relive some of the most dramatic moments of the playoffs through the power of data viz, although it is undeniably great at that. It's that it's also a great learning tool for people who might be new to baseball. For those dabblers munching their peanuts and Crackerjacks, Statlas's ultimate feat is that it reveals the supple statistical beauty that orchestrates every baseball game, all through the power of design.

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