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Visualization Of Data: The Future Of Baseball?

I'll start off by stating upfront that participating in a discussion about this subject is going to take some commitment. The linked video is 50 minutes long, and it's not a shallow topic or itself directly related to baseball, but believe me when I say it is well worth the time. Visualization of data, a step up from regular old charts and graphs, is becoming near-essential in relaying, understanding and processing information. Well-designed visualizations can really drive home a point, and can be a very effective way to educate and inform readers or viewers. Poor visualizations can be confusing and misleading, or can even be next-to-useless as the audience would suffer from a "deluge of data" with a lack of context or objective. New tools and easy-to-use technology means visualizations are becoming more and more abundant and relevant, and Eric Rodenbeck, an interviewee, even compares this revolution to "the early days of cinema." Certainly baseball does not suffer for a lack of data (Fangraphs and Baseball Reference exist for a reason). It will be very interesting to see what this visualization movement means for fans, media and the ball clubs themselves in the next few years.

Here's the video and official description: Journalism In The Age Of Data

Journalists are coping with the rising information flood by borrowing data visualization techniques from computer scientists, researchers and artists. Some newsrooms are already beginning to retool their staffs and systems to prepare for a future in which data becomes a medium. But how do we communicate with data, how can traditional narratives be fused with sophisticated, interactive information displays?

Having watched that, how incredible would it be to have even more baseball stats presented in some of the ways shown and described? At 18:25 in, Koci Hernandez talks about motion graphics, a sort of guided tour of graphs. Raw information can be presented in a way that is entertaining, easy to understand, and features clear progression from one visualization to the next. This is already happening, with the increasing use of Pitch f/x and corresponding strike zone heat maps. What would that mean for some of the more complex and perhaps intimidating baseball stats, in terms of reaching a wider audience and gaining more mainstream acceptance? What could that widespread acceptance by fans eventually mean for the inclusion of stats in the game itself? Could visualization be a literal game-changer?

Locally, this could mean even more knowledgeable White Sox fans. At the 32:25 mark, there is discussion of Google charts and live data being visually represented. This sort of tool could even be applied to gamethreads, to say nothing of baseball news, player comparison or team analysis in general. Imagine the possibilities of displaying pertinent data about player value embedded in a news story immediately following a trade. With all these free services, like Swivel, Protovis, and Many Eyes, more and better quality visualizations are surely to come. There already some pretty good examples here and here, and, of course, as was seen a few days ago on Beyond the Boxscore. For even more examples, BtB has a plethora. The tough part is, besides making a point, connecting the data presented into relevant subjects. Just because it's pretty doesn't mean it's pertinent. Here's a decent example of a good start:


It's well-organized data in a simple format, and that alone speaks for its quality. But would there be a way to keep it simple and include more information? What makes these players "the best ever," and, without sarcasm, why do we care?

I would love to see the proliferation of this medium and fully intend on promoting it. Suppose this is a call to action on behalf of useful information; it would be extraordinary if many of us here on SSS begin experimenting with visualization. Thoughts?