August 23, 2006

Sparklines on the sportspage: Juiceanalytics takes a look at how sparkline-type graphs can be used on the sportspage.

posted by Uncle Toby to other at 02:11 PM - 10 comments

Those are fascinating, and while they wouldn't work all that well on cheap monotone newsprint, there's no reason they couldn't be quickly & easily implemented in online standings. Even that first one with the green/red bars shows so much more information than a mere line of numbers, and it still leaves enough room to put the numerical won-lost record (or dividional breakdowns or whatever) at the end if you wish. It would take a little getting used to, but I like it. Nice link, Toby.

posted by chicobangs at 02:25 PM on August 23

The link to the Tufte discussion is brilliant as well. I love sports, I love Tufte... never thought to think of them together for some reason, though. Great link! (If you read all the way through the Tufte link, you get to some great examples, like this brutal visual indicator of the recent massacre of innocent Sox. See also the hit-or-miss Hardball Times graphs.)

posted by tieguy at 02:45 PM on August 23

Nice. One of my fantasy baseball leagues uses these to a limited extent in the standings display: the Last 10 column is represented not as a W-L record, but as a series of Ws and Ls. So instead of 7-3, it's WWLWWLWLW. A tad more informative. The thing with sparklines in this context is that they convey one thing really well: long-term trends. Tabular standings convey a lot more information, albeit not as intuitively. For instance, if it's two days before the season ends and my favourite team is on the verge of elimination, the sparkline sure isn't going to tell me their magic number. It's also difficult to mix in other relevant stats (like division records and points for/against). A related problem: in terms of their overall effect, sparklines don't change much overall from day to day. Comparing today's and yesterday's sparklines will tell me much less than comparing today's and yesterday's tabular standings. The daily newspaper is designed to track day-to-day trends first and long-term trends second. To conclude. Sparklines: neat idea, and definitely useful in certain contexts, but not replacing tabular standings in newspapers anytime soon.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 02:53 PM on August 23

Comparing today's and yesterday's sparklines will tell me much less than comparing today's and yesterday's tabular standings. It's probably worth remembering though that some of us around here manifest a little more numerical geekishness (and I'm including myself very comfortably in that bracket) than your average sports fan reading the paper. I feel like I can see the patterns in the numbers pretty quickly, but all my brain is probably doing is converting them into sparklines without me knowing it. Good link, Uncle T, thanks.

posted by JJ at 03:57 PM on August 23

Spofi's EPL fantasy league represents team "form" in a similar fashion, though only the past five games are included. This scannable method gets a thumbs up from this pattern seeker. Now I've got to read that Tufte link.

posted by garfield at 04:03 PM on August 23

Here was my response on the blog: As a former sports editor and newspaper publisher, I can almost guarantee that system would never fly mainly for the second reason given by Jim above. To be able to use spot color without running up astronomical prices, you have to have color running on another page adjacent in the printing process, i.e. 1/8/9/16 in the web printing process. Putting color willy nilly throughout the paper would drive cost through the roof. Also, space is at a huge premium. While I like the sparkline's ability to convey the momentum of the team, the amount of space it would take to be clearly visible on low-quality newsprint paper would be tremendous, and it doesn't tell any other story than trend.

posted by wfrazerjr at 04:05 PM on August 23

I've seen the sparklines around on the web (specifically The Hardball Times, as mentioned above), and while I love stats, I just don't like the jumble of lines. Maybe it's because the lines are too small, or maybe it's because I can't quickly pull a numerical comparison from it or maybe it's because it takes a lot more space to display a 27-23 record than the 5 characters I used here, but I just don't find them all that useful. I'd fine a line graph that displays games above/below .500 more useful than the sparklines, as I can spot up/down trends much quicker that way.

posted by grum@work at 04:26 PM on August 23

Just don't like lt.

posted by Psycho at 08:45 PM on August 23

So wait, what you're saying is: "I want these muthafuckin' sparklines off this muthafuckin' sportspage"?

posted by JJ at 03:25 AM on August 24

Not sparklines, but some of you may like this site. Graphical baseball data, pretty interesting.

posted by mjkredliner at 05:26 PM on August 24

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