Tableau Public Baseball Pilot Complete

A few weeks back I posted about using Tableau Public to explore baseball stats, specifically with respect to building dashboards to display information. At the time I had created a very rough first pass at the dashboard, with lots of small multiple tables displaying info on a single page. I quickly realized it was a bit overwhelming, so I sought a better solution.

The new version is an improvement, albeit imperfect due to some Tableau limitations. Users can now select a single chart to display in a large, single window using radio buttons. Really easy, and there are a lot of additional filters available on each page to customize the chart to display the results you want. All of this comes with one catch, however. Even when a given chart is not being displayed, it still uses up a handful of pixels on the vertical screen. This forces some charts to display a bit lower on the screen than others, a minor annoyance I spent some time trying unsuccessfully to solve. That’s why you’ll find the offensive categories split into two tabs rather than one.

All of the offensive category charts are displayed using dot plots with dotted lines and small filled circles as the display devices. This proves to be an effective, low-ink manner that compares favorably to bar charts in this case. Dot plots allow for an axis range that doesn’t need to start at 0, which proper bar charts always should (it has to do with the visual perception of the bar size relative to other bars) do. There are many horrendous examples on the web, particularly those produced by major media outlets that distort data either accidentally or intentionally. So dot plots give us an edge for this sort of display.

The third tab displays distributions of various offensive statistics using scatter plots, which again benefit from their ability to use flexible axis ranges based on the displayed values. Once again, there are many filters that let you play to your heart’s content, using team, position, season, and so on to reduce your dataset and answer questions quickly.

Here’s the updated version, to be followed at some point by a full 1871-2014 dashboard:

Direct link is found here.

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MLB Batter Dashboard in Tableau Public

Tableau has revolutionized visual analysis for many users by providing a tool that makes it easy to create exceptional visualizations without the need to write code. For some, Tableau Desktop has been a godsend to rescue them from the challenges of creating meaningful charts using Excel, Cognos, SAS, or any number of other tools. For others, Tableau Public has provided an opportunity to enter the world of visualization. In my case, I use one at work and the other for my side projects, one of which I’ll introduce here.

I’ve long worked with major league baseball data provided by either Retrosheet, Baseball-Databank, or Sean Lahman, and thought Tableau Public could help me to create some fascinating dashboards for users to navigate. Baseball visualization is a relatively untapped area, and one where I expect to spend more time in 2015. In the meantime, I have a prototype to share via the Tableau Public site, as seen here:

The full dashboard can be found here:

This dashboard allows you to filter by team, batter type (left or right handed or switch hitter), league, season, or age (as of July 1st each season). In addition, filters can be set based on the number of games played at a given position. Multiple filters can be combined to provide a variety of results across 15 offensive categories. Have fun with it, and let me know what you think.

More will be coming – some of it can be seen currently on Tableau Public, with more to follow. I’m also planning to expand the data beyond the 1980s, so we can see patterns from more than 100 years of data. Stay tuned.

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MLB Birthplaces by Decade

I created a little visualization using Tableau Public that looks at the birthplace patterns by decade for Major League Baseball players. As you scroll through, you can see the various migrations, first from East to West, then to the South, and eventually to places like the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Viewing these birthplaces really drives home the changes we have witnessed in Major League Baseball over recent decades.

Tableau Public, for those of you not familiar, allows users to upload data and create visualizations of various types, ranging from bar charts to maps. All content can be shared across the user base, leading to even more creative output.

You can find the viz here or in my Portfolio section under the Mapping menu. Enjoy!

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