Just For Fun, an Interactive Tableau Doodle

Ever since I first charted a cosine curve on my Casio graphing calculator in high school pre-cal, I’ve been a fan of data visualization. The vast majority of the time, I employ it to learn things, but sometimes I just doodle for the aesthetic appeal. When this is the objective, I often use that trusty cosine curve as my basis.

Tableau has a contest this month for using their product artistically, and I decided to make a cosine graph, its vertical mirror image, and their trend lines with parameters that users could play with to change amplitude, wavelength, color, etc. of the waves. I’m not defining what each of the four parameter controls do at this point (if anyone cares, I’ll gladly post the formula that drives it), I just hope that someone enjoys tinkering with it like I do.

Update: There are some absolutely brilliant finalists for Tableau’s Viz as Art contest, and mine is justifiably not one of them. Highlights include Matthew Bennett’s Pure Data Harmonographs, Robert Mundigi’s adaptions on of Curtis Steiner’s 1000 Blocks sculptures, and George Gorczynski’s “Tendrils”. Mine is just a silly little tool, those pieces are gorgeous.

Charting the Career of a Young, Exciting, Inconsistent Player

Yesterday I wrote about Fabian Castillo’s first 100 MLS matches on Big D Soccer. Click that link for a breakdown of the young career of a speedy young player (who I’ve written about before) that can be frustrating and exciting, often at the same time. Here’s the chart I made chronicling his averages over 10 match periods thusfar:


This graph was only supposed to be a little exercise in descriptive stats, but after I made it, I realized that I could drum up something similar in Tableau, which could easily include some predictive analytics and that would be easily repeatable for others in MLS, whose player pages all include a game log dating back to 2010. I’m just not sure if there’s a market for that, so here I’ll just post the graphic alone and ask for your feedback for now.

Landon Donovan’s MLS Greatness Went Well Beyond Longevity

Landon Donovan announced his retirement yesterday, effective at the end of the current season. Currently Donovan has the most goals (138) and the 2nd most assists (124) in MLS history. Some have smartly pointed out that these figures are inflated by both his longevity (4th all-time among field players with 27,423 minutes) and his penalty kick goals (2nd most with 28). Thankfully a common fancy stat accounts for both these issues. Non-penalty goals plus assists per 90 is a pretty self explanatory term. Subtract PKs from a player’s goal total, add in assists, divide by minutes, then multiply by 90. I applied this calculation to MLS’ all-time top 25 for both goals and assists, and here’s the leaderboard, active players in green, retirees in blue:

The exclusion of penalty kick goals deserves a quick note. PKs are inherently a different skill than goals in every other situation of the game. Put simply, in the run of play, corner kicks, free kicks, etc. you will never see a single player get an unimpeded run up to a shot 11 yards away from a keeper that’s anchored to the goalline. That situation immensely favors the shooter, scoring 70-80% of the time, while the average shot in other situations goes in only 11%.

Landon’s still #1, but his lead on Preki and Taylor Twellman is pretty slim. A slim lead over MLS originals is even more impressive than you might think, because the standard for assists was very lax in the olden days. You can read about it here, but the basics are that the last two players to touch the ball before their teammate scored were usually credited with assists, even if a lot of things happened between their pass and the strike. Players used to even get an assist even if they took a shot and their teammate scored of a rebound.

The chart above is a bit noisy, and I hope to build an database of MLS players with each year of their production, rather than raw career totals. For now, we have even more reason to be in awe of the face of Major League Soccer who will be hanging up his cleats in a few months.