Rethinking the Standings Again

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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I'm an expat living in Japan since 2003, doing sales and marketing work. More of my work is available on Henkakyuu, my personal blog. Also feel free to inspire me to use twitter more often @henkakyuu

21 Responses to “Rethinking the Standings Again”

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  1. Kongos says:

    If you flip the image the other way, so that the dots move left to right rather than up and down, it would look like horse races rather than balloons bobbing.

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  2. nolan says:

    That’s really cool. Fun to watch how the season progressed that way – particularly the AL Central race and the way that Baltimore was out of contention by practically the third week of the season.

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  3. Owen says:

    Fantastic! I’d love to see this in a newspaper. I agree with Kongos that you could list the teams vertically, in part so that it could fit in newspaper layout and even–wink wink, nudge nudge–in the Fangraphs sidebar. This kind of layout also gracefully degrades from web to print–picture the still graph, but now with a slider that you can drag along the time axis and a calendar selector to see how the standings were on, say, June 13. Por favor, senor Appelman?

    The only suggestion I have is to make the games behind more explicit, perhaps by replacing the “games above/below .500″ value with a “games behind.” The only problem is how to indicate the games behind in the wild card.

    Also, if you had this in a web format, the individual balls could be hovered on for more information–actual record, last 10 in W-L, etc.

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    • filihok says:

      “The only suggestion I have is to make the games behind more explicit, perhaps by replacing the “games above/below .500? value with a “games behind.” The only problem is how to indicate the games behind in the wild card.”

      This was the thought that came to my mind

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    • GTwill says:

      I really like the slider idea as well as adding the mouse over effects. Hopefully, they will make this a permanent edition.

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  4. Bob Loblaw says:

    Just as an FYI, already utilizes this same idea.

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    • Standard_Deviance says:

      I’d never heard about baseballrace before, but yeah, it’s definitely the same visual concept. Though I have to say, fooling around with the baseballrace interface, one annoying aspect of it is that the visual separation between teams is very minimal, even betweeen the first and last place teams.

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  5. daiheide says:

    The only thing I’m really missing is the ability to see teams’ actual W-L records. Is there any way to include this information?

    Other than that, I think this is pretty awesome.

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  6. jason461 says:

    Add a little color back. Nothing wrong with each team having a different colored dot. It might make it easier to follow as well.

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  7. neuter_your_dogma says:

    Great job! I’ve always envisioned something like an aerial view of a horserace, with a Division and WC finish line, each length denoting games ahead/back of the opposition as the field gets closer to the finish.

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  8. Matt says:

    Looks great, although I’d agree that the color should be restored. Fixing the lateral position reduces the reliance on color (thus aiding the color blind), but color would still help the visual presentation for the non-color blind.

    Also, the link to the spreadsheet doesn’t seem to be working.

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  9. David says:

    The main comment I would have deals with eliminations. Your line assumes teams are eliminated based on the wild card, which might not be true (as in the AL West on 9/22) That line should adjust down for divisions where the wild card leader has a better record than the division leader. This would break the line into different places depending on the division.

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    • I calculate being eliminated from the division race and the WC race separately. Unless a team is eliminated from both, I do not count them as eliminated.

      The line just shows where the current WC leader is. Does that clear it up?

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  10. Zonis says:

    I understand making it black and white for a hypothetical newspaper, but I still believe it should be in color. Not everyone is color blind, and it gives a much easier at-a-glance idea of the teams w/o having to look up.

    Also, if it is kept in a format of Up-Down, I think the team names should be at the bottom and the division at the top, so it seems like they are racing up to claim the division, instead of themselves.

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  11. sleepingcobra says:

    Color is a must. Horizontal movement should be given a try.

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  12. Jay says:

    This still isn’t better than just looking at the normal standings in any daily newspaper.

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  13. Bradsbeard says:

    Here’s something I cooked up. A little more like the conventional standings but gives you that spacial sense. Note, I just made the standings up and photobucket made the file really small.

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  14. Huascar says:

    Nice revamping for a standard! I support the idea of getting colors back; however if a newspaper want to publish it, you can always turn it grayscale again. For the web color rules. I would say you can add some guide on how many games have been played out of schedule. Some ideas: 1) how many games have played every team, or the games remaining by using the bottom of the chart, and placing the label in the opposite side of the TEAM name. 2) Text close to the date stating the Max, Avg, Min games played in the league -sounds cool, but doesn’t add value when tracking specific teams-.

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