Charting MLB Standings With Tufte-Inspired Sparklines

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Sports

Last week I attended a day-long session with Edward Tufte, the “Leonardo Di Vinci of data,” as The New York Times once dubbed him. The session has inspired me to take the blog off paternity leave. About time.

Inside Tufte’s book “Beautiful Evidence” is a section on “sparklines,” which are small, word-sized line graphs. The section includes a visualization of a baseball season, with lines for each team showing their day-to-day trends above or below the .500 line.

The line graphs I made below, inspired by Tufte’s sparklines on page 54, show each team’s progress in the 2012 season.

First, the National League West, which includes the eventual World Series winner San Francisco. The Giants passed Los Angeles around the middle of the season and never looked back. The chart also shows Colorado’s steep collapse at the end:

Now the National League East, in which Washington led for most of the season and Philadelphia closed strong to finish its season above the .500 win-loss line.

And the National League Central, in which Houston had a terrible season:

In the American League East, New York held off Baltimore’s surge after the all-star break, and Toronto and Boston collapsed in August and September:

Detroit overtook Chicago during the last days of the season in the American League Central:

In the American League West, Texas closed poorly finish second to late-surging Oakland:

Finally, I added all the teams to one graph to show the difference in team performance. This makes color-coding lines impossible, so I included a table with each squad’s over-under .500 figure. You can see how San Francisco performed in bold black:

Notes: The charts depict each day of the season, not each game. Also, the charts should be viewed separately. Because of the variance in each division, the y axes differ. I’ve uploaded the data to Google Docs. Feel free to download the file and send me visualizations of your own.

Data source: Baseball-Reference.com

Charting Presidential Mascot Races — And Teddy’s Odd Inability To Win

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Sports

Washington Nationals fans have all seen the spectacle, the fourth-inning “race” featuring the Mount Rushmore mascots: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. They trot around the stadium wearing period costumes and huge caricature masks. Hilarity ensues.

The first three presidents in the last seven seasons have had their fair share of wins in the races, which are known for hijinks that make their outcomes unpredictable. The latter president, a man remembered for his “robust masculinity” and adventurous spirit, has been (tragically?) shut out. He just can’t seem to win, no matter how much of a lead he takes from time to time. He gets distracted, or someone trips him, or he fades — or something else prevents him from crossing the finish line first.

Here’s how the other presidents have fared since the races began in 2006*. Abe won nearly 60 percent of the races in 2008, but the mascots’ winning percentages have leveled over the years. George is leading this season so far, through July 8 at least:

WHY, though, can’t Teddy get a win?? These word trees, made with Many Eyes, parse the short highlights of each contest since 2008 released by Let Teddy Win, a blog devoted to the races. Using the interactive version, you can search for specific words or phrases and see words around them in context.

Teddy “fades”:

Teddy “stops”:

Teddy “is”:

Someday he’ll win. I just hope I’m there to see it.

* Excluding “ties,” non-presidential mascot winners and extra-inning bonus races.

Charting Olympics Participation

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Sports

The summer Olympics begin in just over two weeks. The quadrennial event has continued to grow over the years, with more than 200 countries and 10,000 athletes competing in 2008. Here’s how participation has changed over time:

As the event continues to grow, women are being included at higher rates. The last time the Olympics were held in London, about 10 percent of participants were female. In 2008, they made up more than 40 percent. Here’s the trend over time:

Source: Sports Reference LLC

Wimbeldon Winners By Country

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Sports

Andy Murray could become the first British man to win Wimbeldon since 1936 when he faces six-time champion Roger Federer on Sunday.

While the British haven’t earned a trophy in a while, they dominated the competition in its early years. This dashboard, created by Stephen McDaniel, visualizes how players from other countries have fared. Change the charts and map by filtering for gender, place and decade:

Via The Guardian DataBlog | Download Data

Comparing World Football Matchups

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Sports

I’m geeked about attending tonight’s USA vs. Brazil soccer match, especially after watching our team play so well Saturday against Scotland. But if history is any guide, it could be a long night for the USA side, which hasn’t beaten Brazil since 1998 (its only victory over the South American powerhouse).

This chart from FIFA website shows the disparity in the 16 head-to-head matches between the respective teams. The Brazilians have a 21-goal differential (though the USA women have done better):

You can use the FIFA tool to compare any two national teams, and there’s an advance search to pick specific types of matchups (friendlies vs. World Cup matches, for example).

Charting First-Round NFL Draft Picks

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Sports

More than 1,600 players have been selected in the first round of the NFL draft since 1936, according to league statistics. These charts break down the choices made by NFL teams by school, position and position type.

First, by school:

And by position type:

And, finally, by position:

Data source: NFL.com | Scraping script

Thanks, Chris Amico, for scraping help.

UPDATE: Here’s a new chart with position types grouped:

Mapping The NFL: Where Do Its Players Come From?

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Sports

I stumbled upon an interesting data set that lists the home states of more than 20,000 NFL players in history. I wondered: Do some states send a disproportionate amount of players to the pros?

This map shows which mainland states produced the most NFL players. As one might expect, it looks like a population map. Texas and California, the nation’s two most-populous states, produced the most players — more than 2,000 apiece. Vermont, which trails only the District of Columbia and Wyoming in population as of the 2010 Census, produced the fewest players:

But the map changes when state population is figured in. This map shows the rate of NFL players based on the 2010 population. Louisiana and Mississippi, which rank 25th and 31st in population, respectively, send more players per-person to the NFL than other states:

Of course, I should have used the male population, but there’s only so much time in my lunch break — and the maps wouldn’t look significantly different.

Tiger’s Worst Masters

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Sports

The Associated Press captures the performance well:

Tiger Woods arrived at Augusta National as a favorite to win his fifth green jacket. Instead, he left with his worst score as a pro.

This chart, made with data from the Augusta Chronicle, shows his four-round average scores at the Masters since he turned pro in 1997. This year was the highest (which, in golf, if a bad thing):

It should be noted that weather conditions vary each year. Tiger finished second in 2007 when low temperatures and wind made scoring difficult, for example. Still, it’s a general indicator of performance. Another measure is the leader board position: Tiger finished 41st this year, by far his worst effort.

Tiger’s Tee Troubles

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Sports

Tiger Woods struggled off the tee yesterday at the Masters, a key reason he’s tied for 29th in a tournament in which many picked him as the favorite.

Tiger’s driving accuracy has also contributed to the general decline in his performance since its peak in 2000. He’s looked better this season, though, leading to his first PGA Tour win since 2009 two weeks ago. 

This chart shows his driving accuracy over time, according to tour statistics

Here’s how Woods’ performance yesterday compares to his career — and the rest of the field at the Masters: 

See driving accuracy for all players on tour since 1980. 

PREVIOUSLY: 

PGA Tour Driving Distance Increased By 30 Yards Since ’80

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Sports

PGA Tour players hit the ball 30 years farther off the tee now than they did three decades ago, according to the tour’s statistics. That’s most likely because their equipment, fitness and coaching have improved dramatically over that time. 

These charts show a year-by-year average of all 980 players active on the tour since 1980, as well as the trend for Scott Verplank and Phil Mickelson individually.

(See larger interactive versions).

Data Source: PGA Tour