Tag Archives: MLB

The “Smartest” MLB Teams

We had a couple of reasons for the previous post regarding the relationship between spending and winning across leagues.   The post was intended as a discussion point for our class – “Predictive Sports Analytics”.  But, the post was also background for our next series of analyses that focus on identifying the “smartest” or most efficient spenders in each of the four major professional leagues.

Today, we take a look at Major League Baseball.  The analysis itself is fairly simple.  We use the last 12 years of data on spending and winning to estimate a linear regression model.  We also include fixed effects for each team in this equation.  As a side note, an examination of residual trends might be a little better as management teams tend to change over time.

The fixed effects or team level intercepts provide an indication of whether teams over or under perform relative to what they invest.  The analysis is kept simple since it is for class, but it could easily be extended to include non-linear effects, or perhaps the dependent variable could be post-season qualification models as a binary logit.

The results of our analysis are both as expected in many ways and surprising in others.  At the top of the list we have the early adopter of analytics, the Oakland A’s.  We will take this as evidence of the value of investing in analytical capabilities.  At number two on the list we have the Atlanta Braves.  In positions three through five we have the Cardinals, Yankees and Giants.  The Yankees came as a bit of a surprise given their enormous payrolls.

At the bottom of the list we have Baltimore (note that this current season data is not used).  To some extent, the simplicity of the model might be unfairly penalizing Baltimore.  We would explain why, but this seems like a good question for class!  The other notable but unsurprising member of the bottom five is the Chicago Cubs.  This pains Professor Lewis too much to write about.

1

Oakland

2

Atlanta

3

St Louis

4

NY Yankees

5

San Francisco

6

Boston

7

LA Angels

8

Philadelphia

9

Cleveland

10

Minnesota

11

Chicago White Sox

12

Texas

13

Cincinnati

14

LA Dodgers

15

Toronto

16

Arizona

17

San Diego

18

Miami

19

Houston

20

Tampa Bay

21

Milwaukee

22

Seattle

23

NY Mets

24

Washington

25

Colorado

26

Detroit

27

Chicago Cubs

28

Pittsburgh

29

Kansas City

30

Baltimore

 Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University, 2014.

 

Deadspin: Which MLB Fans Are The Biggest Bandwagoners

Deadspin: Which MLB Fans Are The Biggest Bandwagoners

Two researchers at Emory University have launched their 2014 MLB Fan Analysis, which uses the numbers to break down baseball’s fan bases by any number of variables. Earlier this week, they tackled one near and dear to our hearts: Which teams’ attendance is most closely correlated with its success?

Similar Articles in the Press:

 NBC Sports: Study: Phillies fans are the biggest bandwagon fans around

SI.com: Phillies Fans the Biggest Bandwagon Fans in Baseball, Study Finds

MLB Fan Analysis 2014 Part 2: Attendance Sensitivity to Performance & Prices

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Note: Please click here for Part 1.  

For part 2 of our analyses of MLB fan bases, we change direction and focus on fan response to team performance and pricing.  These analyses complement the analyses of fan equity by drilling down a bit, and considering how demanding fans are of their teams.  We develop our fan sensitivity rankings using statistical models of consumer demand (attendance).  These models are built to estimate team-level response to price and winning percentage.  We use data from 1998 to 2013.  For more on our methodology, please click here.

Team Performance

Our first analysis looks at the responsiveness of fan demand to team winning percentage.  This can be thought of as a measure of how demanding fans are of their teams.  In other words, we are looking at the tolerances fan bases have for losing (or maybe we could view this as insight into which cities are the most prone to bandwagon behavior).

MLB 2014 Win Sensitivity

The most demanding MLB fans live in Philadelphia.  This fits the stereotype of Philadelphia fans as aggressive, demanding fans that are willing to cheer injuries and boo Santa.  The numbers say that Philadelphia fans require their team to perform or they won’t show up.  Following the Phillies are the fans of Baltimore, Oakland, the White Sox, Detroit and Cleveland.

At the other extreme, the teams with fans that are the least sensitive to winning rates are the Yankees, Cardinals, Marlins, Red Sox and Diamondbacks.  This group of non-demanding fans bases probably includes two types.  We have the loyal and passionate fans of the Yankees, Cardinal and Red Sox.  But, we probably also have the apathetic fans of the Marlins and the Diamondbacks.

Prices

Our second analysis examines the relationship between average ticket prices and attendance.  This analysis is focused on the degree to which fan bases are sensitive (or insensitive) to high ticket prices.  We should point out that the analysis of price sensitivity in sports is a tough issue (so the results should be taken with a grain of salt).  We are using average prices in the analysis.  Given the range of prices within a stadium, this is debatable assumption.  But it’s the best data we have access to, and we’re all friends, so why not.

MLB 2014 Price Sensitivity

We find that the most price sensitive fans live in Arizona, Cleveland, Baltimore, Seattle, Atlanta and Tampa Bay. Frankly, we are not sure what to make of this list.  Several of the cities are located in warm weather cities (which seems to reduce fan interest).  Cleveland and Baltimore are older cities and Seattle is a vibrant city in the Pacific Northwest.

At the other extreme, we have Milwaukee, Anaheim, Minnesota, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.  Perhaps these cities should raise prices.  The case of Philadelphia is especially interesting given that Phillies fans are also the most sensitive to winning.  It seems the Phillies should charge more and use the funds to invest in players.

The Brewers are another fascinating case.  This team does well in social media equity and the fans don’t seem to be very price sensitive.  This seems to be a team that is rapidly developing a highly loyal following. 

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.

MLB Fan Analysis Part 1: Fan & Social Media Equity

Who are the best fan bases in Major League Baseball?  A quick Google search of “best MLB fan bases” produces more than a million results.  Specific rankings are published by entities ranging from news organizations to ticket brokers.  In general, these rankings are based more on subjective opinion than data and analysis.  In contrast, we take a 100% data-driven approach.

That said, we readily acknowledge that fan base analysis is a complex topic.  Our core metric is something we term “fan equity.” This metric is based created using a revenue-premium model of brand equity.  This model is driven by the financial support shown by fans conditional on team performance and market characteristics.  This approach has significant advantages in that it is based on spending behavior and not driven by short variations in winning.  But, the revenue-premium approach is not perfect.  Therefore, this year we will be publishing a number of rankings (and providing descriptions of the strengths and weaknesses of each approach).  Click here for an overview of each method.

Today, we present three analyses of MLB fan bases.  We begin with the fan equity / revenue-premium model (based on the last three years), a trend analysis of fan equity growth over the past 15 seasons, and an analysis of each team’s social media equity.

2014 MLB Fan Equity

The winners in the fan equity analysis include the Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Phillies, Cardinals and Twins.  The Red Sox and Yankees placing at the top of the list is simultaneously unsurprising and interesting.  It is unsurprising because these are two of the league’s most prominent teams, and interesting because the two teams are bitter rivals.  The intense competition between these two teams provides an added factor that may be lacking for teams like the Cubs or the Phillies.  And yes, we do know that Cardinals fans love to beat the Cubs. (Click here for more details on our methodology for fan and social equity)

At the bottom of the list, we have teams in cities with great weather (or maybe summers that are too hot) and teams that are generally regarded as number two in their markets.  The bottom five are the White Sox, Angels, A’s, Mets and Rays.  As an aside, how about the “Portland A’s”?

We know the winners and the losers, but fan bases are not static entities.  As teams win, lose or market themselves, their fan equity evolves.  As a second analysis, we examined fan equity trends over the past 15 years.  This analysis revealed that MLB’s high equity teams are tending to even greater levels of fan support.  In this analysis, the Yankees finished first followed by the Red Sox, Cubs, Nats, Phillies, Dodgers and Giants.  This list of teams is overwhelmingly concentrated in the largest markets.  At the bottom of the list, we have teams like the Diamondbacks, Indians, Orioles, Padres and Rays.

2014 MLB Trend

The last analysis for today is something we term social media equity.  This analysis looks at each team’s social media following (again controlling for market size and winning).  Social media equity is important because it is unconstrained by stadium size, unaffected by a team’s pricing decisions and provides a measure of national following. It may also be a forward looking indicator if social media participants are younger than those fans who attend games.

2014 MLB Social Equity

The social media ranking is fairly different.  While the Yankees are number one, the top five also includes the Padres, Brewers, Rangers and Pirates.  Perhaps, the revenue-premium measure is picking up the economics of the big markets while the social media metric is best for identifying current interest.  However, the bottom of the social media list is consistent with the bottom of the fan equity list with teams like the Mets, A’s and Angels.

In our next post, we will present analyses of fan base sensitivity to winning and pricing.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.

Social Media Equity in Major League Baseball: Boston Wins, Cubs Fans Lose and Southern California Baseball is Social Media Challenged

A new way to assess the health of a brand is to examine its social media following.  Social media metrics have an appeal because consumers can show their interests without regard to price.  Of course, this is also the downside of social media, since it’s difficult to tell how consumer interest can be converted to revenue.  In the case of professional sports, social media metrics are of special importance because team revenues are often constrained by finite stadium capacities.  Another equity measurement challenge in sports is that teams are tied to specific metropolitan areas.  If we don’t control for differences in market size, we would almost always find that the New York teams have the best brands and teams in markets like Kansas City and Milwaukee would appear to have weak brands.

To examine social media equity in major league baseball, we developed a model that predicts social media following (in this case the sum of Facebook likes and Twitter followers) as a function of market size, Twitter activity as measured by tweets, and variables that control for short-term variation in winning rates.  We use this statistical model to predict social media following, and then compare our prediction to the team’s actual social media presence.

The number one ranked team in terms of our social media equity measure is the Boston Red Sox.  Boston is followed by the Cubs, Yankees, Cardinals and Houston.  The one surprise in this top 5 is the Astros. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Astros don’t belong, but the key to our method is that we are controlling for team performance.  The data says that the Astros have a much greater social media following than we would expect for a team that has had back to back 100 game loss seasons.

That the Cubs having a great fan following on social media is not a surprise but this result continues to strengthen the case that Cubs fans are the most abused in baseball.  The fans consistently provide great support on every dimension, and the Cubs’ management continues to fail to produce a decent team.  In an earlier study we even found that the Cubs fan support is basically unrelated to the team’s performance.  We are not sure who should be the most embarrassed: the front office for their amazing lack of ability to build a constant winner or the fans for their relentless support.

The losers on the list are predictable with one exception.  While the Angels and Diamondbacks being near the bottom are unsurprising, the Dodgers at third from the bottom are a shocker.  In a previous study based on economic loyalty, the Dodgers were at the top of the list.  The Dodgers have great fan support as evidenced by the league leading attendance.  But when it comes to social media, the Dodgers struggle for some reason.  For example, while the Dodgers play in the second largest market they have similar social media presences as teams such as the Rangers and Cardinals.  Perhaps it is a Southern California issue, since the Angels finished dead last in our ranking.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.

Which MLB Team has the “Best” Home Fans? And Who has the Worst? Hint: It’s LA!

One of our favorite types of analyses at Emory Sports Marketing Analytics is to assess the brand equity (a proxy for fan intensity and loyalty) of sports teams.  Today, we present our analysis of MLB fan bases.  Thus far, in our short history, we have looked at the brand equity of college and pro basketball teams.   For those who are unfamiliar, brand equity is a common concept in marketing.  The basic idea is that well known and well regarded brands provide value to organizations.  Examples of high brand equity brands include Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Apple.  These brands have value because consumers may have significant loyalty to the brand, or may be willing to pay a price premium.  There are a wide variety of methods for calculating brand equity.  Most methods involve surveys of consumers, and focus on data such as awareness levels, loyalty rates or consumer associations.

For our MLB brand equity analysis, we use a “Revenue Premium” method.  The intuition of this approach is that brand equity adds a premium to team’s revenues that goes beyond what would be expected based only on team quality and market size. To accomplish our analysis, we use a statistical model that predicts team revenues as a function of the team’s winning rates, division finish, market population, payroll, and stadium capacity.  We use this model to predict each team’s expected revenue.  To measure the quality of the team’s fan or brand equity we compare the forecasted revenue with estimates of actual revenue.  The key insight is that when a team achieves revenues that greatly exceed what would be expected based on team performance and market size it is an indication of significant brand equity / fan support. The reported results cover the past 5 seasons worth of data.

One complication in performing this analysis with MLB teams is that actual revenues are not public.  We get around this problem by using a couple of estimates of revenue.  The first projection is computed by multiplying average ticket prices by the team’s home attendance levels.  This measure is related to the size and passion of the fan base as it reflects the number of fans willing to travel to the stadium, and the economic sacrifice these fans are willing to make.  The second revenue measures we use are the team revenues estimated by Forbes magazine each year.  This measure has value in that television revenues are included.  For our analysis, we use both measures and then average the results.  We should add that the results are broadly consistent across the two different revenue estimates.

Our analysis finds some expected, and some surprising results.  We discover that the Red Sox and the Dodgers tie for having the “best” fan bases.  These teams are followed by the Cardinals, Giants and Cubs.  It is the next team on the list that first raises some eyebrows, as our model rates the struggling Houston Astros as having the 6th best fan base.  At the bottom of the list we have the Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers and the Anaheim Angels.  The bottom five are also likely to cause debate and angst among Angels and Tigers supporters.

So why are the struggling Houston Astros rated above the Detroit Tigers? Over the last five years, Detroit has averaged about 2.8 million fans per year compared to about 2.4 million for the Astros.  But according to the Team Market Report the Astros have priced their tickets about 12% higher.  The end result is that the revenues of the two teams are fairly similar.  The key difference is that Detroit’s revenues are driven by a 53% winning rate compared to the Astros rate of about 43%.  Based purely on the quality of the clubs and adjusting for market size, we would expect that Detroit’s revenue would far exceed the Astros.  The fact that they don’t suggests that the Astros’ have the larger and more resilient fan base.  A similar comparison can be made between the Angels and the Dodgers.  Over the five years of data examined, the Angels won 56% of their games versus about 52% for the Dodgers.  But despite this difference the Dodgers still drew more fans (~ 300k per year) and had much higher ticket prices.

Finally, the last question is: What about the Yankees?  While the Yankees do have the highest attendance and ticket prices in the league, they also have the highest winning percentage, largest market size and by far the largest payroll.  In a straight comparison of revenues or a count of fans the Yankees would win.  The key is that our model adjusts for these advantages and in comparison to other teams the Yankees do not convert these advantages to revenues as well as some other teams.

Mike Lewis and Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013.