Comparing players’ teammates

Several months ago I wrote about a number of ways to visualize how often different players appear together. Since that writing I’ve continued to explore this question, and have revisited an older plot design that focuses on a single player and his or her teammates. This focus brings a measure of clarity that I would like to explore here.

 

An example

Lets walk through an example in detail:

Teammate combinations plot for Tyson Wahl

As you can hopefully tell immediately, this plot centers around Crew SC defender Tyson Wahl. The rest of the Columbus roster is listed along the bottom of the plot, in descending order of playing time – so stalwart goalkeeper Steve Clark is on the left, while youth prospect Romain Gall is on the right.

The scope of this plot is all official competitions in 2015 – including the Open Cup but not exhibitions. Things may be somewhat simpler if I restrict the output to only league games, but I find it helpful to cast a wide net as lineups are frequently shuffled outside of league play.

The plot appears against a series of horizontal lines. These are scaled to one game’s worth of playing time, and form an overall scale against which all the vertical elements can be compared. At this point in the season, Columbus has played more than 30 games so there are a lot of lines relatively close together.

Against this scale, the minutes played by Wahl himself appear as a yellow background. Wahl has played roughly half the season, so the yellow bar extends roughly halfway up the plot. Someone like Steve Clark, who has played in almost every game, would have a much larger yellow field.

Each of Wahl’s teammates are represented by gray vertical bars. The height of each player’s bar indicates the amount of playing time that teammate has received (so, again, Clark’s bar is very tall while Gall’s is miniscule).

Combinations of teammates

The heart of the plot, the comparison of a player with his teammates, comes from the final aspect of the design. The vertical position of each teammate’s bar reflects the amount of time that the plot’s subject (Wahl) has played with that teammate.

For example, Tyson Wahl did not play frequently in the early games of the season as Emanuel Pogatetz was the starter. By the time Wahl won the starting spot from Pogatetz, Hernan Grana had already left the team. As a result, Grana’s playing time is pushed very high relative to Wahl’s other teammates, and barely overlaps with Wahl’s background at all.

On the other hand, Wahl’s early exclusion from the lineup meant that he started getting minutes at around the same time that Wil Trapp returned from injury. This confluence of playing time is reflected in the fact that Trapp’s bar is significantly lower than other teammates – indicating that Wahl and Trapp have tended to both appear at the same time.

Here the scale on the plot can give context. Trapp has played just over two games’ worth of minutes without Wahl (the part of Trapp’s bar that extends above Wahl’s background) while Wahl has played just over five games’ worth of minutes without Trapp (the yellow background below Trapp’s bar).

The plots

Plots for every player on the Columbus roster can be found below. Comparisons I would recommend include the following:

  • Waylon Francis has unsurprisingly played few minutes with Chris Klute – they are competing for a spot at left back, after all. But what about Francis and Ben Speas?
  • Similarly, Justin Meram and Kristinn Steindorsson have rarely appeared together. Perhaps because Steindorsson has fallen down the pecking order, however, Meram and Harrison Afful appear to have great affinity for each other.
  • Emanuel Pogatetz played heavily early in the season. During much of this period, however, Wil Trapp was recovering from concussion symptoms. As a result, Pogatetz has appeared more frequently with both Mohammed Saeid and Kevan George rather than Trapp.
  • Hector Jimenez, Chad Barson, Hernan Grana, and Harrison Afful are nearly mutually exclusive. Each has played similar amounts of time this season, with each competing for the starting spot at right back.

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