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Data Visualization and Sport: Passing Wheel

One of the main themes of the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference was the need to present your ideas to the rest of the organization in a manner that is easily understandable.  Rambling on to a club’s manager about a stat varying from the mean by several standard deviations won’t go over so well.  It got me thinking about the field of data visualization and it’s potential application to sport.  Used properly, it can easily tell the story behind the numbers.

I saw this the other day and thought it was a clever way to present a player’s passing statistics.  The Guardian Chalkboards presents the same data overlaid on a pitch.  Both representations have their shortcomings.

Passing Data Visualizations

Guardian Chalkboard (left) and Aston Villa Central (right) display passing information in different ways

Neither one of them tells you any information about where the defense was at the time, which is a major shortcoming of only looking at on the ball data. However, with the Guardian visualization, it is hard to look at the pass selection pattern of a player.  With the Aston Villa Central visualization, it is easier to see what types of passes a player is making, but where they are on the pitch is completely lost.  Both visualizations have their place and tell different stories.  I think the design and presentation of the information is just as important as the research that goes into it but I don’t think a lot of people put enough thought into that aspect of their work.  It’s akin to a writer not using punctuation. Without it, their work is almost impossible to understand.

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