The Wolfram Pro Baseball Stats Reference App brings the knowledge-engine approach that the company employs in WolframAlpha to the realm of baseball statistics. This iPad app provides a considerable amount of information on a variety of hardball-related subjects, not all of which are found in standard baseball reference sites. Finding the information you need is not always easy (or even possible) in Pro Baseball Stats, unfortunately. Though the app falls short of being a home run, it's well worth its modest 99-cent price for baseball enthusiasts, trivia buffs, and people involved in fantasy baseball.
Design and Features
The right side of the Home screen shows the app's name and logo, a baseball diamond with a bat and ball in front of it. In the lower left are links to the iTunes app store for a few of a growing number of specialized Wolfram apps: Gaming Odds Reference App, US Presidents Reference App, and Statistics Course Assistant. Above this list is a menu of six items: Standings, Teams, Players, Games, Formulas, and Extras. Within these sections, the app hosts a wealth of data on team rankings in a variety of categories, including player salaries, ballpark weather, the results of individual games, and much more.
The data shown varies widely from category to category. With Standings, for example, you have a choice between League and Division. When I pressed Division, two pull-down menus appeared, one for Division and the other for Season. I went with the defaults, American League West and 2015, and pressed the Compute button at the screen's lower left. This brought up a screen showing that division's standings, a grid showing the teams ranked by win-loss record, lists of winning percentages, and several other relevant stats. But when I tried to switch to another division (National League East), and pressed the same Compute button, only general information about that division appeared. I ran into a similar issue at times when comparing the statistics of two players and then trying to replace one of the players with another.
Available information can be spotty in the app. For instance, under Extras, you can access information on current and historical stadiums, which you can choose from a pull-down menu. I would have loved to see illustrations showing the dimensions and shape of each ballpark. In another part of the app, I was able to access some diagrams, however. When I entered the date and the teams involved in the first major league ballgame I saw in person, the app showed me a line score by inning, a diagram with the names of the players for each position in the field at the start of the game, but I couldn't find a way to generate a full box score for that game, which is about the most basic collection of information there is in baseball.
One interesting feature of the app is that it allows you to compare two players' statistics for any given season. I went back to the year 1941, when the Yankees' Joe DiMaggio got at least one base hit in 56 consecutive games—a record that still stands. I also examined the stats of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle of the 1961 Yankees, when Maris hit a then-record 61 home runs to outslug Mantle, who ended up with 54. I then turned to 1998, to see how Mark McGwire's overall season, in which he hit 70 home runs, compared with that of Sammy Sosa, who ended up with 66 in that steroid-tainted year. To compare two players, you type the first player's name into a field named Player 1, and the second player's name in Player 2.
Not all the stats presented are particularly useful. When I accessed the Player Rankings: Hitting menu, by default the statistic was set to Slugging Percentage and the season to 2014; both leagues were lumped together. When I pressed Compute, I discovered that the leader in that stat was Carlos Rivero, a player I had never heard of, with a slugging average of 1.286. There's a good reason I'd never heard of him; he only batted seven times that season, his only year in the majors. In order to be the league leader in slugging percentage, a player needs to have 3.1 plate appearances per game that his team plays, which for a normal 162-game season works out to 502 times at the plate. No one in Wolfram Pro's top 10 for 2014 would qualify—about half the players only had a single at-bat—and only the number 10 player on the list, Troy Tulowitzki, had more than 50 at-bats. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a way to filter out the players with fewer than a given number of at-bats. For cumulative stats like the number of home runs in a season, this isn't an issue, but it compromises the usefulness of stats based on averages.
The Wolfram Pro Baseball Stats Reference App is an inexpensive app that applies Wolfram's analytical techniques to the realm of baseball statistics. It provides a weath of information, including some things that you might not easily find on baseball sites, although finding the information I was looking for wasn't always available or easy to access. Many baseball fans will be better served by more traditional statistical sources, such as baseball-reference.com, which can show the complete career stats of any player throughout major-league history. But it's a good choice for baseball aficionados and fantasy baseball enthusiasts, and within Pro Baseball Stats you're bound to encounter some surprising tidbits you might not find elsewhere.