Love Baseball? An iPad App That Uses the Cloud to Explore a National Pastime
Baseball is a game of numbers. There are 162 games in a season. Each team’s performance is defined by the numbers that the players show when at the plate and in the field. A team may have a mediocre overall batting average and still be at the top of the league. Why? Their pitchers don’t allow many runs. Their earned run average is so low that it makes it easier for the team to win, even with the okay batting record.
Baseball is a statistician’s game. But how do you bring that granularity into an app?
Pennant is a $5 iPad app by Steve Varga that details every team, every game and every play since 1951. That’s 115,000 games.
From the Pennant site:
Pennant allows you to:
- View any team’s complete overall history (since 1950), showing the rise and fall of each team over time.
- Compare any team’s season to the rest of the league and see how they matched up in numerous pitching and hitting categories
- View the result of every game within a season, showing the rise and fall of the team’s league and division ranking.
- Show every event within any selected game, complete with updated score and event text.
- Replay each event within a game in a timeline, allowing you to relive each play.
But how does this work? First off, it’s about the data. For the play-by-play data, the app uses open data from Retrosheet. Data is also available from the Baseball Databank, a “comprehensive record of all baseball statistical data in a form that makes them useful for researchers and product developers.”
The data is run through Pennant’s software, which he says is managed by doing intense calculations, which we expect is some form of an algorithm that quantifies the information to create unique data sets that can be displayed in their various forms.
According to the Pennant site, a custom API formats the data, generates play-by-play statements in English and returns it in a usable format (JSON or XML). The data is then parsed and displayed in real-time.
A video on the site provides a demonstration. Here are a few screenshots:
You can view teams by card, in a deck view or by map:
There are options for searching by season and by game:
Pennant is the kind of app that will be the norm for top flight tablet experiences. It takes baseball data and distills it into a format that is engaging to people. Baseball is a pastime. We have thousands of pastimes in our lives. I just hope more pastimes become the passion for developers who want to use the cloud to provide rich experiences and make connections to activities that are a core part of their life.
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