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August 17, 2009

Pie Chart Abuse

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I ran across this post from the Replacement Level Yankees Weblog and it provided me with a fantastic example of a pie chart gone wild (aka chart junk).

Answer this question for me by looking at the pie chart: Which player had the 5th most RBIs?

Pie charts are designed to represent parts of a whole. Does this chart present the data this way? Well, I suppose it does, but is it done effectively? Certainly not. It appears the data is sorted in alphabetical order, but that doesn't provide any insight. If insisting on a pie chart, why not sort it descending by % of total RBI? Pie charts should be used sparingly, if ever. A simple bar graph displays the data much more effectively.

Answer this question for me again by looking at the bar chart below: Which player had the 5th most RBIs? Which chart made it easier to find the answer?

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