Ah, the beginning of April... spring is in the air, world begins to thaw, and best of all baseball is back! The boys of summer are storming the field and those of us who love the game couldn't be more excited. But baseball is a complex machine. Some evenings there are upwards of fifteen games going on at any given moment. Keeping track of a plethora of numbers and stats for so many players and teams is a daunting task, but luckily technology has the answer. Below are 10 apps every baseball should have before opening day.
10. Google Now
Yes, this is technically not an app specifically designed to give you baseball news or stats, but if you are running Android 4.1 or above, Google Now is one of the best ways to stay up on how your team is doing throughout the season. Even if you are only a casual baseball fan, it is worth your time to tell Google Now who your favorite team is, and you can also set how often the score is updated. Just navigate to Settings --> Google Now --> Sports and you will see how to set the various levels of detail that Google Now can provide you with. If you are a hard-core fan, Google Now isn't all you need, but it is a great place to start.
9. MLB Preplay
This app is sharply designed and surprisingly easy to navigate. Essentially MLB Preplay gives you the chance to predict a myriad of different statistics for each MLB team and game. I like to use this to see how good I can get at predicting the winner of every game played ever day. Of course all I really look at is who the opposing pitchers are, but this does give you an interesting big-picture perspective on the season. And like the March Madness bracket competition, it shows all of us the futility of anticipating the outcome of a contest. I would love to see some functionality added to the app so that it is easy to set up "leagues" with your friends. If a scoring system were created around accurate predictions, this could almost be an alternative to fantasy baseball.
8. Sporting News Pro Baseball
This isn't the most attractive app on this list, nor is it the most functional, but it does get the job done. Checking team standings, current scores, and stat leaders are exceedingly easy. It is also very convenient if you want to see upcoming games for your favorite team. However if you are looking to peruse the news surrounding either the MLB or your favorite team, I would suggest that you look elsewhere. The user interface is just not rich enough to deliver that level of content in a convenient way. Keep reading further down this list and you will find plenty of other apps that will do the job better.
7. ESPN Score Center for Android
No doubt anyone who is taking the time to read an article about the top 10 MLB apps already has ESPN Score Center on their phone, if not their home screen right now. Of course you can not only follow your favorite pro baseball teams, but you can also use this app to keep up on all of your favorite teams from any sport. This app got a re-design recently and it is much less clumsy and over-done than it used to be. And of course its easy to read news, but keep in mind that you are only getting ESPN coverage for the most part. This is hardly a huge downside but it is worth keeping in mind.
6. Official Rules of Baseball
The name of this application could not possibly be more descriptive, it gives you easy access to the MLB rule book. That is it. So why does this end up ranked higher than the most popular sports app on the Play Market? Because I have a weakness for simple apps done well. Although a powerful search function would be nice, it isn't a necessity. And I can't tell you the number of times I've wanted to know the exact wording of some nuanced rule for a situation that isn't especially common. Although arguing with friends about it is fun for a while, eventually it is nice to settle the debate and get back to hurling obscenities at the TV screen.
5. ESPN Fantasy Baseball
If Fantasy Baseball is your thing, then this is an absolute necessity for you. Although the app lacks some of the richer functionality that the desktop interface, it is still easy to set a lineup and check the status of your team. It is also convenient to stay up-to-date on the status of your players with this app. I used this app for my fantasy team last year and I was frustrated with the occasional force close. But it seems that the developers did some great work in the off-season this year, and so far it looks like they made some great improvements. And since the mobile web version of ESPN's fantasy baseball site continues to be clumsy and slow, this is still your best bet.
4. Baseball By StatSheet
This is another app that falls into the "beautiful simplicity" category. One of the great things about baseball is the endless mountain of numbers that surrounds every player and team. Sure, there are the obvious stats: ERA, RBI, hits and runs etc. But what about number of strike outs, on base percentage or weighted on base average? There are a few other apps that actually contain this information, but it is generally much more difficult to find. This app does give you a glance at the headlines surrounding your team as well, but its sources are fairly narrow, so I'd suggest using something else as a sports news reader.
3. MLB.com At The Ballpark
I can't imagine who I ever went to a pro baseball game without this app. Even if you are in a stadium you are familiar with, this is an absolute must-have. Of course you can purchase tickets, get directions to the ballpark and check game times. But this app also lets you order food from concession stands. This allows you to save precious time between innings and avoid missing plays while you are away from your seat. For an added bonus you can keep track of the score, the count and other game stats without having to crane your neck to look at a scoreboard. It is even easy to check out the headlines and read up on your favorite players all in the same app. Simply put; if you are headed to a baseball game this season, this is the only app you will need while you are there.
2. 9 Innings: 2013 Pro Baseball
You had to know there was going to be at least one game on this list. This might not be the most amazing baseball game in the Play Store, but it is one of the easiest to learn. The game has functions that allow you variable levels of control. This makes it easy to get the controls down and then learn the nuances of some of the more advanced parts of the game like pitching. Unlike some of the other baseball games for Android this one is also officially licensed and will includes all of your favorite teams and players. You also have the chance to build your own team and level up individual players over time. This is a fun game that provides you with enough depth to stand up to hours of game play but can also be a casual way to kill a half hour.
1. MLB.com At Bat
This is the official MLB mobile app, and it does not disappoint. If you are only going to use one app to stay up with the latest major league baseball scores, stats and news, this is what you need. MLB.com At Bat makes it easy to watch videos, and even check on the latest fantasy baseball developments. Although the stats tracked here aren't quite as detailed at StatSheet's application, the level of detail is still more than enough for most fans. Unlike some other apps this one also works quite well on either your smartphone or tablet. In just a few seconds it is convenient to check your team's standings, latest news and the scores of every game. What more could you ask for?