2005 National League
ARI.4751419191606 67
ATL.5561453184534 92
CHI.4881506194419 65
CIN.4511453222611 72
COL.4141477150509 65
FLO.5121499128512 96
LAD.4381374149541 58
MIL.5001413175531 79
PIT.4141445139471 73
SDP.5061416130600 99
SFG.4631427128431 71
STL.6171494170534 83
WAS.5001367117491 45

What's the Matter With Chernoff Faces?

In 1976 statistician Herman Chernoff had the idea of representing multivariate data in figures now known as Chernoff Faces. The theory is that since we are highly practiced in the art of facial recognition, and can discern minute variations in features and expression, perhaps encoding data in a likeness of a human face would reveal things that, say, a bar graph wouldn't. And reading the diagram would, ideally, be as natural as interpreting the face of your best friend. As an example, here are some team statistics from the 2005 baseball season represented in a table and then as a series of Chernoff Faces:

win pct
face height, smile curve, hair styling
face width, eye height, nose height
home runs
face shape, eye width, nose width
mouth height, hair height, ear width
stolen bases
mouth width, hair width, ear height

2005 National League: Chernoff Faces

Chernoff faces representing 2005 NL team stats.

For me, the Chernoff Faces have never been particularly effective or easy to read. While I can effortlessly tell how Pedro Martinez is feeling on the mound by looking at his face (on the TV broadcast), when reading Chernoff's faces I have to stop and think carefully about each one. It's not natural or easy, and usually I'd prefer a good old fashioned bar graph.

Specifically, what's wrong with Chernoff Faces? Allow me to propose that the problem lies in the un-human-ness of the stick figure drawings. They look more like bits of a breakfast cereal than a person. What's needed here are realistic human faces. And so, I humbly submit, for your consideration, Reisner faces:

win pct
cap rotation
mouth shape
home runs
tongue length
left eye size
stolen bases
right eye size

2005 National League: Reisner Faces

Reisner faces representing 2005 NL team stats.

Reisner face representing 2005 Mets.

Since, clearly, a more readable expression for the Mets in 2005 would be the one at right it seems I haven't done any better than Chernoff.

Oh well.

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