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2011 Mariners Connections

On the personal/professional side, things are going to change significantly for me this year, and we will see how that impacts my blog posts (most importantly, my frequency). Regardless, one thing I hope to do is provide more data visualizations.

So, I'll kick off 2012 with the type of graphic that I hope to make a little more often. Just how connected are MLB teams these days? Let's take a look at the 2011 Mariners to get a feel for what modern baseball movement looks like:

Every player who appeared for the Mariners in 2011, and at some point of their career was in another organization, is visualized on the map. Blue dots are the 30 MLB teams. Red lines symbolize players that left at some point in 2011. Green lines indicate acquisitions. Brighter greens mean the move was more recent. More opaque lines are more direct. Click on the image for a larger view. More details after the jump.

"Directness" is the degrees of separation from the move the Mariners used to acquire a player. For instance, Franklin Gutierrez was acquired from the Indians, but the Indians originally acquired him from the Dodgers. The Indians-Dodgers move is also represented on this map with a line, but one that is more transparent than the move that directly brought Guti to Seattle.

Some of the direct lines are thicker than others. The thicker ones are for trades that involved multiple players that appeared for the 2011 Mariners. Now, on to a few thoughts about this graphic.

First of all, Seattle is the ideal baseball team to do this type of visualization with. Since no teams are geographically close, there is plenty of room for connections to come into Seattle without covering up another city. A team like the Baltimore Orioles might have as many connections, but the lines would likely be shorter and more cluttered, thanks to their location.

Second, it is amazing to me how connected MLB teams are by player movement. Just using the 2011 Mariners roster alone, there were players that had been in every organization but Houston and Tampa Bay. I can't say it's a shame that the M's didn't have any former Astros on their 2011 roster, given their struggles. It is probably a shame that they had no Rays though.

Also, the notion of avoiding division rivals seems to be dead, to a degree. There are plenty of connections with other west coast teams, although many of them are indirect. Perhaps this is a sign that the Mariners are more familiar with division foes because they play them more often, and eventually those players are more prone to returning to the division once it does not take a direct trade with a division rival.

With that said, the 2011 Mariners also had a ton of connections to the Washington Nationals. I don't see any good reasons for the strong connections. They also did not have a player acquired directly from the Rockies, but quite a few who spent time at some point in the organization. Maybe there is no rhyme or reason at all to the connections.

There are connections though. No question about that.