The New York Times vs. FiveThirtyEight: Do you think the obsession with statistics is ruining baseball?

On Opening Day, the New York Times published an op-ed piece titled “Don’t Let Statistics Ruin Baseball.” It argues that obsession of statistics and numbers that surround baseball prevent fans from enjoying the more visceral aspects of what baseball truly is. The following quote summarizes the point Steve Kettman tries to make in the piece:

The importance of being fully present for a game, shorn of distractions, lies not in sentimentality about the nobility of baseball (even Mr. Angell once groused that “The ‘Field of Dreams’ thing gives me a pain!”), but in continuously deepening one’s understanding of the game.

In response to this, FiveThirtyEight wrote “Don’t Let Op-Eds ruin baseball” where they argue that statistics can enhance an appreciation for baseball. An excerpt from the article, which is basically an annotated group chat, summarizes their main point:

But the other way it cuts is that, without statistics, I probably wouldn’t be interested in baseball at all. Like many people, my fandom started out with baseball cards. Fast-forward 30 years, and while I’m not as nutty about the game as some of my colleagues, I still take time to follow the fascinating statistical developments in the league, and can appreciate Mike Trout or Billy Beane’s greatness in a way that has something of an aesthetic aspect for me.

Kettman responds to the FiveThirtyEight article as well, which can also be found on their website. Check them out!

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While a lot of us tinker with responsive design, I thought this simple albeit traditional data visualization is a good balance of good design with a nice adjustable toolbox. I think my favorite part of this graph is the color palette – simple, balanced, and intuitive, as each the strength of the blue shades indicate the increases whereas the grey represents the status quo.

And you know, we should all save more. People under thirty-five in the US have a negative savings rate, so put that plastic back in your pocket. (David, you keep doing you – your generation seems to be doing okay.)

How Madden Ratings are Made

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If you appreciate long-form journalism paired with impeccable web design, you’ll love this article.

This FiveThirtyEight article (I know I know, I should mix up my sources) discusses the backend work behind creating composite scores for athletes in NFL Madden, the popular game series published every year by EA, and the meticulous work they do to simulate players in game. They did, after all, predict the most recent Superbowl right down to the score!

The most interesting aspects of the article covers how they adjust darkhorse players who at the beginning of the season are nameless but become the most talked about player on Sportscenter for the rest of the season (i.e. Odell Beckham Jr.) and the number of traits they have been using to rate each player, as seen below.

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Austin Music Map – and Notes From XPN

For Tuesday:

Work in small groups to come up with 2-3 sketches of potential frameworks (bring examples: e.g. cards, DS+R and networks, They Rule) that can demonstrate an approach for the project. Familiarize yourself with the genre, and think about what kind of data would be needed to implement the project (e.g. dates, sales, lyrics). Bring at least one concrete data example that would work with an approach you’re proposing.

Research into potential and viable data sets that we can supplement WXPN’s contributions.

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Here’s what we saw at XPN today, in case anyone wanted to see it again.

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Austin Music Map

Who Sampled Who

Philly Jazz Map

Patriots are the greatest NFL dynasty of all time


Excuse how late the post is in relation to the actual Superbowl (I was too busy celebrating) but I wanted to bring to light a FiveThirtyEight article that underscores the exceedingly obvious point that the Patriots are one of the greatest NFL dynasties of all time.

Boasting aside, while this tabular format of displaying data (in this case, the elo rating system of NFL teams over increasing durations of time with the shortest in the uppermost row) is nothing new, I found it interesting to display the data this way.Tthe author chose to highlight only the top three teams during each increasing year duration (mirroring an olympic podium-esque selective system) and used grey for other teams and low-opacity blue to select the Patriots among each time duration. With this, if you scroll up from the bottom of the table, the table highlights the steady increase of the Patriot’s strength as we decrease the duration of the years considered in the elo rating. On the contrary, while not highlighted, you can also note the steady decline of the San Francisco 49er’s over the years as well.

Give ’em a break – it’s not as easy as it looks


After waking up to the most anticlimatic Penn alert text at 5 in the morning, everyone was treated to a day where each class began with some slipshod remark about the non-existant blizzard and how bad meteorologists are at their job. While I was as disappointed as the next student while I day-dreamed in class about what I would be doing instead of class that day, this Fivethirtyeight article is a good reminder that predicting the weather is extremely hard.

Movies right now are TERRIBLE and there’s a reason why

When do people go to the movies?

If you’ve been extending cinematic purview outside the realm of Netflix, you may have noticed something even more depressing about the winter than unawarded snow days: how horrible movies are at this time of the year.

Film studios are reluctant to release films for a range of reasons: hazardous weathers keeping people indoors, the stealing of the spotlight by award ceremonies, and also simply because people are accustomed to expecting bad movies during the winter. Historically speaking, the FiveThirtyEight article aptly describes the winter as the “boneyard of abysmal Rotten Tomatoes scores.” (Although, personally speaking and anecdotally confirmed by my fellow film lovers, IMDB scores are a much more reliable way of predicting whether or not you will like the movie.)

Film Revenue by Month

And even though Michael Bay likes to remind us now and then that box office revenue does not mean a better movie, film studios are much more willing to release movies between May through July where historically speaking movies are much more profitable.

Click here for the FiveThirtyEight article!

Typefaces designed by Algorithms!

Algorithm Font

Computers and their processing power has vastly changed the way we create and consume art, and their creative power seems to be expanding every day.

Today, The Verge published an article that detailed how a large design company, Hoefler & Co., was able to use algorithms to create a new font called Obsidian:

They designed an algorithm which would rapidly light the 3D typeface and create the shadows necessary to show dimension. Because Obsidian was created in a virtual environment capable of simulating light on any letter in the set, the designers were freed from the task of painstakingly drawing shadows on each character.

To be fair, the algorithm did not create the font on its own but was rather an iterative albeit significant change on an existing font. And the algorithm can’t be used on other fonts … yet.

The algorithm does fall short on one important mark: multiple use. Hoefler says the next challenge is how to re-use the algorithm without creating the same font. Because Obsidian’s dimensions are computer-generated, its gradients are made up of digitally pinpointed pixels, not hand-crafted shadows, leaving less room for unique variations.

Still pretty awesome. Read more about it here!

Planes are the safest mode of transportation! But…

Transportation Deaths

In light of all the accidents involving passenger planes, BBC published an interactive infographic that displays the all airplane accidents since 1993. While the introduction to the infographic assures in a very simple visualization of transportation deaths that planes are by far the safest mode of transportation (as shown above), there have been quite a few accidents in the last 20 years.

I really liked this infographic because of its intuitive interactive design and the various categories in which you can organize accidents into, including the cause of the accident and at what point in the flight accidents occurred. For example, using the inforgraphic you can see that most airplane accidents occur en route or in the approach to the airport, not during take-off or landing as you might guess.

See for yourself!