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Visualization of the careers of the top 20 baseball players

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Visualization of the careers of the top 20 baseball players

My submission shows the cumulative totals for a variety of baseball statistics for the top 20 position players (as measured by baseball-reference WAR, 1901-present), as a function of year. The chart includes a number of interactive elements to help navigate the information, which I hope are self-explanatory and discoverable.

By showing the totals as a function of time, over a baseline of approximately 115 years, we get a relatively sparse graph, and a fair amount of blank space. I considered trying to condense the chart, but I feel this representation is meaningful and gives a visual sense of the vast span of time that baseball data encompasses; there are very few areas where we have data as detailed and numerous, over such a long time span, as we have for baseball. One of the the things I love about baseball is that behind the numbers and the statistics are people and personalities and a time and place in American history; Babe Ruth didn’t just hit 60 HRs in 1927, he hit 60 HRs, playing in New York city, in the roaring twenties, when St. Louis was the West, and 6 years before the Empire State Building, and he was the most famous person in the world, and etc… Those facts paint a picture that go along with the data point of “60 HRs”, and it was important to me to retain the context of when these players all played.

As a technical note, I chose to visualize the top 20 position players, as determined using baseball-reference wins-above-replacement (WAR), and only including seasons starting from 1901. For pitchers, the only thing that is directly comparable to position players is WAR, and pitchers have many fewer statistics to analyze (unless you get pretty deep into sabermetrics and sabermetrics-inspired metrics). For these reasons I decided that, for my method of visualization, showing 20 position players made for a more engaging visualization than showing 10 position players and 10 pitchers together.

tools: I used MySQL and Python to prepare the data. I used d3 for the visualization.