Runnings - Baseball Standings on the Run

A few years ago, it occurred to me that baseball "standings" over the course of a season could be plotted to show the season at a glance instead of how things stand at the moment. I've named the plots "runnings" since they show how team rank moves during a season.

I never took the time to draw a plot and sort of hoped I could get one of my nephews or my daughter's math class interested. However, that never happened and I decided to hunt down the raw data I needed and do it myself. The results look as interesting as I had hoped. This page describes my initial work and the results for 2004 (the first year this century the Red Sox won the world series). Elsewhere I'm automatically tracking the current season runnings for all six divisions. There are two pages, one that lists American League divisions first and one that lists National League divisions first.

Links to previous years:

YearAL WinnerNL Winner
2013 Boston Red Sox St. Louis Cardinals
2012 Detroit Tigers San Francisco Giants
2011 Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
2010 Texas RangersSan Francisco Giants
2009 New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
2008 Tampa Bay RaysPhiladelphia Phillies
2007 Boston Red SoxColorado Rockies


Here are the runnings for the AL East in 2004:

AL east runnings for 2004

The data is plotted from the start of the season to the end and is simply the number of games a team is above .500. If a team is on a winning streak, the line goes up. A losing streak means it goes down, and if they alternate winning and losing, the line zigzags. All these show up in the plot. Tampa Bay's trace is the most interesting. They alternated winning and losing for their first 10 games, then went 5-23 through game 38. A recovery back to .500 began which includes a 12-0 run. At game 85 they bade farewell to .500 ball sank past Baltimore during a 0-12 run that offset the earlier winning streak.

The Red Sox got off to a good start with a 15-6 start but marked time until game 110. A week later they started a 20-2 streak that led the way into the playoffs where they broke the Curse of the Bambino to get into the World Series. Four games later, Hell froze over.

The runnings for those series hardly need to be displayed but do conveniently demonstrate the extremes of a "best of 7" series:

AL Championship 2004    World Series 2004


Here are the runnings for the other AL divisions, without analysis. I haven't created runnings for the NL yet.

AL Central runnings for 2004

AL West runnings for 2004

Spark lines

I visited Edward Tufte's web site to see if he had any ideas I could use. I found that he and his community have been playing with "Spark lines", tiny graphics inspired by Galileo's drawings of Saturn within sentences. They had done spark lines for individual teams over a season, but they couldn't be readily used to compare between teams. So I volunteered to come up with a smaller graph that could be integrated with traditional standings.

The result is interesting. You can't spot individual game results easily, but it doesn't harm the comparison over time and between teams. In fact, the smaller scale reduces the high frequency roughness making the ebb and flow over the season stand out better.

AL east spark line for 2004


The "Vision" Thing

I think runnings are interesting, useful, and easy to understand. Given the move to from text to graphical information in newspapers and other media, I think this running have a place in mass media. I'll be pursuing this in low-key fashion, targeting media I'm familiar with that might be interested.

I have too many responsibilities on the net and elsewhere as is, so I'm not expecting to "corner the market" vis-a-vis runnings. So far, I haven't had time to get other media interested, but I'm generating graphs for the current season each day myself.

Notes on the graphs

When I started creating these, I knew of no one else who had thought of them. I found a Texas Rangers fan who did, but his graph at http://www.sharbrough.net/news/rangers/alwest04.htm is exactly the same idea.

More recently, Alex Reisner has finished the job with over 100 years of runnings. The rest of his site is well worth visiting too, especially if you're interested in baseball scorekeeping. He doesn't have the current year, and I have set that up at runnings_2011.html.

While I thought my concept was a nifty idea, the folks behind http://www.baseballgraphs.com/ have gone off in directions that I never would have thought of. Some graphs look very interesting, but I haven't taken the time to understand all they say yet.

Notes on the data and software

The data behind the graphs came from pages like http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/BOS/2004_sched.shtml. They say the data came from
The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet. Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at 20 Sunset Rd., Newark, DE 19711.
but I can't find the 2004 per game scores there. However, I'm happy to pass along the Retrosheet link, they've done a lot of good work too.

The graphs come from Gnuplot V3.7. Its .png file support is not very good, I see that V4 is much improved. Various C and Python programs work to put everything together.


Contact Ric Werme or return to his home page.

Last updated 2014 Apr 9.