Red Sox Hire Dave Dombrowski

The Boston Red Sox made big baseball news last night by announcing the hiring of former Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski to head Boston’s baseball operations. The second big piece of baseball news, Boston’s GM, Ben Cherington, has resigned as he does not want to work under Dombrowski.

As you might figure, I enjoy data’s role in baseball. That Dombrowski is not the biggest analytics-embracing GM worries me a bit. But after re-reading FiveThirtyEight’s piece on the value he brings—naturally through some data and analysis—I think I will at least give him a season or two before calling for his head.

Where Dombrowski fits
Where Dombrowski fits

Credit for the piece to Ron Arthur.

Uber vs. Taxi (in New York)

I just spent the weekend back in my hometown of Philadelphia and while we walked most places, there were a few Uber rides. As someone who doesn’t use the app and normally will hail a taxi when necessary, I had been looking forward to posting this piece. FiveThirtyEight looked at data for New York comparing Uber to taxis.

Share in New York
Share in New York

Credit for the piece goes to Reuben Fischer-Baum.

How Can a Bar Chart Explain an Epidemic?

Today’s piece really is not a flashy one. I mean you can see that from the bar chart below. But, FiveThirtyEight put together a piece around it explaining just how that one chart is incredibly useful.

The epidemic curve
The epidemic curve

Credit for the graphic goes to the New York City Department of Health. For the analysis piece, that goes to FiveThirtyEight.

The Funding Sources for the 2016 Candidates

We are past the halfway point for summer in 2015 and that means the autumn 2016 presidential election is off and running. But running an election campaign, if even just for the primary phase, costs money. So where does each candidate receive its money? Well, FiveThirtyEight looked at the early reporting and identified four types. Their scatter plot does a nice job of summarising the state of the field.

Funding source types
Funding source types

Credit for the piece goes to the FiveThirtyEight graphics department.

High Strikeout Games

Baseball has changed in the last twenty years or so. (And I’m old enough to recognise it.) Gone are the days of the high strikeout/high pitch count starts from the likes of Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Kerry Wood. In are high strikeout/low pitch count games…

What does that mean? You can read this article from FiveThirtyEight to make the most sense of it. But this chart explains part of it:

More strikeouts per game
More strikeouts per game

Basically, baseball is played with a lot more data than it used to be. We now know empirically that pitchers are most effective the first time through the lineup. Less so the second time. Even less so the third. The great pitchers, obviously, lose less effectiveness, but everybody does. So, if you can maximise your strikeouts (which come at a great cost of pitches thrown per arm—separate story that) by limiting a start to, say, twice through a lineup, you do so. Because then you can plug in hard-throwing relievers who, in their first and often only time through the lineup, can rack up a few strikeouts. So the result from that is higher strikeouts, lower pitch counts.

And that means that it is highly unlikely you will see games where a starting pitcher throws 120, 130, 140 pitches in a start and strikes out 16+ batters. Which is a shame, because I’m clearly old as those were my favourite ball games to watch.

Credit for the piece goes to the FiveThirtyEight graphics department.

Chase the Unlucky Utley

We all know that I am a Red Sox fan. But I grew up in Philadelphia, largely before the era where the internet made watching out-of-market games a reality. That means I am quite familiar with my hometown Philadelphia Phillies. And for a good chunk of my life that meant names like Rollins, and Utley were familiar to me. So now as that group of players begins to retire and/or leave Philadelphia, we have Chase Utley underperforming to start 2015. But FiveThirtyEight asks the question: is he really? Or is it just that Utley is unlucky?

Utley is unlucky
Utley is unlucky

Credit for the piece goes to Rob Arthur.

Who Are the Red Sox?

As Massachusetts and Maine celebrate Patriots’ Day, the Boston Red Sox are set to play their earliest game of the year with an 11.00 start time. (Yes, there is also a marathon today.) So after two weeks or twelve games, the question people want answered is what Red Sox do we get this year? FiveThirtyEight looked at what they called roller-coaster seasons of late, primarily using a box plot graphic to show just how much whiplash Boston fans have endured of late.

Projected vs. actual wins
Projected vs. actual wins

So who are the Red Sox this year? The cellar dwellers of 2012 and 2014? Or world champions like in 2013? Who knows?

Credit for the piece goes to Neil Paine.

Predicting the UK General Election Results

(To be fair, I forgot to schedule to publish this post before I left somehow.)

Your humble author is still on holiday. So, today, you can enjoy a nice interactive piece from FiveThirtyEight that predicts the results of the 7 May general election. Of particular interest, the box part of the plot that shows the 90% confidence range.

Dot plotting the results
Dot plotting the results

The piece also has a choropleth map. My only feature request(s) would be to have a zoom feature for urban constituencies and/or to have a search field that allows the user to see the predicted results for a specific constituency.

Credit for the piece goes to Matthew Conlen and Ritchie King.

American Football Videogames

This week we have been looking at baseball (and Leonard Nimoy’s Star Trek). Today, we are going to turn to a sport I know nothing about: American football video games. Okay, so video games are not really a sport, but they are based on a sport. The reason I bring it up? FiveThirtyEIght has a really nice two-article story on how the Madden game franchise uses ratings to build characters for the game.

Rate yourself
Rate yourself

The above graphic is an interactive part of the story that lets you compare yourself to the real sports people, as estimated by the video game company. The second article in the story then builds upon that by using a reporter as a basis to test/understand the ratings.

And pay attention to the sidebar content. It’s actually worth heeding for once.

Credit for the piece goes to Reuben Fischer-Baum.

Chris Christie Is Well Know But Not Well Like

As election season begins to heat up, Five Thirty Eight looks at the probability of a Chris Christie candidacy. The scatter plot below examines the favourability and name recognition. The public knows the “brand” of Christie. But they do not have a favourable view of him. I would be curious how much of that is due to his East Coast-iness.

Christie is well known, but not well liked
Christie is well known, but not well liked

Credit for the piece goes to Five Thirty Eight.