Light entertainment: others' idea of fun
Lose the base, connect the dot, and confuse the message

More power brings more responsibility

Nick C. on Twitter sent us to the following chart of salaries in Major League Soccer. (link)


This chart is hosted at Tableau, which is one of the modern visualization software suites. It appears to be a user submission. Alas, more power did not bring more responsibility.

Sorting the bars by total salary would be a start.

The colors and subsections of the bars were intended to unpack the composition of the total salaries, namely, which positions took how much of the money. I'm at a loss to explain why those rectangles don't seem to be drawn to scale, or what it means to have rectangles stacked on top of each other. Perhaps it's because I don't know much about how the cap works.

Combined with the smaller chart (shown below), the story seems to be that while all teams have similar cap numbers, the actual salaries being paid could differ by multiples.


This is the standard stacked bar chart showing the distribution of salary cap usage by team:


 I have never understood the appeal of stacking data. It's not easy to compare the middle segments.

After quite a bit of work, I arrived at the following:


The MLS teams are divided into five groups based on how they used the salary cap. Salary cap figures are converted into proportion of total cap. For example, the first cluster includes Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Toronto, and these teams spread the wealth among the D, F, and M players while not spending much on goalie and "others". On the other hand, Groups 2 and 3, especially Group 3 allocated 30-45% of the cap on the midfield. 

Three teams form their own clusters. CLB spends more of its cap on "others" than any other team (others are mostly hyphenated positions like D-F, F-M, etc.) DAL and VAN spend a lot less on midfield players than other teams. VAN spends a lot on defense.

My version has many fewer data points (although the underlying data set is the same) but it's easier to interpret.


I tried various chart types like bar charts, and even pie charts. I still like the profile (line) charts best.


In a modern software (I'm using JMP's Graph Builder here), it's only one click to go from line to bar, and one click to go to pie.




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I like the line chart too. I don't like the pie - you have to keep looking back and fore to the legend to see what the colour represents.
It would be better if the charts were sorted in the position they are on the field:
Goalkeeper, Defence, Midfield, Forward and then other

You only need to look at the horizontal axis once then.

How does spend compare to success in the league? Where is it best to spend to achieve success, Defence, Forwards or is a mixture best?


My only problem with using a line graph is that I was taught in college stats that a line graph is used to measure a SINGLE variable through time. The salaries of each position have no relationship to each other, so ideally a bar graph should be used. According to my stats professor, at least.

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