Sioux Falls Guy Simplifies Complex Realm Of Advanced Baseball Stats

March 19, 2012

Baseball is complex.

When scholars, philosophers, physicists or even simple-minded marketing professionals get caught up in minutiae, it’s not uncommon to hear them use the phrase “inside baseball.” Anyone who’s followed Major League Baseball the past decade, read the work of Bill James or seen the movie Moneyball is familiar with sabermetrics, a general name for a broad set of advanced statistics and analytics that have helped some teams nerd their way to success.

John T. Meyer, a self-proclaimed “experimental entrepreneur” from Sioux Falls, S.D., doesn’t think the game of baseball has advanced beyond comprehension — it need only be explained in a different way. Through 162pixels, his latest brainchild, Meyer is making America’s pastime palatable once again for those of us who never passed calculus.

A little background. After graduating from Luther College, Meyer spent a brief stint with Accenture in Minneapolis as a management consultant, a position he described as “very corporate.”  In 2009, Meyer accepted a buyout and moved to Sioux Falls — about an hour south of Brookings, his hometown — and started 9Clouds, a digital education firm. He’s since founded Lemon.ly, a visual marketing firm that’s recently created infographics for Pepsico and Nabisco, among others. (Perhaps you saw Lemon.ly’s Pinterest infographic last month on Mashable.)

Andrew: What is 162pixels and where did the idea spring from?
John: 162pixels is the marriage between two of my favorite things: baseball and graphic design. As baseball statistics have grown in popularity and fans have become more aware of their value, I’ve always thought there was a better way to explain and visualize these stats. I think there is so much opportunity that in our 2012 Season Preview book we’re only scratching the surface of what’s possible.

Why have infographics become so popular?
A good infographic tells a story. So I think they have exploded as it helps people both tell and understand a story. Infographics are not a new thing if you think all the way back to the cavemen telling the stories of their year on the cave walls, but today the web has proved to be such a great platform for this medium. There is so much content on the web today, but a good infographic can stand out and a reader will not only remember the message, but they’ll also want to tell their friends.

You’ve chosen to fund this project through Kickstarter. Why did you go that route? What have you gleaned?
For us, Kickstarter was more about a platform for distribution and awareness than the actual funding. The funding is nice to 1) gauge interest and see if people would actually buy the book and 2) essentially pre-sell the book through Kickstarter as we continue to finish the project. But most importantly, Kickstarter has just brought new eyeballs to the project. Over 2/3 of those that have donated I have never met, so it has been very effective in that manner.

Your Kickstarter page included a parody of the movie “Moneyball,” a true story that sort of celebrates unconventional wisdom and taking chances. How did that story inspire you?
I read the book by Michael Lewis in early high school, and my dream job ever since has been to be the GM of the Minnesota Twins. It is still the plan today — once Terry Ryan is done with his “interim role,” perhaps. So the story has always inspired me, but we thought the video parody would be a fitting way to tell the story of 162pixels. Brad Pitt said the Athletics would change the way people look at the game, we want to change the way people look at statistics.

You’re doing some exciting things in social and digital media in Sioux Falls, S.D., a city not generally likened to Silicon Valley. What are some of the advantages and drawbacks of operating out of a smaller market?
The disadvantages are few. In today’s world I truly believe I can do my type of work nearly anywhere. And I also believe there is talent in our region, too, as far as building a great team. The only disadvantage is when I walk into an average coffee shop or bar, I’m most likely not going to run into a handful of entrepreneurs or innovators to bounce my ideas off of or share my frustrations.

As far as advantages, I think we have a great work ethic in this region. Great people to build a team with. We have the ability to study the new trends and products on the coasts and then adapt those ideas to our region as things move here a bit slower. And finally, the Midwest and South Dakota specifically is a great state to start a business, economically. Both in terms of cost of living, cost of employees, but also cost of taxes.

What’s next for 162pixels?
Like I said, I think we’re just scratching the surface of what 162pixels could become. This first book is a 2012 Season Preview, but we’d like to create a blog next that can be the home to infographics throughout the season. If Joe Mauer is flirting with .400 in August, we want to do an infographic about it. But as this is just a Lemon.ly passion project right now, we’re looking for other people that also love baseball and graphic design to get involved.

A sample from the 2012 Baseball Statographic eBook