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Rethinking the Standings

Every morning when I was a kid, I would wake up and grab the sports pages to see how my team was doing. Millions of people across the country do the same — they wake up and reach for a paper to sift through something like this:

I always go straight for my division and my team, and see how many games behind they are. I then look longingly at the Wild Card standings to get an idea of how far behind they are. But most of the information gets completely ignored as I eat my breakfast. I’m guessing that millions of people across the country are doing the same.

Chris Spurlock over at Beyond the Box Score made a noble attempt to animate a division race here. But a few things didn’t sit well with me. First of all, it was out of context — you can see how your team is doing in comparison to the division leader, but not in relation to the rest of the league.

My suggestion was this:

But I still have the same problem. It shows how each team is doing in relation to the AL East, but how is the rest of the AL doing? Not to mention that it looks almost exactly like the graphs Studes used to update on The Hardball Times. Though that isn’t a bad thing, it also means that I didn’t add anything at all to the conversation.

So I got thinking even harder about it. What do we really want to see in the standings? We want to know how our team is doing. We want to know how far behind they are in the division. We want to know how they are doing in relation to the other teams in the league when it comes to the Wild Card Standings. Also, we probably want to see what direction they’re headed in. Some newspapers show the record over the last 10 games and/or the current streak (3L, or 4W, etc.). Studes created sparklines to do the same thing.

This is my attempt at making the divisional race better (the file is 6 megabytes, so please give it a little bit of time to load):

Each division is on the same graph, so we can compare across the entire AL in a glance. Whoever is furthest left in their division is in first. Each team also has a “trail” of 5 days to show what direction they are moving in. When a line pops up between two teams, it means that they have changed places in the standings.

Unlike my usual graphs, this was made entirely in Excel, and then was turned into a .gif file, so the image quality isn’t so great. Please be understanding. I also don’t handle ties too well, and don’t show which team is actually first in the Wild Card race.

I want your feedback. Does this graph work for you? Would looking at a chart like this every morning with your coffee be a good replacement for the traditional standings?