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Learning to Crawl with Tableau

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Ok, so I've taken up the challenge offered a couple weeks back to try my hand at Tableau, a pretty slick visualization tool that some claim is the ultimate proof that there is a God. Ok, maybe the fawning isn't quite that extreme, but it's close.

The answers to just about everything are all to be found in the numbers.
The answers to just about everything are all to be found in the numbers.
USA TODAY Sports

Let me get this out of the way right now. I'm mathematically challenged, have spreadsheet anxiety, and don't know an X axis from a .csv file. My background's in writing, which goes a long way toward explaining why I drive a five-year-old crapbox, and spend most of my days in sweatpants, hanging around soccer pitches.

But back to Tableau... For a dinosaur like me, it's been a steep learning curve. Yeah, I watched all the tutorials...saw how kinderleicht it was for just about anyone to plot out a visual allegory that gloriously depicts and elucidates the complex causal connections between the genesis of distant galaxies and why, for example, my wife can't parallel park. It all looked so damned easy.

Well, several late nights of struggling, and countless curses have finally resulted in something. It's a start, and I'm sure that many of you are already rolling on the floor laughing at it's patheticness, but hey, I'll take it.

Here's a look at MLS Offensive Performance, by team, through Week 10.

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://public.tableausoftware.com/javascripts/api/viz_v1.js"></script><div class="tableauPlaceholder" style="width:475px; height:655px;"><noscript><a href="#"><img alt="Dashboard 1 " src="http:&#47;&#47;public.tableausoftware.com&#47;static&#47;images&#47;ML&#47;MLSOFFENSIVEPRODUCTION&#47;Dashboard1&#47;1_rss.png" style="border: none" /></a></noscript><object class="tableauViz" width="475" height="655" style="display:none;"><param name="host_url" value="http%3A%2F%2Fpublic.tableausoftware.com%2F" /><param name="site_root" value="" /><param name="name" value="MLSOFFENSIVEPRODUCTION&#47;Dashboard1" /><param name="tabs" value="no" /><param name="toolbar" value="yes" /><param name="static_image" value="http:&#47;&#47;public.tableausoftware.com&#47;static&#47;images&#47;ML&#47;MLSOFFENSIVEPRODUCTION&#47;Dashboard1&#47;1.png" /><param name="animate_transition" value="yes" /><param name="display_static_image" value="yes" /><param name="display_spinner" value="yes" /><param name="display_overlay" value="yes" /><param name="display_count" value="yes" /></object></div><div style="width:475px;height:22px;padding:0px 10px 0px 0px;color:black;font:normal 8pt verdana,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;"><div style="float:right; padding-right:8px;"><a href="http://www.tableausoftware.com/public/about-tableau-products?ref=http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/MLSOFFENSIVEPRODUCTION/Dashboard1" target="_blank">Learn About Tableau</a></div></div>

You can move your cursor over any of the colour-coded circles to see their respective data. You can also use the scroll bar at the bottom right to find the team you're interested in, and then highlight it using the highlight tool located at the top of the scroll bar.

The graph shows where each MLS team sits on the average Shots (attempted) per Game versus average Goals per Game continuum. Well, at least the colours look nice, and the black trend line nicely delineates between those performing above and below average.

Essentially, the teams in the top right quadrant generate a lot of opportunities (shots), and lead the league in converting them.

Nobody wants to be down in the bottom left quadrant, as they're essentially useless - not getting off many shots, and not at all astoundingly, not scoring any goals.

I was more interested in who might turn up in the top left quadrant, home of the snipers - or at least the clinically effecient and the bottom right, where I thought I might see at least one team. Apparently, if you get off enough shots per game, you're bound to score on enough of them to keep you out of the "sound and fury signifying nothing" quadrant.

In the meantime, I'll work on learning to crawl with Tableau...