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Jason Snell on Baseball Telecast Graphics

Jason Snell, in a lovely piece at Six Colors that feels like it was written just for me:

And then there are the out dots.

This is one of the delightfully stupid controversies that comes up when you write about baseball graphics. In a nod to skeuomorphism and old ballpark scoreboards, many networks display the number of outs in an inning not as a numeral, but as dots. These dots generally appear as gray circles that are filled in with a bright color as the inning progresses.

The controversy is this: How many dots should there be? There are three outs in an inning, so you’d think the answer would be three. But some folks will point out that since getting the third out ends the inning, having a third dot would be superfluous. Once the third out is made, the inning is over and there are no outs at all.

I get the argument, but I firmly reject it. Outs come in threes, not twos. If you must represent it by a series of faux light bulbs, you should have three bulbs. Better, I think, to light up that third bulb momentarily, then turn it off and indicate the end of the inning. It improves the clarity of the graphic at the expense of a few pixels — and gives you the opportunity to make a fun animation at the end of the inning.

I strongly agree with Snell on this: if you’re going to use dots to represent outs, there should be three. When there are two outs, the batting team still has an out to give — the empty third dot represents that out. And when the third out is made, fill it in for the few seconds before the telecast cuts to the commercial break.

Another note: nearly all modern baseball telecasts show the strike zone live. This box, though, should be subtle. When you look at Snell’s screenshots, compare ESPN’s live strike zone (far too prominent) with Fox’s (perfectly subtle).

Here’s an example of the in-game graphics from YES, the Yankees’ regular season broadcaster. Good strike zone indicator (including the speed at the pitch location), good legibility, but boo hiss for the two-dot out display.

Friday, 18 October 2019