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September 8, 2009

Inflated Salaries

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Stats, stats, stats. That's what baseball is all about. I found a great site,, that provides just about every stat imaginable. I have a baseball database as well, so I like to find sites like this and compare them to visualizations I build on my own. The chart below references salary data over five-year periods.

Source: Baseball Almanac

There are some fundamental flaws with this chart:

1) The 3D bars are unnecessary and make it very difficult to determine an approximate value for the bar.

2) The color choice would makes it virtually unreadable by those that are color blind.

3) The data is misleading. What good is a chart if the data is misrepresented? The stacked bar chart artificially inflates the average salary. It is increased by the amount of the minimum salary, whereas they are separate measures. I moused over the average salary bar for 2005; the value is $2.6M, but without mousing over the bar, I would have assumed the average salary was nearer $3M.

4) The header indicates "Salary Data Appears in Five-Year Increments." What does that mean? Is it a five-year average, is it every fifth year?

5) The chart leads you to believe that the average salary has increased every year since 1970, but it hasn't. Below is the average salary by year from 1980-2008. Visualizing this as a line chart reveals that salaries indeed did NOT increase every year.

Oh, by the way, salaries sure have escalated dramatically since the 1994 Players Association Strike. So much for revenue-sharing controlling spiraling salaries.

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