The 2016 Fan Excitement Ratings

The other day, I asked you a stupid question: how excited are you about the coming baseball season? It doesn’t seem like that interesting of a question, and, let’s face it — we’re hanging out on FanGraphs, which means we’re all already total baseball dorks. Of course everyone’s kind of amped to have baseball coming back. It’s the reason we’re here.

Though it was a silly question, however, silly questions lead to data, as long as you’re keeping records. That’s what I was hunting for. That’s what I’m always hunting for. By putting up a poll for fans of every team, not only can I calculate an excitement rating, but I can also examine excitement ratings relative to the whole league. Out of a simple Internet post, I now have a whole spreadsheet that tracks how baseball fans feel, and if you’re curious to see how the polling shook out, just scroll down. You don’t even need to read the words if you don’t want to. Believe me, I won’t know.

First things first, real quick: whenever I run a polling project like this, I like to see how many fans of each team participated. In this particular case, I think the numbers are extra interesting, because all the polls were identical and simple, and it’s the very start of spring training, which means no one has pulled away in any standings, and no one has dropped to the basement. I think the participation can serve as a proxy for how many fans of each team read FanGraphs right now. Here’s everything:

percent-of-total-votes

It’s not perfect — the samples might be small, some people don’t identify as fans of specific teams, and some people identify as fans of multiple teams. But if you believe the theory, then a little more than 7% of FanGraphs readers like the Cubs. Then you get the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Mets, and Mariners, all as a somewhat distinct tier. At the far end, the Marlins are the least represented, with the Rays, Padres, and Rangers awful close. Maybe there were some biases I’m unaware of, but just based on this, for every Marlins fan who hangs out here, there are more than four Cubs fans. There are more Cubs fans than Marlins fans, Rays fans, Padres fans, and Rangers fans combined. Of course, this seems like a good time for any closeted Cubs fans to come out of hiding. And FanGraphs feels like a Cubs-friendly place, since our projections love them and everything.

Let’s move on to the real substance. Demographics are great, but we’re here to see how excited different fans are. As I always do, I assigned for each answer in each poll a number, with the most negative response getting a 1 and the most positive response getting a 5. From doing that, I could calculate for each team an average fan excitement rating, and here’s the whole landscape:

excitement-rating

Based on our sample of people on FanGraphs, Mets fans are the most excited, although for what it’s worth there’s a negligible difference between them, fans of the Cubs, and fans of the Astros. No one is less excited, meanwhile, than the average Rockies fan, though the average Padres fan comes close. Ditto the average Reds fan. The lowest six ratings all belong to fans of the six teams who seem to have the lowest chances of making the playoffs. This is what I like to call “no duh” research. I don’t actually like to call it that. I don’t know why I lied to you.

Of some note: out of all the responses overall, 44% of fans said they’re “very excited,” while another 21% said they’re “pretty excited.” So that accounts for two-thirds of everyone. Yet, 14% of fans said they’re “not at all excited,” which reflects either trolling or just a terrible, terrible situation. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be at the end of February and not be excited about the return of baseball, but who am I to question other people’s feelings? Every feeling you feel is valid. It’s up to you to process them.

Why don’t we take a look at a plot of excitement ratings vs. projected wins, according to our depth charts and Steamer?

rating-vs-wins

Obviously, there’s a pretty tight relationship. It’s self-evident that fans of good teams ought to be more excited than fans of bad teams. What’s interesting to me are the points that most deviate from the best-fit line. It won’t surprise you, but the point highest above the line is the Royals point. Our projections don’t love the Royals, but the Royals kind of just won the whole championship, so you can forgive the fans for not giving a crap what Steamer thinks. Behind them, Mets fans are second-highest above the line, followed by Blue Jays fans, Astros fans, and Phillies fans. The Mets are coming off a year with a deep run, as are the Jays. Astros fans are probably still just thrilled to be out of that era of misery. The Phillies are interesting here — they’re going to suck, probably, but fans get to start seeing some of the fruits of the rebuild. Phillies fans are almost as excited as Marlins fans.

Below the line the most are Rockies fans. They’re stuck, because it’s pretty unrealistic to expect them to contend, but they’ve also sort of just tread water. Rockies fans are followed by Padres fans, who find themselves in a somewhat similar situation. Then there are Marlins fans, who might have a contending team, but who also know that contending team is being run by bad ownership. It probably takes a little more to get them to come around. It’s notable to me that Nationals fans come in a half point below the line, since that team is supposed to be pretty good, but the fans could have expectation fatigue. High expectations didn’t do them any good a year ago.

I prepared one final plot. Some months ago, I ran a similar polling project, asking about the overall 2015 fan experience. That project looked back, while this project sort of looks forward. I plotted 2016 excitement ratings against 2015 fan-experience ratings:

rating-vs-experience-poll-rating

Again, there’s a pretty strong relationship, but it gets messy at the left-hand side. These, I think, are some really interesting data points. Red Sox fans came in with a 4.21 excitement rating, after last year’s 2.19 experience rating. So they have a positive bump of 2.02 points, which is the biggest such bump. This reflects that Red Sox fans most expect things to be better in the year ahead. At +1.90 points, we have Nationals fans, then Mariners fans at +1.87 and Tigers fans at +1.83. All these fans are reasonably positive, with the Nationals getting a fresh start, with the Mariners under new management, and with the Tigers having reloaded with some offseason splashes.

At the other extreme, Royals fans are at -0.83. Nothing wrong with that, because last year’s Royals fan experience was about as perfect a fan experience as you could ever imagine. The Rangers come in at -0.57, and they, too, had a pretty magical 2015 season, even if it didn’t end like the Royals’ season did. Those are the two that sort of stand out, with the Twins at the third-most negative at -0.31. That’s small enough it probably needn’t be analyzed.

I love these projects. You’ve probably noticed. I love to crowdsource and collect information that isn’t very often collected, and I love you participants for reliably participating. The next project, I assume, is going to be asking you guys whether you agree or disagree with your favorite teams’ 2016 projections. I’ll run that just as soon as we get ZiPS projections folded in with Steamer. Until then, thanks for the votes, because they’re a huge help, and if you know any Marlins fans, appreciate them, because each is an extraordinary specimen.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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saskatunes
6 years ago

I would like my personal Fandom Above Replacement (FAR) calculated. Probably some calculation of one’s personal win record expectation for their preferred team vs. excitement level.

Does being more excited for a bad team make you more of a fan? Or do the real fans know when to temper their excitement?

Luy
6 years ago
Reply to  saskatunes

True fans are men from Scotland.