In city after city, baseball fans like to claim that their town is home to the most loyal, the most rabid fan base. New Yorkers will fight Bostonians and Philadelphians to the death while Chicogoans just sit back in watch. In Los Angeles, the fans leave in the 7th to beat the traffic, and in Atlanta, well, no one really cares.
While we could all debate the subjectively loyalties of fans until we are collectively blue in the face, a RAB reader took it upon himself to model fan loyalty. Jim Lane has spent the last few weeks refining a model of fan loyalty. The raw data is available here in spreadsheet form. I’m going to drill down a bit on it tonight.
Lane decided to assess fan allegiance by using a payroll figures, average ticket prices, win percentage and 2008 attendance. He started off by computing what he calls team appeal. It’s the average of the percentage of payroll of the MLB whole, the average ticket prices also expressed as a relative percentage to the MLB total and the club’s winning percentage. He then compared his team appeal figure to attendance capacity to come up with the final fan allegiance number.
As you might guess, the Red Sox with their high win total, high payroll and small park were the top team on Lane’s list. Their fan allegiance figure was 31.12, nearly triple the second-place Cubs. Having a ticket demand that far exceeds supply will do that.
The Yankees and Mets, meanwhile, came in at six and seven respectively. They both had fairly high attendance figures and tickets were, all things considered, somewhat reasonable. Combine that with high payrolls and three years of regular season success, and you’ll get a formula for fandom.
There are of course a few lessons we can glean from the spreadsheet. The teams on the bottom — Kansas City, Florida, Tampa Bay — suffer from one problem or another. Either the teams weren’t very good or they can’t draw fans. All three of those teams are finding that low ticket prices don’t exactly spur attendance.
The Braves, at number 23, are one of the outliers. The ownership is willing to spend some money, the ticket prices aren’t very high and the team’s winning percentage is decent. Fans, however, aren’t going to the games.
So what conclusions can we draw from this? Well, it certainly doesn’t solve that good old fan loyalty question, but we can look at a few patterns. Popular teams that put a winning product on the field are going to draw, and mediocre teams that keep ticket prices low are going to draw. But at some point, fans just won’t show up. They don’t come to Miami; they don’t go to Atlanta. Why is a question we can debate for a long time. Some of it is geographic; some of it is apathy.
Anyway, feel free to chew on this spreadsheet for a few hours as the lazy days of Spring Training tick away. Jim broke the years down so you can see his raw data. Perhaps you’ll find a conclusion in the numbers. After all, if the Indians are doing it, so can we.