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Oh, it's on: MLB Fan Power Rankings sure to spur some heated debate

7/21/2015

So what if I told you that Brewers fans ranked in the top five fan bases in baseball -- and Mets fans ranked among the five worst?

Or what if I told you that Padres fans ranked higher than Cubs fans? Or that Indians fans ranked higher than Dodgers fans?

Heck, I know exactly what you’d say, actually. First off, you’d say: “Hey Stark, when did you misplace your frigging mind?"

And then, once you realized that approach wasn’t getting you anywhere, you’d say, much more politely: “Could you please show me the data that proves that? Why, thank you.”

Well, gee. You’re welcome. Now here comes the part where I say: “Don’t blame me. I didn’t come up with these MLB Fan Power Rankings. The incisive data-crunchers at TicketCity.com did.” They then directed them our way, and we found them fascinating.

So you and I get to peruse these rankings together (here's the list -- with all their data included) and see what we think. But if you really want to know what I think, here are my Top 10 Reactions to the Fan Power Rankings, with some hopefully incisive insights mixed in there that will help both of us make sense of it all:

1) RED SOX AT NO. 1? I noticed constantly that these power rankings didn’t seem to correspond with the All-Star voting. Red Sox fans may be consumed by the daily soap opera of their fine franchise, but the only guy they voted for enough to get him into the top five at any position was Xander Bogaerts, who finished fourth at shortstop.

But when I looked at the data, it was obvious why they still ranked No. 1. TicketCity ranked each franchise by percent of Twitter and Facebook followers, compared with the size of their metro area. The Red Sox were No. 1 in Facebook following and a close second to the Cardinals in Twitter followers. So they clearly hashtagged their way to the top.

2) METS AT NO. 27? I don’t dispute that Mets fans ought to rank below Yankees fans, no matter how you crunch this data. But I actually think all the teams in two-team markets wound up being ranked too low, for some reason. I’m guessing it’s because they divide their market in a way this formula may not have accurately quantified. Nevertheless, the data told us this about the Mets:

Their fans were the least likely, by far, to follow their team on social media. Only Angels fans were even close. I’m guessing, again, that this is a reflection of what it means to be the second-most popular team in a two-team market. But even if this ranking is slightly skewed, it tells us something, right?

3) ROYALS AT NO. 11? Does anybody besides me wonder where Royals fans would have finished if these rankings were compiled a year ago? Or 10 years ago? The surge of interest in this team nearly blew up the All-Star voting. And it showed up loud and clear in this data, too. The Royals’ Twitter following, measured as a percentage of their market, was topped by only five teams. And their attendance and revenue scores, when compared with market size, were incredible.

So even though they just missed the top 10, almost all of the teams ahead of them would land on any list of the most iconic franchises in baseball. And who knows? Maybe the Royals are about to reestablish their claim to being one of them.

4) PADRES FANS (12) OVER CUBS FANS (14)? OK, you’ve got me. In my experience covering baseball and hanging out at ballparks, I’d draw this conclusion: Cubs fans are everywhere. Padres fans are pretty much nowhere, except for select sports bars in La Jolla. So where did these rankings come from? These teams apparently have roughly the same percentage of social-media penetration. And the other data appears inconclusive.

So I’m back to my theory about franchises in two-team markets being at a disadvantage. The population and rooting interests of people in Chicago are so much larger and more diverse than the population and rooting interests of residents of San Diego, that has to be working against the Cubs. But if anyone agrees with this ranking, or has any other theories, please let us know. Doesn’t make much sense to me, or anyone I’ve asked, otherwise.

5) INDIANS FANS (15) OVER DODGERS FANS (20)? Let’s see now. The Dodgers rank first in the entire sport in attendance. The Indians rank behind every team except Tampa Bay. The Dodgers fill their stadium to more than 80 percent of capacity every game. The Indians fill theirs to under 40 percent. So let me say again: I’m confused!

Based on my reading of this data, the Indians actually benefited here because their population base is so much smaller than the Dodgers’. So Indians fans wound up significantly ahead in social-media scores and in revenues (based on a weighted percentage of market size). On one hand, I think it’s a good idea to take market size into consideration here. On the other, I don’t recall living in a world with more Indians fans than Dodgers fans, no matter how you compute that. But it’s interesting!

FIVE MORE OBSERVATIONS:

6) NATIONALS (23) AND RAYS (24) IN ALMOST A DEAD HEAT? I know Washington is a big place, where stuff that’s slightly more important than baseball can find a way to dominate the headlines. But the Nationals draw twice as many fans per game as that team in Tampa Bay. Don’t ask me why they’re less likely to follow their team on Twitter.

7) ANGELS (22) AND WHITE SOX (26) IN THE BOTTOM 10? They’re both The Other Team in two-franchise markets. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

8) BREWERS AT NO. 4? No argument from me on this one, believe it or not. Only four teams ranked above the Brewers in weighted Twitter following. And considering this is the smallest media market in baseball, it never ceases to impress me how rabid this fan base is.

9) GIANTS AT NO. 2? To be honest, I thought they might be No. 1. As of the All-Star break, they'd sold out 374 regular-season games in a row, dating all the way back to 2010. They’re the best in the business at using social media and connecting with their fan base. And with all due respect to every other team and ballpark in North America, there’s nothing like a night at AT&T Park.

10) ALL-STAR VOTING VERSUS FAN RANKINGS? I’d have thought that the All-Star voting would fall in line with these power rankings at least a little. But boy, would I have been wrong. We actually wound up with more starters elected from the BOTTOM 10 teams on this list (six) than from the top 10 (five). I kid you not. From the top 10: Buster Posey, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Holliday, Miguel Cabrera and Todd Frazier. From the bottom 10: Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Jose Altuve. Moral of the story: There’s a big difference between fan power and voting power!