The 2016 Major League Baseball season is just a couple of weeks away from starting with the hopes and dreams of players and fans refreshed once again for a long season. Baseball has been played professionally for 147 years and while Android and mobile apps haven’t been around nearly that long, the powers that be at MLB have built arguably one of the best sports league apps available today. MLB At Bat is simply a requirement for baseball fans to follow the league and their favorite team. With a wealth of information available for free in the app, the subscription service adds even more content including live audio broadcasts, pitching and even a Game of the Week to watch without requiring an MLB.TV subscription. If you are a baseball fan, do yourself a favor and download MLB At Bat. You won’t regret it.
When you first start MLB At Bat, you will be prompted to select your favorite team. Doing this will tailor the app to be more centric to that team and you can configure the app to give you notifications around activities for your team. In my case, my favorite team is the Colorado Rockies and I have it setup to notify me about news for the team, when games start, scoring plays within the games as well as when video highlights are available from the game in progress. Regardless of if you are a premium player in the app or not, you can also get notified of when condensed game videos are available so you can view them after the game is completed.
Once you have selected your favorite team, the default view of the app will reflect information for that team. Again, in my case with the Rockies, I see the game that is going to be played today along with the result of their last game and the schedule for the next few games at the top of the display. During a game I will see a score box just below this with information about what is going on in the game. When there is not a game going on, I see the team the Rockies are playing, the team records and the probable pitchers for the game. Scrolling down I can see Top Stories from the team as well as videos, ticket information and detailed information about the team such as the roster, coaches and transactions. This opening page of At Bat has a huge amount of information and really allows you to dig deep into your favorite team not just from a game perspective, but the other important elements of the team too.
One interesting tidbit is the link between MLB At Bat and the MLB Ballpark app. If you go down to the bottom of the page, where your team’s information is located, you will see a button for your teams stadium (in my case, Coors Field). If you tap on that and you have the MLB Ballpark app installed, you will get dropped into that app so you can check-in, get tickets or other key information about the venue.
Like many sports league apps, MLB At Bat is divided up into several major sections to make it easy to find the content you are wanting to see. Beyond the opening screen, the first menu option you see is Scoreboard. As the name suggests, here is where you will find all of the games that are scheduled for the day. If the game is in progress, you will see the score, the number of runners on base and the inning being played. For games that have completed you will see the final
score while games that scheduled for later in the day will show you the time when it is scheduled to start in your local time zone. Tapping on a game will take you to Gameday within the app which gives you a virtual view of the game. I’ll explain more about this later in the review.
The News and Video sections of MLB At Bat will give you news and videos to view from around the or your favorite team. By default it will show you everything that is around the league but you can use the pull down menu at the top to select your favorite time (which will be at the top) or any other team. Articles can be read from within the app and even though they are being pulled from the MLB website, speed in article loading is fast and more than acceptable. If you read my review of the Official F1 app a few weeks ago, you know this was a big concern of mine with that app. No such concerns here with MLB At Bat.
The same can be said about video play within the app. By default you will get highlights from MLB but you can again use the pull-down menu to select your favorite team or any other team to get just the videos for that team. When you are viewing a particular team, you can further narrow the videos down to just particular players if you want to see just your favorite player’s videos. These can be loaded for replay by tapping them. The speed of the video loading is
excellent and the quality of the video playback is also great.
The Standings and Stats section of MLB At Bat give you what you would expect. You can check the standings for the current season, including Spring Training, or you can go back in history and check out the standings all the way back to 1871. It’s fun to go back and look at how your favorite team did over the years or, let’s say, how the standings were the year you were born or the like. The standings will give you each team’s win/loss record, their winning percentage, how many games back they are from 1st place in their division, how they have done in their last 10 games and what winning or losing streaks they are in at the moment. You can change the view to look at the Wild Card race which will give you the teams that are leading to get those tickets to the one-game playoff and how far the rest of the teams are back from getting one of those wild cards. The information here isn’t really useful at the beginning of the season but you can start looking at how far up or back your team is as soon as the first day of the 2016 season.
Much like the Standings section, the Stats section of MLB At Bat can give you a wealth of information both past and present. The Stats section is divided into two tabs: Batting and Pitching. One each tap you will see the leaders for the season in key categories for each discipline. For example, you can see who has the best batting average, most Home Runs or Runs Batted In (RBIs), stolen bases, runs, On Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Percentage just to name a few. For pitchers, the stats are the likes of Earned Run Average (ERA), Wins, Strikeouts, Saves, Innings Pitched, and Complete Games. These stats are great for keeping up with the league leaders throughout the season but that’s really only half the story for this part of the app. You have the ability to look back at each season, all the way back to 1871, to see the leaders in these categories (if they were kept) plus you can look at the all time leaders in any category. For example, if you want to see who led in Home Runs in 1975 (Mike Schmidt, by-the-way, with 38) or who has the most career strike outs (Nolan Ryan with 5,714) you can easily do that with Stats. You can also see who are the career leaders amongst active players. If you love baseball, you probably love stats too. MLB At Bat gives you an incredible amount of statistical information at your fingertips.
While the MLB At Bat app has been around for a few years now, the app has gone through some updates and improvements for the 2016 season. First, it got a nice touch of Material Design added
as Spring Training started and there are a significant number of links to various specialty interests for fans. For example, you can take a look at a Player Preview for this coming season which is aimed at helping fantasy players make good selections for their teams. There is the MLB auctions where you can pick up memorabilia from your favorite players and teams. The Prospect Watch section allows you to see the top prospects for this coming season and get scouting reports on them. One of these areas is also for Statcast. If you aren’t familiar with Statcast, this is where you get very specific data about Home Runs and pitches. Here you can see the longest home run of the season, the speed at which it left the bat (launch speed), the launch angle and height and the pitcher who offered up that wonderful pitch that went into orbit. It is a serious baseball geek thing but one that is fun to look at as the season progresses.
Again, baseball is all about the stats.
Another new section of the app is the Wallpapers. Here you can download official team wallpapers for your device or the official MLB logo wallpaper for your device. The wallpapers scale for your device and they look great whether you are on a phone or a tablet. When you want to set one as your wallpaper, simply select it and then apply it as your wallpaper. You can’t download them and save them to your device which some fans won’t like but at least you have them without having to go hunt all over the Google to find them.
Everything I have discussed so far in the review is part of the free MLB At Bat. The rest of the review I’m going to be covering things that are part of the At Bat Premium features. Those features are pretty robust and given that you can get this for $19.99 for the entire season or $2.99 a month, they are really a good deal for die hard fans. The biggest thing you get is Gameday, a virtual look-in of a game in action. This gives you the feel of being at the game where you can see the pitches coming into the batter and get near real time action as you watch. Gameday view also gives you quick links to video highlights from the game, the box score and a play-by-play live stream.
Another great feature of the Premium service is the live radio broadcasts of each game. You get the option of listening to the home or away broadcast and you can listen both in English and Spanish (if available for that game). Growing up listening to baseball, this feature holds a special place for me and it is a great way to listen to the action if you are not able to watch the game or if
you are traveling.
Other features of At Bat Premium include:
- Live Look-Ins: This gives you a two minute view of a game in action
- MLB.TV Game of the Day: A free-to-view game selected by MLB for all users of the app to view, regardless if you have an MLB.TV account
- Exclusive In-Game Highlights: You can see videos of highlight plays as the game is in progress
- Access across all your devices: Pay for your subscription and you can access the Premium services from your phone, tablet, PC or Mac.
If you are an MLB.TV subscriber (check your television operator for signing up & costs or go to MLB.com), all of the At Bat Premium services are free for you. Just sign in with your MLB.TV account information to access them.
The value of At Bat Premium is really going to depend on you as a fan of the game. If you like the Gameday function, the ability to see video highlights and listen to the game’s radio broadcast, then absolutely it is worth the yearly or monthly charge. I’ve personally been a subscriber for many years and as a fan, I can’t see going through a season without it.
The first time I reviewed MLB At Bat it was for iOS back in 2012 and at the time I said it was the standard by which all other sports league apps must measure themselves. I stand by that four years later and on Android. It is the most complete league app available with a huge amount of information not only about games in action, news, but stats (baseball is all about stats), players and even venues. It is, in my opinion, still the most complete app for a sports league available. Don’t get me wrong: I think the NHL and NFL apps are outstanding too. But MLB At Bat just has it all and for the small charge for the At Bat Premium services make this an even better fan app.
MLB At Bat is a free app with the in-app purchase of At Bat Premium. Remember that once you do subscribe to premium, you can use it on all your devices.