Sports Reference Blog

New Feature! How We Added the Last Five Games Table to Player Pages

Posted by Jonah Gardner on May 16, 2023

All our player pages recently received a big update. We added a new table showing every player's performances over their last five games. It looks like this:

Pretty cool! This is on all sites (except FBref, where it's still in development), but right now you can only see it on the sports that are currently in season.

That's the short version of this post, but we thought long-time users might appreciate hearing the full story of how we developed and built this new feature, as a window into the process we use to decide what we add to the sites.

To start with, we found ourselves with a little extra time on our hands between larger projects. Our planning period lasts from July 1 to June 30 so we were looking for something we could accomplish in the time before the next year.

In order to decide that, we turned to our long list of Bet Sheets. All of our product ideas are recorded as Bet Sheets. Anyone at the company can write a Bet Sheet, which is basically a proposal for a new project that asks the author to answer a short series of questions. The rest of the team weighs in with feedback and the Bet Sheet team (a smaller cross-functional team) decides whether to approve the Bet Sheet.

When a Bet Sheet is approved, we don't immediately work on it. Instead, we have to decide what to prioritize. In this case, there were dozens of potential options to work on, so our Product and Data teams did an exercise to see which one would have the biggest impact for our users. We decide everything we do using what's called a North Star metric: ours is the number of regular visitors to the Reference sites. We've also identified a number of "inputs" that we believe can influence this North Star. For the exercise, we picked one to focus on—an input we call "enticing users down the rabbit hole."

Our goal as a company is to build websites that people love spending time on and visit regularly. One way of doing that is encouraging users to go down rabbit holes to explore interesting stats. If you've ever gone to Basketball Reference to quickly check Nikola Jokic's stats only to find that an hour has passed and you're looking up 1990s Knicks playoff games, you'll know what we're talking about. The Product and Data team selected a subset of Bet Sheets focused on sending users down this rabbit hole. They then prioritized them using an Impact-Effort Matrix.

The exercise identified several Big Bets (high effort, but high impact) but also some Quick Wins (high impact, low effort). The Last 5 Games feature was one that was lower effort compared to others, but had potentially high impact due to the fact that it surfaces links to many of our "rabbit hole" pages (like game logs, splits, home runs logs, scoring logs, etc.). We prioritized it, built it, and have been rolling it out across all sites.

One player posed a particular challenge: Shohei Ohtani. As a two-way player, we had to figure out how to reflect his contributions in both elements of the game. We decided to give him two different tables, rather than combining hitting and pitching into one.

As you can see, even though it's a simple addition, a lot of work and thought went into how to build it and why this would be such a great addition to our site! If you have any thoughts on the new feature, have ideas of stuff you'd like to see us add to the site, or have questions about how we do what we do, feel free to contact us.

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