While I was finishing up my first article for this blog, I knew that I would be writing a follow up piece on the subject. I also knew that there were many different ways I could do it, yet I was unsure of the best way to do it. Should I look back at the past five seasons and write about that in comparison to 2017? The past ten? Should I turn this into three pieces? What would the right cutoff be? When trying to solve a problem, sometimes I overthink what needs to be done as I try to come up with optimal solution right from the start. While this may not sound like a bad thing, it is certainly a hindrance to getting things accomplished as it prevents me from even starting the task at hand. I have only recently become aware of this problem and I am trying to break that habit. Launching this blog without a fully fleshed out plan was one such way I am doing that, but enough about that topic. Let us get to the content!
The answer to the right cutoff question I posed above is that there really is no “right” cutoff; it can be whatever I want it to be since this is a project that I am creating and setting the guidelines for. Instead of selecting a cutoff for seasons to explore or making multiple posts arbitrarily, I thought why does there have to be a cutoff at all? Fangraphs has baseball data dating all the way back to 1871 so let’s start with that. From 1871 to 2017, the total amount of player seasons in Fangraphs’ database with at minimum of 0 plate appearances, on the hitting side of course, is 88,123. Of those players, 14,541 of them finished a season with at least a Walk to Strikeout ratio (BB/K) of 1. To put this in context, 16.35% of all individual batting seasons ended with a BB/K of at least 1.
Now of course this number is skewed heavily by a number of seasons in which a batter had one plate appearance and it resulted in a walk. In order to get a better idea of how many times this feat has been accomplished over a full season, I updated my results to only include qualified batters. That left me with 5,158 such seasons which is just 5.85% of all individual batting seasons. To go back to my original point with this piece, I figured the best way to write about all the previous seasons was not write at all, but rather present the information to you in a hopefully much more appealing way, with a visualization. Behold the power of Tableau!
(Author’s Note: If clicking on the dashboard above does not work, please click the link that says “Behold the power of Tableau!”. This is my first time embedding a dashboard in a blog and am having some issues I hope to resolve.)
My goal with this visualization (viz if you want to feel hip) was to provide the reader, and myself, with a tool that would allow us to explore the history of this feat in a more accessible and simpler way than looking at a raw data set in excel (although some people really like to do this). The first dashboard provides a high level overview of the data set featuring a bar chart plotting the 14,541 batter seasons over time. The table below that shows the average stats for each player based on the current filters, which can be altered at the top, or a by selection on the graph. The second dashboard is a more detailed breakdown of each player in the seasons which they achieved the feat I am writing about. This dashboard is linked to the filters in the first dashboard plus a few more additional ones at the top.
I hope to be creating more of these visualizations when they might be relevant and enhance a subject I am writing about as I do work with Tableau in my day job (Wait, you thought I sporadically posted six articles over the course of a few months as a full time gig?) and think it is a great tool when working with large data sets. If you have any thoughts on the current dashboard, this article, or strong opinions about anything I have done, please let me know in the comments below or on twitter.