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March 1, 2011

All-Time Home Runs – Charting it so you can read it


Chart of the Day has recently become one of my favorite blogs to follow.  I like the content/writing, typically the visual displays are good and there are lots of posts about sports.  There have been more posts about baseball recently as spring training has already begun.

Today they posted this chart:

Quick, which team is #5 all-time?  Can’t find it very easily can you?  This chart has a few basic design flaws:

  1. A bar chart would be more effective as it would rotate the labels so that they are easier to read.
  2. The sorting could be done better.  It’s sorted by when they joined the major leagues (see the numbers inside the bars), but that’s distracting to me.  My brain is trying to order these in a more logical way
  3. The gridlines are too strong.  Yes, they are gray, but they could be more muted; they grab too much attention

Here’s how I would have presented the data (note that my data only goes through 2008, but you get the idea):

All-Time Home Runs

Quick, which team is #5 all-time?  I  bet that only took 1-2 seconds.  Much easier, wouldn’t you say?  Notice that I’ve addressed all of the problems above:

  1. The team names and stats are much, much easier to read
  2. The teams are sorted by the number of home runs in the franchise’s history, which makes more sense for this chart.  You could still have the year in the bar, but it doesn’t add any value to the chart, therefore it’s chart junk
  3. The gridlines are much less noticeable, but can still be used for reference if needed

Have your say below.


  1. What about consideration for the year? Seems to me that comparing the total number of home runs of teams that have been around for a over 100 years to teams that have been around for just a few dozen years does not seem useful. Is there data that tracks the number of home runs by team per year? If so maybe the data could be normalized, or viewed differently.

  2. Excellent point Joe. Colorado is #1 in HR/Game, HR/Win and HR/Year. Arizona is in the top 3 in all 3 categories. I'm going to post another viz now.