I have a bit of a history of a geeky interest in baseball. Beyond watching and following the game, I enjoy the analytical side of the game. It’s a perfect game of numbers that lends itself well to analysis, debate, and visualization.
In February on 2010, I started writing for my favorite baseball analysis site on the web—Beyond the Box Score. In addition to prose, I’m now providing a infographics in a weekly column called “Visuals Above Replacement”.
Here are a few of my favorites.
A Timeline of the Best Players Ever
Early in my tenure at Beyond the Box Score, I developed a metric that is really just a modification of an existing metric. The original is Sean Smith’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which I base the vast majority of my work on. WAR is a single number that combines offense, defense, baserunning and position value in order to determine how many more wins a player was worth than a replacement player (a freely available minor leaguer). Sean’s implementation of WAR was adopted by the wonderful Baseball-Reference.com.
Sean later proposed a metric called Wins Above Excellence (WAE) that totals just WAR values that exceeded a certain threshold of excellence (in his case, 3.0 WAR—2.0 is considered average). Building on this, I calculated the average WAR for an MVP winner and developed a metric called Wins Above MVP (WAM). This aims to only capture truly dominant, MVP-worthy seasons (seasons above 6.0 WAR).
I created this timeline of the best players in the history of the game, based on Wins Above MVP (with the assumption that the best players would be the ones producing the truly dominant seasons). This post discusses the timeline.
The WAR/WAE/WAM “Bullseye”
When Ron Santo passed away, I debuted this simple visualization of a player’s WAR, WAE, and WAM. I also calculated the median WAR, WAE, and WAM among Hall of Famers.
Interactive 2011 Hall of Fame Ballot
This was my first interactive infographic (a format I plan to use more in the future). I recreated the WAR/WAE/WAM “bullseyes” using HTML, CSS3 (via Sass), and jQuery and made them draggable (for comparison purposes).
Hall of Famers by wWAR
This was another HTML/CSS visualization that used WAR, WAE, and WAM to try to rank Hall of Famers. In this case, I gave more weight to WAE and WAM in order to give peak performance and MVP-caliber performances more weight in the metric. I called it Weighted WAR, or wWAR.
The Damage Double Plays Can Do
Continuing with the circular theme… perhaps my simplest infographic (but also perhaps the most effective), is this one that showed how something that doesn’t get reflected in batting average, OBP, slugging, OPS, or whatever (grounding into double plays) can be devastating to a player’s offensive value. There was an original post about just Rice and a followup with more players.
This one is likely the people’s choice for my best infographic of 2010. We all loved baseball cards, but we don’t think the numbers on the back of them best reflected a player’s value. What to do? Why not design a concept of what a saber-friendly baseball card would look like?
There were three iterations—I posted the original concept in early June, followed up about a week later with a revised version, then produced a third iteration with more stats at the beginning of July.
This Ortiz card was from the third iteration:
And this Pedroia card was from the second:
Cliff Lee’s Postseason K/BB
In case you missed it, despite losing out on a World Series trophy, Cliff Lee had a remarkable postseason. Most impressive was his K/BB (or, strikeouts per walk). In this graph, I show exactly how his postseason stacked up against the best ever in this respect.
In which I again pick on Jim Rice
As Jim Rice gained induction to the Hall of Fame—while Dwight Evans was never seriously considered—I felt obligated to point out how much of a better player Evans was than Rice. Readers also pointed out how Fred Lynn was also better. Funny how the worst player in a team’s outfield can be the one who ends up in the Hall of Fame.
These infographics were done before I started at Beyond the Box Score, over at my site BaseballTwit. They simply show an offense vs. defense breakdown of the best catchers ever.
Here are six other catchers I believe are deserving of a long look for the Hall of Fame.