Playoff Baseball Score Overlays

Jason Snell of Six Colors is very annoyed with how Fox Sports displays outs in baseball:

Put simply, there are three outs per inning, but Fox Sports 1’s score box displays only two circles, filling them in as an inning progresses. It led to an interesting conversation on Twitter, which I’ve Storified.

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Does anyone who’s watching a baseball game not know that there are three outs in an inning? Probably not. That’s why this is not a major design foul. But still, it grates. Outs is a concept that adds up to three, but the outs graphic adds up to two. As John Gruber wrote, the better decision would be to show all three outs, fill in the third out at the end of the inning, and then fade out the entire graphic as you go to a commercial break.

The second point is the key one here, and why I don’t get why it’s such a big deal. Most of what shows ups in these modern TV score overlays is not labeled. Therefore someone with limited knowledge of the sport might not have any idea what any of the information means. The idea of filling in the third out and then removing the overlay seems weird since the overlay disappears almost as soon as the third out is made.

If a redesign of this display is up for discussion, doesn’t it make much more sense to go back to a number and words, such as “1 Out” instead of having just dots? This would fit just fine and make it much easier for casual fans to understand what it means.

But why stop there? Baseball has a major advantage in the fact that the primary camera angle is static, and there is a ton of unused real estate on the screen that isn’t needed. There is space on the left and right sides, as well as the bottom of the screen, where basically nothing is ever going on during the pitch. Why don’t networks put more information on the screen? Has research proven that it’s sensory overload?

If someone is watching the NLCS who primary watches AL baseball during the year, they don’t know every player. Why not have the name of batter up all the time? Knowing who specifically is on base, or on deck could be useful as well. Perhaps there is in fact diminishing returns on how much is “too much”, but stats and information are bigger in baseball than any other sport. Seems like a missed opportunity to provide people with more information.