Friday, August 8, 2008

Whose Fans Are The Most Loyal?

Forbes has ranked baseball's most loyal and least loyal fans. How'd they figure it? Thusly:

We calculated our rankings by measuring how tied attendance figures were to winning percentage since 1991, and we discounted expansion teams that have come along since. Through the use of multiple regression analysis, we determined how quickly fans supported the team when they started winning and how quickly they dissipated once performance slumped. The faster that fans boosted attendance and the more hastily they abandoned poor performance indicated fans who were less loyal.

We also controlled for new stadium construction and the boost it gives franchises, in order to avoid confusing the novelty of a new ball field for loyalty. Ticket prices were also controlled. If a team had to reduce prices during a bad season in order to maintain attendance, that's not loyalty. But if a team jacked up ticket prices and brought in even more fans, it's clear that the club has broad support.
Maybe I'm just too taken with the popular stereotypes of certain fan bases, but I will say I was surprised with many of the rankings on both lists. So surprised, in fact, that I can't help but wonder if there's some monster flaw in the way they calculated it all.

I'm too dumb to figure that out -- I suspect that some intangible stuff like ownership changes and anomalous, pre-1991 hangovers affected it a bit -- but the statistically-oriented among you can find the full methodology here.


Palooka Joe said...

I don't know how much stadium quality affects a study like this, but two of the teams (Twins and As) in the "least loyal" section play in lousy ballparks. I've had the dubious pleasure of living near the home fields of both teams and attending several games at each. A day at the ballpark has its charms, but the painful seating (especially at the Metrodome, where some of the seats weren't quite oriented towards the field), indifferently-maintained buildings and funky odors do take their toll.

In places like these, I'm not surprised that fans don't come to watch losing seasons. When your team isn't playing good baseball and your ballpark isn't much fun on its own, there's not a lot of incentive to pay 50 dollars to demonstrate your "loyalty".

Rob said...

I'm no mathematician, but it seems like their methodology defines consistency as "loyalty". Teams like the Pirates, Blue Jays, and Brewers are going to do well just by maintaining low attendance numbers.

And seeing the Braves rank highly makes me believe that postseason attendance was not considered.

Rob said...

er... I mean: Their methodology defines "loyalty" as consistency.

John said...

I don't think they accounted for the entertainment factor and how that would basically create a floor to attendance numbers. There are a certain number of fans that are going to show up regardless of records because of their enjoyment of baseball and the live event. Just because Pitts. is at its floor because they've sucked for so long, that doesn't really indicate loyalty. For their methodology to have merit, each franchise evaluated would need to have definite high and low points for winning percentage.

The Common Man said...

Also, the season they cite in their comments on the Minnesota Twins references 2001, the first winning year for the team after 8 years of suckitude. Heck, they had the first pick that year. The stadium sucked. It takes time to rebuild the fanbase.

Anonymous said...


The methodology is nonsense. Having a 5 guys in the stands every year rates higher than 40,000one year and 25,000 the next. Just silly.

The ballpark effects are also important, but so are a host of other intangibles, including star power, and some not so intangibles, like local traffic density, local economy, etc..

The Forbes comment about lowering ticket prices in the 90's is a phenomenon that had better happen again in Oakland. $ 50 for a AAA team is prohibitive.

Daniel said...

(Covers head in shame)

I knew as I was cycling through the least loyal fans that I was drawing towards an inevitable conclusion and I was rewarded by seeing the Angels smack at the top (bottom?) of that list.

I really have no defense. I worked at Angel Stadium from 1998 - 2000 and I can tell you that you could have heard a pin drop in there most weeknights. As soon as they started winning, the people showed up.

Now that the Angels have established themselves as a legitimately good ball club, I wonder if the loyalty would increase.

Kritical Man said...

This is all sort of silly when the figures are being based on MLB's attendance numbers - which I'm almost positive are for *paid* attendance. Sure, the Giants games are all most "sold out" because they forced everyone who wanted 07 All-Star tickets to get season tickets for multiple years. But go there some night, especially on the weekday. Renel will announce around 40,000 people and say "another sell out" and you look around and just wonder what the heck? Same thing happened at Dodger stadium earlier this year on a 95+ degree Sat. afternoon.

Look on stubhub at Giants tickets and see how many are for sale way below face value. That would have been another interesting stat to try to use in this "analysis" that I think does have something to do with "loyalty".

Justin Zeth said...

It makes some sense -- there are, at this point, 43 Pirates fans remaining, and as you might imagine, all 43 of them are, pretty much by definition, extremely loyal.

This study is simply mislabeled -- it's "who has the steadiest attendance?", not "who has the most loyal fans?" And it's another case study in why the Pirates' program of intentionally losing is working like a charm. Businessmen and investors highly, highly regard smooth, consistent, predictable earnings.