I am a big fan of graphs and baseball. Fangraphs made me excited because putting complex data into reasonably easy to understand graphs helps open up sabermetrics to more fans. I’m a big fan of statistical analysis, but after a while, a table full of numbers just starts running together and stops making sense. That’s what makes graphs such an effective tool.
I’ve dabbled in graphs myself. When people were creating the WAR graphs to compare hall of famers, I made a sample graph showing cumulative WAR by age on Tom Tango’s Book Blog:
(click for a larger image)
Of course, soon after Fangraphs came out with a far better looking one, saving me the headache of figuring out how to automate it.
Let me explain the mess you see above. The horizontal X-axis shows the amount of pitches. The first pitch is all the way to the left, and a full count is all the way to the right.
The vertical Y-axis shows the wOBA for all at-bats that go through that count. Since all at-bats go through the first pitch, the average wOBA is .323 (league average). The higher on the graph, the more likely a player is going to do something good. As you can see, the best count for hitters is 3-0, and the worst count is 0-2. On 3-0 the average hitter is a 2003 Barry Bonds, and on 0-2 they’re batting more like Aaron Cook.
The size of the counts (by area) are the amount of times that count has happened. There were 185,524 PA in 2010, so the first pitch is the biggest. There were only 9244 3-0 counts, so that is the smallest.
Each of the counts is a graph in and of itself showing what happened at that count. Blue is ball, red is strike, and gray means the play ended. As you can see, with 2 strikes the play ends with another, so there are only balls and ended at-bats.
I made this graph for my own use. It is a nice easy-reference tool to track what’s happening each pitch. I can follow and see if a batter’s chances went up or down, and how likely the at-bat is going to end on each pitch (really roughly). Ideally I would make one for each team, so that you can get one for your own team and use it when you’re watching games, or even for each player so that you can compare and contrast Vladimir Guerrero with Kevin Youkilis, or the Twins and the Yankees, etc.
And there’s a good chance that there are things that you can think of to use this graph for, so please let me know what they are in the comments.
The graph was initially made in Excel to get the bubble positions and sizes, then imported into Adobe Illustrator to add the pie graphs, connecting lines, etc.
Editor’s Note: You can find more of Joshua Maciel’s work on his blog: Henkakyuu
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